Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I Laugh at Conficker!

The Conficker computer worm is scheduled to hit infected computers running Microsoft Windows operating system tomorrow. No one really knows what havoc Conficker will wreak upon the web and individual computer users. It also could be a big nothing.

However, I have the ultimate Windows Virus protection. I don't run Windows on my personal laptop machine at all. When these things occur, I just relax, and enjoy the speed, convenience, and power that is GNU/Linux.

Not only that, but I haven't paid for software in years. There is always a free, open-source program for just about everything I need to accomplish.

So while you Windows users are checking your systems, downloading fixes, and wondering what tomorrow will bring, I will rest easy with the knowledge that my personal system is fine today, and fine tomorrow.

I will admit that I do have a Windows XP machine in the basement that rarely gets used, and the Lovely Spouse runs Windows XP on her laptop, but she is updating AVG Anti-Virus as I write this. My work PC is the responsibility of the corporate IT department, so I couldn't do anything to it if I wanted too...they have administrator rights locked down tight. (Well, I could crack in, but won't do it. Not worth it.).

Conficker, I laugh in your face!!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Boo Frickin' Hoo!

Mass murder co-conspirator Terry Nichols is deservedly incarcerated in prison here in Colorado for his role in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. This piece of human trash has filed a lawsuit over the food at the federal prison that houses him.

The Denver Post report on this says that the lawsuit says that this scumbag "is compelled to consume daily those unhealthy dead and refined foods that are abhorrent to plaintiff's sincerely held religious beliefs causing him physical, mental and spiritual torment, and to sin against God."

WTF?? Sin against God? I guess his God is pleased with blowing up toddlers and adults in a massive truck bomb, but is very worried about Nichols getting his fiber. I'd say that Nichols is lucky to be eating anything. His victims will never enjoy a meal again.

Terry Nichols, you worthless piece of human excrement. You are fortunate that you didn't meet the fate of your buddy Tim McVeigh. So get back in your cell, bend over for your cell buddies, and thank your God you get any food to eat.

Friday, March 27, 2009

ShamWow Dude in Hot Water

Vince Shlomi, the creepy ShamWow dude is in a heap of trouble. He was arrested in South Beach, Florida for an alleged felony assault of a prostitute in his hotel room. Looks like he won't need a ShamWow to soak up his earnings. Lawyers and fines will probably do a good job of that. This reminds me of the episode when celeb bad boy Danny Bonaduce beat up a tranvestite hooker back in 1991.

ShamWow always seems like just a sham to me. Why would anyone buy from such a smarmy, creepy looking dude anyway? If you want a good drying cloth, spring for a real chamois. Besides, why is a ShamWow any better than that other pretender that preceded it...the SuperShammy?

Chinooks Overhead

Sitting here in the house, I just heard a pair of very, VERY loud helicopters going by. As I ran to the door to seen them, they were very low and clearly identifiable as US Military Chinook helicopters. I got this shot of the second one, and interestingly enough, there is something visible that I have never seen before. Just above the aircraft in this shot are vapor trails coming from the rotors as they spin and compress the air. The lower white arc extends from the rotor blade, while there is another just behind it (above it in the photo) from the pass of the previous blade's pass. How cool is that?

To see this phenomenon more clearly, click on the photo for a larger version.


On Spring 2009 Blizzard day plus one, we also have beautiful icicles forming on the branches of trees as our big, life-giving sun sends its warming rays 93-million miles across space to create a beautiful scene for us right here in Colorado, USA, planet Earth!

Play Misty for Me

One thing that I didn't see too very often when I lived other places where it snowed, was the sudden evaporation of the snow into the air. Usually, it would turn into a dirty slush, followed by melting into dirty water.

While we do get some of that, our thin air at 6000 feet above sea level, coupled with the general dryness of the atmosphere here in Colorado, and we usually see something entirely different. Today, as good old Mister Sun has started warming us up after yesterday's blizzard conditions, the snow has started evaporating back into the air from whence it fell. In these photos I took while going to grab some lunch, you can clearly see the new clouds forming as the snow evaporates from the road surfaces which have been plowed and are now warming up. These "baby clouds" will rise into the air again, and bring some other place their rain or snow, as the cycle continues. It is fun to watch it in action.

Anybody Need Some Snow?

Some sun and blue sky is starting to displace the storm clouds that have moved into our neighboring states of Kansas and Oklahoma. And even though we had winds during the blizzard of up to 50 MPH, the snow still got to pile up pretty high.

The snow on the driveway was as deep, and deeper in the drifts, as this on the picnic table. And it isn't our light, dry, fluffy Colorado winter snow either. This is our wet, heavy springtime snow that breaks your back to shovel. Yeah, I'm complaining. So what! One thing is pretty cool...look how the snow on the chair arm in the foreground meets that on the table.

At least we have a break until the next snows move in next Monday and Wednesday.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blizzard Robin

With the recent temperatures near 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the flora and fauna must be a bit confused by the blizzard that hit Colorado today. A few minutes ago I went to let Molly the Dog out, and saw a patch of orange in one of the pine trees. Upon closer examination, I saw it was a fat little robin, a sign of spring, huddled up on a branch of the tree. This poor thing was doing its best to keep warm. It makes me glad that I refilled the feeders with seed a few days ago.

Click on the picture for a larger version.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

TransFat Airways

The Lovely Spouse and I try very hard to not eat heart clogging transfats and the evil high-fructose corn syrup. Still, I have wondered about the name "Transfat". It would seem to mean "across fat". It also sounds very much like it should be the name of an airline.

Imagine if you will, sitting on an airplane, and hearing the following announcement:
Thank you for frying...oops, I mean FLYING with us today on TransFat Airways. We know you have a choice when choosing to clog your arteries, that is why we are proud that you chose us today. Our aircraft is under the command of Captain Tubby McLard on the flight deck, along with his co-pilot, Commander Bell E. Fat.

We would like to remind you that should you need additional transfats during our flight, a hose will appear from the ceiling of the airplane, which should be inserted down your throat. This will pump an emergency supply of hydrogenated fats into your belly. If assisting a small child, be sure to insert your own hose before helping the child with theirs.

In the unlikely event of a water landing, there is a bag of fat under your seat that can be used as a flotation device. If you are sitting in an emergency exit row, you may be called upon to spread Crisco on the exit slides and wings to assist your fellow passengers in making a quick emergency deplaning.

Our in-flight movie today will be Morgan Spurlock in Supersize Me. So sit back, relax, and chow down on the fries and chili dogs we will be serving for a modest price during today's flight, along with free high fructose corn syrup beverages. Remember, your health is our top concern, so we remind you that no smoking is allowed at any time on this aircraft.

Thanks again for flying TransFat, and welcome aboard!

Nothing Like A Fresh OS!

Well, I have been running this laptop PC with PCLinuxOS for quite a while now, and it has been a real solid workhorse. This particular machine seems to be quite picky about what it likes and doesn't like. So anyway, I was curious about the new 2009 release of PCLOS, and decided to give it a try. I downloaded the CD image and burned it to disk, then installed it (of course I backed up my /home directory first). While things seemed to work pretty good, the MSNBC web site was all garbled in Firefox. I am sure there is a fix, but I thought why not try out a few of the new distros to see what is out there, as I haven't done so for a long time.

I first tried Linux Mint 6.0 which is based on Ubuntu, but includes the multimedia codecs that Ubuntu requires you to download and add. I almost stayed with Mint, but then my sound suddenly stopped working. Okay, so lets try another. I installed OpenSUSE 11.1, and it too is very nice, but it seemed a bit bloated and slow. So then it was off to Fedora 10, the free distribution sponsored by Red Hat. It looked great, but I was dismayed to find that my system froze up after a few minutes and required a hard reboot. I really like Fedora, so I figured let's try to find the fix.

Off I go to the Fedora Forum, and a quick search yielded a solution which involved adding one word to a line in a configuration file. I made the change, and everything became stable. So it was now a matter of downloading the codecs (yes, Fedora also requires that), using Yum to install some additional programs I use from the repositories, and configuring the printer/scanner. I also downloaded CUPS-PDF, so I could print to PDF files.

So now, I am back up and running full steam ahead. The thing I noticed is that all of the new Linuxes support my wifi card on the laptop...something that a year ago didn't happen. I have been using a Windows XP driver with NDISWRAPPER to run wifi, but now that intermediary layer is no longer required.

I also noticed that the default Fedora install puts a lot of foreign fonts on your system, supporting languages like Thai, Arabic, Urdu, and many others, even though I selected US English as my language of choice. So I uninstalled those, and replaced them with others that I will use.

I also found out that the default version of the multitrack sound editor, Audacity, that comes from Fedora doesn't support MP3 files. I found a version that does in one of the extra repositories and replaced the original one with that, and all is well.

The bottom line here is this...Fedora is terrific once you get past the issues to tweak your system, but it is not a distribution for a Linux neophyte. I am very happy with my setup now, but it took too much manual intervention for a beginner. For them, I would suggest Linux Mint, or even Ubuntu. Probably PCLinusOS is a good choice as well, as long as their system isn't as particular as mine.

In all fairness though, most regular computer users never install Windows either, which has its own set of installation issues. They just buy a computer with it already installed and never reinstall the OS. In fact, I know of several people who have bought new PCs, when their perfectly good one flakes out because of Windows issues.

As I continue to work with this new Fedora installation, I will post about any new issues that arise. So far, so good.

For information, this is a Gateway MT3701 laptop with 1 GB of RAM, an Intel Pentium Dual Core processor, and an ATI Radeon Express 200M video card.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Getting in a Baseball Mood

Even though we are in the early rounds of the NCAA basketball championships, I have been getting in the mood for some baseball. I have been watching bits and pieces of the World Baseball Classic, and am looking ahead to a summer of Major League excitement.

With that in mind, let's get in the baseball mood with a few pictures I took at a Colorado Rockies games at Coors Field in Denver back in June of 2003 and May of 2006.

The first picture is the scoreboard, obviously. What is interesting is that two of the major advertisers are no longer around. The Rocky Mountain News is now gone, after nearly 150 years. And Bank One is now part of Chase. Oh for the days of two newspapers and banks that were not begging for taxpayer relief!

Then we have the cotton candy vendor. What better sweet treat on a summer's day than these spun sugary goodness.

Finally, here is a guy who cannot look away from the game...the television cameraman, broadcasting the game to fans far and wide.

As always, click on a picture for a larger version. Take me out to the ballgame!


In the ongoing search for the quintessential hole-in-the-wall eatery, the Lovely Spouse and I went to a place we saw on The Travel Channel's Man v. Food program. Jack-N-Grill, a Mexican / New Mexican restaurant that is located at 2524 Federal in Denver, just a few blocks from Invesco Field at Mile High. It is famous for a giant 7-pound breakfast burrito that defeated man, as Adam Richman, the show's host, could not eat it all. It is rare when food wins against man on the show, but this intrigued me.

So we went over for a late lunch / early dinner. The place is not very big, and is located in a free standing building that has housed other things in the past. We were going to eat on the patio, but the wind kicked up so much that we decided to move inside.

I had the calabasitas enchilada plate, which was absolutely delicious. These stacked enchiladas were made with chopped zucchini, corn, and cheese; and since I could not choose between the red and green chili, I got it Christmas style...with red on half and green on the other. The LS chose a stacked shrimp enchilada plate with green chili. Both came with charro beans and roasted red potatoes, and were supposed to have spanish rice also. The bad news was that they were out of rice and so we got extra potatoes and beans. Not that these weren't delicious, but I wanted to try the rice also.

One other disappointment was the waitress forgot to bring the chips and queso that I ordered as an appetizer, but we really had so much food that we didn't need that anyway. So I have to give Jack-N-Grill a couple of demerits, but the food was very good, so it balanced out. Overall, the staff was friendly and I did enjoy myself.

On the way out, I noticed a couple of interesting things. One is captured in the second picture in this post. It is obviously an early Taco Bell building that is now home to some other Mexican restaurant. Since Jack-N-Grill is right across the street from it, I imagine there is some competition going on here. But this is in a predominately Mexican part of Denver, so there are Mexican restaurants, bakeries, and shops all along Federal.

The other interesting thing was the old Ford F-600 truck parked behind Jack's. It's bed is closed in with a cage, and it is equipped with a snow plow blade. It appears to be in excellent condition and still used. What a work horse this truck must be!

To view the Travel Channel video from Adam Richman talking about his visit to Jack-N-Grill, CLICK HERE and scroll the list of videos for the correct one. To visit Jack-N-Grill's website, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Tragic Anniversary

March 19, 2003...six years ago today...The United States of America invaded a nation that posed no threat to us; a nation that was contained; a nation that we know had no weapons of mass destruction; a nation where United Nations inspection teams led by Hans Blix had found no evidence of such weapons. A nation that had no connection to the 9/11 attacks on the USA. A nation falsely accused by the renegade President of the United States, George Walker Bush, of having such weapons.

Six years and tens of thousands of deaths later, American troops are still on the ground in Iraq. I am glad that President Obama won the election last year. Under a President John McCain, we would have a perpetual occupation force. It's time to bring our troops home from the mistaken, elective invasion we foisted upon Iraq and its people, and begin the work of repairing our damaged reputation.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Will The Rocky Rise Again?

Staffers from the now defunct Rocky Mountain News have found supporters to launch an Internet-based news source, to be called INDenverTimes. They are attempting to sell subscriptions for $4.99/month, and if successful in reaching their target subscriber base, they plan to launch the site in May.

In some ways, this seems like a good idea. The availability of Internet delivered news has helped lead to the demise of many newspapers. Others, such as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, are going to an Internet-only publication model.

Still, there are problems with this idea. How will this attempt to resurrect the Rocky compete with free news available from a variety of sites? Also part of the appeal of the RMN was its tabloid format. It was handy to read on a plane, a light rail train, or anywhere space is limited. There is also some appeal to a physical stack of newsprint, where one can do the crossword puzzles with a pencil, and yes, even read the paper in the bathroom.

Perhaps the new site will become available for the Amazon Kindle or the Apple iPhone. This would help with the portability factor, although it will not replace the impulse buy at a newspaper box or newsstand. Maybe the different economics of a virtual publication will allow this to work with smaller subscriber & advertiser bases than that needed to support a daily print publication.

I wish these fine journalists well in their endeavor to see a new continuation of the 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News rise from the ashes of its predecessor, but I remain skeptical about its chances of success. Still, maybe they should have named the endeavor The Rocky Mountain Phoenix.

Hard to Believe This Man was Vice President

Former U.S. Vice President, Dick Cheney, has built a reputation among his detractors as being somewhat akin to the evil emperor in the Star Wars movies. The more we learn about his views on liberty and the Constitution that he swore to uphold, the more the image fits.

Recently, we have learned the contents of memos from Justice Department attorneys that the former Vice President has a very strange understanding of the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. In fact, Cheney's views are one of an autocratic dictator, rather than someone who is entrusted by the people to protect our liberty. As bad as George W. Bush was as President, I suppose we can be thankful that Cheney himself was not our President during the last eight years. His inluence as VP was bad enough.

According to an analysis by CNN commentator Paul Begala, the memos reveal a Dick Cheney who supported the following positions:
  • First Amendment rights to free speech and a free press are secondary to waging war.
  • The Fourth Amendment right to not be the subject to unreasonable searches and seizures is nonexistent.
  • The federal government can send the military to your home, without a warrant.
  • The federal government has the right to arrest an American citizen on American soil, and hold him or her without charges.
  • The federal government can eavesdrop on your telephone conversations without obtaining a court order.
  • The Geneva Conventions can be ignored by the United States.
So, in other words, the government...our government...can claim dictatorial powers at any time, the Constitution be damned.

Begala goes on to point out that in an interview with CNN's John King, Cheney is concerned about the current economic problems (which he helped to create) being used to justify an expansion of government powers. What kind of government expansion worries a man who believes the Bill of Rights is so much toilet paper to wipe his twisted behind with? Well, it turns out that the man who believes in torture, warrantless wiretaps, illegal search and seizure, and holding Americans without charges; is very concerned that the government may be used to provide better healthcare plans and education for its citizens. He is concerned that the federal power may be used to give companies incentives to wean America off of foreign sourcs of energy. Yes, our former Veep thinks it is fine to use the government as an instrument of oppression, but not as a channel to improve the lives of Americans.

Folks, in my opinion, Cheney doesn't deserve a lifetime pension at our expense; rather he should be tried, and if found guilty, imprisoned for life as a traitor to the nation and the Constitution he took an oath to defend from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. With such views of federal power, we are very lucky that the evil that was the last administration did not suspend elections to keep itself in power. Oppression such as advocated by Cheney is what this nation of free men and women have fought against, many making the ultimate sacrifice. We may never know how close we came to a totalitarian regime. If my exercising my First Amendment right to freedom of speech here offends Mr. Cheney, that's just tough!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

David Letterman at Play

Late Show host David Letterman demonstrates why Optimus Prime is such a popular Transformer toy.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

You Can't Make This At Home

A few evenings ago, the Lovely Spouse and I ordered some P'zones from Pizza Hut. These are their version of a calzone. They were not very good. The cheese was like plastic, and the pepperoni was not very tasty either. So we were still hankering for some good pizza.

What is a good pizza? Well, the crust should be not too thick, not too thin, and have just the right crispiness. The pie should not be swimming in sauce, and it should have fresh ingredients.

So, what to do? Well, we went on the Internet and found Marco's Coal Fired Pizza in downtown Denver a couple of blocks from Coors Field. Now would we be crazy enough to make a 50-mile round trip for pizza? You bet! Marcos has ovens that were imported from Italy, brick by brick. They are indeed "coal fired", and are kept at 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. That kind of heat bakes your pie in about one minute, and bakes it to perfection. It is also one reason why you can't replicate this at home. The flour comes from Italy, and the vegetables are fresh and local.

We ordered a Toscana pizza (top picture) and a Brooklyn pizza (lower photo). The Toscana has Fresh Mozzarella, San Marzano Tomato Sauce, Arugula, Grape Tomatoes, Prosciutto di Parma, Gran Cru, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The Brooklyn consists of Sweet Italian Sausage, Pepperoni, Mushrooms, Red Onions, Fresh Mozzarella, and the San Marzano Tomato Sauce. As you can tell, we had to taste these before I even took a picture of them. They were very delicious and Marco himself came to check on us.

The tab for two pizzas, and two glasses of wine was $48 before the tip. So although these are not the cheapest pizzas you can buy, they are by far the best I have had in Colorado. With great ingredients and that 1000 degrees coal heat, these are a real treat. I should also add that the service quality and ambiance of this little neighborhood pizza parlor and bar is as good as the food. Highly recommended!

Monday, March 09, 2009

President Obama Put Humanity Before Dogma

Rejecting the politicization of science, President Obama today fulfilled a campaign promise to overturn the Bush era's ban of federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. The previous president had forbidden such funding on new stem cell lines based upon the ridiculous religious belief that places the rights of a clump of cells in a petrie dish ahead of the lives of people suffering from a variety of diseases. Embryonic stem cells are capable of forming any type of cell in the body, and such research holds great promise to find cures for a wide spectrum of ailments from spinal cord damage to Parkinson's Disease to Alzheimers. Religion and politics have been the enemy of scientific progress since before the church's misguided persecution of Galileo and Copernicus, and it remains to to this day. We have lost eight precious years. Thankfully, the new President has cast aside the Bush-era restrictions.

for more.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I Want To Hold Your Diploma

In a first of its kind, Liverpool Hope University in the Beatles' home town in England is offering a post-graduate degree in, what else, The Beatles. The band that broke up 40 years ago is now the subject of the Masters degree, and the University says there have been many inquiries from around the world, including the United States.

I wonder what type of job you could get with such an advanced degree. Maybe you are also taught to say, "Would you like fries with that?".

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

No More Scenic 3-D Reels

Mattel subsidiary Fisher Price, the current owner of View-Master, has announced it will no longer make the reels of scenic locations. Such is the passing of yet another piece of Americana. View-Master seemed almost magic when I was a kid, and I had one of the bakelite-constructed models. Later they switched to plastic, and various owners, including Sawyers, GAF, and Tyco, have made variations, such as View-Master projectors and Talking View-Master. Yet the original viewer is still what one thinks of when the name View-Master is mentioned. I also remember the Henry Fonda commercials for the "GAF View-Master".

So, for now, Fisher Price will continue to market reels with Dora the Explorer and other childrens' characters, but no more eye-popping views of the Giant Sequoyas or the Grand Canyon that brought these distant places to life for several generations of kids. I imagine it won't be long before the franchise closes up shop for good, or is sold off yet again. It is hard to compete for mindshare of today's kids, with their X-Boxes, iPods, and cell phones.

Will He Really Go on March 23?

The Denver Post reports today that former Qwest CEO and convicted felon, Joseph P. Nacchio, has been ordered to surrender himself to authorities at the Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania to begin serving his 6-year sentence. This criminal cost many people their life savings and their jobs, while causing a major disruption to the Colorado economy. Yet, Joe never saw fit to move to Colorado, even while running Qwest and US West into the ground. Hopefully he doesn't have a fatal heart attack like Enron criminal Ken Lay, and actually serves his time and forfeits his millions.

Joe, you had better get used to using that toilet in the middle of your cell. Oh, it probably isn't as cozy as the potty in your bathroom in your New Jersey mansion, but who knows? Maybe you'll make a new friend or two. And remember, don't take the top bunk.

Steele vs. Limbaugh and Paul Harvey

Too bad. GOP Chair Michael Steele leveled criticism at the character that MSNBC's Keith Olbermann calls "Comedian Rush Limbaugh", criticism that is well deserved. Steele mentioning that Limbaugh does not run the Republican Party called his rhetoric "incendiary" and "ugly". Absolutely true. Then when the porcine one fires back at Steele over the radio, Steele caves and apologizes. Why?

Steele has shown he is the weak leader of a failed party. He has let a radio blowhard, bully him into a corner, making Rush the de-facto leader of the wacky faction of the GOP (Is there any other faction these days?). It is unfortunate, as I had hopes that Steele would be able to help return the GOP to the center. It appears he has sold his soul to the nutty fringe.


On another note, it would be remiss not to mention the death last week of an iconic voice that has informed and entertained for decades. Paul Harvey's news and commentary, along with his vignettes on The Rest of the Story, have been a fixture on ABC radio for a long time. The Tulsa, Oklahoma native who started out at KVOO (now KFAQ), and went to Chicago to hit it big in broadcasting , had an unmistakable delivery that made you know immediately that he was on the air.

And what a contrast...Paul Harvey, the consummate conservative and his congenial demeanor, versus todays radio hatemongers. He was a gentleman and a perfect example of what radio should be.

Good day!