November 30, 2006

LinkNews Digest [11/30/2006]

The Old "Pasta Sauce-for-a-Camcorder" Switcheroo

ST. LOUIS -- The Rittenbergs planned to shoot family movies with a new camcorder. They may have to settle for a family pasta dinner, instead.

The couple paid about $1,600 for a camcorder at a Best Buy store in the St. Louis suburb of Ellisville last week. They said when they opened the box, they found something they hadn't pictured: a jar of Classico pasta sauce where the camera should have been. Also inside the box was a telephone cord and an electric outlet cover, all positioned in the box where the camera equipment should have been. So far, they're stuck with the spicy red pepper sauce, though a Best Buy manager said the company is working to resolve the matter.

When the couple tried to return it, they were told by Best Buy that the box had been sealed, so the swap couldn't have happened at the store.

The Best Buy general manager in Ellisville, Wade Trapp, said a decision on how to resolve the problem has not been determined. San Diego-based Sony Electronics Inc. said it had a record of the incident. The company said it had not fielded any other complaints about pasta sauce being discovered in place of cameras. (LINK )

Judge Rules Paper Money Unfair to Blind

NEW YORK ( -- A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Treasury Department is violating the law by failing to design and issue currency that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired people.

Judge James Robertson, in a ruling on a suit by the American Council of the Blind, ordered the Treasury to devise a method to tell bills apart. The judge wrote that the current configuration of paper money violates the Rehabilitation Act's guarantee of "meaningful access."

"It can no longer be successfully argued that a blind person has 'meaningful access' to currency if she cannot accurately identify paper money without assistance," Robertson wrote in his ruling. He further ruled that finding a solution to the problem would not be an "undue burden" on the government and ordered the Treasury Department to begin working on a solution within 30 days.

The American Council for the Blind has submitted several alternatives, including embossing, holes punched in the paper or using different-sized bills for different denominations. The Treasury Department had no comment on the ruling. (LINK )

Bad Korea, No Nintendo Wii!

Kim Jong Il, the world's favorite insane little man, is going to have a tough time finding some fun. North Korea is going to have some trouble finding consumer electronics; most of the population probably won't even notice.

The US government is planning to block the shipments of popular consumer electronic goods to North Korea, ranging from iPods to HDTVs. The embargo is specifically targeted at Kim Jong Il himself, who enjoys partaking in enjoyments his subjects cannot. We can assume that this ban will also include the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii.

While this embargo won't do anything to Jong Il (he can just smuggle units in the same way he got his uranium and plutonium), we're sure he's going to be ronery when the N. Korean Xbox Live service has a population of one. However, this could hamper any plans N. Korea may have integrating the Cell processor into missile systems and using the Wiimote to control tanks. (LINK via Joystiq)

November 29, 2006

Some Thanksgiving

We've had a rough start to the holiday. Friday before Thanksgiving, Melissa's dad was let go from his job. Official stated reason was not meeting his sales quota, but the boss knew that he had a deal that he'd been working on for a year, and that deal was going to close by January. This was a huge sale: 100 "seats" of software plus training, nearly a MILLION in sales, which is Ron's ANNUAL quota.

The process was two-fold: First, get rid of Ron before the sale closes. That way, they don't have to pay him his 15% commission from what could be their largest single sale ever, and the bosses get to keep that for themselves. Second, once they have that money in hand, they bring in another associate from the Texas office to cover his position. Someone 20 years younger, who has been looking to re-locate to Atlanta.

No matter how many times I see this sort of thing, it never ceases to amaze me how low people will go for a lousy percentage. Ron was one of their best salesmen, even at age 62.

So we sat down to Thanksgiving dinner a week later, and nothing was said. It was just food. We were not thankful for the times that Ron had been screwed over by his employers. Two years ago, it was Lennox with their Age Discrimination policies. (Big surprise, another of his former co-workers at Lennox is getting the same sudden bad reviews from the executives, and he's nearly retirement age as well.) Now this.

Bad news from companies always comes around Christmas. Years earlier, Lennox made a habit of not renewing Ron's contract until January, and letting him sweat out December, not knowing if he'd have a job come the new year. After that, when Ron refused to take a transfer from Atlanta to Dallas, the company laid him off at the beginning of December. After a miserable, meager Christmas with an uncertain future, the company offered him the Dallas job again, but at significantly decreased salary.

This Thanksgiving ended up being just a large dinner, served a bit earlier than normal. The only holiday reminder was Matthew's construction paper Indian headband. There were still things to be thankful for; they could sell their stock and have enough to pay off the mortgage, and Ron could start taking Social Security benefits early (at a premium cost); but these thankful things were small comfort. Like the luck of being stabbed in the back near a hospital.

There is little solace to be found in the situation, but there is one thing: The client that Ron was about to close the deal with called. When he found that Ron was no longer working there, he called Ron's cell phone and asked what had happened. Ron told him just the facts, and the man said that he really didn't want to give his business to a company who treats their employees that way.

It was the same when Ron was let go from Lennox. Most of his clients refused to do business with Lennox again, after how they black-balled him. Ron is a great salesman, plain and simple. He's from the old school, that teaches that you develop a working relationship with clients and they come back to you for more business. That you need to spend time getting to know them and their needs before you make the first pitch to them. Today's executives just don't see that, they just look at the short-term gains.

Ron has an interview today with Carrier. He was recommended for the position by the salesman he was competing against, when he worked for Lennox. That says a lot right there. Wish him luck.

November 20, 2006

Silence is Golden

Ahhhhh... The sound of nothing can be so sweet. One of my (and Melissa's) major complaints on my partial upgrade of the computer was noise from the CPU fan. Leave it on for 10 minutes, and it sounded like a landscaping crew was going to work with leafblowers in the room.

So I bought one of these replacement CPU Fans. First time I've had to buy one, but this chip heats up faster than "The Hedgehog" with a bottle of Motion Lotion. Of course, I had to get on the internet with Computer B to see just how to REMOVE the old heatsink/fan unit without ripping out the chip, but once I did that, it was fairly easy. A squirt of highly-toxic thermal transfer gel, a few snaps into place, and it was done.

And to put it through it's paces, I fired up OBLIVION on HIGH video settings. Scarecly a whisper, and the fan never got the need to go into high gear. Thank Allah that something went right with this PC! The fan was about $30, but being able to hear the music from the game over the fan noise is WORTH it.

It only took me an extra $100 and 4 weeks longer than I planned, But I think this computer is now successfully upgraded!

November 17, 2006

LinkNews Digest [11/17/2006]

Jackass Football Comm. Fires Coach For Not Playing his Son

The South County Raptors, a scrappy football team made up of 12- to 14-year-old boys from southern Fairfax County, were supposed to meet the Herndon Hornets today in the first round of the county playoffs.

Instead, the Raptors are at home, their season over with no possibility of a championship after a league commissioner fired the head coach and the assistant coach this week. Their offense? They moved the commissioner's son from defense to offense for the final game of the season last Saturday, an overtime win that put the Raptors in the postseason.

"Scott does not sit out on defense -- ever," the commissioner, Dan Hinkle, had warned the head coach, James Owens, in an e-mail sent before the season began about how he should play Hinkle's son, 12. On defense, the father said, "he goes in and stays in. That includes all practices, scrimmages and games. This entire league exists so he can play defense on the best team in his weight class. . . . He is my son, I own the league, and he plays every snap on defense."

The sudden end to the season, which began with preseason practice in the wickedly hot days of late August, has crushed the 19 boys on the team. The parents are just as upset. Meetings have been held. E-mails have flown all week as the parents tried to get Hinkle to reconsider. Hinkle would not comment for this article. The commissioner offered to hire a new coach, but the boys would play only for Owens. (LINK )

Aussie DUI Suspect Brandishes Snake

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian driver threatened police with a live snake after he was pulled over for a breath test for driving under the influence of alcohol, police said on Monday.

The driver in the outback Northern Territory was stopped on Saturday night by police just outside the city of Darwin after they saw him swerving, police said in a statement. After registering a blood alcohol level well over the legal limit, the man ran onto the road and picked up a live snake.

"The driver allegedly armed himself with a live snake, pointed the head of the reptile at them and threatened them," said police. Police told the man to drop the snake, but he ran into bushland still carrying it. The man has been charged with drunken driving and will appear in the Darwin Magistrates Court (LINK )
Ahh, Australia... where deadly, poisonous things are always just a few feet away....

OJ Simpson's Book: How I WOULD Have Done It

NEW YORK (AP) -- O.J. Simpson created an uproar Wednesday with plans for a TV interview and book titled ''If I Did It'' -- an account the publisher pronounced ''his confession'' and media executives condemned as revolting and exploitive.

Fox, which plans to air an interview with Simpson Nov. 27 and 29, said Simpson describes how he would have committed the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, ''if he were the one responsible.''

Denise Brown, sister of Simpson's slain ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, lashed out at publisher Judith Regan of ReganBooks for ''promoting the wrongdoing of criminals'' and commercializing abuse. The book goes on sale Nov. 30. She added: ''It's unfortunate that Simpson has decided to awaken a nightmare that we have painfully endured and worked so hard to move beyond.''

Levenson noted that the criminal justice system's protection against double jeopardy means Simpson's book, explosive as it may be, should not expose him to any new legal danger. She added that Simpson could create an extra layer of insulation from any legal worries by presenting the story hypothetically.

"He can write pretty much whatever he wants," Levenson said. "Unless he's confessing to killing somebody else, he can probably do this with impunity." (LINK )

November 15, 2006

You Want My Blood?!?

Okay kids, it's VENT time.

I'm a good citizen, I donated blood to the Red Cross whenever they'd come to my office. But now that I'm telecommuting, it's a bit more difficult to get the bloodmobile out to my house in Flowery Branch. They called to sign me up for another donation, and I said sure. They gave me a 12:45 appointment at the Sugarloaf Parkway location.

So I take off from work with plenty of time to get there. But it ends up that the address does not exist. The directions they gave me lead me to 3090 Premiere Parkway, and the buildings go straight from 2900 to 3100 with nothing in between. And no sign, did I mention that? This is a DONOR center, that people should be able to easily get to, and it's somewhere magically BETWEEN these buildings, like some damned "Platform 9 3/4" ?!?

When I'm seven minutes late, I call them and ask for directions.
"Sorry, sir, there's no point now, the staff has a meeting at 1:00."
*Blink Blink* "What?"
"Yes, there's an all-hands Staff meeting at 1:00."
"And you gave me a 12:45 appointment?"
"Well, it would have been fine if you had been on-time, sir."
The time was 12:52.
[Don't kill them. They're volunteers. Just... don't kill them. Breathe.]
"In any case, Ma'am, could you tell me where this building is? I've spent the past 15 minutes driving up and down Premiere Parkway looking for your office."
"Sir, there's no point now, we can't take you because of the meeting."
"Then FOR FUTURE REFERENCE, perhaps?" (In case I ever again want to take off work to have my life-blood drained from my person, so I don't waste the trip?)
"Where are you now?"
"On Premiere Parkway."
"Okay, it's easiest to get back on Sugarloaf and get off one street up. We're just past a strip mall."
[Oh, the ONE strip mall on Sugarloaf Parkway... that narrows it down.]
"Ma'am, could you tell me which one?"
(Pause) "It's on the left, and it's a biiiiig long one."
"Thank you ma'am. I suppose that's all. Goodbye."

You want my blood, American Red Cross? Come get some.

November 12, 2006

Love's Recovery

Melissa had her neck surgery on Tuesday, and she's recovering at her parents' house. The doctor says that there were FOUR bone spurs pinching her spinal cord, instead of just the two they saw earlier. Luckily, they were all removed and everything came out fine. She's laid up on painkillers and muscle relaxers for a few weeks. Four weeks in a hard neckbrace, then four weeks in a soft neckbrace. But as you see here, the "hard" brace isn't all that hard. It's plastic with soft foam covered in hypo-allergenic cotton.

To be Honest, Mel and I were fearing it would be something more like these:

Darth Vader Neck BraceCusack Neck Brace Sixteen Candles

To allow her proper time to heal without and someone who can care for her continuously, she's going to be staying at her parents' house for about 2-3 weeks, and I'll be working from OUR house and taking Matthew to & from Pre-K. It'll be lonely and a bit weird at night, but don't worry. The little guy and I will be coming down for dinner almost every night. Plus, Melissa and Shawn bought me Final Fantasy XII and OBLIVION, so I won't be hurting for something to do after I put the little guy to bed. And Melissa has a small suitcase full of Anime and Manga that she can plow through while she's stuck in that recliner.

While the operation was quick and all went well, one of the nasty side effects of this sort of operation has reared its ugly head. Some of the nerves have become enflamed from the surgery, and she's getting a lot of pain in her arm and shoulder. As in more pain than when she BROKE the arm earlier this year. But her neck? hardly feel a thing. Just cross your fingers for her speedy recovery and maybe by Christmas she can be 100%.

November 06, 2006

Final Fantasy XII - Update

As I mentioned, Melissa suprised me by picking up Final Fantasy XII for the PS2 to keep me busy while she's recovering. I like the game but there are two things that SERIOUSLY piss me off about the game:

(1) It's frustrating enough that you HAVE to buy the $20 guides to games like this, because getting the big weapons takes a long stream of nonsensical actions that you'd never figure out by yourself. (Ride a Chocobo through the Gakleran Mountains counter-clockwise 19 times, Fly to the other side of the world and buy a potion from the 2nd merchant on the left, go to another city and talk to the merchant with your StarterSword Equipped and He will give you the key to that locked room in Dungeon #24...)

This time, it's even more frustrating because in order to get the Ultimate Weapon, you have to NOT OPEN about 20 chests that are scattered through about 40 hours of gameplay. The most basic of game elements has been taken away from our control. So you have to pretty much consult the guide before you wipe your own nose now. And if you accidentally open one, you have to go back and play the whole freaking game over. LAME!

(2) There's a particular glitch with this game: Two buttons won't work on certain controllers. ("Two buttons being the MAP and Inventory buttons and "certain controllers" being the OFFICIAL SONY BRAND one that I have.) I could understand if certain Chinese knock-off brands had some sort of issue, but honestly. What kind of Quality Control/Testing department doesn't test the game with the CONSOLE BRAND accessories? Makes me think this was an intentional thing to clean out the stock of PS2 controllers before the PS3 comes out next month and makes them all obsolete. I bought a BestBuy "House Brand" controller for $10 and it works now.

And now that I can play it, the game is pretty cool, besides these points.

November 03, 2006

LinkNews Digest [11/03/2006]

Kid, 15, Steals City Bus, Drives Route.

(AP) FERN PARK, Fla. A 15-year-old boy stole a bus, drove it along a public transit route, picked up passengers and collected fares, authorities said Sunday.

Ritchie Calvin Davis took the bus Saturday from the Central Florida Fairgrounds in Orlando, where it was parked awaiting sale at an auction, a Seminole County sheriff's report said. The bus belongs to the Central Florida Transportation Agency, which runs LYNX public transit services in the Orlando area.

"I drove that bus better than most of the LYNX drivers could," the teen, who is too young to drive legally, told a deputy after he was stopped and arrested. "There isn't a scratch on it. I know how to start it, drive it, lower it, raise it."

Davis had previously been charged for a similar bus theft. Details of that case were unavailable Sunday.

Passengers and deputies noted Davis drove the bus at normal speeds and made all the appropriate stops on the route. One passenger, suspicious of the youthful looks of the driver, called 911. (LINK )
"Your honor, this buy is only guilty of Loving BUS DRIVING so much..."

"Free Hugs" Campaigners Arrested in China

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese appear not to have warmed to a "free hugs" campaign aimed at cheering up strangers by hugging them on the street, with some huggers even being hauled away by police for questioning, media said Monday.

The campaign hit the streets of Beijing, Changsha and Xian this weekend, with participants opening their arms to embrace passers-by and brandishing cards saying "free hugs," "care from strangers," "refuse to be apathetic," the Beijing News said.

In the capital, police moved in and took away four huggers briefly for questioning, baffled by their wacky, Western activities on a busy city-center shopping street. In the ancient capital of Xian, home to the terracotta warriors, no more than 20 people, mostly children, had volunteered for the free hugs in two hours.

"Embracing is a foreign tradition. Chinese are not accustomed to this," a man named Li, a Xi'an citizen, was quoted as saying. (Article | Original Campaign in Australia | Other FREE HUGS videos )

Real-life Batman Helps GA Town

AMERICUS, Ga. - So many bats have infested the town's historic district that the sky turns black with each sunset and the neighborhood is calling on Batman to come to the rescue.

That's what the local bat remover goes by. George Perkins often makes public appearances in the caped crusader's costume and drives his own Batmobile -- a retro-styled Chrysler Prowler with bat emblems. Callers to his office in Eufaula, Ala., known as Bat Cave 1, or Union Springs, Ala., known as Bat Cave 2, hear the "Batman" TV show theme while on hold.

The bat-weary residents of Americus aren't laughing. The problem is even too big for Batman, and now the state has promised to help. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has proposed a long-term plan that includes surveying the bat population, possibly training city workers to do bat removals for needy homeowners and building bat houses in safe areas where the flying mammals can continue providing environmental benefits without being a nuisance.

"They're perpetual crap machines," said Tripp Pomeroy, who moved to the town of 17,000 in 1989 to work for Habitat for Humanity, which has its global headquarters here. (LINK )

PROOF: A-Holes CAN Kill You

Forzie the four-legged chicken will cluck no more.

The Te Uku-bred Barnevelder chick - hatched at Marlene Dickey's property at the start of last month - has died.

But it wasn't the extra legs that led to its death, more likely an extra anus, Mrs Dickey believes. "He developed two bottoms and I think he got glugged up," she said. While she was surprised by Forzie's death - he weighed a "good pound of butter" and was gaining feathers slowly - it was not totally unexpected, she said. And it was fun while it lasted. "He was a bit of a laugh." (LINK via DaveBarry)

Turbo-Charged Jalopy Goes 0-60 in 1 Second.

A Wolverhampton, U.K. man has spent 25 years and 100,000 Poundson turning a jalopy into the world's fastest car.

Andy Frost has turned his 1972 K-reg Vauxhall Victor into a supercar capabale of 0-60 in just one second.

It has a 9.8 Liter V-8 that makes 2200 horsepower. Which gives it a zero-to-sixty time of one second. And it's street legal.
The McLaren F1 can do the Quarter-mile in 11 seconds. The Victor Fireball? 7.8 seconds.(LINK VIDEO)

November 02, 2006

Final Fantasy XII

She did it again. My wife went out and bought me another 80+ hour game for my PS2. We saw a review of the new Final Fantasy game (#12... not so Final, is it?), and it received a 5 out of 5. I planned on getting it later, when the price had come down a bit, but Melissa sucked it up and bought it for me with the money she made doing a presentation for a consulting company.

She took the first paycheck she's received in YEARS... and cashed it in to buy something for me. Wow, I didn't know what to say. This is her little tradition: She goes out and buys a game for me every year or so, loads it up and says "Oh, THIS? Do you know what THIS is, Chris?", and she grins like a Cheshire Cat.

It looks like a good game, retting great reviews and NO MUSHY LOVE STORY this time. It'll definitley keep me busy while she's laid up from surgery. Did I mention that it has a game guide thats 350 PAGES????

November 01, 2006

Uber Pumpkins

You think YOU know pumpkin carving? You don't know JACK-O-LANTERN!!
(sorry, couldn't resist.)
Check out this nice set of Gourds!!