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2010 Race for the BCS
Everyone has opinions. These are mine on some of the biggest debates in college football this season.

1. The SEC

At the start of the season, I told whoever might be listening that I thought UGA and Auburn would dominate their respective halves of the SEC. Then AJ Green was suspended, and I took back the UGA half of my prediction; I had no idea they would drop four in a row, and had I known how poorly the rest of the SEC East was going to play this year, I still would have picked Georgia to win the SEC East. So, either way, I was wrong about Georgia. On the other side of the conference, I picked Auburn and Alabama to be 11-0 when they met for the Iron Bowl. I was off by one team, and I'm proud about that.

2. Auburn and Oregon

For the last few weeks, I've thought of Oregon as the only unbeatable team in the regular season, mainly because teams don't have time to prepare for their hurry-up run offense. However, I also believe a championship caliber team could prepare for that in five weeks before a bowl game. Auburn's defense is suspect, but I don't think you can really gameplan for Cam Newton - stuff the box and he throws it, but spread your coverage and he sneaks out and around for 15 yards. So, if they met today, I figure Oregon would win. If they meet in January, I figure Auburn will win. And that's how I'll pick it if given the chance.

3. TCU and BSU

Both deserve a shot over a one-loss team - LSU, Wisconsin, doesn't matter - but only if Auburn or Oregon loses one of their remaining two games. That said, if the next question is which team deserves it first, my answer is BSU without hesitation. The no-brainer reasoning is based on their recent history against each other. BSU beat TCU in a BCS bowl last year and hasn't lost since or shown any reason why they would lose to TCU this year. Unless TCU can prove they're better than BSU (which they haven't), then BSU deserves the first crack at crashing the national championship.

Of course, some will argue that the Mountain West is much stronger than the WAC and BSU's schedule is, overall, weaker than TCU's. That is clearly true, but neither team was going to lose a conference game, so we have to look outside conference play, and BSU has a decisive advantage there. Both teams played Oregon State in what essentially amounted to home games, but I give TCU a small edge because it was at a "neutral site" instead of on a blue field. With Oregon State removed, their strongest non-conference opponents were Baylor (for TCU) and Virginia Tech (for BSU). A potential BCS conference champion is stronger than a perennial basement team in an up-year, especially since BSU beat Virginia Tech 2000 miles from Boise. Still, this is secondary to BSU beating TCU the last two times they've played. BSU should be ranked #3 behind Oregon and Auburn.

4. Cam Newton

As an Auburn fan, it's a stressful situation. Debates still rage over whether they were truly the best team in the country the last two times they were undefeated. In 1993 they were on probation for late '80s recruiting violations and couldn't even be seen on TV. In 2004 they were probably even better, but pre-season rankings locked them out of the title game. In 2010, the recruitment of their star quarterback is threatening their first chance at a national championship in decades. So what do I think? It's simple: Without proof, it's just hearsay, and it's not much of a story. If he took the money, then it's another season wasted for Auburn. If he didn't take the money, then shame on everyone who has already thrown him under the proverbial bus for it. Until we know for sure, it's a pointless story.

Perhaps most importantly: he is clearly the best player in college football this year, and 11 teams still lost to Auburn on the field. If those wins are vacated, the teams that lost to Auburn don't deserve any boost for it, because they still lost those games.
These are a few of my favorite balls.
Batting Practice Balls
Since the Braves moved to Turner Field, my brother and I have made a habit of getting to games early enough to catch 60-90 minutes of batting practice from the left field seats. We have caught many practice home runs, and occasionally got to play catch with a friendly outfielder until some jerk of a fan ruined the game by keeping the ball. We also almost started a fight with an usher who slammed his shoulder into my brother to steal a ball from him. An usher. My brother was 13 or 14 at the time.

Between the two of us, we have caught about 20-30 batting practice balls, mostly more than 10 years ago when we went to the games more frequently. But none of those compare to catching a live game ball. That's why these next two dates stick out for me:

The Home Run Ball
Date: July 6, 2002
Hitter: Moises Alou, Cubs
Pitcher: Kerry Ligtenberg, Braves
Inning: Top of the 6th
After the Braves batted in the bottom of the 5th, my brother volunteered to miss the Cubs' turn at bat and go get some snacks. With 1 out in the top of the 6th, Fred Mcriff singled to right-center on a 1-2 pitch from Kerry Ligtenberg. The next batter, Moises Alou, hit the first pitch to section 138 in the left field seats, where I made a juggling catch (thanks to interference from a fan who ran from 20 seats over). I was sitting in my brother's aisle seat while he was gone.

The Foul Ball
Date: May 2, 2010
Hitter: Nate McLouth, Braves
Pitcher: Bud Norris, Astros
Inning: Bottom of the 3rd
After watching the first two innings from the Chophouse, we moved to our seats behind home plate in Section 204. We were supposed to sit in row 15, but the rows in front of us were empty, so I moved us down to row 8. We missed the Astros' turn at bat, and Nate McLouth was just stepping in to lead off the bottom of the 3rd when we got settled. Within seconds, he fouled a ball straight back, about three seats to our right and one row behind us. A fan missed it, and the ball rolled straight to me.
Entry #2500
So when it comes to free online web site/blog services, this is my chronology. Some of the join dates are guesses. Some are posted on my profile when I login.

Geocities (fall 1996)
Angelfire (1997?)
Xoom (1997?)

By 1999 I had designed the layout of my web site from the ground up, so I ditched sites like Geocities and Xoom for space on a friend's domain, which lasted nearly four years. That site stayed online for years until it became so frequently corrupted by malicious attacks that I just had to stop rebuilding it to keep friends and family from going to it.

Livejournal (2/5/2004)
Facebook (10/28/2004?)
Xanga (2/8/2005)
MySpace (3/14/2005)
Twitter (11/27/2008)

I am pretty sure I narrowed my earliest Facebook presence to October 2004, but I didn't use it much until Spring 2005. I just know I joined in college, and I graduated in December 2004...

Entry #2500 here. The end?
A Little Less Action
I found an interesting football article in the Wall Street Journal describing how the average NFL broadcast is divided up:
  • 11 minutes of action from the snap to the whistle
  • 11 minutes of coaches and referees
  • 17 minutes of replays
  • 60 minutes of commercials
  • 75 minutes of players between plays
  • 3-5 minutes of announcers, credits, and other screens
It's interesting that we spend so much time watching about 11 minutes of football. Condensed playback of those 11 minutes would allows to watch all 16 weekly games in the time it takes to watch just one full broadcast.
American Patriotic Songs
Someone needed a list of these for something at the school, and I realized it was tough to find a single list that had them all, including the authors and dates. So here's a quick list. Let me know if I'm missing an obvious patriotic song that should be included.

Top 10 (listed chronologically):
  • The Star Spangled Banner, 1814, Francis Scott Key
  • America (My Country, Tis of Thee), 1831, Samuel Francis Smith
  • Dixie, 1860, Dan Emmett
  • Home on the Range, 1873, Brewster Higley
  • America the Beautiful, 1895, Katharine Lee Bates
  • You're a Grand Old Flag, 1906, George Cohan
  • Over There, 1917, Georga Cohan
  • God Bless America, 1918 (revised in 1938), Irving Berlin
  • This Land Is Your Land, 1940, Woody Guthrie
  • God Bless the USA, 1984, Lee Greenwood

Songs not included:
  • "Yankee Doodle" was a British lyric written before the American Revolutionary War, and it isn't clear who wrote it or when.
  • "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" was an Irish anti-war lyric written in 1863.
  • Anything contemporary that hasn't yet withstood the test of time. Sorry, Trey Parker.
We are World of Goo
I've quoted what I believe is the essential summary of Jon Erik Ariza's analysis of World of Goo, which he believes is one of the most important games of our generation. If you've played it, then this will make sense to you. If you have not, then perhaps you should. Either way, it's out there waiting for you. You can't stop progress...
World of Goo is a game that has some pretty obvious themes like [corporate globalization and consumerism], but it goes beyond that and touches on beauty, our past, the cost of progress, and our place in the world. There’s so much to this game but how do they fit it all within the confines of a puzzle title? Puzzle games like Tetris are brilliant in their own right but often lack all semblance of a storyline. They lack depth and meaningful themes, but somehow World of Goo transcends the apparent barriers of the genre -- some might even say the medium -- and delivers messages appropriate for the best of films or poetry, and does so with such tact and subtlety that many won’t realize how obvious it really is. When I stumbled on it, World of Goo went from being an excellent puzzle game, to being a tragic mirror with a glimmer of hope in a telescope aimed towards the stars.

. . .

[World of Goo is] not simply a game, but a work of art that can touch us in ways many outsiders don’t think a game can. The game covers themes that highlight not only the tragedies in our lives and our world, but also remind us to not despair, but to keep on pressing on into the unknown. After all, if we are World of Goo, then not even the sky is the limit.
Christmas on TV
These are my favorite Christmas movies and specials, roughly in the order that I want to see them. I rearranged this list in 2011, but I left the numbers in place from 2009. This has nothing to do with their overall quality as films, because otherwise Die Hard would be #1. Also, there are countless others that I don't know well enough to include. You can hate me. Feel free to disagree:

3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
1. Home Alone
2. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
5. Elf
6. Scrooged
4. The Santa Clause
7. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
8. A Christmas Story
9. A Charlie Brown Christmas
13. Fred Claus
14. The Santa Claus 2
15. Gremlins
16. The Nightmare Before Christmas
12. The Holiday
17. Die Hard
18. The Grinch
19. Love, Actually
20. Prancer
10. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
11. Frosty the Snowman

DigitalDreamDoor's top 100 list includes dozens of movies that I haven't seen, and the Wikipedia list separates them into useful categories (and lists a lot more). I still need to see Bad Santa, The Polar Express, and Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause; and I need to re-watch the classics that I don't remember well enough to include here (you know which ones, because they're not on my list).

Also, if anyone tries to tell you that I don't like Christmas Vacation, they just don't know what "it's not my favorite" means. :)
Pocket Retro Game Emulator
I want, I want, I want a Pocket Retro Game Emulator. It plays Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Gameboy Advance, NeoGeo (why?), eBooks, and FM radio tunage. It's a bit on the small side, but it has an AV-out slot for playing through a TV when I'm not in a car.

But think of the possibilities... Every game I loved that came out before my 15th birthday (plus a ton of more recent ones on the Gameboy Advance), and a ton of gems that I missed out on. Yeah, I can dig it.

If this thing operates exactly as advertised, I can't imagine NOT owning one.
Insurance Companies Not So Evil?
I'm not surprised that there are companies out there making larger annual profits than health insurance companies, but I had no idea their profit margins had sunk this low:
Health insurance profit margins typically run about 6 percent, give or take a point or two. That's anemic compared with other forms of insurance and a broad array of industries, even some beleaguered ones.

Profits barely exceeded 2 percent of revenues in the latest annual measure. This partly explains why the credit ratings of some of the largest insurers were downgraded to negative from stable heading into this year, as investors were warned of a stagnant if not shrinking market for private plans.

Of course there are good insurance companies out there, but there are sharks out there too.

Speaking of insurance, who do you recommend for car insurance? I have a 2007 Camry that needs (I guess) the standard coverage, and I'm thinking about switching companies. The last ticket I received was for a fender-bender in 2004, and otherwise I'm a good, defensive driver who maintains my car. But I want to switch from a state provider (who used to be less expensive) to one of the larger ones (because with a larger client pool, their rates are now lower). Got any good or bad experiences with any of the big boys?
Baseball Movies I Own
The ones I own:
1976 - Bad News Bears
1984 - The Natural
1988 - Bull Durham
1989 - Major League
1989 - Field of Dreams
1992 - The Babe
1992 - A League of Their Own
1992 - Mr. Baseball
1993 - The Sandlot
1993 - Rookie of the Year
1999 - For Love of the Game
2011 - Moneyball
2012 - Trouble with the Curve
2013 - 42

Others I've seen:
1976 - The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings
1985 - Brewster's Millions
1994 - Little Big League
1994 - Angels in the Outfield
1994 - Major League II
1996 - The Fan
2001 - Summer Catch
2001 - Hardball
2005 - Fever Pitch

Others I want to see:
1942 - The Pride of the Yankees
1953 - The Winning Team
1973 - Bang the Drum Slowly
1985 - The Slugger's Wife
1986 - A Winner Never Quits
1988 - Stealing Home
1988 - Eight Men Out
1994 - Cobb
1998 - Major League: Back to the Minors
2001 - 61*
2002 - The Rookie
2004 - Mr. 3000
2006 - The Benchwarmers
2008 - Touching Home
2009 - The Open Road
2010 - How Do You Know
Fall TV Series Premiere Schedule
Quoting the Scorecard Review:
It’s amazing. Every year it seems next to impossible to find one easy to use guide to actually find out when your favorite TV shows start.

Well, after some digging, we found one. Thank you The TV Remote.

It looks like a complete list.
I edited the link to go straight to the premiere schedule, but otherwise, that's verbatim from TSR's page. For the full alphabetical list of shows, scroll halfway down the page. (GeekTonic also has a list that includes specials like the Miss Universe pageant, but it doesn't have a convenient alphabetical list.)

I am now happy to know that Heroes, House, and The Big Bang Theory all start on September 21; and The Simpsons, the new Cleveland Show, Family Guy, and American Dad start on September 27. 30 Rock starts October 15.
Football Pick'em Games
Football season is almost here, so it's time to join those Yahoo groups to compete with friends to see who can pick the most winners out of each week's games. Just who will win, nothing fancier than that. It's fun and easy...

Pass this along to anyone who might be interested. The more, the merrier!

Group ID#: 1122
Password: macon

Group ID#: 2146
Password: macon

Group ID#: 3348
Password: macon
(In this one, you have to pick a winning team each week. If your pick loses, you're done for the season! Also, you can pick a team only once -- so choose wisely!)
Livejournal Observation
I have always maintained a very personal friends list. I tend to keep only people I have actually met in real life. Still, there are a select few of you that have become friends despite that or are otherwise just interesting enough to follow (even if only occasionally) on my friends page.

Still, there is an 80:20 ratio of people I have known personally to people I've never met on my livejournal, yet the ratio of livejournal posts is exactly opposite: 80 written by people I've never met versus 20 by people I know personally. Of course I'm guessing wildly and then rounding these numbers, but it's an interesting observation nonetheless.

I guess most of us use Facebook nowadays anyway.

I still prefer Livejournal for blogging and linking. (And I refuse to use Twitter, but I at least have an account so one day I can go back and say, "look, I got one of those really early!" I'm a big fan of never being the first nor the last to jump on a bandwagon.)
All-Time Fictional Baseball Team
Doug Gottlieb has started something that hasn't been done before, at least not at ESPN: he's having a fantasy sports draft to build the best fictional sports teams from movie characters. I'm never listening long enough to know the exact rules, but since it's pulling from all sports, I'm guessing the idea is to build the most athletic team and hope they can compete in any event thrown at them.

But never mind all that. All I want to do now is draft a fictional-character baseball team. So I will. Now I just have to wonder who I'm missing...

C: Leon Carter (The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings)
C: Crash Davis (Bull Durham)
C: Jake Taylor (Major League)
1B: Jack Elliott (Mr. Baseball)
2B: Josh Exley (The X-Files: "The Unnatural")
3B: Roger Dorn (Major League)
SS: Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez (The Sandlot)
LF: Bobby Rayburn (The Fan)
CF: Willie "Mays" Hayes (Major League)
RF: Roy Hobbs (The Natural)
DH: Max "The Hammer" Dubois (Mr. Baseball)
UT: Pedro Cerrano (Major League)
UT: Ray Kinsella (Field of Dreams)
SP: Billy Chapel (For Love of the Game)
SP: Ebby Calvin "Nuke" Laloosh (Bull Durham)
SP: Bingo Long (The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings)
RP: Henry Rowengartner (Rookie of the Year)
CP: Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn (Major League)

Manager: Lou Brown (Major League)
Coach: Jimmy Dugan (A League of Their Own)

I don't know what positions Exley and Rodriguez played, but I needed a shortstop and second baseman. And I had to shuffle the outfield and DH spots a touch since two Wesley Snipes characters played center field, but I think it's a pretty solid list otherwise. Also, my apologies to Dottie Hinson (A League of Their Own), but she's a girl.
Quantum of Solace
I finally watched the second "Daniel Craig is James Bond" movie, and I liked it, of course. Unlike most Bond movies, the last two have seemed mostly realistic (minus the excessive wear and tear on people and things yet they keep on ticking), and therefore I have enjoyed them quite a bit. They're not perfect, but I love James Bond movies, so they're great to me.

Also, I have an answer to a question people seem to like to ask when they hear about this movie:

(Q) What is a quantum of solace?
(A) A quantum is the tiniest possible fraction of something that someone can have. Solace is essentially a synonym of satisfaction. So a quantum of solace is the smallest possible amount of solace a person can have. In the case of the Bond film, it is likely a reference to the tiniest speck of consolation Bond gets for tracking down the killers of Vesper Lynn (or, perhaps less specifically, for just doing his job and getting the bad guy).
Michael Jackson Dance Tributes
I hope you like Michael Jackson dance tributes.

(1) Filipino prison inmates do Thriller:

(2) Bounce flash mobs do Beat It in Stockholm:
Michael Jackson
First, MTV has a lengthy biography that's worth reading. Also, I'd like to challenge a few enduring mistruths about him, because as crazy as he was in his later years, I think he came by it honestly.

(1) Lupus is a debilitating disease that can be devastatingly painful, which explains the meds.

(2) Vitiligo causes depigmentation of his skin, which explains the self-consciousness about his appearance.

(3) He broke his nose in 1979 and the rhinoplasty to repair it wasn't entirely successful and required a second one, and then a third one... This doesn't explain all 13-or-so plastic surgeries, but it explains how it all began.

(4) Every time he made an appearance -- no matter when or where -- people would scream and faint and bang on his vehicle. (If people screamed and fainted every time they saw me, I'd be paranoid too. Just saying.)

In the long run, I prefer to remember Michael Jackson is one of the most talented entertainers of all time. Yes, he was different, but if you were the most recognizable living person on the planet, you would be a bit different too.
The Camry and I have been together for two years now, and we couldn't be happier. (Well, there's that 12-year-old-kid-and-his-bike's dent in the rear driver-side door, but that's just a blemish that will soon be healed. I hope.)

Here's hoping for another 10+ years. At 15,000 miles per year, mostly highway miles, it should be no problem. After all, I raised a 1994 Grand Am to a mileage of 170,000 before I sold it, and it's still moving between Bibb and Twiggs counties on a regular basis. So I figure a 2007 Camry can easily hit that mark and then some.
Wikihoaxing Test: Wikipedia Passed; The Media Failed
An Irish graduate student planted a fake quotation on the WikiPedia entry for a recently deceased French composer, and watched as Wiki-servants removed it twice because it was not cited. When he planted it a third time, however, it stayed for roughly one day before it was removed for good, and newspapers around the world used the fake, uncited quotation in their articles and obituaries about the life of Maurice Jarre.

The goal was to expose news outlets who were too quick to rely on WikiPedia as a source -- or, more specifically, to expose journalists who aren't properly doing their jobs.

Let this serve as yet another reminder that WikiPedia is not an acceptable source of information. Use WikiPedia to get an idea about the topic, and then either check the cited sources at the bottom of the page, or search the web for more reputable sources. Better yet, go to the library and find a real source.
Ahavo Rabo Taco Salad
Alter Bridge is working on their third album, which will probably be released in 2010. This will be sometime after Creed's Full Circle reunion tour.

Creed will be in Atlanta Friday, September 11. I'm strongly considering going once tickets go on sale.

It's okay, you can judge me.
Scratches Build Character
The Camry is no longer a visibly flawless machine, but I will try to take care of that rather quickly.

This afternoon, I heard a strange noise that sounded like something hitting my car. I looked outside the door, and a child close to the age of 10 or 12 was picking up his bicycle and whimpering a little, and after making sure he was okay, I saw the dent and scratches. He had lost control after running over a stick, and he and his bike hit the driver's side rear door. There were no broken bones or blood -- he just appeared to be shaken up and, well, more embarrassed than anything (and scared that he had to involve mom or dad). I told him it would be okay, it was just an accident, and it's not a big deal.

A few minutes later, he and his dad came by and we exchanged phone numbers, and I told them I was just glad he was okay, and I would try to ask a couple of friends who work on cars if there's an easy, inexpensive way to repair the damage.

Funny, I've been an adult for several years, and I bought the car and I've made the payments for it, but just now, dealing with a kid in pain and then the parent, I felt more like an adult than ever before. Weird.
April Fools Trivia Night
I only asked the first seven of these questions last night, but they're entertaining. How many can you answer correctly?

(If you feel like playing along, your comments will be hidden from view so others can't see your answers. I'll post answers in a comment of my own in a week or so.)

(1) How many balls are used in a standard game of 8-ball?

(2) A scientist is measuring how fast balls of steel travel through water at different temperatures. If each ball is the same temperature as the water it is being dropped into, which temperature would allow the steel balls to travel through the water faster, 10°Celsius or –5°Celsius?

(3) Is a firefly a type of beetle, cockroach, fly, or moth?

(4) How many NFL teams play their home games in the state of New York?

(5) If you really know your sushi, then you know that sushi is not raw fish. The word "sushi" actually refers to a particular way rice is prepared. What is the proper Japanese term for raw fish?

(6) Why don't peacocks lay eggs?

(7) What can run but never walks, has a mouth but never talks, has a head but never weeps, has a bed but never sleeps?

(8) How many months have 28 days?

(9) A desert is a landscape that receives less than 250 millimeters (about 10 inches) of precipitation per year. Where is the largest desert on Earth?

(10) What is the largest island by surface area in the continental United States?

(11) What American Revolutionary War battle was fought on Breed’s Hill?

(12) What is the official language (or what are the official languages) of the United States?

(13) What country lays claim to Greenland?

(14) Which weighs more: a pound of gold or a pound of feathers? The answer is not neither, so pick one.

(15) This paragraph looks so ordinary that you would think that nothing was wrong with it at all, and in fact, nothing is. But it is unusual. Why? If you study it and think about it you may find out, but I am not going to assist you in any way. You must do it without coaching. No doubt if you work at it for long, it will dawn on you. What is unusual about this paragraph?
Smarty Pants Dance, Smarty Pants Dance
Lola does the Smarty Pants Dance!

Probably because she's smarter than a fifth grade at age 2. For her smarts (and her dance), she won $10,000 on America's Funniest Videos in May 2008 (the show aired in October), and this video clip has slowly been making its way around the interwebs since. The illegal copies on YouTube won't last forever, so get the video straight from the source by clicking the ABC link above.
Grammar Nazi: Lessons 6
You're getting a couple of freebies here. Sorry to load you up two days in a row, but this is all stemming from conversations surrounding the same article.

Years of Experience
If you have five years of experience, then you have five years' experience. If you have done seven hours of work, then you have done seven hours' work. Notice the apostrophes in the second half of those sentences.

Better Than Me
You do it better than I, not better than me, because if you finish the clause, it's "you do it better than I do." It would be improper to say "you do it better than me do," so use "I" in those cases. However, you can be better than me at something. The trick (mostly) is whether "I" or "me" can be followed by a verb.

You should probably like it more, not better
On that note, you can do something better than someone else, but you like something more than someone else. If you say you like something "better" than I do, then you're saying that the quality of your liking it is superior to my liking of it -- this is fine and is technically not incorrect grammar, but it is incorrect because you're not saying what you mean to say.

However, it is acceptable to say you "like it better" when, for example, you're telling a cook that you like your eggs better than he/she has prepared them. But I don't recommend saying that aloud.
Grammar Nazi: Lesson 5
When adding -ing, -ed, or -er to a verb that ends in a consonant, the general rule is this: double the last consonant if the last syllable is stressed (or emphasized), but do not double that consonant if the last syllable is not stressed. Examples: Double the consonant in admitted, acquitted, transferred, and occurred; but do not double the consonant in audited, edited, targeted, or even kidnaped (although I might argue that last one).

But what about those pesky L's in words like cancel, control, level, panel...? Well, in the American style, the rule is NOT to double the L, while in Britain the L should be doubled. But that's too simplistic, and some words look ridiculous if you go by those rules alone.

So here's the rule I use, which according to the previous paragraph is probably incorrect: words divided by two more more consonants (like the "nc" in cancel or "ntr" in control should double the L at the end, while those divided by a single consonant (like the "v" in level or the "n" in panel should not double the L. Besides, cancelled looks better than canceled, and leveled looks better than levelled.

If I'm wrong, then so be it. It makes more sense this way. But blog writing and academic writing are two very different things.

(Note: If you're writing for a newspaper, always choose the version of the rule that involves the least letters, because most newswriting grammar/style rules are based on saving ink and allowing more words to fit in the width of a column.)
Informal is not incorrect.
In other words, I ain't wrong. So if you gotta get good at getting "got," then here's a humorous but serious article about how to use "got" properly.
Conficker Worm (virus?) for Windows!
If any of your your security or Windows Update software isn't functioning properly, or if you can't reach security-related web sites, you might want to read into the Conficker/Downadup worm; it's a nasty one. If you're not showing any problems, you may want to disable Windows File Sharing (or leave it on at your own risk if certain programs need it).

You know it's bad when the NY Times writes a lengthy article about it. But the attention is warranted:
Blah, blah, blah.Collapse )

Computer security researchers expect that within days or weeks the bot-herder who controls the programs will send out commands to force the botnet [possibly including your computer] to perform some as yet unknown illegal activity.

Several computer security firms said that although Conficker appeared to have been written from scratch, it had parallels to the work of a suspected Eastern European criminal gang that has profited by sending programs known as "scareware" to personal computers that seem to warn users of an infection and ask for credit card numbers to pay for bogus antivirus software that actually further infects their computer.

Microsoft has released a security update for it, so check Windows Update and install your updates! You should also update your antivirus software and run a full system scan.

If you're already infected and your antivirus software won't run, check Microsoft's (lengthy) support page about it.
Custom Ringtones (LG enV2, Verizon)
I love the enV2 already. I had had the phone for maybe 10 hours before I had uploaded my first custom ringtones. It's actually very easy once the sound clips are ringtone-ready, but the ones that aren't require some software. Luckily, I have free software that does everything I need.

WARNING: I have the LG enV2 (LG VX9100) for Verizon Wireless. I don't know how this may apply to other phones on other networks, as I am not an expert, so don't try this at home if you don't know what you're doing.

Update 3/23/2009: I have confirmed that this process works for a variety of LG phones on the Verizon network that use MP3 ringtones and MicroSD memory cards. I have also successfully sent the tones to other phones on other networks, but with less consistent success.

Step 1: Prepare the sound clip.
First thing's first: get the (legally obtained) music ready. There are three requirements:
    File type: MP3
    File size: less than 500 KB
    Duration: less than 30 seconds

I recommend a 128 Kbps MP3, because a 30-second MP3 encoded at 128 Kbps is right at 500 KB. If you want higher quality, your clip will have to be shorter to meet the 500 KB limit. But you don't need that quality for the puny speakers on a cell phone.

MP3 Trimming Trickery...Collapse )

Step 2: Send the sound clip to your phone.
Your phone may not work exactly like mine, so just follow along and see if your phone behaves in a similar manner.

Step by step, day by day...Collapse )
Finally, it has happened to me.
Right in front of my face, and I just cannot hide it...? Well, it is a cell phone.

Ah, the LG VX4400. Here was a phone that did everything right for its time. But it did not take or even receive pictures, and it didn't play polyphonic tones. I could live without the camera and QWERTY keyboard, but the pictures and audio needed to be upgraded to 21st century quality. So thank you for your time and service, LG VX4400. You have been a great phone. You have served more than five years very admirably. But it's your little brother's time now.

Paul's LG VX4400
November 16, 2003 - January 23, 2009
(that's roughly 1895 days)

So now, say hello to the LG enV2. It's one of the few I had eyed for a short time now; the price and I were compatible; the phone features were what I wanted; and the keyboard and camera are nice bonuses.

But there is one tiny little thing. It's not a big deal, but it is a thing. *86 already goes to voicemail, so why does the enV2 steal one of the ultra-rare single-digit speed dial spots, too? And not just any digit, but the number 1! My speed dials are sequential and start at 1, so this is a bit of a conundrum. But, well, #5 has jumped around a lot over the years, so I may just take it out of the mix and bump up the first four to 2-5 and be done with it.

But either way, I'm happy with it. I just hope I feel the same in two years. :)

I hear : CeCe Peniston
I did not know this:
Many people think that a nose gets congested (stuffy) from too much thick mucus. This is incorrect. The nose becomes congested when the tissues lining the nose become swollen due to inflamed blood vessels.

And more useful information:
Medicines are not the only way to relieve a stuffy or runny nose. Often, gentler solutions are better. Try these steps to thin the mucus, which can help you breathe easier and get your nasal secretions back to normal:
  • Use gentle saline nasal sprays.
  • Increase the humidity in the air with a vaporizer or humidifier.
  • Drink extra fluids. Hot tea, broth, or chicken soup may be especially helpful.

  • Allergies are fun.
    Can't make changes to a locked Windows file?
    I have a game called Snood. (There are several Snood games here, but I just have Snood for Windows. It's fun. Much better than FreeCell!) Upon first installing it, Catie and I played it a few times, and we set a list of high scores. But upon restarting the computer and playing again, no new high scores could be saved.

    I threw an occasional tantrum about it for weeks, but tonight I got to the bottom of it: Windows Vista protects the preferences file, because it is stored in the Snood folder under Program Files on the hard drive. (And Windows Vista is very protective of the Program Files folder, so it won't let just any program save to it, and Snood is not on the VIP list.)

    Luckily, Snood allows you to change where that file is saved in its "Game Preferences" menu, and it will write a new preferences file in the location you choose when you close the program. Vista has a "saved games" folder under each user's default folder, so that's where I told Snood to save its preferences file. Presto! I can save my settings now, and it remembers them!

    (Alternatively, you can change the permissions or security settings on that file or folder, allowing Windows Vista to save changes to it. The instructions to do this are out there. Programs designed with Vista in mind have already done this for you.)

    I only write this here because it should work for pretty much any program with a protected settings file, as long as the program allows you to change that file's location.
    George Washington was a genius.
    I just found this on xkcd's blog, via a post Catie made like two years ago. (It was the second-most-recent post I could see, so it's not like I've been reading for a while to get to two years ago... not that there's anything wrong with doing that. But I haven't yet.)

    It's a translation of George Washington's farewell address into modern, everyday speech. Read it.

    Don't be scared by its length. It's important to know what our first and greatest president established for us, and how we have spent just over 200 years screwing it up ever since.

    Also, if you're a nerd like me (or a nerd unlike me), check out the xkcd link above. I've never been a fan of comics really (weird, I know), but this one is so awesome that -- instead of just starting where I came in -- I went back to the beginning and started reading the whole thing. I'm up to #135 or so now, reading 10-20 a day or so.

    As Catie so carefully put it, "Read it. Love it. Thank me later."

    xkcd is another thing I'm thankful for. So, thanks, Catie.
    New Cable Modem with a Wireless Network using Cox High Speed Internet
    For the first time since activating this Cox High Speed Internet account over seven years ago, I had to replace the modem. I initially overlooked some simple networking rules, so I had difficulty connecting through my router at first, so I'm sharing my step-by-step guide to make it simpler for someone else.

    Before you begin...

    The old modem can be disconnected and removed. If a router was used, turn it off and disconnect one computer. This computer will be used to setup the new modem via ethernet cable, so its wireless connection (if it had been using one) should be disabled until the setup process is complete.

    Part 1: Setting up the Modem

    (1) Plug the coaxial cable (the, uh, "cable" cable) from your internet service provider into the modem.

    (2) Power on the modem and wait for the initialization process to complete. Typically it is complete when the internet light is solid.

    (3) Connect the computer directly to the modem with an ethernet cable.

    (4) Attempt to access the internet. (Any browser should work, in theory. If you have trouble here, you may need to consult the manual or software included with the modem. Otherwise, I would leave that stuff sealed.)

    (5) If things are working properly, the web site will load and prompt you to enter your Cox High Speed Internet account information to verify that you are a paying customer eligible to use their network. Once this is completed, your internet will be activated.

    If you are not using a router and there are no other computers on the network, you're finished!

    Part 2: Restoring the Home Network

    (6) Turn on the router.

    (7) Connect your computer (the one you just used with the modem) to the router with a wired connection. If a wireless connection is connecting by default, then disable the computer's wireless connection so that the wired connection takes over.

    (8) Access your router's options interface and use the "Clone MAC Address" function to clone your computer's MAC address. It is important that the connection is a wired connection (not wireless!), since you just used that same connection with the modem. This MAC address is how Cox knows who is connecting to its service, which is why you must clone the legitimate address to your router in order for the router to receive the internet service.

    (9) Once the MAC address is cloned, save the router settings, and allow the router a few seconds to accept the change.

    (10) Turn off the router, disconnect all computers from the router, and connect the cable modem to the router.

    (11) Then turn the router back on. Its internet light should indicate that it is receiving the internet signal via the modem.

    (12) Restore all previous connections to the router, wired and wireless, and your network should be functional again.

    This whole process might takes less than 10 minutes, or it could take half an hour.
    Where to vote next Tuesday in Georgia
    Close to one-third of Georgia's registered voters have already voted. Turnout hasn't been anything near 67% in recent years, so let's just say that's the number we hit this year. That would mean half of Georgia's voters have already voted, and Tuesday won't be so bad (because on Tuesday, the remaining voters will be split among several voting precincts instead of only a few election offices)!

    But some of us don't know where to go on Tuesday. Well, have no fear! Georgia's election precinct locator allows you to type in someone's first initial, last name, birthday, and home county... and find out where they vote! (Okay, maybe you can fear a little, although if I was going to stalk somebody, I wouldn't start here.)

    Naturally, you're supposed to use it to find your own polling location, but it could be useful for about 90 seconds of fun if you're curious about where a couple of friends or family members vote. You could even be helpful if they're not sure where to go.
    Hurricane Fay
    Interested in Hurricane Fay? I know, it's not a hurricane yet, but it will be after it gets through Cuba.

    The image links to a larger image, and I've got links to various regions below.

    Regional Satellite Loops:
    United States
    Mexico and Central America

    Contiguous US:
    Atlantic Coast
    Pacific Coast (includes Hawaii)

    Gulf and Caribbean:
    Gulf of Mexico
    Florida and the Bahamas
    Puerto Rico
    Geographical Misconceptions
    Lakes Michigan and Huron, commonly thought to be two separate lakes, are actually one lake. Don't believe it? Consider the facts: the surfaces of Michigan and Huron are at the same elevation, and they are connected by the Straits of Mackinac -- 5 miles wide, 30 miles long, and depths similar to either half of the lake. Hydrologically, Lake Michigan, the Straits of Mackinac, and Lake Huron are all parts of the same body of water -- the largest freshwater lake in the world (and second-largest of all lakes behind the Caspian Sea).

    There are five oceans, not just four. The Southern Ocean surrounds Antarctica, and it's actually the fourth-largest. It wasn't officially recognized until 2000.

    Mount Everest's peak is the highest point on earth relative to sea level, but two other mountains could claim to be Earth's tallest. Mauna Kea, in Hawaii, rises only about 13,800 feet above sea level, but an additional 19,700 feet are beneath the Pacific Ocean's surface At nearly 33,500 feet from base to peak, it is much taller than any other mountain on earth. And because of the planet's rotation over time, the planet is fatter at the equator, so sea level at the equator is several miles farther from the center of the earth than is sea level at either pole. As a result, Mount Chimborazo (Ecuador, Andes Mountains) is about 9000 feet closer to sea level but about 7000 feet closer to outer space than Mount Everest. (For the same reason, the Mississippi River technically flows UPHILL to get to New Orleans.)

    Also, the northernmost, westernmost, and easternmost points in the continental United States are in Minnesota, Washington, and Maine, respectively. If the "continental" requirement is removed, then all three United States extremities are in Alaska (although, if we ignore the technicality provided by crossing the Prime Meridian, the easternmost point would still be in Maine). The southernmost extremities are in Florida or Hawaii.

    For more geographical misconceptions, see here:
    Help! Hyperlinks in Powerpoint...
    An instructor where I work has Powerpoint presentations with hyperlinks, mostly to local files like AVI or WMV videos, or occasionally PDF documents. At home and in her office, the links behave as expected: Windows opens the linked file as if someone had clicked on it from an Explorer window.

    On the classroom computer, however, we first get a warning message about potentially harmful information asking for confirmation to proceed. After clicking "OK", we get:
    No program is registered to open this file.

    She has Office 2003 at home and it works. She has Office 2007 in her office and it works. She has Office 2007 in the classroom and it does not work. The computer is much older, so there's no telling what tiny little bit of configuration is causing this problem, but it's nothing to do with file associations or missing programs, because everything needed to run the files is installed and functioning properly. They just won't open from a link in a Powerpoint presentation.

    Any ideas?

    (Keep in mind that this is a classroom computer, and ditching this and/or that Microsoft product might be your knee-jerk suggestion, it isn't feasible.)
    Grammar Nazi: Lesson 4
    Here is how to correctly reference common collegiate degrees in America. (It is painful to work for a college and see it printed incorrectly.)

    (1) If writing about the degree generally, then it's just a master's, a bachelor's, or an associate's degree. Don't capitalize the first letter but remember the apostrophe; it's a possessive noun.

    (2) If writing about the degree specifically, then it is a Master of Arts, a Bachelor of Civil Law, or a Associate of Science. The word "bachelor" should be capitalized but not possessive, followed by the word "of" (not capitalized) and the type of degree (capitalized).

    ExamplesCollapse )
    iPod help, anyone?
    I don't have an iPod and haven't used an iPod. I have barely used iTunes on my own, so my exposure to the hardware or software is very limited. However, my sister has a dilemma, and I'm putting my tech-savvy friends to the test to help her. Here goes:
    I had a bunch of mp3 files on my hard drive, and I imported them into my iTunes. So I then had them in two locations. So when I needed to free up space on my hard drive, I deleted the original files, knowing that I still had them duplicated in my iTunes library. Unfortunately, I evidently should've converted them to AAC first, because now they won't play and I'm getting a message that says the files are lost.

    So what I need to know is how to recover them (I've emptied my Recycle Bin). And/or, how does one restore one's computer to a previous day/time, and, would that restore the lost files? I've done it before, but I can't figure out how to now.

    Any advice would be most appreciated.

    Also, for all you iTunes aficionados: because I don't want to wipe out anything that's currently on my iPod that's no longer on my computer, how do I change the settings from sync to manual without first plugging in my iPod and erasing stuff?? Is there no other way to change the settings BEFORE plugging my iPod into my computer? And/or is there a way to get music from my iPod BACK onto my computer?

    Thanks for any and all help anyone could offer!
    2007 Christmas Mix
    01. Andy Williams - It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
    02. Johnny Mathis - It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
    03. Burl Ives - Have A Holly Jolly Christmas
    04. Ella Fitzgerald - Sleigh Ride
    05. Dean Martin - Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
    06. Bing Crosby - Walking In A Winter Wonderland
    07. Brenda Lee - Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree
    08. Andy Williams - Happy Holidays
    09. Dean Martin - Baby It's Cold Outside
    10. Bobby Helms - Jingle Bell Rock
    11. Mel Torme - The Christmas Song
    12. John Williams - Carol Of The Bells
    13. Johnny Mathis - Do You Hear What I Hear
    14. Engelbert Humperdinck - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
    15. Ella Fitzgerald - The First Noel
    16. David Bowie & Bing Crosby - Little Drummer Boy
    17. Burl Ives - Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
    18. Doris Day - Here Comes Santa Claus
    19. The Beach Boys - Frosty The Snowman
    20. Kermit & Miss Piggy - A Red And Green Christmas
    21. Thurl Ravenscroft - You're A Mean One, Mr Grinch
    22. Alvin & The Chipmunks - Christmas Don't Be Late
    23. Perry Como - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
    24. Brenda Lee - Silver Bells
    25. The Drifters - White Christmas
    26. Chuck Berry - Run Rudolph Run
    27. José Feliciano - Feliz Navidad
    28. John Lennon - Happy Christmas
    29. Elvis Presley - If Every Day Was Like Christmas
    30. Elmo & Patsy - Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer