November 28, 2006

I Give Up

I give up.The comments are still fried. I can't fix them. I'm actually sitting here in tears at this point. I've been trying for something like six weeks. I'm getting ready to just chuck the f$#$^&*g blog entirely at this point. It's just not worth the stress. I'm just done. I've been blogging nearly five years, and this is what ends it all. Yeah, I'm upset right now and need to just walk away from the computer.

Posted by Ithildin at 7:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saying Just the Right Thing

How to come home drunk and still get a hot breakfast:

Jack wakes up with a huge hangover the night after a business function.

He forces himself to open his eyes and the first thing he sees is a
couple of aspirins next to a glass of water on the side table. And,
next to them, a single red rose!

Jack sits up in bed and sees his clothing in front of him, all clean
and pressed.

Jack looks around the room and sees that it is in perfect order,
spotlessly clean. So is the rest of the house. He takes the aspirins,
cringes when he sees a huge black eye staring back at him in the
bathroom mirror and notices a note on the table: "Honey, breakfast is
on the stove, I left early to go shopping - Love you!!"

He stumbles to the kitchen and sure enough, there is hot breakfast
and the morning newspaper. His son is also at the table, eating. Jack
asks, "Son...what happened l ast night?"

"Well, you came home after 3 am, drunk and out of your mind. You
broke the coffee table, puked in the hallway and got that black eye
when you ran into the door."


"So, why is everything in such perfect order, so clean, I have a rose
and breakfast is on the table waiting for me?"

His son replies, "Oh, THAT!...Mom dragged you to the bedroom and when
she tried to take your pants off, you screamed, "Leave me alone,
bitch, I'm married!!!".

Broken table - $200
Hot breakfast - $5
Red Rose bud - $3
Two aspirin - $0.25
Saying the right thing, at the right time...
PRICELESS

Posted by Ithildin at 1:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Home Theater gotcha's

This is for people who are considering or actually buying/receiving a small home theater setup for the Christmas holiday. (It is NOT intended for those very experienced home theater buffs. :) ) Usually at this time of year, the stores are flooded with a veritable plethora of "Complete Surround Sound Systems" aka "Home Theater in a box" items. All of these 'systems' usually boast fairly impressive specifications with decent styling and color schemes. On top of that, they also have reasonable (ok, somewhat reasonable) price tags to match. All in all it sounds like a good deal all around. At least that is what one would think.

Since I have been in the hobby of Audio for some 20+ years I thought I would shed some light on the dark side of Home Theater. This is the side that most manufacturers don't want you to know about. Certain little "tricks" that are played with specifications etc.

So to begin:

1) Power Rating: This is the number that most people look first when looking at a home theater system. More specifically: How many watts per channel and how many channels. The most common specification out there is (7 x 100) or 7 channels at 100 watts per channel. Sounds impressive doesn't it? This is why that spec is usually labeled rather prominently on a Home theater in a box ( HTIB) system. After all 7 x 100 looks much better that 7 x 50, right?

This is the most prevalent "trick" out there. It may come as a surprise ( or not, depending on your view of manufacturers ) but the combination of lax standards and advertising allows a great deal of "hot air" in the power specification.

To start, let us look at a little bit of electrical theory. There is a little number called efficiency. Put simply it is a percentage, it means how much power can you output from what you input. The efficiency is a number that is between 0 and 1. No one would market a device that is 0 percent efficient ( really, who would buy such a thing, and why would you if you could?). No one can market a device that is 100 percent efficient ( since there is nothing made that is 100 percent efficient...yet). That leaves us with a device that is less than 100%. For most of these HTIB's it is FAR below 100%. (This is based on the fact, that most HTIB's have a Class AB amplifier and not the more exotic Class D-Class H designs. If you don't know what that means, don't worry). A good rule of thumb is approximately 50% efficiency. Keep that figure in mind as we continue, if you would.

The next time you look at a HTIB, look at the power spec then look at the physical unit. Rather the BACK of the unit itself. In an area near the power cord there should be some information regarding how much power it draws. Either something like "Power 400 Watts" or " 3.3 A @ 120 V". The first is self explanatory, the second needs some translation. 3.3 A means 3.3 Amps and 120 V means 120 volts. To get the number of watts multiply 3.3 by 120 which comes to 396. So the power drawn is 396 watts.

Remember our efficiency number? Multiply that by the power drawn and you get the amount of USABLE power available for the system. So 400 watts X 0.50 = 200 Watts. Now that is 200 watts TOTAL power. With most HTIB systems there are 5 or 7 speakers including a subwoofer. Assuming 5 speakers ( and disregarding the subwoofer for now ) that gives us about 40 watts per speaker ( or channel ). A far cry from the 5 x 100 spec that we referenced earlier isn't it?
Now you may be wondering how the heck the manufacturers get away with that kind of advertising. The answer: Lax standards and no real policy from the FTC on surround sound systems ( at least not yet ). That said try to find a system that has at least 30-40 watts of Real power per channel and about 50 watts or more for the subwoofer. The subwoofer usually has its own power draw spec so you can use the above method on it as well.

2) Connectivity capability. Many HTIB's advertise that they can connect other equipment, Vcr's, Tivo, cable box etc. Again, we need to check the BACK of the unit to determine what can truly be connected. Some units have connections for only 1 item, while others can only connect units of the same BRAND as the HTIB itself-usually through a proprietary connection cable. ( at an additional cost of course ). Checking never hurts!

3) Speaker connectivity. Some HTIB's, usually the cheaper ones, have their speakers prewired with color coded connectors. Although this makes for easy connection, you are limited to the speaker wire length when placing the speaker
( 25' is NOT that much for placement options ). Try to stick with a system that uses standard wire connections, because if you ever break the supplied wire, or want to place the speaker further away, you can always buy more wire.

4) Expectations. Last but definitely not least. DO NOT expect a HTIB with a price tag between 400-1000 dollars to sound like the system that your audiophile friend has when listening to music or watching movies. The audiophile probably spent over 1200 for the amplifier ALONE, not to mention the speakers, the DVD player and the Cd Player and the powered subwoofer ( that alone runs from $500 and up ). A HTIB is not a replacement for a full blown Home Theater rig.

Now having said all that you probably think I am dead against the HTIB's, right?
Actually no. Within their limitations these little systems can introduce you ( or the gift recipient ) to the idea of having your own little cinema at home, in a very nice and fun way. The trick is to (as always) do the research and ask questions and then when shopping, look at the unit, both front and back. Staying away from the no-name brands that only appear at this time of year is also a good idea. Another thing is this. Some HTIB's have wireless surround speakers. Although a cool idea, the technology is not really there yet.

That pretty much wraps it up and I hope it answered a few questions. Happy shopping!

Posted by Bob at 12:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 27, 2006

Ted Kennedy & His Buddies at the Kremlin

A Phenomenon Called Senator Kennedy

...... More secrets about Kennedy’s collaboration with Moscow became known after the famous defector Vasiliy Mitrokhin smuggled his invaluable archive of secret KGB documents to the West. In 2002, he publicized some of them in The KGB in Afghanistan working paper, published by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In 1980 Kennedy attacked President Carter over the latter’s tough opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. As Mitrokhin reveals, the senator had evidently coordinated that with Moscow several weeks before — through Tunney and Egon Bahr, West Germany’s top Social Democrat who often had secret contacts with the KGB.

Then in 1983, according to the notorious KGB document quoted by Sebastian and now by Kengor, Tunney conveyed another secret message from Kennedy to the Soviet leader, communicating to Andropov the senator’s willingness, “in the interest of world peace,” to take some joint measures against “the militaristic policies of Ronald Reagan.” When the KGB received this information, they classified it at the highest possible level — not only as “top secret,” but also as “of special importance” and a “special file.” It was immediately reported to Andropov, but left him unimpressed. So the intrusive senator was rebuffed for a while.

However, Andropov died soon, followed shortly thereafter by his senile successor Chernenko. In less than two years, Gorbachev got to power. He soon reversed the previous decision on Kennedy, and agreed to see him in February 1986.

The above alone would be enough for the new general secretary to know significantly more about the senator than his family name. But the story did not end there. Below we are quoting more top-secret documents from Soviet archives (about which you can read more on in John O’Sullivan’s new book, The Pope, the President and the Prime Minister), which tell about Ted Kennedy’s further contacts with the Kremlin.

Posted by Ithildin at 12:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 26, 2006

It wasn't the best week.

It wasn't the best week. Mum called last Sunday to let me know Wellington was dying. They took him to the vet Friday, and they said to bring him home over the weekend to say goodbye. They took him back Monday and had him put to sleep. It was all very sudden, and the third kitty we've lost this year. It's been hard, especially not being with them now they're all with my parents.

Then Nin's day off Friday got canceled, so we weren't able to go up to our friend's house for Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. I was kind of looking forward to a Thanksgiving dinner. Silly me. So friends came down here for the weekend, which was nice. Tomorrow, back to work.

Posted by Ithildin at 7:11 PM

November 21, 2006

Rejoice!

Rejoice, voters! Because of you, all good things will come to pass

Hallelujah! Now that Democrats have taken control of Congress, we can expect:


* Gas prices to drop to $1.25, because Republicans will no longer be able to feather the nest of Big Oil with obscene profits.


* Cars to run on hydrogen, corn syrup and refried beans, because Republicans will no longer be able to control the laws of physics.


* The wage gap to become non-existent, because differences in intelligence, drive, determination, personal responsibility and common sense will be outlawed.


* Unemployment to drop to zero when the minimum wage increases to $22.35 per hour, because the demand for labor increases when the cost of labor increases, and not the reverse, as ignorant, mean-spirited Republicans had stupidly claimed.


* Test scores of below-average students to skyrocket to above-average levels, because Democrats will outlaw the Republican-invented Bell curve.


* The Dow to hit 18,000 in 2007, because it's an economic fact that the best way of growing an economy is to penalize risk-takers, innovators and the industrious.


* The price of medicine and health care to plummet, because it's another economic fact that when you give people free stuff, demand goes down.


* Foreign investors to swamp the country in capital, because they really don't care about the return on their investments, as the Republicans had led us to believe.


* Government to control even more of the economy, because government is clearly better at allocating scarce resources, as the Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea and France have proven.


* Single-parent households to grow exponentially, because Republicans won't be able to spread the lie that such households are the primary cause of poverty, crime and school dropouts.


* Wal-Mart to go out of business, because Republicans won't be able to perpetuate another myth that people prefer low prices to high prices.


* Muslim extremists to stop killing Americans and enslaving women, because their extremism was caused by Republicans, who never understood the glories of multiculturalism and the fact that all cultures are equally good, except the American culture.

In conclusion, since things are going to be so much better with the Democrats controlling Congress, let's hope that they also gain control of the White House.

Craig Cantoni, Scottsdale
The writer is an author, columnist and small "L" libertarian
.

Posted by Ithildin at 11:46 AM

November 20, 2006

PJ Not Doing the Hobbit?

The latest, straight from the horse's mouth.

Posted by Ithildin at 1:05 PM

November 18, 2006

Incredibly Strange behaviour

Well now,

This is my second article as one of Ith's guest bloggers and usuallly I don't talk about crazes...However....
Anyway....I imagine you have all heard of the "craze" of the new Sony platform the PS3. However cool it may be ( and I don't think it is ), is any new product, worth waiting over a DAY in line, getting trampled/injured in a rush, and then getting robbed???! The other day the news had on that a pair of masked robbers basically approached a line of hopeful customers outside a door and simply went down the line, one by one robbing them!!! Good Grief, what is this, a new product hits the shelves and people's brain power just shuts off?? Not to mention that the silly product will probably be available all through the season as shipments ramp up. Oh, and lets not forget that by summer it will be selling for a little bit less AND have the bug fixes that these wannabe beta testers have found in the first run!!!

Posted by Bob at 9:29 PM

Technicolour Trousers

As most of you know, I'm a big ol' fangirl of Peter Wingfield, who played Methos on Highlander. and I know quite a few of my readers are too, so I'm sharing!

Peter has a new gig on the top rated show in the UK, Holby City. His first ep is in two weeks. Last night, there was a charity telethon on the BBC that's a big deal and is held every year. And every year, the casts of different BBC shows put on little skits for broadcast. This is what the Holby City cast did -- Peter's the one in the silver lame' top and hot pink trousers [snicker] And yes, I've already made an LJ icon from it. [snickers some more]

Posted by Ithildin at 4:13 PM

November 15, 2006

SF Book Meme

This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club.

Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien*
The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Dune, Frank Herbert
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley*
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
Cities in Flight, James Blish
The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey*
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
Gateway, Frederik Pohl
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

Little, Big, John Crowley
Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
On the Beach, Nevil Shute
Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
Ringworld, Larry Niven
*
Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien*
Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
Timescape, Gregory Benford
To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

Posted by Ithildin at 3:24 PM

November 14, 2006

Once a Week

Okay, I suppose once a week posting is better than once a month or none at all. I don't have a whole lot to blog about. Unless you care that I made posole for dinner last night. Nin liked it, so I guess it will be added to our menu list. I made it with red hominy I mail ordered from the Santa ana Pueblo. I also bought some blue corn meal and venison summer sausage from there. Oh, and I am now making homemade yogurt. It's good stuff!

Haven't seen a movie since I last saw Dead Man's Chest on my birthday in July, so nothing current to discuss on that front. TV, the usual, with this year's additions of Supernatural, Ugly Betty, Torchwood, and Holby City.

Still don't have the comments situation sorted out, so you're more than free to email me if you're dying to talk to me [g]

Oh, and guest bloggers -- still looking for some. so there you go.

Posted by Ithildin at 4:52 PM

November 11, 2006

Technical Tips and Tricks

The title and category may give some people pause. The War Front category is rather appropriate as such due to the unceasing cyber war that is going on silently all around us. I refer of course, to the barrage of viruses, trojans, malware and spyware plus other as yet unknown attackers that everyone's computer faces whilst connected to the internet.

Hi, I'm one of Ith's guest bloggers and today I would like to introduce you to some tips and tricks which will make your life a little bit easier and the attacker's just a little bit harder.

This is primarly for Windows users, if you are using a different operating system, such as Linux, FreeBSD, or another Unix variant you may not find anything useful in this article. With that said, let us start out by debunking several myths that increase the chance of being compromised. Just to be clear, compromised means hacked and your computer turned into a zombie machine, or at least a machine that an attacker can control at will.

Myth 1:
Leaving your computer running all the time is better that constantly turning it off and on.

Somehow and someway this has survived from the late '70s. Back then computers were left on so that the power supply would last longer among other things. Today's Power supplies have almost unlimited service time so unless you are running a web server, this is just a wonderful way to increase your electric costs and annoy one's significant other who must deal with the noise of fans spinning in the machine.

Indeed, by leaving a windows computer running all the time you open yourself up to attackers who have a nice target that they can practice against 24/7. Even in sleep mode a computer is vulnerable from attacks via the internet. So at the end of the day, when you are ready to retire for the night, click on start...choose shutdown and click ok.

Myth 2
My computer came with Antivirus software installed, so I have nothing to worry about.

Not Quite.
As long as you update it at least weekly and then renew it when it expires it will help. Unfortunately, most people never do. Never do updating and never renew. Nowadays, you don't even get a subscription to an Anti-virus (AV) program when you buy a computer, it is just a free trial, which for the reasons I have stated above, is almost worse than useless ( since it is only a free trial it also does not last as long as a regular subscription to begin with) As an example, a fully patched Windows XP machine with Service Pack 2 without any antivirus programs or any security on it, lasts about 3 minutes on the internet before it gets infected. Combine that with leaving the computer on all the time and you might begin to see how a problem could develop.

Myth 3
My computer has gotten a lot slower after I bought it, but that's normal right, 'cuz of all the software I installed on it.

Yes, I have actually heard that one many times. Unfortunately, no. This is not normal at all. If you have installed several security programs that start as the computer starts, then it might be a little slower. If it is a LOT slower, then take a look at how many services are running. To do so: Hit the three keys marked Ctrl, Alt and Delete (CTRL-ALT-DEL) at the same time and then on the screen that has popped up click on Processes. Now look at the bottom left corner of the window and you should see a number. This number tells you how many are running. If you are running over 35 and you don't have many devices hooked up to your computer you may be the victim of a virus or spyware or both.

With the last myth I must add some explanation. If YOU installed a lot of software on your system and indicated during the install process for it to start as the computer starts, then yes, the computer could run much slower indeed. That situation is not what I am referring to. What I am referring to is the machine getting slower over time, without any clear explanation as to why.

Well that takes care of the myths for this article. What I will focus on next is some tips to prevent prevent spyware and other nasty things taking up residence within your computer. The security programs that I suggest are currently all free. That is of course, subject to change.

Tip 1.

Install an antivirus program on your computer. There is a very good free one out there called AVG antivirus.http://free.grisoft.com/doc/20/lng/us/tpl/v5

Tip 2.

Install a firewall program. The best free one I have used is Zone Alarm's Free edition. http://www.zonelabs.com/store/content/company/products/znalm/freeDownload.jsp

Tip 3.

Install an antiTrojan program. The one I suggest is AVG's antispyware program. This scans for spyware and trojans. http://www.ewido.net/en/download/

Tip 4.

Install an adware scanner. My favorite is Lavasoft's Ad-aware.
http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/


NONE of these programs will cost you a dime, so if it seems you have to end up paying a fee for them you have the wrong program or the wrong site.

Once you have these programs installed, update them ( they will tell you how to do that ) and then run a scan. You might be very surprised at what you find. After removing everything that these programs do find, you'll notice that your computer is a little bit snappier and faster. At least it should be.

The next article will cover some other tricks, like shutting down unneeded services to speed up your system etc.

Posted by Bob at 8:05 PM

November 9, 2006

Very Alton

I know that Alton Brown says you should never buy any kitchen implement that doesn't do more than one thing, but this is crazy!

Posted by Ithildin at 6:16 PM

Reading List

Ordered and in the mail: America Alone

Will report back after I've read it.

Posted by Ithildin at 4:24 PM

November 7, 2006

All Done In

Well, as I said to C tonight, "We're Republicans in Monterey County -- we're used to disappointment". So I guess it's just a matter of how much damage Pelosi and her band of nutburgers can do in the next two years. And hopefully, they'll only have two years. We've survived Dems in power before, no doubt we'll do it again. Hunker down and be prepared to take care of ourselves, 'cus we certainly can't depend on them. The opposite in fact. The one silver lining is that a lot of the Dems elected tonight aren't the fringe whacko leftists of the Dem leadership. I guess we'll see.

Pelosi third in line to the White House. If that doesn't give you nightmares, I don't know what will.

One happy thought: I can be as obnoxious about their congress as the other side as been. That has potential. One thing I have learned from the Dems is that playing nice gets you nowhere. I hope we take a page from their book, finally, and stat playing hardball like they do.

Sorry for the rambly post, but that's the best I can do tonight.

Posted by Ithildin at 10:39 PM

November 5, 2006

Local Blogger

Check out Steven Givler Online, another fine Monterey Peninsula blog.

Posted by Ithildin at 10:20 PM

Woof!

Mickey has a gigantinormous Carnival of the Dogs up this week.

Posted by Ithildin at 12:29 PM

'Lavender at Midnight'

My latest fic, this one written for a Halloween challenge, can be found here.

Posted by Ithildin at 12:24 PM