Do ever feel like your life is out of control? Do you find yourself out on the town, photographed with wealthy socialites wearing no underwear? Do you ever wake up in the morning and find yourself naked on a kitchen stove? (Is it not your own?) Have you ever moved cross country to live with someone you met only via Instant Messenger? Do you need a new liver? Have you ever torn up floors in a rented apartment without your landlord’s permission? Have you been blacklisted by the municipal garbage company (those bastards!)? Have you ever let a child go hungry because you needed to buy new mud flaps for a truck? Do you ever feel the need to become a rapper or pimp, despite your semi-privileged upbringing in the suburbs? Do you commonly dress like a whore in public just to forget that you once auditioned to be on a nationally televised entertainment program for tweens? Do you ever find yourself saying “HEY Y’ALL, WATCH THIS!” and then regaining consciousness in a speeding ambulance?

If you answer yes to any of the questions above, you may suffer from Near-Medial Decision Disorder (NMDD). This condition is caused by a chemical imbalance in one of the reasoning centers of the human brain. Sufferers of NMDD frequently lack the ability to use common sense and completely lack impulse control. Those afflicted with NMDD feel a depressed sense of ennui when dealing with mundane, everyday matters and seek the kind of excitement that only a Class C misdemeanor can provide. They also seem to constantly need a couple of bucks for some beers and a pack of smokes… and hey maybe a car or truck to wrap around a telephone pole.

If you think you suffer from NMDD, there is hope for you! Thanks to a miraculous medical discovery nearly suppressed by the FDA, those afflicted by NMDD can find real relief with Glaxoprine. This new miracle dietary supplement corrects the chemical imbalance and allows individuals to make choices that won’t strike fear into the hearts of pets and loved ones. For just dollars a day, you too can lead a normal, productive life without the need to join religious cults and avoid the discomfort and expense of self-administered electro-shock therapy! Call now! Order Glaxoprine today!

in need of some good matzo ball soup…

Well, that cold I had on Tuesday is still with me, and I am feeling no better. In fact, I may actually be feeling worse. I stayed home from work today after working for the first three days of the week. Working wasn’t improving my health, so I hoped that resting at home today would effect some positive change. I’m not sure if I’m going to go back to work tomorrow or not.

In the meanwhile, I’ve been getting my Trek thing on. One of my favorite episodes from the original Star Trek series, the second pilot entitled “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, was released this week in the sequence of the “restored” episodes by CBS/Paramount.

The restoration has really been beneficial in my opinion. Film has been cleaned, color corrected, and scanned in high def. All of the matte shots and exterior space ship effects have been replaced and/or updated with modern computer-generated graphics. The more realistic star field showing the Enterprise leaving the galaxy in the image above is one example of this. The only disappointment I have about the re-released episodes is that they are edited to allow for more commercials. It will be fascinating to see the restored episodes in their complete form.

In other news, my Dad has journeyed to the Land Of The Confederacy for his sister’s funeral. She passed on Tuesday. Part of me wanted to go to see all the Geek family relations, many of whom I haven’t seen in about 25 years. Part of me is also glad because I’m not in much shape for travel right now. I only met my aunt a handful of times over my life. She’d been in assisted care after declining health for the last several years. I’m sorry that she’s gone but at peace with the fact that her struggles are now over.

I spoke to my Mom tonight. She sounds uncertain about the first treatment for her cancer tomorrow. We’re all hopeful that it will work. Hopefully, the side effects will be minimal.

Meanwhile, I could use some good matzo ball soup. I hear it’s good for fighting a cold.

failing health… almost everywhere

I came down with a cold over the weekend. That has derailed further comment in response to thoughts by harri3tspy and smed about the nature and future of the record album (or the CD). Hopefully, I shall get back to those thoughts once I am more recovered (if anyone is still interested).

I got worse health news from my parents over the weekend. A form of the cancer that threatened my Mom’s kidney three and a half years ago is back. It is now lurking in the lining of her bladder. Bladder cancer has a very high (> 95 percent) survivability rate at five years with early detection, or so we have been told. That is the good news. The bad news is that my Mom is not free of cancer.

The treatment for her condition seems a little odd. A bacterial culture similar to the one that causes tuberculosis will be injected to my Mom’s bladder. This will trigger an immune response that will attack the cancer cells. My Mom has been told that this is a highly effective technique — and perfectly legitimate. It is not “eye of newt”. I am glad that it is not chemotherapy or radiation, though the immune response may produce flu-like symptoms for 24-48 hours.

In even worse news, an aunt of mine on my Dad’s side appears to be hovering near death. A smoker for much of her life, she had a stroke last week. The stroke triggered trauma in her already weak body that allowed pneumonia to take hold. Faced with that threat, her organs appear to be shutting down. She may yet rally (she has more than once before), but things do not look good. If she dies in the next week, my Dad might have to go to the funeral alone — unless I (and possibly Mrs. Geek) choose to attend. Mrs. Geek is very interested in meeting my relations in the Land Of The Confederacy… and this would be a way to meet them. This would also possess a certain symmetry because I met many of Mrs. Geek’s relations at her Nana’s funeral in June of 2002.

So the news last week was not good… let’s hope the news in the coming weeks is better.

another job rejection

I interviewed for another job last week and was rejected today. This was for a company located about 15 minutes away from Company O. Normally, I would not have taken this interview. It did not further the cause of relocation for Mrs. Geek and myself. The company was known to me however, and seemed like a good fit. A recruiter also called on a day last month when I was working from home and feeling particularly week willed. So, I relented and started a conversation.

I had some hopes for this one. No relocation funds would be required. I seemed to have some skills relevant to the position they were talking about. The interview seemed to go fairly well, and they actually picked my brain about some interesting problems. The company is hoping to double in size in the next few years.

But alas, it is not to be.

It all makes me a little insecure. If I cannot get another job when I want one, how will I get another one when I need one? Of course, Mrs. Geek correctly points out that I would not be cherry picking opportunities as much as I am now. There would be an earnestness to the search lacking in my current efforts. She’s right… but my hopes are still dashed, and I am left wondering if I haven’t somehow manuvered myself into a set of job skills with few outside prospects.

It all reminds me of dating, and perhaps I should take solace in that. It took a lot of trying to find Mrs. Geek, but I did pretty well there. I was dreadfully insecure about that… and I think I am doing better now. But it still seems like a “get to know you” process, and one in which I don’t have much feed back except no date #2 after date #1.

I need to take this search to the next level, but I’m not sure how to do that. That is a thought for another day though. At least I still have good, interesting work at Company O. *knock on wood*

how not to assemble a compilation CD

Making a mix tape or mix CD can be a tricky thing. I’ve done it a few times over the years, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever been too successful at it. Some of my friends did a better job — including one who routinely included his own artwork and liner notes. So while I can’t say that I am a good creator of mix CDs, I at least have a few good ideas about what constitutes a good mix CD.

The most important thing I look for is some kind of sonic consistency. I guess this boils down to some kind of internal sense of flow. One song has to somehow lead into the next. This can mean that the dynamic level of each song builds into the next, creating an art of increasing intensity. It can also be cyclic; the levels of the songs can alternate between fast and slow, or intense and calm. I want to tonal palette of each song to blend well with the songs both before it and after it. It all has to feel good, or right. What’s the point of putting together particular songs in a mix otherwise?

As a case in point of what not to do, I recently ripped the Cornerstones/Sony Legacy CD Sampler. It’s a professional compilation of interesting tracks from different labels in the Sony Music Group. It’s also what I consider to be an awful mix CD in one glaring respect. To understand why, let us consider the play list:

  1. Springsville – Miles Davis & Gil Evans– This is a pretty solid start from a classic collaboration between two major mid-century jazz talents.
  2. Sweet Home Chicago – Robert Johnson– The second track moves quickly from 50’s jazz to late 30’s blues (though I associate the song much more with the Blues Brothers), but again it is a seminal recording that sits well within the range of the mid-century African-American musical idiom.
  3. Mahogany Hall Stomp – Louis Armstrong– Another important jazz track, this time from the late 1920s or early 1930s.
  4. Until The Real Thing Comes Along – Billie Holiday– The jazz theme continues, moving back to the late 1930’s with one of the important sides Billie Holiday cut with Teddy Wilson.
  5. Take Five – Dave Brubeck– The time period now shifts back from the 1930s to the 1950s with a serene “cool jazz” classic from the 1950’s. If they had stopped right here, it would be a good if not great mix.
  6. Romeo’s Tune – Steve Forbert– The mood of the mix is completely destroyed by the sudden shift from largely acoustic/orchestral music to late 1970’s AM radio rock. No offense to Mr. Forbert, but this track sticks out like sore thumb that’s just been hit with a hammer.
  7. Hobo’s Lullaby – Pete Seeger– The Forbert problem is compounded by immediately shifting back to a lovely, dreamy banjo/vocal acoustic number by Pete Seeger that summons the musical vernacular of the 1930s.
  8. Stack O’Lee – Mississippi John Hurt– The mix gets back on the rails again with a smooth transition from banjo folk to late 1920s era delta blues with light, upbeat blues stylings of Mississippi John Hurt.
  9. Mister Boogie – Sir Charles Thompson– This is not a great transition (acoustic blues to Hammond organ-based boogie woogie) but it sort of works because boogie woogie shares a lot in common with piano blues.
  10. E.S.P. – Charles Mingus– The disc ends very much as it began with orchestral jazz. I don’t know too much about the work of Charles Mingus, but this one track makes me eager to hear some more.

So there you have it. There is some great blues, jazz, and folk there… with one late 70’s AM radio folk/rock piece that destroys the mood. What was Sony thinking? Fortunately, I can just remove that one track from my iPod and be left with a very serviceable mix. There is that at least.

think global, buy local

We interrupt our regularly planned entry with a reminder of why growing up in the 1970’s could be cool: Stevie Wonder doing a mother-freaking 6 minute and 49 second version of “Superstition” on Sesame Street!

I vaguely remember seeing some of Stevie Wonder on Sesame Street (very probably this). I’ll take this over Barney singing “I Love You, You Love Me” any day! Thanks, Mr. Nice Guy for the walk down memory lane.

Mrs. Geek has been asking me lately about how we can shrink the carbon footprint of our household. She wants to carpool more often. I haven’t worked out all the logistics in our head yet, but that sounds like a good idea.

I’ve also been thinking that I need to do more to adopt the mantra “think global, buy local”. Do I really need to be buying produce or household items that have travelled half way around the world just to get to my local market? And what’s up with bottled water? There are no universal standards for ensuring the safety of bottled water, much less any standard for what makes the source of bottled water worth drinking (do you really want to drink filtered water from the aquifer under Houston, TX?).

Or here is an idea: how about adding a cost factor for carbon consumption into the price of items brought to market? That would have the Walmart people really quivering in their boots. You want to move your manufacturing operation from here to mainland China? Great. Just add in the ecological cost of moving all those dust pans, microwaves, and televisions back here to the United States. True, this just might mean that all the work would be going to Northern Mexico instead of China… but that might not be such a bad thing, given the issue that immigration has become.

I need to think about this some more. That and buy some mason jars. Keeping fruits for the winter might involve getting out that copy of the Joy Of Cooking from 1972 that we got from Mrs. Geek’s mom and doing some canning. Anyone remember canning? Yeah, that’s what you did to have fruits and veggies during the winter when they weren’t flown in from South America.

some tools have no place in computer repair

I made an interesting discovery over the weekend: a hacksaw just has no real place in computer repair. How do I know that, you ask? Well, let me tell you a tale of hubris and woe.

I had mentioned previously that my computer at home was making whirring noises for several seconds after I turned it on. I finally discovered that a small fan on the video card was the cause of the problem. It’s a cheap little Chinese-made fan, probably with lubricated ball bearings not up to the task long term. The lube is probably drying out or breaking down or something, and the fan does not turn well when it goes from the resting to the running state. So, I turn the computer on, the bearings make noise, the lube finally gets warm enough to kick in and do its job, and the fan quiets down. It’s merely an annoying problem at the moment, but one that probably should be fixed.

My solution to the problem was to find a new VGA cooler fan+heat sink that would replace the one used by the manufacturer of my video card. This should be easy, right? There are a grillion gamers and overclockers out there who do this sort of thing all the time. The parts are out there, if you just go looking for them. This is what I told myself at least.

Finding the actual part actually turned out to be a little more difficult. I found a VGA cooler that theoretically fit my graphics card. I say theoretically because a) while the manufacturer web site did not specifically list compatible cards with my chipset, it did list both other and newer chipsets by the same manufacturer, and b) the chipset in question was not included in the list of incompatible chipsets. In the end, I got the cooler in question, checked it against my graphics card, and discovered that while there were matching screw holes, the mounting bracket for the cooler was too long.

This is where the a hacksaw comes in. I decided to cut one end off of the mounting bracket. I used a hacksaw to do this. It wasn’t hard, and I thought the cut was fairly successful. I mounted the new fan and heat sink on the card and thought I was ready to go. That feeling lasted all of about ten seconds, until I tried to re-insert the card in my computer. I wouldn’t fit. Some fins on the new heat sink were not clearing another component on the motherboard. So, I cut some fins off of the heat sink and tried again. I got closer that time — close enough to think that I had correctly inserted the card.

I turned the computer on and the newly fixed graphics card did not work. Panic. I tried re-inserting the graphics card. It still didn’t work. I eventually removed the new fan and heat sink. The screen remained blank and the graphics card remained dead.

In the end, I had to get a new graphics card. I’m not sure what went wrong with the old one. Did I bend the card too much when I was trying to get the new heat sink on there? Did a piece of metal temporarily connect two points that should have remained unconnected? I don’t know know. I will admit that I was unsure of myself throughout the entire operation but I kept thinking “hey I’m a professional, I can do this!”

Note to self: remember how much that thought sounds like “hey y’all, watch this!” — a phrase very frequently mentioned in the Darwin Awards.

In the end, I had to get a new graphics card. At least the replacement only cost $80.