October 2005 Archives

Scary

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What frightful creature lurks inside my apartment? A horrible experiment gone wrong? A hairball coughed up by a really large cat? The dreadful consequence of letting dust bunnies go unchecked?


Click to zoom out.

The shocking truth is revealed after the break. You may want to move the kids away from the computer before clicking…

Invasion

A small perk of living alone is that one has the freedom to enjoy a bit of guilt-free slobbiness now and then. If I don’t feel like cleaning up the spilled chocolate protein powder on my kitchen counter right away—no problem. A few emptied-out plastic Lean Cuisine trays strewn about my study? Eh, I’ll gather those up for the trash tomorrow. And my dirty dishes from breakfast? They can sit by the sink until after work.

This usually isn’t a problem as I have had a dearth of six-legged guests for years (or at least they have been smart enough to stay out of sight). My luck ran out a few days ago, though. They finally found me, their little black segmented bodies swarming over my house. One even dared to make his way up my bare leg while I was watching television. An instinct-driven sweet tooth I can maybe forgive, but invading my personal space?!? Hell, no.

Sometimes revenge can be sweet. Especially when it comes in the form of borax-laced sugar syrup. Terro has to be one of the most fun insecticides out there. You put a few drops on a piece of cardboard. The ants discover the conveniently laid out feast. They gorge themselves, taking plenty back to feed to the rest of their colony and their queen. Then their numbers slowly diminish, until not a single antennae peaks out though the cracks between the floorboards.

ants eating Terro

It’s probably anthropomorphising too much to ponder whether the ants were wondering to themselves why there have been so many dead bodies lying around the colony lately…oh well, this sugar syrup tastes really good

Looks like I can go back to being a slob again.

Motivation, momentum, and such

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It’s probably going to take a bit more than an expensive, new piece of exercise equipment sitting in my spare bedroom to get me back on track.

I need to reach deep inside myself and try to rediscover what motivated me to get in shape the first time, and if that doesn’t work, I somehow need to find new motivation.

I have just been so bleah lately. At my job, I try to throw myself into my work, to distract myself from all of the unpleasantness of real life. Then at home, exhausted from work, television and sleep continue the distraction. I haven’t even been surfing the internet lately much. I’ve drawn inward quite a bit.

If any of you have wondered how I like my new Bowflex…well, I don’t know. I haven’t really used it yet. It just sits there, red and black and imposing, challenging me to get off of my expanding ass and try it out, but I ignore it.

I swore to myself that I would never let myself slip back above 200 lbs., but I did. 203 this morning.

I keep stopping short of my goal, and then sliding backwards. Why do I keep doing this to myself? Do I fear what I will find at the imaginary finish line once I achieve my fitness goals? Or, more likely, do I fear what I won’t find there?

I ask myself what motivated me the first time to lose all that weight. It felt so good to have successfully transformed my body, to have all that new-found energy, to fit in new clothes, to give my fat pants away. I had built up such tremendous momentum…

…but I still came home each night to an empty apartment.

Is that the reward I hope to gain through my physical transformation? Companionship? Love?

I’m not really sure. Unfortunately, these questions won’t find an answer tonight. Revelatory insight will have to wait.

I need to wake up early so that I can do my workout, or maybe I’ll reset the alarm and sleep in again….

I have the power!

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I was unhappy with the level of service on our university’s Movable Type weblog server. After the chief architect of this Red Hat Linux-based MT server left our university, the server fell under the purview of a group that had a dismissive attitude about blogging and wanted to “devote as little effort as possible” to the MT server.

A dedicated, managed MT server is necessary at our university because Movable Type’s CGI dependencies will not allow individual installations to run on any of the servers available to faculty, staff, and students. (Boring technical sidenote: I am still trying to get an IIS/Berkeley DB flat file Movable Type installation to work on the Windows web server used for alumni web sites, but a necessary library (DB_File) is still missing. Sigh.)

He-Man
Anyway…the cliché “be careful what you wish for” now springs to mind because I am now the administrator of this server. Yes, I…have…the…power! Although taking on additional responsibilities when there is already a significant shortage of hours in the day may not be my smartest move.

My first task is the long overdue upgrade to Movable Type 3.2 and installation of the StyleCatcher plug-in! From there, the sky’s the limit.

I really do owe it to my university’s community to make this the best damn blogging server I possibly can. Weblog software as a personal publishing system, as a content management system, and as a social networking tool makes it an invaluable new media technology.

The New Media Consortium recognizes the importance of blogs in their 2005 Horizon Report (PDF), and print and televised media outlets are always running stories about the potentially transformative effects of blogging on journalism, academia, politics, and whatnot.

Of course, the more successful this server is, the more work it means for me. Oof. I suppose it’s a good thing that I already don’t have much of a social life… ;-)

Fortune cookie 17

This one had been in one of my pants pockets since last week. It seems rather apropos, considering recent events in my life.

Business is a lot like playing tennis; if
you don’t serve well, you lose.
Lucky Numbers 8, 17, 25, 34, 40, 46

Fixed it my own damn self

Cable guy came this evening…and…by the time the cable guy left, my cable internet service was still out.

Apparently, there was some kind of outage in my local area. On Sunday a transmitter caught fire, and this, in turn, somehow affected all of the transmitters in the apartment complexes on my street. Somehow (don’t ask me how) the individual transmitters were damaged in such a way that their signal output was no longer powerful enough to power both a television and a modem through a splitter. Comcast would (hopefully) fix this by installing a new transmitter outside my apartment by close of business Thursday.

Damn it. Having been without internet access at home since Sunday, I was not content to let well enough alone (a consistent theme with me, for better or worse). I took a closer look at the coaxial cable splitter. Hmmm, there were three “OUT” connections. Two were rated at -7 decibel signal loss, and one only had -3 db signal loss. I switched my cable modem over to the -3 db connection and one of my television cables over to one of the weaker ones. Well, what do you know? All three connections were happy. The two television connections still have enough signal strength—even to power the hi-def channels. Most importantly, I have cable internet access again.

Um, so now why couldn’t the cable guy have done that? It is his freaking job, after all.

Oh well, hopefully, this blog can finally get back to its regularly scheduled programming.

Cable outage

Okay, so the dreary weather has cleared up. It seems odd to look out the window and not see water falling from the sky.

My Comcast High-Priced Internet connection was out for the better part of Sunday and this morning. I called their tech support to find out that there was an outage in my area. Joy. My cable TV went out a few hours later, but that came back on by morning.

I’m still on campus after work, and I figured that I should probably post something just in case my service is still out. I have been trying to reduce the amount of time I spend sitting in front of the computer, but to be cut off so completely from the online world can be torture.

BTW, I love my new Bowflex. If I have a connection when I get home, I will post some pictures and write a few paragraphs late tonight.

Update: I have gone home on Monday and Tuesday with the overly optimistic expectation that this problem would have resolved itself. No dice and no internet access. I suppose I could do my blogging from my office, but at the end of the day, I just want to go home.

I called Comcast’s customer support, and a technician will be at my apartment “between 5 and 7.” Here’s hoping…

Power outage

The unending rain knocked out the power again last evening. I understand that nature is a powerful force, but it is frustrating that in this day and age that power lines aren’t properly protected against a little wind and rain. “They can put a man on the moon…” (Of course, if one were to believe the preponderance of “the moon landing was a hoax” sites out there on teh intarweb…but I digress.)

Any plans I had for last night were shot. Not much to do alone in the dark besides read by flashlight and sleep, so I did a little of both.

Oh well, at least I can BitTorrent all of the TV programs that I was unable to watch or TiVo.

Ultimate ex

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After nine exhausting hours, spread over a few days, my Bowflex Ultimate 2 is more or less put together. I plan on watching the instructional DVD all the way through before I start using it, though.

This sturdy behemoth replaces my Bowflex Power Pro that I had for five years. The poor little guy sits partially disassembled in my master bedroom. I took one last photograph to remember it by (below).

Bowflex Power Pro

We have been through a great deal together at three addresses (Plainsboro, Millburn, and Kingston. I have sat on that bench at 274 pounds, at 180 pounds, and quite a few ups and downs in between.

So why the trade in—and such an expensive one at that? Well, that $1000 off was hard to turn down. I could never get close to that on eBay if I were to sell it. Plus, when you think about it, the Ultimate 2 is not that expensive when compared to a $600-$900 annual gym membership.

Most of all, though, I had a few annoyances with the Power Pro that was really starting to negatively impact my motivation. I talked with the Bowflex sales guy for over a half-hour last month, and most of my concerns seem to have been addressed.

  • First and foremost 410 pounds of resistance on the Power Pro was not nearly enough for many of the exercises, including the leg press, the calf extension, and the shoulder shrug. 410 was so inadequate for the leg press I would often keep performing repetitions of the leg press until I got bored.

    But the Ultimate also maxes out at 410, so what’s the difference?

    This part was quite illuminating. As anyone who has seen the informercials knows, resistance is created on the Bowflex by flexing these composite Power Rods. Each rod has a number on top that rates how many pounds of resistance it provides. However, at the top of the rod’s flex, the rod only provides two-thirds of its rated resistance. The rod’s full resistance is only realized when the rod is fully flexed.

    The way the rods are positioned on the Power Pro, one rarely gets that full flexion.
  • Ab exercises on the Power Pro sucked. One of the exercises has you stretch the handgrips over your shoulders as you do a crunch. However, because of the machines design, even in the resting position, there is a tremendous amount of strain on the shoulders. Doing this exercise guaranteed that I would have welts and bruises on my shoulders the next day.
  • Also with the Power Pro, taking off and putting on the leg attachment or the lat bar was always a pain because of having to thread cables. The pulley and cable system of the Ultimate 2 makes that a thing of the past.
  • The Power Pro is kind of light. On some of the exercises, the entire machine would lift up. Let’s just say, the Ultimate isn’t going anywhere.

Here’s hoping I get a much better workout with my new machine.

宁静

I’ve watched the short-lived series through a few times, so it was a no-brainer that I go see the feature-film exploits of the crew of the Serenity. I didn’t go opening weekend because I hate crowds (ironic and tragic that I live in the most crowded state in the union).

It may not be the best movie in the ’verse, but I was entertained, felt I got my money’s worth, will buy the DVD, and hope there’s a sequel. It was certainly a better film than the most recent adventures of that crew who consistently save the galaxy, getting nary a smudge on their shiny, primary-colored uniforms. A bit of warning, though, the protagonists of this movie do not escape unscathed.

Universal has put the first nine minutes of Serenity online. It uses some crazy DRMed Java player that excludes Linux users, but the clip played back pretty well on my Mac. Those nine minutes show only two of the key protagonists, but it introduces the villain and gives a decent back-story, and the movie only gets better from there.

Ultimate delivery

The UPS driver was a bit late today, but I love the fact that he usually doesn’t come until after 4:30 PM. On days that I know I have a package on the way, I can just take off from work a tiny bit early.

The boxes now sit, neatly stacked, in my living room. I decided not to get the abominable abdominal attachment at this time, which would have been one additional box.

Bowflex Ultimate 2 shipping boxes

…and so it begins. I just hope they included all of the pieces this time.

I wonder if my soon-to-be ex-BF will be jealous that I’m trading it in for the latest model.

Ultimate shipment

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Four hundred and twenty-six pounds of exercise equipment and packing material, spread over eight boxes, are making their way to my apartment from Hodgkins, Illinois, via brown and gold panel vans this week. The first eighty-pound box sits in my living room. Three more come Thursday; the last four should arrive by Friday.

As promised by the sales guy, my new Bowflex Ultimate 2 shipped exactly three weeks after I placed my order.

I will do my best to document (with photos) the unpacking, assembly, disassembly and repacking of my old Bowflex, and my initial first impressions. I have a feeling though, that this “insert Part A into Slot B” project may take me awhile.

Update 10/06, 5:10 PM EST: Boxes 1, 3, and 4 came today. The first one was Box 2. Two hundred forty-six pounds delivered; one hundred eighty to go. Box 1 has the assembly manual, but I don’t need no stinking manual. Yeah, right.

Fortune cookie 16

Don’t be over self-confident with your
first impression of others.
Lucky Numbers 2, 7, 13, 27, 37, 46

Fair advice from today’s cookie, I suppose. You think you know someone…

Dance all night!

DDR extreme 2
…I wish. Unfortunately, “quiet hours” in my apartment are between 10 PM and 8 AM. My copy of Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 finally came today. I ordered it online a week ago so that I could get the free music sampler CD bundled. Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until I come home from work tomorrow to continue playing. I have to be considerate to my neighbors, after all.

It can be so refreshing to just get lost in the music, sweat dripping off of me, as I dance, and dance, and dance. Granted, DDR is to real dancing as paint by number is to impressionism. Still, when the driving beat of cheesy techno and house music fills the room, you just feel animated, driven by a force you can’t control to get up and groove.

Many of the movements occasionally feel a bit structured and regimented, almost like marching to a cadence; however, in the privacy of one’s own home, one can add a bit of freestyling flourish without worrying about what one’s ridiculously spastic, possibly less than masculine, gyrations must look like.

The game aspect of DDR also adds to the escapist nature of the activity. If you let your mind wander back to all the problems of life and work and whatnot, you start missing arrows, and your score and the letter grade you receive for your performance suffers.

Speaking of the game aspect, this latest iteration of Konami’s DDR franchise has much more of a video game feel to it. In earlier versions, after every fixed interval of a certain number of songs is completed, a hidden part of the game, such as a new song or course, would automatically become available. A large part of the fun is playing until you unlock everything.

In DDR Extreme 2, playing through songs or completing “missions” earns you special points that you can use in a “shop” to buy new songs, or unlock characters, etc.—reminiscent of most RPGs. There are hidden arrows that yield extra bonus points. Also, the branching paths and unlockable “worlds” of the Mission Mode seem like something out of Super Mario.

Frankly, I would have been happy enough with the 100-plus minutes of new dance music, but the new unlock system might delay the boredom that eventually sets in once one has danced through all the songs over and over again—hopefully, long enough until DDR STR!KE comes out.

Yechhh!

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So ever since The Impulsive Buy mentioned Harry Potter Bertie Bott’s Beans, I’ve been on the the lookout for them. The idea seemed intriguing—take normal Jelly Belly brand jellybeans and mix in a few “exotic” flavors.

Bertie Bott's Beans
I finally saw some at Bed Bath & Beyond and bought a couple of boxes. (I guess their candy section falls under the “beyond” part of their moniker.) This latest iteration comes in a purple box with “2 more flavors.” Candy like this, though, is no fun alone, so I brought them in to work. Most of my coworkers were apprehensive at first, but soon curiosity took over.

Oddly, the normal flavors like cherry, blueberry, and lemon drop were kind of boring. A few of the gross-out flavors like soap, bacon, black pepper, earwax, and earthworm were somewhat tolerable even though they unquestionably tasted like sweetened versions of their namesakes.

However, sardine was almost inedible, and rotten egg and booger were completely inedible. I had to spit them out and quickly find something to wash away the flavor, but the aftertaste lingered. There weren’t any of the vomit-flavored beans, though, in the boxes I got. Oh, darn.

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