Sunday, November 30, 2008


Apart from the weekly celebration that is NFL Football, today signaled, for me, a bittersweet arrival -- that reality's return is imminent and, tomorrow, work begins anew.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm the only one who formerly approached Sunday nights with a bittersweet melancholy that abruptly melded into complete melancholy once True Blood, Entourage (and soon, Dexter) take their annual hiatuses (hiati?). It's not that I hate working -- just the opposite -- but if the weekend is the cake, Monday morning is the boiled liver with lima beans.

So these past four days -- Thursday, Friday, Saturday and today -- really were great. I saw friends, I celebrated with my family, I had endless time to tinker with the new box, and I had no real constraints of any kind. I did work, I cleaned the house, I did some random food prep, and I got ready -- mentally -- to prep a big potful of chicken soup. On that last part, I've settled on leeks, carrots, some onion, barley, mushrooms and orzo.

However, especially now that the real world is imminently making its return to disturb the last four days of vacation, I suppose it's like summer vacation's end for kids. The last four days were great and yet, they sped by incredibly quickly. Hence the bittersweet melancholy, regardless of whether True Blood, Entourage and Dexter signaled the end of the week and the beginning of the week, all within a 150-minute metamorphosis.

I think it has more to do with having to wake up early than the whole "work" thing. After all, I did a bunch of work stuff -- and even hit the office for a bit on Friday -- but the real core of my being deplores having to wake up at a particular time. If I could roll out of bed, hit the shower and the office, and do my thing at my own pace and on my own schedule, I think things would be really different. Monday morning -- and Sunday night -- would have far less significance in this lexicon of the death-knell of the weekend by 12AM Monday.

But then, I suppose, I wouldn't appreciate the weekends as much; in fact, it occurs to me that the whole "you don't know what you've got until it's gone" has Monday morning written all over it.

I suppose we'll know tomorrow morning. For better or worse. Okay, for worse.

Happy Monday.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

'Tis The Season

Okay, so the title of this post seemingly glosses over today's Thanksgiving holiday and dives straight into the crass commercialism of Christmas. However, I'd be remiss if I allowed the body of this post to do the same. So, on that note, I hope any and all reading this have a wonderful Thanksgiving. To those to the North and South, Happy Thanksgiving-in-law.

I'm going to be celebrating this holiday in mellow fashion; Kaia's in Cali so we're going to do Thanksgiving at a restaurant here in NYC. It's never the same as being home for this particular holiday, and while we don't celebrate Christmas, I can't help but recall with fond nostalgia spending Thanksgiving in NJ with the parental unit and the rest of the family. But as holidays go, this one, as they all are since 2004, is a happy one, and one that is far more serious than it was prior to 2004. I'm not sure if "celebrating" it is per se the right term, but its arrival marks a passage of time that reminds me of the past and the future and the art, and the beauty in, savoring and being thankful for what you've got and what you don't. For some, this holiday is mostly about the food -- and Thanksgiving, as far as food-related holidays, is a biggie -- but it's -- rightfully so -- become so much more than that on many different levels.

In either case, I've got some PC upgrades and installations to attend to so I won't spend much more time herein, but I did want to make sure the day didn't pass with mentioning the recent violence in Mumbai. I could speculate, lament, mourn and/or deplore along with the rest of the world on that particular horror, but I suppose that whole situation implores us, more than ever, to be thankful for what and who we've got in our lives, and also, on a more general scale, reminds us that the world is changing, and not necessarily for the better. We can spend our too few days on this Earth reminiscing about this change, and recall the "good old days" with wistful melancholy, or we can simply work to insure the changes we're facing aren't permanent and in fact begin to go in the right direction. I'm not sure about that second part, but I do know and believe that all is not lost.

In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been directly affected by the events in Mumbai, and I hope this incident -- or series of incidents -- serves to remind us how precious life is and how to appreciate whatever it is we do have. It's always easy to take these things for granted, until they are no longer there.

Again, a happy thanksgiving to you all.


Monday, November 24, 2008

The Best-Laid Plans

Last time I was here was "pre-PC build."

It's now, I'm happy to announce, the "post-PC build" era in the HoB.

Having said all that, I am not unhappy I went in this direction -- in fact, like many advised I would be, I am proud and pleased that I opted for a from-scratch PC rather than some soulless lawn mower from Dell or some other company.

And I now understand why people get off on talking about their "rigs," "boxes" and/or "setup." It's sort of like getting a bunch of car parts -- internal, external, etc. -- and doing all the work yourself. However, inasmuch as I'm glad this machine's homemade, I didn't do it myself. A good friend did about 75% of the work. For the most part, I didn't have him come by to do the work for me, I had him come by to help me figure out what's actually going on with the wires, cables and lights that connect the case, the motherboard, the components and, ultimately, the actual machine.

One of the major issues with most of these homemade PC's isn't that they don't work; the problem is that they invariably wind up sounding like jet engines (even when safely ensconced inside their cases). The main problem is that when you buy your own components, you typically choose the highest-end components possible in order to maximize performance. Example: whereas most store-bought business machines are typically equipped with 200-watt power supplies, most home-built machines are powered by 500 watt models. However, the norm is even higher; some go over 1000 watts. That means, assuming you leave your PC on 24-7, you're running an appliance that, conceivably, uses more electricity -- constantly -- than a hair dryer. All of a sudden, your electric bill exceeds your car payment. Joy.

Actually, that's not entirely true -- the ratings indicate capacity, as opposed to normal usage, which in most cases, is far less. But neither here nor there: the bottom line is that these setups rarely are designed for efficiency.

However, I tried to make sure mine was sensible, and got a motherboard with high ratings for efficiency. Like Kaia says, my desk area is as lit-up as mission control at Nasa, so the less heat and power emanating from that area, the better. And the nice thing is despite the fact my case is perforated (lots of mesh exterior for venting of heat) and I am working it hard, there is little, if any, noise from fans or the other cooling acoutrement stuffed into that box. Of course, the fact that the case I purchased is bigger than most infant car seats helps. The nice thing is that it looks good, doesn't make a lot of noise under my desk, and everything seems to work -- for now.

I 'spose we'll see if anything goes wrong over the next few weeks, though, strangely, I highly doubt it will. I'll be posting pictures of the finished product when I can, as well as a list of the items we got and the overall results of the assemblage.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Breaking and Entering

Well, the last week or ten days have been interesting on many a level; certainly, my absence has decried this observation, but the main issue with these pages laying fallow isn't completely my fault. It's the damn PC's fault.

Awhile back, I had done some basic upgrades to my home PC, a Dell Dimension something-or-other. It's a mid-size tower, which means that it's not a gargantuan beast but it fits neatly under my desk, albeit with a nest of wires, cables and other acoutrement filling out what little space lurks behind it. The upgrades involved a new internal hard drive and a video card.

The problem is that Dell, like many of the more mainstream PC manufacturers out there, builds machines for the masses, sort of like how Chevrolet builds their vehicles. They're meant, by and large, to be used for a finite number of years (roundly speaking, anywhere from 24-36 months) before they unceremoniously crap out like an epilectic on a garish lit-up disco dance floor.

My home PC, fortunately, didn't spasm uncontrollably as in the above example, but after losing two hard drives due to a combination of dust and heat -- the latter being the main culprit -- the PC went belly up all at once.

That means that everything in the mid-tower is toast.

Now that's not to say that's such an awful thing. I had virtually everything on the machine backed up in several places, knowing this day may come, so the only real data loss was stuff about which I really didn't care very much. But on the other hand, it meant I had to lug my notebook back and forth to do testing on the stuff inside to see which, if any of it, was salvageable and, more importantly, worth salvaging.

On top of that, I had to keep up with the work that I typically handle at night; work-related stuff that I don't always finish between working hours (ha!) and the miscellaneous other random minutiae that keep me in front of the computer when I'm not doing something I particularly enjoy.

On top of that, I had to find a new machine to replace this one, as most of the problem with this box was that the case was far too small to allow air to be circulated properly. The quick version: today's multi-core processors (Intel's Dual and Quad-core processors are under the model name "Xeon") essentially do twice (dual) or four (quad) times the processing in the same essential space that Pentiums (the prior model of Intel's PC-based processors) handled. That means they give off twice/four times the heat thereof. Add to that the higher capability of modern video cards and you have a lot more power -- both consumed and under the hood, so to speak.

In other words, it's like saying that a modern-day V8 is far more powerful, but uses shitloads more gas, than a Honda four-cylinder from the early '90's.

The problem is all that heat melts everything around it if not properly addressed. Thus: enter a new PC.

Problem is that I didn't want to buy another Dell; I've always used Dell for both home and office PC's but over the last several years, they've become as poorly-built and -designed as Gateways, Compaqs and IBMs. Before anyone gets offended by my description of their machine(s), please note that -- except for Dell -- all of the other companies I've mentioned above, for the most part, no longer manufacture PC's (yes, Gateway still does, but their stuff is awful and whereas they used to be #1 or #2 they're now #20 or lower in all PC categories).

Anyhoo, to make a loooong story short, I decided to build a PC. So I basically collected a list of components -- motherboard, case, CPU, RAM, storage, DVD drives, sound card, et al, and reviewed it with a friend who is even more of an uber-geek than me. He made some minor changes, and then between us we confirmed everything would work with everything else (both in terms of compatibility and in terms of physical space limitations). Sho'nuff, everything was/is good and once the goodies arrive, he'll swing by and we'll spend a couple hours getting everything together. That means we'll unscrew every part, put everything where it's supposed to go, screw everything back together and then hope nothing explodes.

I never did auto work when I was in high school; in fact, my high school never offered a "shop" class so there were no "grease monkeys" floating around those hallowed halls. But I've been tinkering with PC's for so long I can't remember back to when I was without a PC.

But that doesn't change the fact that building a machine is a lot different than tinkering with one. In any case, a good friend of mine will swing by and between us we'll connect the 25-30 case, power supply and motherboard wires together, get the motherboard/circuit board updated, and then we'll power everything on and hope for the best.

If you hear a loud boom sometime in the next few days, you'll know it didn't go so well.

More to come...hopefully ;-)


Monday, November 10, 2008

US Military to The World: We Love A Challenge

Another example of shit rolling downhill, and yet another simple lesson for those who want to attack US fighters in foreign lands: use civilians and/or civilian structures -- eg houses, religious structures, schools, etc. -- as human shields as the US will back off. Go here for more.

After reading this, it gives you an entirely new perspective -- and, perhaps, respect -- for the job that Israeli soldiers have been doing for sixty years.

Friday, November 07, 2008

One Day In The Life...

I held off commenting about this past Tuesday's results for several reasons of varying significance. Most importantly, I expected Obama to garner 348 electoral votes, and the fact he wound up winning 364 means that this was no shockfest. It was pretty clear which direction this election would go from a few days after Sarah Palin was announced as McCain's choice for VP nominee.

That isn't to say she cost Jonny Mac the election -- in fact, I think she's going to be the scapegoat but hardly the reason why Republican dreams of momentum were flushed down the proverbial toilet. No, I think the reason why McCain lost the election is because his "vision" was as limited as the people who supported him. I truly doubt most people considered Obama's race to be a factor in this election, or at least I hope so. But the truth is, McCain -- and I respect the guy -- just didn't present a case for how he knew he could bring the US out of the massive shits we're in as of this particular moment.

What's interesting is that Obama didn't necessarily present a complete solution to the entire crisis we're experiencing: he did mention that he intended to lower taxes for those making below $42,000, and he did mention he intended to raise taxes for those making above $250k. But he also was fairly straightforward in his approach and didn't bullshit, sideswipe or circle the wagons. He was -- apparently -- honest and direct and trustworthy.

McCain, while not the opposite of the above-listed qualities, didn't really give anything close to a meaningful, genuine road map to guiding us anywhere. Frankly, I think he spent more time calibrating negativity towards Obama than he did in fomenting his own future. People like negative campaign ads on some level; there's nothing like turning on Channel 10 in Oklahoma City at 6:45PM and hearing "And the incumbent Senator has spent $31,000 on hookers during golfing trips over the last 18 months!" It's worth a giggle or two.

But what any negative ads do -- aside from confuse, irritate and/or (sometimes) entertain voters is they guide us into territory that has little to do with anything relevant. I don't mind the fact that McCain told a fellow Senator to go fuck himself. I'm sure I would do the same thing if given the opportunity. The projector screen criticism that McCain used towards Obama -- during two debates, if I recall correctly -- sounded petty and kind of weak.

If you're going to attack Obama, you mention that he's been a member of a Church whose pastor associates with known anti-Israeli speakers, academics and groups and who has decried the US over his tenure at that position. You cite the fact he has a long-time friendship with Ayers, the former domestic terrorist. And you cite the fact that he's not spent any real time at the helm of anything except a seat on the Senate.

Having said all that, it would have been a waste of words -- and, turns out, it was.

People didn't vote en masse for Barack Obama because he seemed to have a better handle on the economy. They grew suspicious and weary of John McCain's call for victory in Iraq -- which echoed George W. Bush; they grew suspicious and weary of John McCain's suggestion that, given time and more offshore drilling, things would work out -- which echoed George W. Bush; and they grew suspicious and weary of John McCain's demeanor as negative to Obama's inspirational, poised, confident optimism.

Put another way, people didn't want answers -- they just wanted to know whoever was at the wheel knows exactly how to get us to where we need to be. Same thing, incidentally, applied to Bill Clinton (and to Ronald Reagan as well). Politics is not facts, politics is perception...and people perceived McCain as old-guard and negative and Obama as the young new politician with optimism and confidence in his pocket.

I do have some questions about Obama's inexorable road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but I'm not worried like some people I know. They suggest Obama is a dangerous choice because he has connections to Islam and to radicals. They worry that his theories and concepts bear extremely close ties to Marxist philosophy -- which in some aspects they do -- and they believe the US will become a welfare state. And I think they are worried about the fact that some of the social plans will become permanent rather than temporary.

All of these concerns may be valid, if not overstated; but the fact is, whether or not they or anyone else likes it, come January 20th, we've got a new Senior Executive, a new Commander in Chief, and a new President.

And I give him ten days before people start bitching.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Morning Has Broken...

Despite the onset of winter and another dreary Monday morning intertwined, I can say I am still fairly optimistic...about what, I'm not exactly sure.

This week begins with more work being done in my apartment; the last time I had work performed in my place was to do some work in the closet, which ended up being a good thing. Since the building owner arranged to have my closet broken out and repaired, I've been keeping that space as organized as if I haven't been living here -- which means that it looks like a photograph in one of those closet organization people (California Closets, NYC Closets, etc.). Put another way, everything is organized, arranged properly, and it doesn't look like the entryway or portal to the Netherworld (or to some secret computer lab like in "Real Genius").

Not that there's anything wrong with either of those options, of course.

But relatively speaking, this time they needed to break out the ceiling in my bathroom -- not the entire ceiling, mind you, but just a third of the ceiling above the shower. The tenant above me moved out -- Kaia and I had heard about this a couple months ago when we were looking at apartments in this very building -- but due to timing, it was a non-issue. But apparently they screwed something up with the tub/shower upstairs and everything had to be checked out -- from the bottom. So that's where I come in.

What wound up happening was a couple guys came in and drop-clothed my shower area and banged out part of the ceiling, did what they had to do, taped up the hole, and split. This morning, the second and final half of the process is being done as we speak. I've got access to my notebook so getting work done isn't a problem, but it's sort of aggravating. And for those of you who live in houses as opposed to apartments, you can attest to the fact that this crap -- having to wait on repair people to come by and do work at your abode -- happens whether you pay rent or a mortgage.

In either case, it's frustrating having to sit around and wait for someone else, but as indicated above, it is what it is (my shot at philosophy on an otherwise random Monday morning). The positives are that the Giants routed the Cowboys yesterday afternoon and I got enough work done over the weekend to be in a position to not drive myself crazy over not having access to a file I need. I'm glad some data I need is available online -- thank you, -- but even without that access this AM, I'm just kicking back and not worrying too much about what I can't do and instead focusing on what I've done and what I can do.

I hope this optimism doesn't continue...I'm not used to being so positive, especially on a (feh) Monday.

Ah, that's better...

Happy damn Monday.