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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Walmart Factor

After more lurking in forums, I found what might be fix to the network hiccups we've been having. Based on a poster's reported success with similar issues, I manually adjusted some of the settings using the web interface. At least the problems we have aren't comprehensive or crippling. The product almost works.

It seems like everything we buy has some "crap element" to it. That's what I call the Walmart factor. That's probably not really fair, since GM pioneered the concept by selling crap cars that needed multiple recalls in the 1970s.

It frustrates me that the standard in our economy is to provide cheap crap that doesn't really work. I don't know where this starts or where it could possibly end. Even Levis has taken to producing low quality jeans to sell at Walmart. Question: Is it still counterfeiting if you counterfeit your own product? Discuss amongst yourselves.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pollyana Economists Drive Me Nuts

The Blue skies crowd are at it again in today's New York Times.

Newsflash: July consumer expenditures increase 0.2% above June expenditures.
NYT and Department of Commerce conclusion: Oh, happy days are here again.

This is infuriating, since anyone with an IQ over 80 knows that July has 31 days,while June has 30 days. That means,of course, that if spending was level from June to July, anyone but a complete moron would expect to see an increase in total monthly expenditure of about 1/31, or about 3.33%.Come on people,we all eat more in a longer month!

More infuriating, we don't need the Einsteins and Feynmans of this world to tell us that 0.2% is about 3.1% less than 3.3%. That means we are really seeing a 3.1% decrease in how much people are spending. Anybody who sez otherwise is itching for a duel fought to the death with wet noodles. These hair brained Pollyannas in the Government and media drive me nuts. I feel like I am on a ship in a storm, and the captain's last name is Hazelwood,or worse, a committe named Hezelwood.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

A Walk in the Woods

After spending way too much time working on our new network,I was starting to feel like a pasty-faced computer geek, I found my remedy in a walk by the American River this morning. Everything is golden now (that's brown in Midwestern dialect), and i imagine some of the scenery is pretty similar to what an emigrant in the 1840s might have seen on the last day of the trip to Sutter's Fort.

On the computer geek side, I am having occasional hiccups with the network, so I'm not
ready just yet to recommend Linksys's Wireless N routers. I'll need a couple of weeks to decide if this is really working well for us.

Back to the brush, I ran into this rather charmingly spotted slightly fuzzy critter. Mother deer wasn't far away.

I enjoy the local deer. Something about those silly giant ears that charms me every time. Perhaps they're related to England's Royal Family? Anyway, it's back to civilization adn trying to figure out why that dadburned device freaks out once in a while. Must have a loose cog or something.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wireless! One Small Step for a Man. . .

. . . and now I can use the computer in the reclining chair (sorry, Mankind's getting nothing 0ut of this).

Vestanet has been born! I bought a Linksys/Cisco Wireless N Router, and installed it this afternoon. After only one call to Linksys's help center, we are up and running. I even tested the browser interface that allows me to change settings (that's the part the nice Indian lady on the phone walked me through).

I am relieved. Reading user reviews caused some worry. Every leading wireless router gets about 2/3 excellent ratings and 1/3 "this is crud" ratings. The critiques, taken as a whole, showed that everything will work perfectly, or the router will make you miserable beyond reason. Looks like I ended up with the lucky 2/3.

It took me only about 15 minutes, using Linksys's setup CD, to implement a working network with dual key encryption the Enigma code guys couldn't even have dreamed about. At that point, I walked around the house and yard and found a strong signal and fast internet response everywhere, woot!

Next, I checked to make sure I could access the router, and realized my computer didn't recognize the router's IP address. I went through the very detailed troubleshooting instructions on the website , and figured out I still couldn't connect to the device. To the help center.

It took only about 2 minuted to get to a breathing person, who actually new how to fix the problem: reset the device to factory default settings, and use the browser interface to re-establish all the settings. I've tested the browser access several times, and it seems to consistently work. All that and Streaming South Park in the easy chair.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Joys of Internet Security & Why I Hate F-Secure

It's a lot easier removing a virus than removing some antivirus programs.

That's my observation after having removed two of each in my lifetime. Both removals required me to inspect and delete some registry keys, among other things. The windows registry scares the crud out of me because I don't understand how it works, and all I know is that even one small error in messing with the registry can kill the machine.

I took a little time to set out the steps toward building a home wireless network. The first task was to get the portoputer set up with the antivirus software from our ISP (McAfee). Per usual, the worst part was clearing out the existing antivirus, and you can't install the new program if the installation program finds the old program.

The portoputer had F-Secure security software provided by Let all users of this program beware - this is unusually difficult when you need to uninstall. DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!!!!! That's a problem since you'll need to do this whenever you switch ISPs. A new antivirus usually won't download until the old program is fully uninstalled.

The whole process took me about 4 hours, starting with the easy way, Windows uninstall (after uninstalling, the program didn't appear in the programs list, but it was still automatically running with each reboot), then erasing files (still didn't work). Ultimately, I had to use google to search through "hacker" forums. I'll give two links for your information.

This forum describes the problem, as well the registry changes that might be needed to remove this virtual tumor from your computer: This was the only forum I found where the poster was calm enough to be rational. Most of the other posters were fuming and raving about conspiracies on F Secure's part.

F-Secure's websight has the uninstall tool available for download. However, if you search the sight, you won't find this: I needed to search hacker forums to find this. I think I know what the F in F-Secure stands for!

Hopefully, if you live in Charter's service area, you'll be able to find someone to show you all the steps, possibly allowing you to beat my time by a couple of hours. Taking advice from forums is always a little scary.

Interesting that I used the very approach outlined in yesterday's cartoon posting.

Next step is to buy and set up the wireless router. I am hoping that will be a piece of cake compared to this.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tha Amateur Network Geek

I ran over the DMIL's place this afternoon to help with a printer glitch. Funny this cartoon should appear today in xkcd. This cartoon captures the truth about helping other people with their PC and peripheral problems.

(Click on the image to enlarge it)

Now, you too can become a local computer expert while knowing absolutely nothing. Soon I plan to implement a wireless network. Then, and only then, will my computer idiocy once again be revealed. Right now, i am comparing mid-priced wireless routers and trying to figure out many things, such as, "what hte heck is an ethernet gigabit switch, and do I want one?". They've gotta be making this stuff up!

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Dyspeptic's Guide to America's Dairyland

Quick note to left-coasters: Calm down. Yes I realize California produces more dairy products than Wisconsin, however, much of Wisconsin's population has a relationship with local food specialties that's pretty comprehensive.

Remembrances of gustatory anomolies from my week visit:

Upon arrival Friday PM, enjoyed a beer at the Union Terrace, along with a Babcock Hall ice cream cone, and a grilled bratwurst. I believe that's known locally as a light snack. BTW, Babcock Hall ice cream is the best ice cream I have ever head. I managed to get the ice cream twice more druing the week. I feel like a pig.

I had pan fried Walleyed pike twice - fried in butter, of course. Fried eggs and salami for breakfast.

Rhubarb pie with dutch crust, I never see rhubarb in California.

Oddly enough, no cheese, except some cream cheese I had with a bagel.

Of course, everything washed down with local brew.

I feel like this guy.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Can You Stop The Rain?

Rain! We're having scattered showers and storms today! In the middle of August! Guess that's how we get the soft green woods and the CapuletMontagueUniversity student body.

The rain's keeping me indoors, or at least near the car. This rental Chevy Cobalt has helped me understand why GM is in the mess it's in. With 8,000 miles driven, the car sounds like some one's raising a hog under the dashboard. I just hope the hog behaves until I return it on Tomorrow. I am writing this in a coffee shop (part of the illustrious Metcalf's Sentry). If you are reading this, it means the wireless-inter-extension-tube actually works. Thanks again to Mom for laying this "netbook" on me. It looks like a Fischer Price Toy, but it works for real!

Taking advantage of the rain and quiet, I've dragged myself through another section of Herstein's renowned and time-tested "Abstract Algebra". I never dared take that class in college, figuring I'd likely fail. Given how long it takes me to figure these things out, I probably made a good decision back then. I can now say I understand a little about Normal Subgroups and Homomorphisms and halfway grok the principles behind public/private key encryption. Factor groups are next. Please don't ask me to define any of these things, we'll both end up dizzy. BTW, modern encryption is not very similar to the ENIGMA code.

Tonight we take the parents for a late anniversary dinner at a posh restaurant by the lake. I'll have Walleye Pike, since we never see it in California, and it's IMHO the tastiest freshwater fish.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rediscovering our Flyover Territory Roots

My week in Packers' Fly Over Land has been an experience, actually several experiences. In my mind, I am having a geographic shift experience underneath a continuum of visiting with family relative experiences.

The shift is more about social than physical geography, no matter how cool it feels to walk through fertile green woods in the summer. I walked out to picnic point, possibly the most beautiful summer afternoon in scrubby Midwestern woods I can remember, with stands of soft green grasses, leafy trees showing the first hint of gold, lakeside cattail marshes, and young students walking hand in hand. Not a single mosquito, seriously.

I have been seeing examples of that "everyone in the Midwest is nicer" meme. It's a hackneyed stereotype, but here in Madison, it appears to hold true. A grocery store clerk stopped in her tracks to spend about five minutes helping an older woman choose a bottle of juice, while discussing children, the weather, etc. My eyes moistened a bit at such kindness.
When in Madison, shop at Metcalf's Sentry, so say I.

Several days of intense family encounters. In addition to staying with sister, brudderinlaw, and parents, One aunt and cousin were simultaneously visiting from LA. Aunt, cousin and I visited my Uncle Dan, whom I have not seen in close to twenty years. With everything a person goes through in so many years, my heart sang (quietly, thank goodness) to see the same old uncle Dan personality of the olden days. Tuesday we had lunch with about twenty various relatives in Appleton. This was the best visit I could have possibly imagined, but not much grist for the blog. No resentments, no growling, no one showing up drunk, no bragging, no shouting, no fisticuffs, and even the kids were perfect. Not the slightest blogworthy scandal.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Oh Happy Days Are Here Again

At least for those of us People Who Matter (i. e., Wall Street executives), I guess.

We keep on hearing news about how great the economy is doing. The press and the Whitehouse are loudly trumpeting the good news, "The Recession is Over". To be fair, the administration has been somewhat more sangine, acknowledging that the problem is not fixed until our good citizens can get back to work. Three Cheers for someone willing to tell the truth.

What about those of us who depend on working?

The Federal Government's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that from June to July 2009, participation on the labor force has dropped by 422,000. In plain English this means that, in July, we had 422,000 less people working than we had in June. Yep, that sounds like the beginning of a recovery to me. This great interactive map has been updated through June, so you can see the monthly changes in employment. The map is easy to understand, since when it is almost all blue, things are ok, when it's red, Americans willing to work are not finding opportunities to improve their lives through the workplace.

So what else is happening for those poor no account schmucks that have to work for a living?

People Who Matter must not really care about our neighbors losing their homes, since I had to look to the local press (the Twin Cities Pioneer Press) to get a decent summary of what the most recent monthly data looks like,and it ain't a pretty picture. No, Beavis, This Sucks!!

Changes from June 2009 to July 2009:

Percentage Increase in Foreclosures 7%
(more homeowners are in serious trouble)

Monthly Foreclosure Filings
(the number of homeowners who are newly foreclosed in July):

Increase from July 2008 32%

Number of new Foreclosure and/or default notices issued 365,000
(that's one notice for 1 out of every 365 houses nationwide)

Number of houses reposessed (i. e., number of couches onthe front lawn)
June 2009 79,000
July 2009 87,000

With news like this, I'm so happy I could dance the Oceana Roll!

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Something Special From Wisconsin

Why does news like this always seem to come out of Wisconsin?

Women scorned? 4 charged in glue revenge plot

Police allege married Wis. man was lured to motel and sexually assaulted

". ..Four women, including his wife, eventually showed up to humiliate the man, who ended up with his penis glued to his stomach in a bizarre plot to punish him for a lover's quadrangle gone bad..."

In no way is any kind (even this kind) of sexual assault funny, but crazy-gluing his hoohoo to his torso sounds like a scene from some kind of X-rated loony tunes.

Perhaps this is some kind of evolutionary dead end spawned from Wisconsin's illustrious 19th century.

I'll be visiting relatives not terribly far from the sight of the crazy-glue incident. I hope da heck nonna dem yahoos involved wit dat crazy deal dere is related da me, duncha know.

Dats my story, da one wat I gotta say dere, and dats da one I'm sticking to, so dere.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Squeaky! The Girl Who Put Sacramento On The Map

Sacramento's most memorable citizen (even more annoying than Rush Limbaugh) might come back! That's right Squeaky Fromme is getting sprung later this month! Here's is one joker who gave a whole new meaning to the expression, "No bullet in the chamber".

Milwaukee may have it's Lenny and Squiggy, but they don't hold a candle to our beloved Squeaky. Who could forget those joyous afternoons with Squeaky, playing ring around the oak tree. What fun!

Squeaky was always ardent in her support of (Manson) family values, and she continues to stand by her man.

What a fine example of Christian womanhood.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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I must enjoy shouting into a vacuum, but I think about getting my act together one of these days. My mom says I am very handsome and intelligent.

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