A Twist Of Fate
December, 2009 Entries
"Nobody goes to that place anymore. It's too crowded." - Yogi Berra

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(12/31/09 - 6:33 PM)
Spent the day at my Dad's house, working on his computer. Began the day by going with him to his good friend Cecil's house, to work on his computer first. It was supposed to be cut-and-dried, but it took two and a half hours to clean, update, reinstall, and add the new Norton suite of software. Apparently, having five different users in three different age groups on a machine takes its toll over the course of a year.

Dad's computer took a while longer, as we visited in-between programs. His is also a Vista machine, and since I have all of six minutes on one of these, it took a tad longer to find everything that I needed to find.

Suffice it to say, I got home AFTER my wife had come home from work. Somehow, it still felt like an eight hour work day but it was nice visiting with my Dad and Step-mother. Plus, they gave me home-made cookies.

(12/30/09 - 5:18 PM)
I am finally free of the torments of work for four days. For whatever reason, I have been one heck of a crank this week. And I could only focus on that blissful moment when I got to walk away unfettered.

I'm beginning to miss those full, fast days once more. These slower, less-full ones are beginning to take a toll on me both mentally and physically. There's no challenge; there's no time to do anything, because we're running constrained hours and, worst of all, the days don't simply fly by.

Come on, 2010 - hook me up with some work, will ya?

(12/27/09 - 7:22 PM)
Wanda and I were settling in to watch a DVD this evening, and the television was on a reality show involving police officers attempting to solve a murder. A potential witness was being questioned. This was his response to the question, "Did you hear or see anything?"

"I didn't hear nothin', I just seen the sirens."

I about laughed myself stupid.

(12/26/09 - 11:58 PM)
Wow, what an evening.

Wanda and I went to dinner, and got more than we bargained for when a singer/guitar player made the rounds of the tables at the mexican restaurant we always frequent. It was a little awkward, as we're both exceedingly private people - especially in public. Nevertheless, we grinned and bore it. At least the guy could sing and play.

From there, we went to get together with some of my (our) oldest and dearest friends. Some of them I haven't seen in a decade or more, and even the ones I have seen since then, it's still been too long. It's amazing how people you spent that much time with in your youth never really leave your side, and how the years just melt away as though they've never happened when you're together again. I may not have alot of friends, and yet I wonder if perhaps the people who do don't have the same understanding of the word as I.

It's hard to say.

I even got to meet a few new people.

For me, the friendships I have - the real ones - were forged with time, and not built on mere acquaintanceship. These are people who would do you any favor without question. And those kind of friendships are priceless.

I'm really lucky. Even more than I imagined. I have my wife, my health, my family, and gainful employment. What I had forgotten to add was that I also have some amazing friends.

(12/25/09 - 8:26 PM)
Spent the day with my Mom, my brother, and his wife at Mom's house. My wife brought her white elephant gift from her side of the family. It consisted of pipe cleaners, feathers, yarn and floss that her cousin had cleaned out of her room. She and my sister-in-law spent a bit of time fashioning home-made cat toys from the aggregation of materials, and seemed to enjoy themselves.

I think everyone was in desperate need of a nap, which probably didn't bode well for serious debate toward the end of the afternoon. It's hard to debate things with my brother, because he's not only hyper-intelligent and gives me an inferiority complex - he's also an attorney with staunch views.

(12/24/09 - 3:46 PM)
Today was supposed to be my 'lazy' day. Inevitably, I ended up with the mistress once more (that's the media library, for those of you who don't already know - it's what I call it because for all the time I spend working on it, it sometimes feels like I'm cheating on my wife) and got some more organization done. I finished porting all five seasons of a show from our DVD collection to MPEG format, so that felt good until I realized just how many more I have to do. I'm thinking the DVD's might be done by late summer. The end of this year was simply too lofty a goal. And if I'd stop buying music, I might get the music end finished up. But it's not likely. Either one, truth be told.

(12/23/09 - 5:22 PM)
Spent the afternoon reminiscing at work with a few of the core employees over a couple of beers. I'm not normally a beer guy (although, I do appreciate a good one) but this is sort of a tradition. An afternoon each year to talk about where the business has been while telling funny stories about one another. And there are plenty of those.

(12/22/09 - 4:18 PM)
This one comes courtesy of my wife:

"I'm listening to Christmas music. Jim walks by as it's playing, so I say "Mele kalikimaka!" His response was something stupid about melanoma or whatever. He had no clue what I was saying so I said a couple of lines and he was still clueless. I asked if he had seen "Christmas Vacation" and he said yes, so I told him it was the song that was playing during what I assume was one of his favorite parts. He still has no clue.

Suddenly, Nancy yells out, "Recreate the scene!"

She had never seen it."


(12/21/09 - 7:22 PM)
It's Monday - amuse yourselves. As for me:

Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda Wanda.

I warned her I might do this. =)

(12/20/09 - 5:20 PM)
*(A Big Thank You To Jen Facer For This One)

This will make your day. Call the Nestle Crunch Hotline at 1-800-295-0051. When you are asked if you want to continue in English or Spanish, just wait quietly for about 5 seconds. Keep going and press 4. Listen to the options, then press 7.

(12/19/09 - 3:20 PM)
Christmas is done. Everyone seemed to have a good time (that, or they huffed nitrous before they came in the house - or possibly both.)

The kids were - well - kids. Gary, Jr. seemed to think he was auditioning for the oldies version of American Idol, and I got a 'puzzle' for Christmas.

More specifically, I got an 8" long x 1" round peppermint stick in a plastic baggie that was broken into a thousand pieces, with a picture of said-same prior to its unfortunate demise at the hands of my father-in-law to show me what the 'puzzle' was supposed to look like when completed.

Honestly, it was pretty damn funny.

My cat apparently has it in for Wanda's Aunt Julie, as he went all bobcat on her not once, but twice. It freaked her out, and that in and of itself was entertaining.

Mike and Jen's new baby is freaking cute-dorable, and was especially so in his festive little outfit. Aside from the fact that he drooled all over our vinyl juggling balls (yes, Wanda and I both have a set, so insert your comments as you like. And yes - for the record - we both can juggle) he was pretty damn fun to play with.

I finally got to show my nephew Gideon my Pez dispenser collection that I've had boxed up in plastic bins in the basement for years (some 600+ stems, in all) and he was glad to finally be able to see them after asking about them for the last year. Especially my yellow snowman, pink elephant & black Santa.

We had a good time, albeit cacaphonous and volumatic at times.

Wanda and I are now headed upstairs for a long winter's nap, because we both have little to no energy left.

(12/18/09 - 11:03 PM)
Wow, what an insane day. Tomorrow, we host Christmas with Wanda's side, and I waited until the last minute to do everything (I work better under pressure.) It wasn't intentional, so much as we've been insanely busy this week at work.

I did manage to get all of my errands run, and Christmas is all ready to happen here at Chateau Heathenwanda upon the morrow.

Wanda is finishing up the Christmas presents, and I'm working on her father's (we're doing all home-made this year because we all got tired of the whole presents thing, and money is at a premium.)

The cat is off frolicking somewhere, oblivious of what is about to be perpetrated upon him. This will be the first year we're going to allow the little demon-spawn to roam free amongst the guests, so it will be interesting to see how he reacts to them. My guess is he'll sniff around, hiss, and then find somewhere relatively quiet to hide from my neices and nephews.

We're also into season four of Battlestar Galactica and, after a less-than-stellar showing in season three, season four is shaping up to be something spectacular. I'll admit my interest waned a bit last season, but now I find myself wondering how they're going to wrap this epic up.

Also found that my boxed set contains the 'Razor' movie (who knew?), which nicely shed some light on events aboard the Pegasus during season two. It's filler, but at least it's interesting filler that does add something to the storyline.

(12/17/09 - 9:42 PM)

An Attorney's Night Before Christmas
Whereas, on an occasion immediately preceding the Nativity festival, throughout a certain dwelling unit, quiet descended, in which could be heard no disturbance, not even the sound emitted by a diminutive rodent related to, and in form resembling, a rat; and

Whereas, the offspring of the occupants had affixed their tubular, closely knit coverings for the nether limbs to the flue of the fireplace in expectation that a personage known as St. Nicholas would arrive; and

Whereas, said offspring had become somnolent, and were entertaining re: saccharine-flavored fruit; and

Whereas, the adult male of the family, et ux, attired in proper headgear, had also become quiescent in anticipation of nocturnal inertia; and

Whereas, a distraction on the snowy acreage outside aroused the owner to investigate; and

Whereas, he perceived in a most unbelieving manner a vehicle propelled by eight domesticated quadrupeds of a species found in arctic regions; and

Whereas, a most odd rotund gentleman was entreating the aforesaid animals by their appellations, as follows:

"Your immediate co-operation is requested. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen; and collective action by you will be much appreciated, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen"; and

Whereas, subsequent to the above, there occurred a swift descent to the hearth by the aforementioned gentleman, where he proceeded to deposit gratuities in the aforementioned tubular coverings.

Now, therefore, be ye advised: that upon completion of these acts, and upon his return to his original point of departure, he proclaimed a felicitation of the type prevalent and suitable to these occasions, i.e.:

"Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!"

(12/16/09 - 10:08 PM)

No Christmas For You!

(12/15/09 - 11:13 PM)
Today, the little known first-first sign of the impending Apocalypse occurred: I broke down and joined FaceBook.

I know. I can't believe it either.

Mostly, I got tired of everyone treating me like a caveman for not being on it, "I tried to find you on FaceBook, but I couldn't..." Then they would proceed to tell me how great it is to be on a socially-connected computer network, for the most part not knowing that I spent a good portion of my mid-life thus far tethered to a modem and enjoying the hell out of not sleeping and randomly chatting and hanging out with friends on the BBS. The problem is, when I say 'BBS' to these people, they just look at me and tell me that they're fairly certain that they've been vaccinated against that.

It's hopeless. I'm a Geek. We invented the term. Long before Geek Squad. Long before the moniker was claimed cool by a new generation of AOL users and mySpacer's who had no notion of what came before, WE we're Geeking.

But, I digress.

Turns out, half the planet of people I know are already there, and all the old Geeks (for the most part) have made it a touchstone.

So, in hindsight, I probably should have gotten on sooner. I already found all the kids I grew up with on the west side of Rockford, most of my wife's relatives (mine are notably absent, for the most part) my Godparents, and on and on.

It's kind of refreshing to know that one can contact such obscure and varied individuals without having to keep track of their whereabouts on paper at any given moment.

So, I guess I'm glad that I finally got my butt in gear and got on there.

Still, I do get tired of the proselytizing of the new regime of computer users. I feel like we had something special, and that their calling themselves Geeks just isn't right. As though it's some sort of sacrilidge that somehow sullies what WE had. I especially get upset (don't ask me why, it's irrational) when I hear these people talking as though the InterNet was created in the early nineties with the advent of companies like AOL, Prodigy and CompuServe, as a method of upholding communications in the United States during a possible nuclear strike, when the fact of the matter (and Robert Taylor has my back, here) was that a General in the Pentagon got tired of his research institutions working on the same thing and not communicating. Further, he got fed up with having to have so many damn computer terminals in his office - all different, with different interfaces.

The InterNet, in fact, was born out of the sensibilities of one General for his, and his Government's own purposes. Try explaining that to the television show producers who now accept the mythos of Nuclear Fallout as fact, however.

"Bolt, Beranek & WHO, now?"

I think I understand old people better now.

(12/14/09 - 8:16 PM)
I finally broke down and got my Internet connection bumped up a couple of tiers. It was high-time, in that I felt like while the rest of the world was on a T-1, I was using a 300-baud with acoustic coupler. Now it just feels like I have a 14.4 Kbps. Better, but not the end solution.

I think in the spring I'm going to have to investigate alternatives now available in this area, because Internet via satellite is hokey. And I need speed. I also, it has become more than apparent, need a new computer. While this one is fast, I can't help but notice it pleading for mercy as I run so many applications non-stop and all at once. I've rendered the majority of my TSR's inert, and have cleaned the system twelve ways from Sunday, but it just isn't enough anymore. And I get tired of seconds of lag while I'm waiting for it to finish what it's doing, so I can do what I want to do.

(12/13/09 - 10:21 AM)
Last night was my company Christmas party. It was a fitting cap on a what has proven to be the toughest year in our company's history.

Unfortunately, over half our staff were unable to attend for a whole host of reasons, which was something of a disappointment. The upside was that this made for a more informal gathering which felt a bit more intimate.

On the whole, though, I think it was a sobering reminder of where we had been only one year ago. My hope is that this next year will allow us to regain some of the ground we have lost this year. And perhaps if we're lucky, regain some employees we never should have lost. The economy really screwed us on that front.

(12/12/09 - 2:08 PM)
Yesterday, I impulse bought a high-end Cisco LinkSys wireless, dual-band media router for our home.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I know my way around a computer enough to be dangerous. So, I figured that I would do what I always do on this front: I would learn by doing.

I also suspected that router technology had come a long way since the days of Novell NetWare's prevalance, when you had to be a devout priest of the arcane to even get one computer to acknowledge another's existance on even the best of days.

Turns out, I was partially right.

LinkSys Routers now come with software called 'LELA' - LinkSys Easy Link Advisor. And I do have to say that the interface is fairly straight-forward and fairly compelling.

The problem was that I needed to achieve multiple ends to get everything working in harmony. Picture the U.N. attempting to get something accomplished in-session while on acid and crack after being awake for 40-straight hours, and you begin to see my problem.

After nearly SIX HOURS of monkeying with the thing, I finally got all the stars to align - the firewalls (2 kinds), the anti-virus software (2 kinds), the laptop's wireless interface card, the router, my satellite modem, my computer, and all of my satellite drives.

My biggest problem? I relied upon the aforementioned software, via a thumbnail USB drive, to initiate the laptop into the network. For whatever reason, the laptop showed up momentarily last night as a hard-wired PC (no clue on that front), but was soon off the reservation. This was when I was still adding it manually - before I resorted to the thumbnail drive recommendation.

I know why now, but what I believe happened was when I moved the encryption standard to the highest level (once I found out my wife's laptop was compatible with it), the key changed on my machine, but not on hers. I had to manually go in and change it - for both bands of the network. Then - and ONLY then - did her computer suddenly show up properly as a wireless laptop with a solidly established connection.

On some levels, I'm happy that I was able to complete the challenge. On other levels, I felt stupid for six hours as things seemed to change at random. All the while I wondered, "What do individuals who have less or no computer experience do in situations such as these?"

I don't want to sound arrogant, but I'm not stupid. I can usually figure things out on my own. And I've been around computers of all shapes and sizes for nearly my entire life. Different OS's (from MVS/TSO to Unix flavors, to DOS, to Windows). And all the while, I have managed to hold my own. But I couldn't help but think that this simply should not have been this difficult to do.

Good luck out there, novices of the world. It's 2009, and you're still going to need it.

(12/11/09 - 9:32 PM)
Good Lord, where did all this snow suddenly come from?

We've had blizzard warnings, we've had heavy snows, we've had more snow, we've had bad road conditions, and my seven foot forsythia in the front yard is now a pugdy three feet tall. What gives?

I even took my snowblower in early this year, so I would have it back in time for the snow flying. Turns out, I should have perhaps taken it in in October. Not that it would matter. Even though it's a two-stage, the snow was so wet, and so heavy that I didn't see a single neighbor whose snowblower was working properly. And one guy seemed to be of the mind that if he willed his to work, it would somehow happen. All of us with shovels took a peek at him struggling and getting nowhere now and again, until finally OUR driveways were done and we went back into our warm houses, as that guy remained stuck where he had been for quite some time.

It's funny how some people are so illogical at times.

This year (after five years of struggling with it [now who's illogical?]) I actually took my snowblower in for tubes in the tires before I took it to the mechanic, so I'm excited that this will be the first year since purchasing it where I don't have to pump up the tires before using it. THAT was a hassle. And a cold one at that.

(12/10/09 - 8:26 PM)
The new Harry Potter movie was something of a disappointment. It just didn't feel linear. Having read the book, I can say that there were a goodly amount of things missing that ought not to have been. Also, it didn't feel the same as the other films which most likely means that they have once more changed directors.

I think it's a shame that movies such as this that ought to be epics are cut down to more nominal times in the interest of making money with casual theatergoers. I realize that these folks are in the business to make money, but I still wish they would throw the true fans a bone once in a while a la The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (thank you, Peter Jackson - wherever you are!)

(12/09/09 - 10:01 PM)
I found out today why a trench coat is so named.

Apparently, during World War I, the German's developed a thick wool coat that kept the wearer warm, even when wet. It also served a secondary purpose in that the wool was dense and thick - making it extremely tough to pierce or slash with conventional knife weaponry.

German soldiers in the trenches were issued these coats. The coats themselves led the United States Government to approach the American Cutlery Company to develop a knife-weapon that would easily pierce this thick, unnatural hide, so that opposing forces would not continue to have an upper-hand.

This led to the development of a three-sided blade (later outlawed by the Geneva Convention) which would pierce the wool, and leave a wound that was not only highly succeptable to infection, but was also nearly impossible to stitch closed.

What I don't get is this: It's WAR. How in the hell can WAR have RULES? This has always been something that simply reflects on how stupid we can be as a collective society. If you feel the need to go to war, you had better damn well MEAN it. And as such, should one not do everything in their power to win it as quickly as possible?

I have to say it. I know it seems obvious, but I just have to say it anyway: War is stupid. This just proves it.

(12/08/09 - 9:16 PM)
So, I finally got around to ordering and then subsequently reading Tim Dorsey's latest book, "Nuclear Jellyfish".

It is my woeful duty to inform you of this:

The book was like a cake that one creates. You have a recipe, you mix all the appropriate ingredients in the absolute perfect amounts, you have a perfect cake just waiting to happen. And then, insead of baking it, you just stare at it and wait for it to bake itself.

This pretty much sums the book up for me. I was so disappointed on a lot of levels. His characters are insanely interesting. His plots always seem to work, and often work exceedingly well. The problem with this work is that all the ingredients for a wacky Serge Storms & Coleman adventure were there, but they were so poorly fleshed out as to be almost confusing at times. I couldn't tell how many gangs there were, who was allied with whom, what anyone's particular motives were (until it was too late to care) and on and on.

I can't help but wonder if Mr. Dorsey was forced to pare this work back by his editors or publishers, because what I eventually got to read as the end product just felt all wrong.

I have high hopes for his next book ("Gator A-Go-Go", available January 7th, 2010 I believe).

I truly hope that one of my all-time favorite writers has not gone the way of Patricia Cornwell - writing on reputation alone, and fresh out of ideas that matter.

C'mon Tim - bring the insanity. But do it sanely.

(12/07/09 - 10:08 PM)
Heath Tries To Be Funny By (Possibly?) Re-Telling A Joke He Once Made Up And Told Before! Imagine the set of a Mexican morning talk show...

"Mr. Matador, how DO you cook such amazing vegetables?"

"Well, it's no secret. I use only Oil Of Ole when cooking them. It helps keep them youthful-looking and their skins firm."

(12/06/09 - 11:56 AM)
Christoper Moore's book, "Fool" is something of a departure for him. It is essentially the retelling of Shakespeare's "King Lear" from Moore's own twisted point of view with all the rapier wit and cunning personal monologue thrown in.

And it's good. Really, really good.

Sure, the story has already been written hundreds of years ago. But Moore's very-nearly prosaic use of words at times is nothing short of enchanting. I found myself reading sentences over and over, marveling at nothing more than the sheer dynamism of the flow of the thing and the words selected to convey something so simple as a quickly forgotten point.

Having never read Shakespeare (none of it, thanks), I think the story may have been more interesting to me. With that said, I still think that of all of Moore's ever-expanding body of work, this one was my favorite for a lot of reasons.

The upside is that this one may also be read as a stand-alone, as it ties back to none of his serial works.

Good job, Mr. Moore! Now, whenceforth cometh the next installment?

(12/05/09 - 6:34 PM)
I decided to tackle a project today. The first in some time, truth be told, as money has been scarce this year for lots of reasons.

Some time ago, I installed under-cabinet lighting in our kitchen. Ever since, I've thought it would be neat to tie into that, and also illuminate the upper portions of the cabinets as well.

Today was that day. I figured the whole project would take me no more than an hour. I even said so to my wife, who merely nodded in agreement, knowing full well to expect at the very least twice that amount of time.

In the end, it took nearly five hours. But, to be fair, I ended up scrubbing 10 years worth of crud off the tops of our cabinets, washing the top of the refrigerator (including the spice rack) as well as the top of the dividing wall.

Oh, and I might have put a 5/8" spade bid smack-dab into the existing light wiring, snapping four wires.

I was almost finished with the job, drilling a pilot in the top of the cabinet to feed all of the wires down into, so that they could all hook into the junction points below. I looked carefully at all the wires, and even said to myself (out loud, even): 'I just need to be careful when the bit breaks through.'

And I was. The problem was, there was one small wire that was DIRECTLY beneath the top of the cabinet from my previous installation of the under-cabinet lighting. From my vantage point, I could not see it, and when my drill bit hit it, it twisted, and sucked the bit immediately down into the remaining orderly rat-nest of existing wires.

I stoped counting how many times I said the 'F' word after about fifteen.

Then I laughed. Alot, actually. And felt better.

I went to the basement to get a whole new set of tools (a.k.a. - my electrical bag), and explained to my wife that I had just added one hour to the project in a mere half-second.

I had to splice eight wires back together, once I figured out what went where. I also had to dismantle a goodly portion of my elegantly stowed wires from the previous foray, and begin anew zip-tying and compartmentalizing by wire type.

I'm totally anal. Did you know that?

Suffice it to say that by 4:30 I was done, my back was strained to the breaking point, and I was hungry as all get-out.

The upside is that my kitchen looks keener still at night, and I got rid of some things in my cabinets that should have never even come to the new house with us (what am I thinking, keeping some of this stuff?)

I'm just glad that's it's over.

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