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What The Hell Is THAT?!

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

Quote of the Day: “Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.”

- Unknown

You may get tired of me complaining about this but not nearly as tired as I am with dealing with it.

My medical problem is back, likely exacerbated by the long run last Saturday. What am I talking about? Do the research.

When Swelling Is A Bad Thing

Ultrasounding The Boys

On Schindler’s List.

Revisiting The Third Testical

And The Drum Beats On

Because I know most of you didn’t read the links, the short of it is:

1. Vasectomy in 2000
2. Accompanying bad swelling that went away but resulted in a few days of embarrassing pain. The boys weren’t happy.
3. Years later, unexpected bad swelling after running 50 miles.
4. Doc said “What the hell?” which didn’t raise my comfort level in ANY way.
5. Sent me to a specialist who said “Yeah, epiditomitus. Here are some antibiotics.”
6. Got to Quantico and it came back.
7. More antibiotics after a being groped by young, pretty ultrasound tech.
8. More swelling again (wait, that’s didn’t sound right. I meant months later)
9. Doc says I should go to Bethesda to see specialist
10. Took two weeks to get an appointment by which time most of the swelling went down.
11. Doc said she (yes, “she” again!) wasn’t sure and I needed to come back and get an ultrasound.
12. Took two weeks to get another appointment which only involved the ultrasound.
13. Had to wait two weeks after that to get a follow up wit the Doc by which time the swelling was almost all gone.
14. Gave me her direct number and said to get a walk-up appointment when it happens again.

Well, I think this qualified since the swelling this time was accompanied by a protrusion. Yes, something was protruding. And it scared me silly, causing me to call yesterday and demanding to be seen today.

I got there first saw a tech who took my blood pressure. He didn’t like the 174 reading (you try having a protrusion –that shouldn’tbe there — coming out of your …) and tried it again. When it read out the same, he did it by hand and we were both relieved it was really down in the 120s.

The next person I saw was a young female student doctor. By now, I was so used to young females docs being involved, it really didn’t matter any more. Showing someone your swollen private parts isn’t exactly dinner and a movie anyway. I just wanted someone to tell me I didn’t have cancer or a tumor.

I explained the entire sordid history and she took notes. After I explained everything, she said she’d have to examine me and she was going to find a witness. A few minutes later, she came back saying she couldn’t find a witness so with my permission, she would examine me without one. No problem (refer to the reasoning above).

After this was done, she went and got the real doctor who wanted to know everything I had just explained to the student and then followed it up with an exam of her own. Again, whatever, just tell me I’m not dying.

The only surprise was that my epididymiti were perfectly normal. Those are little tubes that lay right across each testicle. What my problem was involved one of two things:

1. As a result of my vasectomy in 2000, the drainage involved after the surgery created a semi-permanent trough that sometimes gets backed up and then gets infected.

Or

2. I have a chronic reaction to the sutures used in the vasectomy.

Great. But what was the damn dome poking out all about?

In her words, it was the built-up fluid trying to find a way out.

Um…. EWWWWW!

Yeah, it was a pocket-O-pus trying to find daylight.

She prescribed me with three things:

1. Antibiotics to kill the infection
2. Naprocine to reduce the swelling
3. Vicatin to put me on the Magic School Bus.

She totally hooked me up by sending me to a different pharmacy. The main pharmacy is about a two-hour wait and looks pretty much like those pictures inside the Super Dome during Katrina. My doc sent me to the “Discharge Patient Pharmacy” which is only for the people checking out of “inpatient” status and big wigs who are too “big-pants” to wait with the commoners. When I got there, I was the only one present and got my meds right away. I gave Dr. Sears a mental hug.

I’m supposed to go back Friday and if it didn’t get better, she was gonna cut me. She didn’t want to do this yet because I showed no other symptoms of infection (fever, sickness) and she didn’t want to introduce bacteria in there. How kind of her.

When I got home, I took my meds to include the Vicatin. Within about 10 minutes, I was on a psychedelic trip, walking around the house like Rainman until I flopped down in bed.

Let’s just say my pain was not present nor accounted for.

The last update I will leave you with is this: it found daylight by the end of the day. I will not go into detail but let’s just say that the dome was gone and even though the swelling was still inside there, the pressure and the dome were gone.

Medical stuff is gross.

Free Advice for Today: “Be prudent.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

12 comments


Ripping You A New One

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Quote of the Day: “No one is listening until you make a mistake.”

- Unknown

You know what I need? Another magazine!

No, not the “I’m going to shoot you in the face” kind but rather the “I already subscribe to 3 computer and 1 running” kind. And, um, they tend to pile up. Unread.

I got a letter in the mail a few months ago that said that I had unused air miles and if I didn’t use them, they would fly away.

(Pause to let the joke sink in.)

My wife decided she should get the bulk of this offer and got a few magazines I wouldn’t wipe my ass with. Not because they are that bad but because wiping my ass with glossy magazine paper would hurt. But still, they weren’t exactly the magazines I would EVER even pick up for any reason under the sun.

The only ones that were offered that held any kind of interest was Newsweek and a computer magazine called Maximum PC. I had never heard of this but, what the hell, it was use it or lose it time with the air miles and I didn’t want to be left at the gate.

I’m on fire over here!!!

It turns out this magazine has a very specific audience. Namely, for those that buy computer parts and build their own machines that make Dellzilla look like a pocket calculator. But I gave it a look and there was some geektastic tidbits here and there.

The lead article for my premiere issue was “Copy Movies and Music!” It described how to get around the copy-protected CDs and DVDs, all the while justifying such behavior.

The other article of interest, and I am not making this up, was “Build Your Own Laptop!”

Dude, building a computer is dicey enough, but a laptop? Are you kidding me?

The one article that actually acted upon was how to rip songs off legitimate music CDs. Here is why I thought it was neat and useful.

First, all you needed were two free programs. The first one (EAC: Exact Audio Copy) rips the song off the CD and then the LAME encoder (that’s really what they call it) made them into MP3s. The benefit was that the program automatically downloads the song info from a free database and populates the tags for each song.

It also encoded using VBR which stands for “Variable Bit Rate.” The concept is simple; it encodes different parts of the song at different rates based on the amount of detail at that moment. So when there is silence in the song, it lowers the sample rate thus saving space. When there is a complicated part of the song with many subtleties, it boosts up the sampling rate to capture the details better.

It even normalizes the volume and error-corrects for flaws it encounters. The result is incredibly high-quality MP3s.

Following the directions in the article, I set up the program as instructed but there was a part that I was to add additional command line options which were basically codey-code stuff that I had to enter manually. What eventually bit me in the ass was that when the magazine ran out of space on the line, it wrapped to the next line. Because it was pretty much gobbildy-gook, I couldn’t tell if there was supposed to be a space where the line broke. Of course I didn’t realize I had gotten this wrong until much later and it caused no end of failures.

At the end of the setup, I was told to put a CD in the drive and the program was supposed to copy the song as a .wav file (which is friggin’ huge) and then use the LAME encoder to make it an MP3. At the end it was supposed to erase the .wav and temp files, leaving the MP3.

Well, it coped the .wav file but then a DOS window flashed on the screen, I heard a beep, then two beeps. What I was left with was the big .wav file.

After much trial and error, I finally figured out that what was happening. It didn’t TELL me what it was doing so I had to use logic (I know, it hurt). What must be happening is that it was ripping off the song as a .wav file and then when it went to the encoder, something was wrong and it was failing, thus giving me a flash of an error and then never converting the .wav to an MP3 and leaving the .wav file behind because it couldn’t clean up the process.

Fine, I knew “what” it was doing but “why?”

I tried for a half hour to execute the lame.exe program and then hit the pause key in the instant it flashed. But no matter how much I tried (or how much I cussed), I couldn’t get that window to freeze in time so I could read what it said.

Then I got an idea: get a DOS prompt and run it. So I “ran” the cmd command, got a window, navigated to the folder, and executed it. I felt rather stupidthat I didn’t think to do this before but that’s the story of my computing life: taking the long way to get to the end.

It told me that I needed a source file and a destination filename, both of which was supposed to be supplied by the ripping program.

I almost gave up but I persevered and scoured the settings file until I figured out about the line break problem I described above. When I put a space where there wasn’t one before, the program ran just fine.

I did it. I figured it out and fixed it.

If you followed all that, you’re a geek. If you want to know the details because you’d like to do it, I’m going to list the programs and URLs on my freebies page with an explanation. I looked on the Maximum PC site so I could just copy the article but they still have last month’s issue on there. As soon as they publish the April issue online, I will copy it and post it on my freebie page.

In the mean time, here is a scan of the article if you can’t wait.

Free Advice for Today: “Don’t discuss salaries.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

12 comments


Great Sunday

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

Quote of the Day: ” Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.”

- Unknown

I awoke this morning with such a feeling of well-being. Not only was it Saturday but I finally realized I own Dellzilla. And I successfully completed 36 miles yesterday and I could actually walk today.

And it was food day.

I got the wife up with a promise of going out to breakfast. Before I was done with the suggestion, she went from being dead asleep to throwing the covers off her and was applying eyeliner with her mouth open.

She likes going out to breakfast.

The only damper in the morning was that my little girl was spending the night at a friend’s house and no matter the circumstances, I miss my little girl when she is away. But I still had the boy and we decided that we should hit the I-SLOP.

This probably requires some explanation.

One of my quirks is that I rename all restaurants to the entertainment of my family. More often than not, it’s crude and demeaning to the restaurant. See if you can pick them out:

Crapdonalds
Burger Vomit
Taco Hell (or Taco Butt)
Wind-Between-My-Legs
KrapFC
Dairy Bitch
Shit Fillet

And my coup-de-graise: Crack Whore Barrel

Anyway, we went to I-SLOP and to my great surprise, we had great service. It was pretty busy but the waiter was on top of things and I didn’t know how to take it. Not only was the service great, but the portions were mammoth. I couldn’t even finish the hashbrowns because they were sheer acreage on my huge plate.

This is a lot different than my experience years ago.

After breakfast, we wandered over to Costco. I needed to do some walking and what better way than to meander around Costco? The only thing I bought was a 14-outlet surge protector for Dellzilla and I was totally geeked out about it.

For lunch, I had super-nachos, courtesy of my lovely wife. We watched Cast Away with the kids and there was just something wrong with stuffing our faces with nachos as we saw Tom Hanks shed 80 lbs in front of our eyes.

For the rest of the day, I finished tweaking Dellzilla and rested up. I was stiff but not sore which is the greatest feeling after a monster run.

Dinner saw pizza from a new place and it was good.

This is the kind of day you look back on and say “Now THAT’S how to spend a Sunday.”

Free Advice for Today: “Don’t jaywalk.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

4 comments


36, One At A Time

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

Quote of the Day: “To every man, there comes in his lifetime, that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered a chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents; What a tragedy if that moment should find him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would be his finest hour.”

- Sir Winston Churchill

I really don’t know how to explain what I did today.

I will just blurt out the fact.

I ran 36 miles today.

I know I will lose some of you because of the sheer number of miles that is and as I’ve written about before; the “why” and “how” of such a feat often overshadows the accomplishment. The incredulous reaction for even running that far is common and puts me in the “nut” category before they try to wrap their minds around the fact that I actually did it. And it was hard.

But I’m not writing this for them. I’m already “gone” in their eyes so the rest of this is for those that are actually interested in what it is like to cover 36 miles in a day.

OK, why did I do it? Well, I have a marathon on March 19th and my training plans normally call for the last big run a couple of weeks before followed by a tapering off period to rest up for the marathon. This was that weekend and while the schedule only had about 22 miles, I had lengthened that last year to go a full 26.2 miles.

But a couple of months ago when I was prepping my training schedule for this marathon, I decided I should go real long. I don’t know why but I just had a drive to push it way out there. Add that to the fact that my 8-mile loop was shut down due to bridge construction which meant I was forced to the 9-mile-straight-out and 9-mile-back routine. So my round trips went from 8 miles to 18 miles.

I wanted to do more than 26.2 and the thought popped into my head: out and back.

Once it was there, I could not ignore it. This is a quirk of mine I’ve accepted. And that I have suffered many things as a result of. When it gets in there, I HAVE to accomplish it. That’s why I have to be careful of what I think about.

This is what got me into marathoning in the first place. And ultras. And back to back marathons a week apart with a 50 miler tacked on two weeks later. The ultimate example is the Badwater which is the only one on the list I have yet to accomplish. Yet.

Anyway, I got it in my head that I needed to go out and back and out and back for a grand total of 36 miles.

Simple as that.

After two days of computer work, I was ready to get out of the house but I have to admit, I was a little scared. I had only gone longer than a standard marathon distance twice in my life, both 50-mile races and that was years ago. I had been busy geeking on the computer and had not run since Tuesday (on the lame excuse of saving up energy for the big run.)

I really didn’t have a plan that differed than my normal long runs but I knew I had better get enough fuel in me so Carrie made me eggs and toast before I left. I figured that would hold me the first half and then I came up with the idea of a PB&J for the carbs, protein, and sugars. My plan was to gobble it down with raisins, some applesauce, and as much Gatorade as I could stomach before taking on the second 18 miles.

The weather was ideal. It’s supposed to get cold tomorrow but today was only supposed to see a little wind that never really showed up. The entire day was running weather and it was one huge relief because I had enough to deal with in sheer mileage.

I started at 0830 with a full camelback, 3 packets of Gu, and a can of Red Bull.

You cannot even start to think about the entire distance so to stay sane, I only let myself break it into halves. This was going to be two 18 mile runs that just happen to go back to back. Out there and back, that was it.

Furthermore, I tried to only think about the 9 mile leg I was on. Just get out there in 1 hour and a half.

Lastly, I considered the short term at one mile increments. I do the 9 minutes of running and 1 minutes of walking which works out to be 10 minute miles. This way, I cover about 1 mile every cycle and get a nice little goal and break at the end.

You ask how I did it? That’s how. You have a mental plan of how you are going to run the distance. If it sounds complicated, it isn’t. It becomes repetitious after awhile and you don’t even have to think about it.

It’s unbelievable how easy the first nine miles are when you have dialed in that you are going to do it 4 times. I was very fresh at the end of 9 miles and marveled at the ease, knowing this would change drastically. I took a break and drank my first Red Bull, knowing that when I hit this spot again, I probably wouldn’t be in a happy place.

On the way back, the first pangs of fatigue started to show up. This worried me because I had a hell of a long way still to go. But I tried to keep my head up, my form good, and on pace. I made it out to the 9 mile gate in an hour and a half and back in the same time. I was on schedule but the worst was yet to come.

Again, I was stunned that I felt so good at the end of 18 miles. I could feel I had done a good patch of running but I wasn’t ready to hobble home like I normally am after such a distance. The mind is an incredible thing.

The wind had kicked up a little so I got into my car to rest and eat. Like Carrie had thought, my mouth was too dry to properly enjoy the PB&J but with enough Gatorade, I was able to down half of it.

Folks, I don’t even LIKE PB&J sandwiches but it just seemed to have the right combination of the things I needed.

I did have the raisins and applesauce but that was all I could stomach so I refilled my Camelback, stuck another Red Bull into the pouch, and headed out.

My legs felt a little rubberish and it took about a mile before I could even run with some semblance of comfort. My gut was full of food and a lot of Gatorade but I waited it out and sure enough, my stomach settled.

At about the 6 mile mark (or 24 total), I realized that I had actually kept my 9 and 1 cycle going all this time. It normally starts to break down at the end of runs and since this point was well beyond most of my other “end of runs” I was shocked that I was doing so well.

I made it out to the 9 mile gate in 1 hour and 45 minutes, only 15 minutes slower than normal. Not bad for in essence finishing a marathon. I was tired to be sure but I was lively enough to know that I would finish. Hell, I HAD to finish because I was nine miles away from my car and I had to get back there somehow.

The real drama of this run was the last 9 miles. I had avoided all manner of cramps up to this point and on the way back, that was my biggest worry. Running is 90% mental and 10% physical but that 10% can stop a run immediately.

Before embarking on that last 9, I drank my second Red Bull, retied my shoes, stretched, and off I went.

Well, sorta. By this time, my form was shot and I was barely clearing each foot. My stride was a shuffle and I had to keep reminding myself to keep my head up. But the sight of even the smallest hill crushed my will to live and it was a defense mechanism to just duck my head down and trudge forward, counting on ignorance for my bliss.

I have run this route literally hundreds of times but two things conspired to mangle my internal distance measurement. First, my mind was Jell-O so I started to have trouble remembering how far it was to the end despite my normal awareness based on terrain features. What I realized is that most of the time on these runs, I base my distance calculation on the time. Since I run approximately one mile per ten minutes, all I have to do is look at my watch, do the math, and I know where I’m at and how far I have to go.

So the second factor was that my 9 and 1 routine not only went out the window, it flew away in the sky until it was a little dot. Then soundlessly popped, the remnants floating to the ground in the distance.

The combined effect was that I had no idea how far I had to go to the end and I was almost delirious. OK, I WAS delirious.

I stumbled to the side of the road to go to the bathroom and I was worried to see that my urine was a of the thick, dark variety, indicating dehydration. I had drank so much liquid that I don’t know how I could have ingested more. It was about this point of contemplation when my right hamstring suddenly knotted up without warning.

Instantly, I stuck my leg out to stave off the wicked cramp and it was like a battle of wills. I was keeping the worst of it at bay but it was fighting to cramp.

“NO! YOU BASTARD!” as I hopped around flexing my leg. Even in my pain, I had the sense to realize I was hobbling in the wrong direction and I thought, as long as I’m moving for whatever reason, it might as well be toward the finish.

That’s the kind of sick thoughts that come in your head after 30 miles.

I beat the cramp and got moving again but it threatened, just below the surface which made me nervous for the rest of the run.

With about 5 miles left, my right leg gave out. What do I mean? I mean it just went away, like it was taking it’s football and going home. It was like a palsy and when I put weight on it, it was like a doll’s leg, just crumbled.

This only lasted a second or two but scared the bejesus out of me. Shortly after, it was replaced by a shooting pain starting at my lower back, right side, and followed a line down my right buttock and all the way down to the back of my knee. It wasn’t a cramp, it felt like one huge sore muscle.

“We’ll, you can’t expect to run this far and not have some serious pain at some point.” was my thought.

At one point, I had this big long conversation with myself (yes, normal behavior when you have 7 hours to kill) about tackling a big feat like this. When it got hard, I mean REALLY hard, I told myself this is what the big deal is. I mean, people are scared of things like this. Closely related, they respect those of us that actually put ourselves through it. But there is a cost. It’s cliché to say that if it were easy, everyone would do it but it’s this very pain, this consequence of very real, very intense mental and physical pain that defines why something like this is tough and why not many people tackle it.

That’s all good to garner that respect, awe, bragging rights, whatever you want to call it but the fact still remains that it still takes that anguish. You can’t just SAY you did something. There is a price that must be paid and when it got really, really tough out there, I realized THIS is what I have to endure to be able to say, yeah, I ran 36 miles.

It’s almost a realization.. “God, this hurts. Oh, this is why no one does this.”

There was a gate at about the 4 mile mark and I obsessed on getting there. The problem was, I totally misjudged where I was so I had expected to see the gate at the next turn. But after that turn, all I saw was a big uphill straightaway with a turn on the top.

After I scaled that, I thought for sure I would see that gate.

I didn’t.

This happened a few times and it was taking a definite toll on my mental state. I was ready to cry, I was ready to scream. I grit my teeth and tried to handle it but in my state, I was not equipped to handle disappointment, however self-induced.

When I finally saw that gate, the emotional well-spring deep inside me was indescribable. Much like Wilson in Cast Away, it was an insignificant, inanimate object that became more important only for the importance I gave it. I actually grinned ear to ear.

By the very end, I was running when I could and walking when I had to. I was trying to shuffle the downhills and straight-aways while walking the uphills. My time was not going to be pretty but at this point, it wasn’t about the time.

The last mile and a half had to be presentable because there were cars on the road and I didn’t want anyone stopping to offer assistance. I was dressed like a runner but one look at me would broadcast that I wasn’t doing much running and I rather looked like I needed medical attention.

The end was very anti-climatic. The last ¼ mile is uphill and I managed to run (OK, shuffle) it. Coming across the line, I stopped.

No big celebration, no possibility of fathoming what I had just done. Just sweet, sweet stopping.

Nine miles in 2 hours, 16 minutes.

I got to my car, opened the door, and my cell phone rang. It was my wife wondering if I was still among the living.

“Barely. I’ll call you back. I’m OK.”

I had to keep busy, keep moving. I made it a point to put everything in my bag rather than having it strewn all on the inside. That way when my wife helped me out of the car, all she had to do was grab a bag.

When I got close to home, I called Carrie again and she met me in the driveway where she helped me out. I went through my normal post-run routine but I wanted to experience an old tradition I started with Sir Phil back in 29 Palms. We would go on Sunday morning runs through the desert and make it back just as the sun was getting deadly. Before we left, he would put two beers in the freezer so they were near frozen when we got back.

Once we returned, nearly fainting with heat and exhaustion, we would grab the beers and in his air-conditioned house, down exactly one beer.

Because our metabolism was cranking at full tilt, the alcohol would hit our system almost instantly and like a train. This would last for about 15 minutes but again, because our system was still operating at blazing speed, we would metabolize the alcohol out of our system right away. So we got this intense shot of well-being and numbness for a short period of time and then it was back to normal.

I once made the mistake of having a second beer and that screwed me up for the rest of the day. Never again.

So I grabbed a beer after today’s run and in celebration, held it to my lips and let the sweet nectar flow.

It tasted like SHIT!

What I forgot was that after long runs, my senses are all screwed up. This was not a factor with the Sunday runs with Sir Phil because although they were intense, they were not multi-hour.

This phenomenon manifests itself in different ways. My sense of smell is heightened after a big run and I seem to smell ammonia. Not just a hint, like smelling salts right up my nose.

My vision is oozy, too. Like I’m still running or like some kind of optical illusion where my peripheral vision is oozing forward and back.

Today, I discovered that beer has an awful taste when I’m in this state, so much so that I accused my wife of defecating in it before she brought it to me. She assurred me she hadn’t but thanked me for the accusation.

So here is the final tally:

Distance covered: 36 miles
Total time running: 7 hours
Number of Gu packs consumed: 5
Number of Red Bulls consumed: 2
Number of PBJ sandwiches consumed: ½
Amount of water consumed on the run: 140 ozs
Number of Gatorades I consumed before, during, and after: lots
Boxes of raisins consumed: 1
Number of applesauce cups consumed: 1
Number of blisters incurred: 0
Permanent damage incurred: 0 (as far as I know)
Number of songs listened to on iPod: ~105
Post-run meal: hamburger stew and crackers
Amount of nap time after run: 0
Time I WANTED to go to bed: 7:30 PM
Time I ACTUALLY went to bed: 12:30 AM

Free Advice for Today: “Every day show your family how much you lovethem with your words, with your touch, and with your thoughtfulness.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

9 comments


Joy And Pain, Dellzilla Style

Friday, February 24th, 2006

Quote of the Day: “Don’t use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved.”

- Unknown


(yes, that IS Sarah on the other screen.)

Day two for Dellzilla and I awoke with a mission: get everything else done.

I never got out of my PJs and worked furiously all day to complete the set up to include the dual monitors. Try to pull out of the visual quickly. The horror of me in my PJs and the glory of dual monitors will cause you to go sterile.

I was frustrated and stopped in my tracks over some very minor issues that took hours to resolve when they should have taken seconds. Thus, Buster suffered all day from the vibe emminating from me all day. This cannot be helped, folks. He was the egg and I needed some omelets.

The first thing I had to do was to set up my Macromedia DreamWeaver software to maintain my webpage. Because I had moved my old computer (SMALLFRY) up to its new home, Alex’s room, I was forced to climb the stairs many times to access programs and write down settings. This caused me a bit of aggravation because it was so…. Flintstonian. I had intended to set the damn thing up downstairs for just this possibility but I caved to peer pressure and hooked it up in his room. At least it was some form of exercise in preparation for tomorrow’s big run.

After a couple of times with this, I decided the smart thing to do was to find the configuration file, copy it, and load it, thus configuring Dellzilla’s copy in one fell swoop. Sounds simple, huh?

What do I have that will hold a small file? I don’t want to burn it to a CD like I did my monster Outlook PST file. Hey, how about my memory stick? I have an adapter that doesn’t even need a driver. Sweet!

I took the memory stick with adapter upstairs, copied the file, went downstairs, plugged it into Dellzilla… and… and… it didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.

Dellzilla? It’s right there! See? Look in the USB port in the front…. no.. see.. DAMMIT!!

(at this point, the dog is just about in an epileptic fit, as he would stay all day as my frustration level rose.)

I tried to use the “Add New Hardware” function but it couldn’t find the driver. I didn’t have a driver because it never needed one. I bought it when I put together SMALLFRY as an afterthought but used it extensively to transfer pictures from my camera to my computer.

Now it was time to do research. The problem was, there was no identification on the adapter other than a part number. After an hour of frustration, I couldn’t find a thing. So I tried to find the driver SMALLFRY used but it was an old standard driver that my new system didn’t even have.

So it was back to the online research and I finally figured out that the thing was made by a company named PQI. I found a driver site that had the driver but you had to sign up for an account to download it. It wanted all kinds of information and the fact that I was having to go through this fed the fire of my frustration. Finally, I got through their dozen screens of horror and along with being qualified for a top secret security clearance, apparently I was good enough for them to send me an email so I could enable my account.

When I got the email, I clicked on the link and it supposedly registered me but when I tried to download, it said I wasn’t registered. When I clicked the registration link again, it told me I was already registered.

I was fit to be tied.

The dog was about to jump through the plate glass window.

Then I realized since I knew the name of the company, I should just go there. After all that, I found the driver off of the site, downloaded (without having my DNA analyzed this time) and loaded it up. After almost 2 hours, boom, it worked.

I was still pissed.

Buster was still quaking.

The good news is that the configuration file worked and DreamWeaver was set.

Then it was rebuilding the macros I use in Photoshop to resize pictures using a batch file. I have one that scales down the resolution and size and one that makes thumbnails. This way, I can put all the monster pics I take with my camera into a certain file, run the macro, and it goes through and quickly sizes all the pictures.

I never could figure out a way to save these macros and import them to another machine so I had to copy down the steps (which I always forget since it’s years between having to do this) on paper and then rebuilding the macros on the new computer. This took about an hour but it ended up working fine after a few tweaks.

I had to do a similar process for a macro I use in Word. Sometimes I get emails I want to use on my site and you know how you get forwarded emails and the paragraph marks are all screwed up? There are like breaks in the sentences in weird places, before word-wrap would normally break the line?

I created a macro that removes all formatting, turns everything into New Times Roman, and 12 point. Then it goes through and finds everywhere where there are two paragraph breaks in a row (this is where the real paragraph breaks should be).

It then replaces the two paragraph marks with “9999” (stick with me.)

All other paragraph breaks are the bogus ones so it replaces them with a space (in essence, “un-breaking” the lines that shouldn’t be broken).

Then it go back and changes all the “9999” to double paragraph marks, thus breaking up the text where the paragraphs should break.

It does all this really fast and in the end, you have perfectly formatted text. I used to do this by hand by going to the start of each line and backspacing. It was a pain but now it’s a push of a button.

OK, class is over.

Next, I spent a couple of hours hooking up SMALLFRY to the wireless network in my house. I use a small USB receiver but for some reason, it didn’t work. I played with the settings on the network, I played with the settings on SMALLFRY, I beat the dog (not really, but according to him, you would think so).

I reloaded the router software and even loaded the drivers for the USB receiver. Nothing worked. SMALLFRY had always been hooked right to the Internet but for some reason, it wouldn’t connect through a receiver. I just KNOW it was upset at being kicked to the curb. Whiny bitch.

Finally, I discovered that loading the software for the driver didn’t actually INSTALL the driver. Once I did this, it hooked right up and the connection was strong. Alex says it’s nearly as fast as when it was downstairs.

We may never see the boy ever again.

With everything loaded up (or at least 98%), I tuned my attention on the dual monitor situation. I have a 19” monitor I got for Christmas but for $100, Dell provided another 19” monitor. I wasn’t about to turn that down to save $100. Hell, I could turn around and sell it for at least double that.

Or….

Dual monitors, Baby!!!!!

I really don’t have room on my computer desk but I did the best I could, angling the second one off to the right.

My initial attempt to hook this up failed miserably. I had specifically asked the Middle Eastern Dell flunkie who sold me the computer if I could hook up dual monitors with the card I was getting. He said it would have one analog and one digital output. If I wanted to set up dual analog monitors, I would have to get an adapter for the digital output plug.

I (actually Carrie) bought one, hooked it up, and nothing came up on the screen when I hooked it up but I found the setting for my video card and it had a pull-down menu that gave me the choice of single monitor or clone.

When I picked clone, it did just that: it made the second screen as a clone which means whatever you saw on screen one, you saw on screen two. I found this VERY useful for… what’s the word…. NOTHING! Why n the hell would you want it set up like this?

No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get it to go to “expanded dual monitor” mode which treats the screens like one big screen. Looking up in the documentation, it said that if you are using a PCI Express card, you will not be able to operate in dual mode.

For the umpteeth time today, I was irate. This meant that I would have to spend a couple of hundred dollars on an upgraded video card or second card. And that I had been lied to. Guess which one upset me the most.

I was not going to take this sitting down.

I called Dell for two reasons:

1. Dual monitor
2. No keyboard

I explained my monitor situation as calmly as I could to include what had been promised to me. After my experiences with live support, I had no faith that “Daniel” with his Indian accent would be able to solve anything. My reservations were heightened when I realized he was reading right off his screen.

He walked me through some obvious steps (of which I was a few ahead of him) but I withheld the information about the PCI Express card to have him tell me I was lied to. After leading me to the pull-down menu I described earlier, he wanted me to choose an option that wasn’t there, specifically the “expanded dual monitor” mode. I guaranteed him it wasn’t there but I guess he didn’t think I knew what the hell I was talking about because he wanted to take a look himself.

Unbeknownst to me, you can grant control of your machine over the internet. He had me log onto a certain website at Dell and then grant a bunch of permissions that allowed him to manipulate my computer. I watched as my mouse moved and he repeated the steps we just went through and he saw that there was no third option.

Then he opened a browser and downloaded the latest driver from Dell for the video card but when he installed it, he had to reboot and it severed our connection. After I started the machine again, I went back and sure enough, the third option was there. I chose it and shazaam, it worked, although the screen resolutions were screwed up.

what do you know, it was jsut an outdated driver. God, why didn’t I know that?

After adjusting the resolutions, I had to flip the screens to make the mouse flow from the right side of the left screen onto the right side of the left screen. But the taskbar was on the wrong screen and the only way I figured out how to fix that was to swap the monitor plugs. Then it all worked and I had my dual screens of bliss.

I did my newly-dubbed “geek happy-dance.”

But we weren’t done. There was the matter of the keyboard. I had been promised a keyboard by the salesman but on the manifest, it said “no keyboard requested.” I knew this was going to be a problem because I knew that is what the bill of sale said also but I had specifically negotiated and triple checked with “Christopher that the keyboard was included. It was going to come down to my word against his and since I was the customer, I was going to fight to the death for that damn keyboard. I was going to be such a pain-in-the-ass that they would have to give me the $10 keyboard just to shut me up.

As helpful as Daniel had been, he had to send me to customer support. I thanked him, was send to customer support, and I had to go through the entire explanation and verification process after automated-response Hell. Ten minutes later I was send to a rep and put on hold for another 5-minutes when a recording told me they were in a meeting and call back in an hour.

That pissed me off so I called back. And had to go through the number punching to get to another rep who, of course, had no idea why I was calling and I had to go through the explanation again. He got me through (15 minutes later) and I was put online with a customer rep this time, who I had to explain everything to.

He said I would have to talk to the guy who sold it to me and after a heated discussion, he tried to patch me through. And the line went dead.

This time I was livid.

For another 5 minutes, I had to go through “Push 1 if you would like to strangle me…” AGAIN and AGAIN I got someone totally new and unaware of my situation. This new guy said I had to talk to Sales and I told him to give me the direct number so I wouldn’t have to go through the automated bullshit again. He gave me the number and transferred me. I was on hold for 20 minutes so I got frustrated and hung up.

I called back and the number he had given me PUT ME THROUGH THE SAME AUTOMATED OPTION LIST!!!!

By now I was almost insane with rage.

When I got through the sales, I made my displeasure known but the only response from the sales rep that he had no power to send me a keyboard, but he could sell me one.

After lambasting him about how bad of an idea that was, he said I’d have to talk to customer service. I told him that customer service sent me to him and if he sent me back, they would do the same and this was a vicious circle.

Five minutes later, he came back and tried to give me an email address to write “Christopher.”

“Look, I’m not going to shoot off an email and wait. You promised me a keyboard, you didn’t give me a keyboard, and now it’s going on 2 hours trying to make you guys make good on this. I’ve called 7 times, been through your automated phone system each time, been through the verification process each time, been hung up on 3 times, been transferred to three different departments, and been offered to buy a keyboard you already promised me. I want to talk to someone, anyone, that can make this right. And I want it RIGHT NOW!”

“You’ll have to speak to customer service.”

“Transfer me directly and I want your name and your direct number.”

After he stayed on the line to make sure I was connected, I asked to speak to a customer service manager.

“But Sir, I can help…”

“Put me through to a customer service MANAGER right now. I guarantee you that you don’t want to talk to me any more than I want to talk to you.”

I was put on hold.

For 30 minutes.

Blind with rage, I hung up and called back.

The “direct number” I had put me directly to the automated phone system.

When I got through to yet a different person, I again demanded to talk to a customer service manager.

“But Sir, I can help…”

“PUT…. ME… THROUGH… TO… A… CUSTOMER… SERVICE … MANAGER… RIGHT… NOW. Do you need me to repeat any one of those words? I waited 30 minutes last time so I’m not going to be put on hold. I will not explain to you what I’ve been through in the last 2 hours because frankly I’ve explained about 9 times and will have to do so again when I get your supervisor.”

“Yes Sir, while we’re waiting for him, maybe I can be of assistance.”

This is when I knew these people were immune to any level of frustration and irritation they listen to. They do this for a living. So while I waited, I gave him the basic outline of the story of the missing keyboard. When he got me started, it flowed right into a one-sentence frustration-vomit of everything that had happened.

“…. over 2 hours trying to make you guys make good on this. I’ve called 7 times, been through your automated phone system each time, been through the verification process each time, been hung up on 3 times, been transferred to three different departments, been put on hold for more than half the time, and been offered to buy a keyboard you already promised me. I’ve been forced to explain this over and over and I’m sick of being jerked around.”

After I breathlessly finished up my rant he calmly said “Ok, Sir, what I am going to do is send you out a keyboard right away.”

That stopped me cold.

“Did I hear you right? And you aren’t going to charge me?”

“No Sir.”

I couldn’t understand this. After so much trouble, this guy just said he’d do it with no other questions. Why, I wondered, couldn’t the other 7 people do this? This guy was just as low level as the others and I said nothing more or less spectacular to him than his co-workers. I didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth but I was stunned.

He read off to me what he would put in the system in the explanation block and it had plenty to do with the words “frustration” and the like. He then asked if I still wanted to talk to a manager.

“Not if you can send me the keyboard. You are the first one today that could crack this impenetrable safe.”

Of course he had no idea what this meant because American idioms are mostly lost of Dell support people in India.

Then he had to do something that I’m sure he didn’t relish. It’s part of their job, no matter the situation, to ask the customer if they are satisfied with the level of service they were provided. After a long pause, he said “I think I know the answer to that.”

I assured him that I appreciated HIS help but then that launched me into another rant about the things I had already told him. When I was done and he assured me that he was FedExing the keyboard to me, he told me that his manager wanted to talk to me. I agreed, thinking I could unload on him for my own edification, considering what I had been put through. I knew he would have to listen and I wanted to let him know that I didn’t appreciate the support service on the whole.

Do you know what he wanted to talk about? After I went over my little experience in excruciating detail, he pretty much dismissed it and asked if I was satisfied with their support. Not Dell in general but the latest minion I had dealt with. It became apparent that this guy didn’t give a rat’s ass about what I went through, he just wanted the feedback for his own postage-stamp area of the world.

In fact, I realized that the rep was forced to put down that I wasn’t satisfied after he said “I think I know the answer to that.” and if they put down the customer was less than satisifed, they are forced to get the supervisor. So Supervisor Bob only wanted to verify that his guy was good to go. Screw all the otehr supervisors and their piss poor service.

I ended the conversation quickly after that.

I got my keyboard but I’m sorry to say, Dellzilla, that even though you are a beautiful beast, you are definitely a SON OF A BITCH!

Free Advice for Today: “Live your life so that your epitaph could read, ‘No regrets.’”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

14 comments


Dellzilla Is Born

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

Quote of the Day: “COMPLICATED PLANS ALWAYS BECOME SIMPLE OUT OF NECESSITY. WHY NOT START THEM THAT WAY?”

- Unknown

I knew today would be a waiting game. It always is when you are waiting at the door like a kid waiting for Santa. Or a dog waiting for “nothing,” as Buster does every day. Carrie thought it was funny that I would be leaning on the couch peering out the window alongside Buster for most of the day.

Like so many things like this, she was once again right.

I didn’t want to shower. I didn’t want to leave for any reason. I didn’t even want to nap and if you know me, you know what kind of statement that is.

All day, I kept an eye out for what Brown could do for me but friggin’ Brown waited until the late afternoon to deliver Dellzilla.

(Yes, I will take a moment to announce, that was the name my mind bestowed on my new Dell XPS 600.)

I had seen that it had been listed as “out for delivery” at 0815 this morning. And there we were, Buster and I with our noses pressed up to the living room window. When he showed, I didn’t want to seem too creepy, meeting him a the door with my pajamas still on and almost two days’ growth on my face.

I waited behind the closed door for Mr. Brown to come to the door and had to stop myself from either chewing his ass for taking so friggin’ long and hugging him like a monkey.

He had me sign and the two boxes were finally here.

Instantly, I dragged them into the living room and started snapping pictures. I opened the small box first and it ended up being the monitor which didn’t excite me much since I knew it would be one of the last things I set up, after I got everything else squared away. I was planning a dual-monitor” situation but until I got Dellzilla set up and free of amniotic fluid, the one flat panel would have to do.

I had big plans for the next day and a half.

When I opened up the big box, I swear I heard angels. But that was way in the background because in the foreground, was the snarling and growling of lashed-down raw power. Dellzilla wanted unleashed.

“Calm down, Boy, I gotcha…”

The box-within-a-box on top was full of cables, paperwork, and posters explaining how to hook it up, aimed at those who obviously either can’t read at all (hence the big “you’re an idiot” pictures) or someone with Superman-ability to read minute writing in every language on the planet.

What it DIDN’T have was a keyboard. That little battle would have to wait until later, probably tomorrow, but since it was an extra to replace the boy’s food-encrusted one upstairs, I didn’t immediately wig out. I have my Microsoft Multimedia board anyway.

When I pulled out the case-O-computing-Nirvana, I just set it up in the foyer and looked at it. Just me and the boy, we just stared at it.

“Will it fit in the cabinet?” he asked slowly without looking away from it.

“I don’t know.” I answered without looking away.

We stood there for about 30 seconds, staring, until the silence was broken by the sound of a forced swallow.

I wanted to see what was inside but I was afraid of opening it. Not because I thought I might void the warranty but I didn’t want to break anything. I have to admit, I was a little intimidated but curiosity got the better of me and I gave it a shot.

It took me a couple of tries to figure it out because you have to put it on it’s side and pull down on a latch. The whole thing just swings open and when it did, my eyes were like dinner plates.

There was a little elf named Dellf in there.

… what do you think? It had computer parts! What did you expect?

It was actually quite spacious and a lot of the parts were plastic. But they looked well-build and functional so I was duly impressed. I didn’t count all 6 fans it supposedly has but I did see the 4 sticks of RAM totaling a mind-boggling 2 GB!!! Everything else just kind of looked like it was saying “Don’t you fu%$$in’ touch me!!”

In Dellfish.

So I left Dellf to himself and closed it up.

Turning off the now ancient and haggish “BIGFRY” (as I dubbed it when it WAS considered “big” and also I had bought the parts from Fry’s, building it myself), my loyalty now completely transferred to Dellzilla.

“Get your tired 2.6 MHz, 1 GB RAM ass out of Dellzilla’s new home, you morbid, sad little bitch!”

In the cabinet, there was about 1 inch of dust that took three wet paper towels just to get clean enough for Dellzilla’s greatness. It did fit into the cabinet but I had to remove the swinging cabinet door just to get it in there and move up the shelf one set of notches. This, I found to be a very symbolic procedure with serious sexual overtones.

Carrie helped me pull out the cabinet enough to hook up everything and I had Alex bring down his monitor with the idea that I would hook up “SMALLFRY” (tee hee) directly to my router. This way I could get it on the network and transfer anything I had forgotten to back up. Also, I could look at the settings for the dozens of programs I’d have to install as new.

Before turning it off I did one final back up to my external hard drive which I would use to install all my data files and software. I had considered using Microsoft software to transfer all the data and program files but then I figured it was a good exercise in bloat management to do it from scratch, thus the pain of installing programs anew would help to prevent me from installing questionably needed programs. Also, I normally come out ahead on this because I set everything up right and inevitably learn better settings for the programs I use.

I got everything hooked up and turned it on… and prayed.

Not only did it start up without a hitch but after asking about a few preferences, it hooked right up to the Internet. This was one of my big worries because I connect through a cable modem and wireless router. I had no clear memory how I set this up so I didn’t know if the router would freak out, its life existing to freak out if either end of the connection is not set up just right. With a brand new computer it had never seen before, I kinda thought it would give me the old “No way Jose” until I did some serious tweaking (of which I could honestly claim stratospheric ignorance).

But it hooked right up.

Huh.

I thought I would be slamming programs on the computer right away but it ended up that it took quite a bit of time to REMOVE all the junk that Dell thought I couldn’t live without. AOL was in a couple of places and it was a sheer joy to schlock that off of the hard drive. For the next couple of hours, I wore out the “Add/Remove Programs” function and updated Windows XP, all of which required me to start the computer over and over. Believe me, the restart definitely works.

I left a few icons that I will explore later, although I have everything that I like to use for all the functions I do on the computer. I finally justified a cease fire to my slash and burn tactics by putting them in a “Dell Crap” folder (which will probably languish on the desktop for years) and reminding myself that I have TWO 160 GB hard drives to play with.

Install. Restart. Update. Preferences. Save. Next.

This was for the rest of the night, folks.

I got everything set up with Windows XP. I got Office 2003 done. Norton AV… only had to uninstall once and then reinstall. They already had another trial version halfway set up so that probably caused the conflict. Once I took that sucker off, good to go.

There are many to list and you don’t want to hear it anyway so I’ll spare you. But at about midnight, I finally flopped into bed with a list of things to finish up tomorrow.

I SHOULD have felt good about this. I had Dellzilla mostly set up and would have raw unleashed power at my fingertips for years to come. Tomorrow, I had all day to finish up the transition and even set up duel 19 inch flat panel monitors.

But because there’s something seriously wrong with the way I’m wired, I went to sleep frustrated. Over nothing in particular, just the little things that ate up the day and the fact that there was still more to do. That I couldn’t get “SMALLFRY” to connect to the wireless network up in my boy’s room. That the dog was shaking because he’s neurotic and can sense when I have an elevated frustration level.

Maybe I’ll be happier tomorrow. As happy as I should be.

Good night, Dellzilla. I hope you and Dellf like your new home.

Free Advice for Today: “Wave at train engineers.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

12 comments


Nerding, BBall, and American Idols

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

Quote of the Day: “THE GREATEST GIFT THAT YOU CAN GIVE ANOTHER MARINE IS YOUR ATTENTION.”

- Unknown

It’s in Virginia. To be exact, it’s in Roanoke and should be here tomorrow. But I can FEEL it already.

Here is what UPS says:

Location Date Local Time Activity
ROANOKE, VA, US 02/22/2006 6:40 P.M. ARRIVAL SCAN

KNOXVILLE, TN, US 02/22/2006 2:19 P.M. DEPARTURE SCAN
02/22/2006 11:14 A.M. ARRIVAL SCAN

NASHVILLE, TN, US 02/22/2006 12:21 A.M. DEPARTURE SCAN
NASHVILLE, TN, US 02/21/2006 8:36 P.M. ARRIVAL SCAN

MEMPHIS, TN, US 02/21/2006 4:26 P.M. DEPARTURE SCAN
02/21/2006 12:23 P.M. ARRIVAL SCAN

MESQUITE, TX, US 02/21/2006 4:44 A.M. DEPARTURE SCAN
02/21/2006 4:01 A.M. ARRIVAL SCAN

AUSTIN, TX, US 02/20/2006 10:46 P.M. DEPARTURE SCAN
02/20/2006 5:37 P.M. ORIGIN SCAN
02/20/2006 5:28 P.M. FORWARDED TO THE FACILITY IN THE DESTINATION CITY
02/20/2006 5:11 P.M. FORWARDED TO THE FACILITY IN THE DESTINATION CITY
US 02/20/2006 1:56 P.M. BILLING INFORMATION RECEIVED

And you want to know what kind of uber-geek dweebotronic nerdball I am? I took 2 days of vacation so I would be here when it arrived and at least a day to set it up.

In other news, both my kids are officially done with their basketball seasons. Alex lost tonight to end their playoff dreams but to tell the truth, both teams made it a lot further than I expected them. They were definite underdogs but showed themselves honorably.

The parents, on the other hand, need some work (our team’s, not theirs). Whatever happened to cheering your team to win instead of hoping the other team loses? And is loudly criticizing the refs really the example you want to show 14-year-olds? And then they wonder why kids are so quick to question authority.

Lastly, to keep my mind off the computer, I will admit that I’ve become hooked on American Idol this year. Normally I just watch the try-out fiascos but this year, I kept watching and got snagged.

I am a Kellie Pickler fan, hands down.

To me, you have to have three things to win

1. A great singing voice
2. The “likeability” factor
3. The looks (I won’t refer that to the “lickability” factor but it’s tempting)

And she has all three.

Sorry if that seems shallow but that’s what American Idol is about.

Ironically, my male pick only has two of the three. I really, really like Taylor Hicks but he’s not the eye candy the ladies like. But he can sing and seems really likable.

I want him to win but I’d have to pick Ace Young because the women will crush the phone lines over him.

The female version is Becky O’Donohue who looks like something out of a Victoria Secrets catalogue but she’s lacking in the #1 department, compared to the others.

But also keep an eye on Paris Bennet because she tore up the audience with her “Night Train To Georgia.”

The other young one, Lisa Tucker, was also young-Mariah Carey-like: powerful and poised.

And let me just say I hope this Brenna Gethers gets shot down in flames. I like her about as much as I like an anthrax sandwich. Confidence is one thing but humility is a better thing. Strong is a good quality but purposely bitchy has no place.

Ok, I’m done.

Except to say that one of the ladies better sing Gloria Gayner’s “I Will Survive.” Mandisa, Paris Bennet, and Lisa Tucker all have the voices to do it and if they do, and they nail it, they will implode the entire city block followed by a supernova.

Free Advice for Today: “Treat your parents to a dinner out on your birthday.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

10 comments


A Blog About Blogging

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

Quote of the Day: “I’ve learned that no matter how much I care, some people are just assholes.”

- Unknown

Sometimes I wonder where the time went. When I come out of my reverie and realize I’ve sat at the computer for 5 or 6 hours, oblivious that so much time has passed. The kids have gone to bed, Carrie is watching TV downstairs, and I look up to see that I have less than 5 hours until I have to get up and start another day.

Then I cry.

(not really, I actually get kinda pissed but that’s my warped personality/problem)

You would think that I would be satisfied with my accomplishments. That after so much diligent work, I could go to bed feeling good about the progress I made in whatever endeavor sparked my marathon computer sessions.

But alas…

What was tonight’s preoccupation? Well, back in July, I discovered the world of WordPress and decided my blog needed to use the latest blogging technology. For those of you not in the know, WordPress is blogging software that you download for free and once you get it set up, it uses a web interface to manage your blog.

So I revamped the blog to what you see today but I had to deal with the situation of sucking in all the old blog entries in order to consolidate all my blogs into one neat package, i.e. the WordPress.

The problem was that my old blog was just raw HTML. I basically made simple, static webpages for each month and updated it by hand. The difference here is that rather than making simple webpages, software like WordPress creates a database of entries and “creates” the blog page every time someone goes to the blog.

Anyway, there was no easy way to import all the old blog entries because they were just flowing text on a webpage and not individual entries. WordPress allows you to import from different blogging programs but to import text from a webpage like I needed, you had to go through and set up each page to a very specific format before running a script on it that broke each entry into individual posts and imported them.

It ends up this process was time-consuming and difficult to get just right, especially considering I’m damn-near retarded.

I spent more than a little time doing this but didn’t get very far. After I imported each month, I had to go through and relink the links, do some specialized formatting, and get any pictures re-inserted. It ended up I was practically recreating every post and I soon lost interest. I thought I could just do it here and there, eventually getting it done. But like most things in this vein, the “here and there” became “almost never.”

The project just kind of fizzled but it bothered me. In the back of my mind, I always felt there was something left undone and like all of my half-finished projects, it gnawed away at my daily joy.

Tonight I was updating my links and it occurred to me that I was an idiot. Not a novel concept but specifically, I was an idiot for not realizing that all of the entries prior to June of 2005 were already perfectly formatted and ready for viewing. My search program indexed them so if something was in there that I was looking for, it would be found.

Instead of trying to import all the old entries, why don’t I just link to them as entire months and call it good? It would also delineate in time when I started using the new software.

To accomplish this, it would appear that it would be an easy procedure. Looks can be deceiving.

First, I had to get rid of all the imported entries from those old months. I would be creating links to the old pages so didn’t want repeated entries in the WordPress entries.

Logging onto the web interface, I decided that I could just make those entries “private” so it wouldn’t kill them, only prevent them from showing up in the Archive section. But there was no “mass editing” function so I had to edit EVERY entry and mark it as “private.” After waiting for the change to take on a few entries, I figured there had to be a better way. My search for a mass editing solution in the interface failed, as indicated by my loud cussing.

Then I remembered that my webpage provider, POWWEB, had an interface to any databases you used on your site. I logged onto the online administrator interface and had to resurrect my knowledge of SQL commands that lay hidden in the depths of my memory.

After much trial and error (and crying and cussing), I finally figured out how to create an SQL command that went through and replaced “publish” status to “private” on only a certain number of entries. I realized that all the posts were numbered so in the command, I filtered only those posts that had less than a certain number. How did I know what the “magic number” was? By looking up what the very last “imported” entry number was. All post #’s less than that were the old imported ones.

To figure out how to do this, it took a couple of hours.

To execute the command?

0.93 secs.

Now that the old entries were gone, I had to figure out how to create links on the dynamic page that you see when you see this blog. For this, I had to dive into the templates.

Now I’ll admit, I don’t know much about php (pCp, maybe but…where was I?…). It’s kind of like a basic code that looks kind of logical but if you don’t know how to read it, it’s a bunch of gobbildy-gook. Through more trail/error/crying/cussing, I discovered that I could put in a hard-coded link into the “side-panel template” and it would show up looking just like the dynamically generated Archive links you see over on the side.

So that’s what I did. It took awhile and it kind of breaks the rules of dynamically created webpages (because it’s hard-coded and thus must be maintained manually), but like one of my favorite quotes states, “If it’s stupid but it works, then it ain’t stupid.”

So there you have it. Now I can rest my mind that my webpage is up to date and it has working links to all the past drivel I have inflicted on you people.

And just for kicks, I threw in a pic of Buster thanking everyone for stopping by. Make sure you send him email thanking him for thanking you. He can be so high-maintenance when it comes to things like this.

Free Advice for Today: “Spend time with lucky people.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

2 comments


Mighty Mouse

Monday, February 20th, 2006

Quote of the Day: “Make it too tough for the enemy to get in and you can’t get out.”

- Unknown

The other day I wrote about taking my lovely wife to dinner. But early in the evening, we weren’t hungry yet (which might have something to do with my breakfast gluttony and pizza lunch… maybe) so since my computer mouse was starting to act up after years of faithful service, we popped over to Best Buy just to see what they had to offer. I know, Mr. Romantic strikes again.

We looked at the cordless keyboard/mouse combinations that Logitech had to offer. Ever since I bought my last Logitech mouse, I’ve been hooked and I didn’t even consider buying anything else.

I decided hat as sexy as the combos were, I should just concentrate on the mice since the high-end Microsoft super-keyboard that my Microsoft buddy gave me a few years back would suffice, even if it did have one of those old-fashioned cords sticking out the back. Blek!

Like most places, Best Buy had the mice set up in increasing price so naturally, I went straight to the expensive end. What I saw there was simply beautiful.

It’s the Logitech® MX™1000 Laser Cordless Mouse with laser precision and sophistication for the desktop.

It enticed me to experience laser precision and powerful navigation in my everyday computing and once again, adding sophistication to the desktop.

It featured:

Application Switch: a side button that works like alt-tab, switching between open applications.
Cordless: with a rechargeable docking station
Cruise Control™ buttons: for fast scroll up and down for impatient people like my wife
Internet Forward/Back: I’ve wanted these buttons for a long time
Laser Technology: as opposed to simply optical. Supposed to be better.
Mac/PC/PS/2: Well, nothing’s perfect. I just need PC, thank you.
Rechargeable: no more batteries
Right-Handed Comfort Grip: neat design that conforms to your hand
Tilt Wheel Plus Zoom™ : you can move the wheel side to side to scroll sideways.
USB: plus an adapter if you want to use your mouse port.

The price for this masterpiece was a whopping $83 which is about 4 times the price you would normally expect to pay for a normal mouse…. but this was no normal mouse.

I truly intended just to go in and look but I got caught up. This thing was the Porsche of the mouse world. Plus, we had a $50 gift certificate. OK, it was my son’s but we had given him the cash for it to buy something else so yes, it was still our $50.

Whatever, I just had to have it after I saw what it could do. Plus, my old Logitech mouse lasted me 4 or 5 years and there are just some things in life I believe you should spring as much money on as you can. Toilet paper, mattresses, pillows, bedding, ketchup, toiletries, running shoes, and a computer mouse.

I mean, think about it, how often do you use your mouse? OK, maybe it’s more impressive if I answer than question for myself. I think I can justify buying the high end.

I got it home and installed it.

I ended up reassigning all the buttons because I thought that a push of the scroll wheel should be the application switch button. And It made more sense to me to assign the up and down rocker buttons around the wheel to be the surfing forward and back buttons.

The buttons on the side was a rocker button and a button in the middle. So I assigned one of the rockers as the copy and the other as the paste. The middle I assigned as the undo so the entire set there on the side has to do with copy, paste, and undo. Just seemed they should be grouped together while the top is for surfing.

I adjusted the pointer speed and acceleration too. The whole experience was borderline nerdtastic.

When I showed it to my son, I explained all the features it had and explained to him that Logitech makes the best mice in the world… (is the plural of a computer mouse referred to as “mice”?)… and that this was the most expensive one they make. So we had the top of the top.

I saw the awe in his eyes and I almost cried with joy. He UNDERSTANDS!!!!!!!!!

Doing research for this entry, I went to the Logitech site and discovered that there is, in fact, one mouse that is higher on the pecking order that Best Buy apparently did not carry. It has double the dpi resolution and is more expensive. It’s the Logitech® G7 Laser Cordless Mouse and it can burn in the very depths of Hell.

But it takes batteries so screw you, G7. Who’s the dumbass now?

(It’s OK, MX 1000. The G7 is just an over-priced wannabe bitch.)

Free Advice for Today: “Ask yourself if what you’re doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Long Run Persistence

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

Quote of the Day: “When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend.”

- Unknown

Because I skipped my run on Friday, I had decided I would just turn my 12-mile run today into a 17-mile to make up for it. But the turnaround point at the base is at the 9-mile mark so turning back ½ mile from the “end” would seem cheesy so I got it in my head that I’d just go ahead and do the whole 18. I had two full days of rest and was plenty fueled up after the food-jamboree yesterday so that was the plan.

My plan fell to pieces.

I slept in which is OK. During the summertime, I CAN’T sleep in because it gets too hot to do the long runs (says the Badwater hopeful) but in the winter, it’s advantageous to run later in the day to let things thaw out. Like my girl-parts.

So it got kinda late but I knew I couldn’t cheese out three days in a row so I got everything ready, which takes a lot of logistics, and headed to the base 45 minutes away.

I knew it was cold. I wore my warmest Under Armour (PROTECT THIS HOUSE!) long-sleeve shirt under my running jacket. I had my Camelback, my Gu was ready, I had stopped at the store and bought a can of Red Bull to give me wings at the halfway point, and I was set.

I got to the start line and it was below freezing. OK, I thought, I will warm up as I go. Even if it sucks, it will only take 1 ½ hours to get to the turnaround.

I think that’s the thought that broke the ice (pardon the pun).

I suddenly decided at the ½ mile mark that this officially sucks ass and I was not going to deal with frozen tundra while I was dealing with 18-miles of road. So I turned around and ran back.

This is the second time I’ve started this course and bagged it because of the cold.

By the time I got home, it was 1230 and I had decided I would go to the YMCA. I just couldn’t completely bag the run but I couldn’t go into the Y with my Under Armour (PROTECT THIS HOUSE!) long-sleeve shirt or I would faint from the heat.

Getting home, I dinked around and by the time I got to the Y, it was early afternoon. This was turning into an all-day affair and I had 3-hours of running ahead of me.

Either I’m getting in better shape (down 8 lbs) or I had convinced myself that 17 miles on the treadmill was infinitely better than the 20 I ran last week. (Yes, I counted the one mile I did in the cold and the fact that I was only really supposed to do 17, I didn’t see the need to do 18. The only reason I was going to do that anyway was because of the turn-around point which didn’t matter on a dreadmill.)

The 17 miles was uneventful, other than getting caught busting through the 30-minute rule.

Allow me to explain in the spirit I was in when it happened:

Some big fat bitch wanted to waddle her fat ass on the treadmill at a brisk crawl speed whilst not messing up her clown make-up. The pixie Y-worker came over, interrupted my run at the 8-mile mark and educated me on their 30-minute rule when someone is waiting.

You can imagine I was not too happy about this. It’s kind of hard to train for a marathon 3 fucking miles at a time. I wanted to invite anyone in the whole damn place to join me in my 17-mile run if they felt it so necessary to interrupt me when it would be mere minutes until the next one opened up when they could replace the social-clubbing housewife with Lee Press-On nails and hair just-so.

To them, the interruption would allow them to reapply their make-up and have an extended conversation with the “trainers.” To me, it destroyed by long-distance rhythm and brought down the heart rate I would need to keep high for the training to be useful when I’m ready to implode at mile 22 in March and May.

But all this didn’t matter. I just had to wait and a few minutes later, I was back on a treadmill and giving the pixie the hairy eyeball. “Join me” my eyes dared her.

What were the lessons here?

1. I stretched the legs of my race-day assoholic attitude and

2. Taught me to reset the treadmill every 30 minutes.

When I was done, I came home, showered, ate, and laid around the house for the rest of the night. My training run antics had blown the entire day and I was left to suffer through same-day leg pain that always seems to be present after long treadmill runs.

Carrie and I watched “Wedding Crashers” and after watching “Red Eye” last night, we unintentionally got a double dose of Rachel McAdams.

My wife accused me of having a crush on her. I don’t know what she’s talking about. It’s not like she’s about as gorgeous a woman as I’ve ever seen or anything. It’s not like she’s been cast as the beautiful female lead in both movies, focusing on her beauty and likable personality.

Eh, I could take her or leave her. Anyway, pardon me while I look up something on Google Images and Internet Movie Database. And some fan sites.

Free Advice for Today: “Never squat with your spurs on.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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