Asides

 

I was going to write a post about my current top ten favorite TV shows, then I realized that there aren’t ten TV shows currently running that are worth watching. You know the old saying, “Hundreds of stations and still nothing to watch.” Turns out it’s true.

I blame the dearth of decent TV on the advent of reality TV. Ninety percent of them are pure crap, the other ten simply bearable. Yet networks and cable wonder why they are losing viewership. In the interest of full disclosure I must tell you I only have expanded basic, so I don’t receive any of the premium channels.

So, what are my top ten five favorites?

Elementary – what I really like about this show is the interplay and the development over time of the relationships between the characters. Johnny Lee Miller makes a fabulous Holmes, and I enjoy Lucy Liu as Watson. I find it a refreshing change to have a woman cast in that role. I also like that no one is a buffoon, as Watson and Lestrade (Gregson in this incarnation) are so often portrayed.

NCIS – I still put this in my top five, but I fear NCIS is getting a bit long in the tooth. What makes this show work is the wonderful chemistry the cast seems to have. It will be interesting to see if it holds up with the departure of Ziva (Cote de Pablo). In the past the writing has been outstanding, but of late the writers seem to be struggling to come up with new ideas. As I said, a bit long in the tooth.

The Big Bang Theory – I think this is just flat out funny, but then being a geek, I’ve always enjoyed geek humor. I only catch it now and then, but I do enjoy it when I do.

CBS Evening News – I try to watch the news daily simply because I think it is the civic duty of any good citizen to stay informed. I find the CBS rendition the least biased of the three networks.

Grim – I only started to watch this because my wife and daughter were early devotees. They never missed a show for the first two seasons. I know it well enough to follow the premise, and I enjoy the characters. My favorite character is Monroe, but then I’ve always been partial to werewolves.

I have some off-season favorites too. These include Longmire which ranks right up there with Elementary as my favorite, Perception which is sometimes a bit of a stretch, and Psych which is just plain wacky. Given the CBS News as a constant, that makes four shows worth watching in the off season.

Now remind me again, why do I have cable?

~jon

 

I made a pleasant discovered yesterday while trying to freshen the house. I boiled a cinnamon sick and some vanilla extract, mostly to help alleviate the sickbed smell the house has taken on of late. I added more water a couple of times. I had a pretty dark brew by the time I was done and wondered what it would taste like. I sampled it, and it wasn’t too bad. I added a couple of packs of Splenda, and it was actually pretty good.

Today I decided to try a variation on the theme and added five whole clove to the mix. I put them in one of those metal tea steeping balls to keep them from falling apart in the pot. The results were excellent. So here is my improved recipe:

1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
5 whole cloves, in a steeping ball
1 tsp of vanilla extract

Place cinnamon sticks and cloves in a medium sized pot with 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Let about 2 cups of water simmer away. Add two cups of cold water, and the vanilla extract and bring to a rolling boil. Let about two cups of water boil away once again.

Remove from heat, pour into a pitcher, and add two cups of cold water. Sweeten to taste. Good hot or cold.

~jon

 
A tank pulled over by the Webster Groves Police.

... I was only doing 25.

So, I was driving down Newport the other day when I see the cops have a tank pulled over. Wait? What? A Tank! Yes, a tank. Looks to be of the WWI variety to me, but I’m no expert. Sadly, all I had was my crappy cell phone to take a picture with, but I could not pass it up. Neither could a lot of people, traffic was starting to build up as we each paused to take a picture. The policemen seemed to be enjoying themselves and surly had one to tell around the water cooler.

~jon

 

My old dog, Bebo.I just got a new shinny toy, a Toshiba Satellite P-55 running Windows 8. While not quite as warm and fuzzy as a new puppy, it’s still exciting, and it doesn’t pee on the carpet. Like a new puppy, it sort of gives me a warm glow inside.

I desperately needed a new computer for some time now. My old Dell, may it rest in Hell, was giving me fits. It had gotten to the point that the only web browser that worked was Opera. I have nothing against Opera, but it is not the browser of my choice.

The Dell from Hell had other significant quirks – it took forever to boot and shut down; Acrobat Reader would only work with Protected Mode Disabled (whatever the heck that means); Opera would not open a PDF (great fun when trying to print your Turbo Tax returns), software would occasionally just shut down. But the single biggest annoyance was the flaky touch-pad, which would randomly reposition the cursor while typing. For a writer, that’s a big deal, particularly if you don’t notice it right away.

I ran that dog through all sorts of virus scans, disk defragging, and diagnostics, but nothing helped. It is my belief that the Registry had simply gotten so out of whack over time that the system needed to be wiped and reinstalled. Since distribution DVDs were not included with the purchase, rebuilding was not really an option.

Like a puppy, this new laptop does need some house training. Right now I’m playing around with the Windows 8 Metro interface. I have heard horror stories about it, but they seem to be overblown. It takes a few minutes, and maybe two or three YouTube video tutorials to get around, and you can always just go to the desktop. My current desktop looks an awful lot like my old desktop, so I’m happy.

My first download was Chrome (trying to make the leap from Firefox, the jury is still out), followed by LibreOffice (I’m a writer, a need a writing app!). Then I had to get Solitaire, and Mahjong (both free Metro apps) for some down time.

Next I’ll need to move my iTunes library (another YouTube tutorial), and get a decent graphics app. I’ve been using PaintShop Pro since version 3, but feel like it is getting a bit long in the tooth. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.

If you’ve been contemplating a new PC, but dreading the move to Windows 8 quit fretting – YouTube cures all.

Oh, and that old Dell? Can you say Ubuntu?
~jon

 

I was listening to the Diane Rehm show last week when the topic turned to gun control. As is the case in almost every discussion on the subject, sure enough someone called in to make the absurd declaration that some other weapon is used to commit more murders in the US than guns. Here is the snippet directly from the transcript:

GEORGE
10:53:45
Yes, ma’am, that would be correct. There are quite a number of laws that make it illegal to kill someone or to threaten someone or to rob someone. So regardless of the mechanism that I use for this, I could very easily — as the FBI showed in the — in their most recent data, use a hammer or a rock, which is much more likely to be a murder weapon than a gun.

REHM
10:54:11
All right. And, Ladd.

No, not all right. When people make very public and very wrong statements like this the media need to stand up and challenge them. Since this argument comes up almost every time gun control is discussed there is no excuse for the correspondent not to have done their research ahead of time in order to be prepared to correct the record.

According to the FBI statistics, there is NOTHING much more likely to be a murder weapon in the US than a gun. Not now, and not all the way back through the 1980s. You can look it up yourself if you don’t believe me. Snopes debunks George’s statement here.

Actual FBI statistics back up Snopes. The 2011 data (the latest I could find) is here. It shows there were 8,583 homicides committed with guns in the US vs just 496 accomplished by blunt objects, such as George’s hammers and rocks. And I can’t seem to recall a single mass clubbing in 2011 vs at least three mass shootings that same year. I’ll take my chances against a rock or hammer any day.

Similar stats hold true when you examine the historical data.

In 1980 guns accounted for more than 11,700 homicides, blunt objects 889. The 1990 stats are 12,000+ vs 1,109. The turn of the century saw the stats at just 8,172 gun homicides to 680 committed by blunt objects. I guess people were more worried about the Y2K bug than knocking off their neighbors. The 2010 stats are 8,190 vs 600. In all cases the second most common weapons of choice after guns are knives and cutting instruments, which pale in comparison.

So, shame on any member of the press who lets these kinds of statements go unchallenged. Important public debates need to be argued on their merits, not on made up truisms that come to be accepted simply because they are repeated so often. Please, do a better job in the future.

~jon

 

Two photos, one week apart: a snow covered bar-b-que, and some red flowers in bloom.

And what a vast improvement in my spirits it’s brought.

~jon

 

My life has become rather complicated, so I will not be posting regularly for the foreseeable future, though I will post as I can. I wish you all a beautiful spring , or autumn in the upside down part of the world. :)

Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep loving. Keep laughing.

~jon

 

 

 

Three computers, left to right: Ubuntu laptop, Vista laptop, Mini MacOh the sweet taste of success.

In my previous post I detailed my trials and tribulations in trying to reconfigure an old Windows NT laptop into a Linux Ubuntu laptop. After all the YouTube tutorials, Google searches, DVD burns, reboots, and frustration I finally found the solution to my little problem. Mind you, I posted this little missive on Twitter January 10th, and it is now January 16th:

It’s the little things they leave out in the instructions that will get you every time. #RandomObservation

No truer words have been spoken… err, tweeted.

I have been emailing my friend and personal computer guru, Susan, off and on about this for going on a week. I had a partial success last night when she pointed out the Ubuntu Installer (as opposed to the Ubuntu Download) which I had overlooked in my initial attempts. The installer and download are two different things. The download is the operating system disk image, which in theory can be burned to a DVD or USB thumb drive and then “live booted” to do the install. I never could get that to work. The damned disk image simply refuses to be recognized by my bios as a bootable device.

On Susan’s advice I gave the Windows Installer a shot. The Installer differs from the download in that it is simply a small Windows program which interactively downloads and installs Ubuntu from within a Windows session. Once it finishes up you reboot to complete the installation. It worked!

Well, sort of.

It did install Ubuntu on my computer, but I never got any of the user prompts that all the tutorials assured me would allow me to set up the system to my liking. My liking, by the way, is the complete elimination of the old NT OS and user files so that this machine is free and clear of all the odd problems that have haunted it for years. Since I was given no user install options, NT still occupied the vast majority of my hard disk, leaving a very small portion for swap space, which I am sure effected the performance (and annoyed the crap out of me).

In one of the many tutorials that I found, the speaker mentioned that he was first making a bootable USB drive to perform the installation. This made me suspect that the DVDs and the USB thumb drive I had created simply were not bootable, and therefore my BIOS would not recognize them as valid boot devices.

Then, today, I found this very short (3min 17sec) YouTube tutorial by SysAdmGirl, and had my suspicions confirmed.

Her short tutorial covered the little things all the other tutorials left out – how to make the frigging install device actually bootable! She’s now my new BFF. (Don’t worry, I won’t stalk you, Sys.)

Once I had the bootalbe USB image the Ubuntu installation worked just as all those other tutorials said it would. I got the glorious option to use the whole disk and man did I take it. Goodbye NT, forever.

I actually danced around the room. (My wife will confirm this.)

I now have a dedicated Ubuntu laptop, compete with the Ubuntu Restricted Extras. Now all I have to do is get the firewall working, load up some software, and I’m good to go.

~jon

Links:

 http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop: Ubuntu ISO image download.

http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/windows-installer: Ubuntu Windows Installer.

http://www.pendrivelinux.com/universal-usb-installer-easy-as-1-2-3/: Universal USB Installer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvnaLxw7fEg&feature=player_detailpage: Ubuntu 12.04: Create Bootable USB Drive to Install or Run Live, by SysAdmGirl

 

Three computers on a desk, left to right NT laptop, Vista laptop, MacMini.

All I wanted to do was put Linux on an old laptop.

Easy, right?

Ha.

I started out by watching some YouTube videos on how to install Ubuntu Linux. Me, listening to instructions. Who would have ever guessed?

According to the vids I watched this was going to be a piece of cake. Within 5 minutes of completing my download I should have Ubuntu up and running, at least according to this Linux gal.

Download the latest distribution of Ubuntu (12.10 desktop). Check. Burn it as an ISO image to disk. Chec… Crap. It’s too big to fit on a CD. Off to the computer store to buy some DVDs.

Burn it to a DVD. Check.

Reboot the target computer with the Ubuntu disk image in the Drive. The live disk will come up and I can just cruise through the prompts to get up and running.

The damned computer chugs and chugs on that disk before finally, painfully, booting up into Windows NT. No sign of Ubuntu. Crap.

After checking out a few more YouTube videos I decide to change the boot order of my computer, making the DVDROM drive the first boot device. This turns out to be very simple after three or four failed attempts to get to the bios. Each one of those boot attempts is a painful reentry to Windows NT. I finally discover the F2 key will get me there, but only if I’m really, really fast.

After changing the boot order so the DVD drive is first in my list I try again.

Again I get a long, slow, painful boot up into Windows NT.

What the hell?

So I go online and start reading on the tech forums. Probably a bad disk. Burn another one and try again.

Check.

Goddammit!

Back to the forums. Well if that won’t work, then put it on a thumb drive and make that the primary boot device.

Out to the computer store to buy a thumb drive.

Reboot.

More misery. I’m getting really sick of seeing that Windows NT welcome screen.

So I go into my bios and make the DVD the only bootable device, and try again.

The computer now informs me that there are no bootable devices available. Press F2 to try again or just slit your wrists now to get it over with.

I set the bios so only the USB port is bootable. Again, the computer tells me there are no bootable devices available. Press F2 to try again. Have a nice day.

It appears the only bootable device on my old Dell Inspiron is the internal hard drive.

Dell is evil.

I burned that DVD on my newer computer. Maybe my new DVD drive writes disks that my old DVD drive can’t read? So I download Ubuntu onto my old computer and go to burn the image. What? Roxio is not on my computer? Roxio has been on every computer I’ve ever had, at home or at work. I’m stunned. So I go out to download Roxio. Guess what? Despite the fact that it has come on every computer I’ve ever had (except this damn NT box), it’s not free. Crap.

More online research. Google – open source, burn, dvd (or something like that). I find something called InfraRecorder with a GPL license. I download it and install it on my dog of a Dell. (Sorry dogs, I shouldn’t besmirch you like that. I like dogs.)

InfraRecorder is great! Really, for the first time in this post I’m not being snarky. Go get it. Now.

So I burn Ubuntu to my old (2x) DVD drive. Do you know how slow 2x is? Oh… my… god. But eventually the deed is done and I try rebooting with a disk I am certain my old DVD drive can read.

Same frigging results.

More online research turns up the fact that a lot of people can’t seem to get past their old installation of Windows NT. This is a fairly common problem. The recommended solution is to find your original installation CDs and reinstall Windows so you can reformat the drive.

I conducted an exhaustive search of my CD racks to no avail. However, I did get all my old music and software CDs nicely reorganized. See, something good did come of this. Next I searched the garage. No luck. Then a little tucked away book case. Viola!

I reboot with the original Windows NT Restore CD. Remember how the vendors quit shipping the actual full distributions years ago? Seemed like a bad idea to me at the time.  So this is it, a Restore CD. I throw it in and reboot. I’m told that the current version of the OS on my computer is newer than the one on the CD so I cannot proceed. Sorry.

WTF!

Microsoft is evil.

If you’re still with me you are probably waiting for the happy ending. Well there isn’t one. My Dell Inspiron is still sitting there to my left, mocking me.

Amazingly enough it is still in one piece.  (See photo, above.) I have not throw it to the floor and stomped it into oblivion (though that has been tempting). No, I am going to have you, Inspiron, one way or another.

My next try will be FOG, an open source disk reformatting program. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try Wipe Disk, though I’d rather not spend any money. If that doesn’t work, I may just yank the hard drive, and put in a new one. I’ve invested too much effort to throw in the towel now.

My little 5 minute installation of Ubuntu has now taken me two and a half days to no avail.

Ubuntu is evil.

 

Too funny. This just in from Twitter:

 

 

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