Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Plastic Rant

I rarely do this but I’m just going to have a good old fashion rant. My rant is about how much plastic we wrap things in. Now I’m not talking about plastic wrap. I’m talking about all the packaging that uses plastic of some sort. This comes from trying to open a CD. (Yes, I still get CDs because not all music is available digitally and I had a $5 coupon to use on Amazon.)

To begin with there is the plastic the entire CD is encased in. Try and find some place to catch an edge so you can open it. I usually use the pointy end of the cap of a pen. That sometimes will do the trick. You think once that is done you’ll have access to the case. But no that is rarely the case. There is then the plastic tag that covers the top of the CD case. That’s a great deal of fun to try and peel off. So after spending 10 minutes trying to open the CD, I’ve suddenly lost interesting in even hearing the thing.

The point is why is so much packaging necessary. If you buy a CD say in England, all you get is the annoying strip at the top of the case. Another example is if you buy a multi-pack of paper towels. In some cases all the rolls are packaged together which is fine. But in some cases each of the rolls is then sealed in plastic.

I have to wonder how much oil is used to make the plastic to encase all the many things we buy. Maybe a way to be less dependent on oil is to use a little less packaging.

Sam the cat

I took Sam to the vet Sunday. He continues to loose weight. But other than that he seems to be doing fine.

He has an appetite. He wants his food and has no problem in finishing off a plate of food and wanting more. His energy level is fine. He likes to play and still runs around the house. He doesn’t mind any more than usual being picked up. He purrs and he still likes to bite me even when I say no.

In other words, he’s not acting like an animal in pain. The classic for cats is them hiding somewhere and not coming out. Not wanting to be held, having little or no energy and not wanting to be held. He exhibits none of the normal signs of a cat being sick or in pain.

The vet thinks it might be a problem with his thyroid. All sorts of tests are being performed to see how he’s doing. I should get the results of them later this afternoon. One good thing is he is off the antibiotic that he was on for the last month. But that might be replaced with something for his thyroid. I’m hoping this is something that can be added to his food.

I've decided to let Sam go down the basement again. He really loves to go down there.

Tuesday Treat

Think I need a nap already today.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Incomparable Natalie Cole

Last night at Wolf Trap I got to see Natalie Cole. It's only taken me 30 years to finally get to see her. My brother and I were supposed to go and see her at Ravinia when I was in high school. Then a couple of years ago the two of us along with Jennifer were going to see her. But then she got sick.

Finally I got to see her. And was it worth the wait. To say she was great would be an understatement. And this is a woman who a little over a year ago had a liver transplant.

She started out by playing tunes from the 40s and 50s. Route 66, Walkin' My Baby Back Home, Fever, a wonderful jazzed up version of The Man That Got Away and of course Unforgettable. Then she did what I hoped she would do. She said now for some of my old fans and I know you're out there here's some stuff from before Unforgettable. She started off with Inseparable and from there it was Sophisticated Lady, Mr. Melody, I'm Catchin' Hell, This Will Be, and I've Got Love on My Mind. Natalie's encore was Our Love.

Below are a couple of videos of Natalie.

What an incredible night. What an incredible voice. What an incredible person. It was unforgettable.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Dad's New Backyard

Here are some pictures of my dad's backyard with all of his flowers and new shrubs. It looks really good.

In a quick little aside I had the strangest problem scanning the last picture the one with all the shrubs in a row. My dad sent me this pictures and so I scanned them to be able to post them. With the last one when I scanned it, the scanner decided to make the image into a black and white negative. Tried it several times and it did that every time. Tried scanning other pictures again and had no problems. Finally I copied the picture and then scanned that and had no problems with it all. Just very strange.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Soldiers

Sometimes you have to wonder what people were thinking when they say the things they say. This is particular true if you are in the public eye. Say a politician or maybe an important military commander say in a major theater of combat operations. Like oh I don’t know say Afghanistan.

All I can say is what was General McChrystal thinking. Perhaps even more important what was McChrystal’s staff thinking to say the things they did to the reporter from Rolling Stone. Is having Tin Ear now a major disease like Swine Flu? Unlike Swine Flu, Tin Ear seems to be only affecting people in the public eye. So the public in general is safe from this malady which is a good thing.

Some of the things said sound like something a little kid would say about someone
. This one comes to mind:

“Are you asking me about Vice President Biden? Who’s that?” McChrystal is quoted as saying at one point in the article.

“Biden?” chimes in an aide who is seated nearby, and who is not named in the article. “Did you say: Bite Me?”

Bit Me? Really bit me! How sophomoric is that.

Or this one:

The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war “by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”

I can understand having these feelings. Being frustrated by not being able to control events like one would want to. That prosecuting a war has to be one of the hardest things to do. That this war has to be unbelievably difficult. That the tension between defeating the enemy while at the same time not reeking havoc on a civilian population must be very difficult. This is especially true when lives are being risked and lost.

What also puzzles me about this is why no one around the general said I don’t think this is a particularly good idea to give this interview and say the things we are saying. And that can apply to all of these types of events when you say to yourself what the hell were these people thinking. The answer is they weren’t really rationally thinking through their actions. They were mad or defensive or upset in some way and said things they shouldn’t have.

In the end it cost the generally his job. And even more importantly it’s going to disrupt the American efforts in Afghanistan.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Odds and Ends

Economic Experts

I’ve said this a couple of times. My most serious rant on this was on one of the 2Political Podcasts. I was reminded of my annoyance with the economic experts on Friday. There was an article in the Washington Post (sorry lost the link) where the “economic experts” were talking about first time claims for unemployment. They were surprised at how high they were. They thought they would be 20,000 fewer claims.

Lately these guys (and who exactly are these experts anyway) seem to be surprised at just about everything going on in the economy. This number was too low or this number should have been higher. The more I read about these so called “experts” the more I feel like they aren’t experts at all.

Now is forecasting the economy an exact science? Of course not. But then again these are supposed to the “experts” and it seems to me they should be surprised a little less often than they are these days.

When in the Middle of a Crisis go to a Yacht Race

Once again BP and Tony Hayward shows a tin ear for just about everything associated with the oil spill.

This one doesn’t exactly take the cake. But it seems someone might have said something to Mr. Hayward about this. That his first day away from the oil crisis might be spent on something other than a yacht race.

Hayward took Saturday off to see his 52-foot yacht “Bob” compete in a race around the Isle of Wight off southern England. It was a good day for sailing - breezy and about 68 degrees - but anger simmered on the steamy Gulf Coast, where crude oil is still gushing from a blown-out well.

Similar criticism was leveled against President Obama for golfing with Vice-President Biden. But to me it’s not exactly the same. BP has just been horrible in trying to show that they care about what's going on (remember the small people comment although in fairness I think that was more of a language problem) where Obama and Biden have not been.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

2Political Episode 31

2PP031 - 17 June 2010

2Political Podcast Episode 31 is now available. You can listen to it on the widget on the right side of my blog, or you can go the podcast site, 2political.com. You can leave comments there as well as download or listen to any episode.

After special days, we talk first about the oil spill. What could be done differently? After that, we move on the antics of some teabaggers. Traitors? We present our case to say they are. Neither of us thinks much of the teabaggers.

We also talk about the Arkansas primary, and that leads into a discussion of the antics of the Left of the Democratic Party. Neither of us is impressed with the self-righteousness of either end of the spectrum, but with Democrats it could prove disastrous for everything Democrats believe in.
Toward the end, we even consider at a match-up between Senators Durbin and Schumer for Democratic Leader in the US Senate.

Please leave a comment (anyone's welcome—agree or disagree!), or you can ring the 2Political Comment line on 206-350-3982.
Link for this episode:
Watermelon Thump - Luling, TX
Washboard Music Festival – Logan, OH
Arthur’s blog, podcasts and videos can be accessed here.

Get 2Poltical Podcast for free on iTunes

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Mess that is Oil

Well the BP gusher just keeps on gushing. I’m not so sure that it was such a good idea of Obama to say in his speech on Tuesday that by the end of the month 90% of the oil would be contained. As to the speech itself, I’m not sure giving it in the Oval Office was the smartest of ideas. I’m not sure the speech was all that good of idea. If Obama hadn’t given the speech, he would have been accused of not caring about what was going on. It was very much and damned if you do damned if you don’t moment.

Lots and lots of complaints across the political spectrum that Obama didn’t say all that much in the speech. Lacking specifics. I have to assume if it had specifics the media would have found fault with that too. It seems to me that the media is in fault mode right now. It is important to blame someone for what happened. No doubt that fault rests squarely on BP’s shoulders. The government has some blame as well. The problem is that the problem is stopping the oil from gushing and right now there doesn’t appear a full proof way to do that.

As to the response to the disaster well there the government can be blamed. Too much red tape. Too long of a time to respond to the crisis and get things in place to help out communities. Many many towns are doing it on their own. From putting up booms to vacuum up the oil. They are not going to sit around and wait for the oil to arrive while waiting for help from the federal government. Arthur and I discuss this in our upcoming Podcast. My main concern is the government really needs to start looking like it is doing something to help these communities. Long term plans are great but the need is right here and right now. Obama and company need to get it in gear.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Here are some pictures of Sam and a video of him talking to the birds.

He is still on his regimen or as I like to call it Sam's Regime. I'm taking him back to the vet in a week and a half. I'll get a better sense then of how he is doing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Clarendon Cup 2010

Here's some video that I took at the Claredon Cup on Saturday.

Tuesday Treat

Since Washington is all a buzz over Stephen Strasburg, this seems to be a very appropriate Peanuts cartoon.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Clarendon Cup 2010

Went to the Clarendon Cup on Saturday. Here are a few pictures from the event. I'll post more pictures and some video about it tomorrow.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Extended Warranty

You're always asked if you want to buy the extended warranty when buying big ticket items. This is especially true say at Best Buy. I was asked that question when I bought one of my cameras. I declined. This is the one my light fixture fell on. I was told the warranty would have covered the replacement of it. Oh well.

The other thing that always seems to happen when you have warranty is that it expires and then something goes wrong with whatever you had it on.

I bought an extended warranty on my car. Never used it. I paid the car off early but I kept thinking I could have paid it off even earlier if I didn’t have that extended warranty. I’ve changed my mind on that. My check engine light came on about a week ago. I looked at the manual and it said to drive the car a few more times and if it doesn’t go off take it into service. So that’s what I did. The light did go off. But I looked into the extended warranty. It expired June 18. I decided I was going to take the car in and have it checked out.

I called up CarMax, where I bought the car, to set up an appointment. The woman who I spoke to said hey you have the warranty and the problem happened before it expired. We both laughed at that. She then asked how many miles I had on the car. I said around 36,000. I bought the car just about 5 years ago and it had 19,000 miles on it. She then kidded do you drive the car. I said I did and we both had a laugh again.

I took the car in on Tuesday. I expected it to be there one day. They found out the problem with the check engine light. The gas cap wasn’t sealing properly. But they also noticed another problem. Something with the struts and something splitting open and leaking and well you get the picture. Something else was wrong. If everything goes as planned I should be able to pick the car up tomorrow.

Oh yes because I have the warranty everything but $50 should be covered.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Odds and Ends

The Governator’s in town

Spotted Arnold Schwarzenegger having lunch in the restaurant in the building I work in. He was eating outside smoking away on a cigar. It was cool to see him. It was also interesting to see how many people would notice that he was having lunch. He was at a table towards the back of the outside eating area so he wasn’t as noticeable to people walking by. But a few people did notice him. There was a group of people from office who went out and took pictures. It was a nice break in the middle of the day.

Here's a quick video of it that someone from my office took.

Blu Ray

I gave up on the WiFi Blu Ray player. The “engineer” at LG called me back. I was of course not home because they called during the day. Their idea for fixing the problem I had was to reset the unit and see if Netflix would then come up. If for some reason that didn’t work I should call them back. Gee only tried resetting the unit like on four difference occasions. I thought for a little while about calling them back and decided it wasn’t worth it. It was not worth wasting more time on something that wouldn’t work. I took the unit back to Best Buy and got a plain old everyday Blu Ray player. It’s annoying that this couldn’t be made to work. It would have been cool to watch Netflix on my TV. Oh well. Better luck next time.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Tuesday Treat

Another Tuesday and another treat. And another very funny Peanuts.

Monday, June 07, 2010

An Oily Mess

That’s the only thing you can call the disaster that is playing out in the Gulf of Mexico.

The latest attempt to stop the leak seems to be doing something

BP executives said that their efforts to capture the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico have begun to work and that a containment cap placed over the damaged well Thursday night sucked up about 441,000 gallons of oil -- on Saturday, up from around 250,000 gallons on Friday. That oil was diverted to a waiting ship.

Maybe this time it will actually work. One of the problems that BP has is that they over sold their ability to fix the problem. There was too much we know exactly what we are doing. Too much of this time this plan will work. After awhile BP became less and less credible. The longer this crisis goes on the more it shows that there really aren’t any quick and clean fixes for this problem. If this doesn’t give people pause for allowing this type of drilling to continue than nothing will.

It points to yet again the need for this country to loose its dependence on oil of any kind foreign or domestic.

Most of all you’re sadden by the lives that were lost on the explosion. The lives that are being ruined economically. The lives that are being ruined because a way of life is being destroyed. Haven’t these people been through enough? The ruin it is causing on the environment.

In the Post story today National incident commander Thad W. Allen said the cleanup will take at least several months. But the repercussions will be felt for years if not decades to come.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Blu Ray Headache

Wouldn't it be cool to be able to stream Netflix movies right to your TV instead of having to watch them on computer. Sit on the couch and be comfortable. Well if you buy a Blu Ray machine that is WiFi equipped it's just a few simple steps and your up an running.

That is unless you're not.

And I'm not.

Gave Samsung one more try to get the thing to work. No luck. I was going to be passed on to level 3 of tech service. I would get a call back in the next 24 hours. I said no thanks. I went to Best Buy to return it.

I'd done research and the LG looked like a good bet.

I got to Best Buy and told them why I was returning it. One of the women behind the counter said this was the second time this week (it was only Wednesday) that someone had returned a Blu Ray player because they couldn't connect. This one was a Sony. She said this is supposed to be plug and play and it's just not there yet. I agreed.

I picked out the LG unit. I got in line to pay. The other women who helped me said trying again. I said yes I am. Then I added if this one doesn't work. She finished my sentence then you could bring that one back too.

Got it back home set it up. I like the opening menu better on the LG. Set things up. Everything seems to be going well. I have a good signal to the internet. I have a good signal for the local network.

I'm all set. Netflix here I come. Except it can't connect to Netflix or to any of the other net options offered. I call tech support. We run through some things. Can't get the thing to work. She then asks what speed is your connection. I say I don't know. Well she says it needs to be 2.5 Mpbs.

I call Earthlink and we do a speed test. My connection speed is only 1.5 Mpbs. So I get an upgrade which will take 24 to 48 hours.

Friday I check and the speed has been upgraded. Try to connect to Netflix still no luck.

Saturday I call early in the morning. I won't go through everything but the bottom line is I'm still not connected. Everything we did was documented in the 40 or so minutes I was on with the tech person. It is being sent on to an engineer who will be calling me back. As to when well I wasn't told that.

I decided I was not going to ruin my birthday by thinking about it. So I didn't. And I had a really good birthday.

Oh I did do one thing when I was out shopping. I stopped by the Apple store and asked if it could be something with the router. I told them how it was set up. They guy seemed to think the router was fine. There was something wrong with my machine. And that's where I left it.

I'm giving LG until Wednesday to contact me. They it is back to Best Buy. This time around I'm just going to be buying your basic Blu Ray player.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

I Get a Blu Ray with WiFi (what a mistake)

Getting the Blu Ray was not a mistake. It is the WiFi part that has become a huge pain in the ass. By the way this is a Samsung product.

As to the actual Blu Ray it is incredible. I got Star Trek from last year. From the opening frame when the Paramount logo comes on the screen the picture is amazing. The detail is out of this world. And a special effects movie really brings out how amazing the picture really is. It is like you’re at the movies actually it’s better.

Now connecting to the internet has been well it hasn’t been anything. It has yet to happen.

Here’s my tale.

The first problem was setting up the wireless network. This was mostly my fault. I set up the Blu Ray when I got it home so I could watch the movie. I set the wireless network up the next day. I tried my best to get it to work correctly but just couldn’t do it. I called up Samsung’s tech support and the fun started. We tried one thing after another. Resetting the unit. I had to manually enter the ip and other addresses. Finally the woman said we’re going to shut everything down and then turn everything back on. That worked like a charm. I thanked her and got off the phone.

I figured setting up the Inernet@TV option would be easy. This option allows you to watch movies from Netflix through your computer on to your TV. Cool right. Cool that is if you can get the damn thing to work.

I selected connect to internet@TV. When I did that I got the message you need to connect you TV to the internet. My response was that’s what the Blu Ray player is supposed to do.

I called customer service. I got well the server may be down or busy. I said well it can be both so which is it. It’s probably down. I should keep trying. I kept trying it always got the same message. Tried on and off on Sunday and Monday. I also tried to upgrade the firm ware of the player. I got this message when I tried that.

On Monday I was able to get the Internet@TV sort of working. At least I no longer got the message that I needed to connect my TV. I tried to download the Samsung applications that would allow me to connect to Netflix. I got a message saying the network was interrupted to try again later. Which I did again and again and again. No luck.

I waited until Tuesday to call technical support again. I ended up calling four times. One of the times I was hung up on. Here are some of the gory details. I was told to reset the unit. This resulted in me getting the same old error message when I tried to connect at Internet@TV. So this was a step backwards.

I was passed on to a higher level of technical support. I was told I had to remove my firewall and everything would be fine. I removed security on the router. I thought a little more and figure out where to find the firewall setting on my iMac. There was no firewall. I tried again to gain access to Internet@TV and to upgrade the firmware. No such luck.

I call back again. I get someone who says well you need to upgrade the firmware and that will solve the problem. All I need to do is take my flash drive and download the upgrade. I said I don’t have a flash drive. Well then we can send you a CD with the upgrade that will take 7 to 14 business days to reach you. I said no this problem needs to be solved by Saturday or the unit is going back. Well then what I could do is go to Samsung support on the web and download the CD upgrade from there. If you have any problems call us back.

Well I had to call them back because the only file to download was for a flash drive not a CD. A long back and forth with the final tech person for the night. He assured me that if I had a flash drive and I downloaded the upgrade everything would work fine. I was not happy. The tech guy sort of implied that I really wasn’t interested in solving this problem because I didn’t have the flash drive. He said can you borrow one from someone. My response was yes I’ll go around the neighborhood knocking on people’s doors to see if I can borrow a flash drive. Over and over again I was told the answer to the problem was upgrading the firm ware.

I went down to the Radio Shack near my house. It was 8:15. They of course closed at 8. I decided to go to Best Buy. Went there got he flash drive. An 8 GIG drive for about 21 bucks. I come home download the upgrade to the firm ware. I upload it to the machine. And what happens. I still get the same error messages.

I was furious. This essentially took up my entire evening. I looked at some reviews on this thing on Amazon. There was another Mac user that had the exact same problems that I had. And he’d gotten about the exact same advice in just about the exact same order I did. He finally returned the player and got one by LG. He said he was up and running in something like 20 minutes

I will be calling “technical” support tonight for one last time. I’m going to give them about 30 minutes to see for one last time if they can get me connected. If not I will be returning the unit to Best Buy and getting the LG.