Nintendo Wii: Fun, But Is It Exercise?

You Sii Mii Wii!As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been visited by the eccentric Japanese guys driving the white Smart Car. They told me that they would like to play, and since they drove such a long way (across the Pacific apparently) I decided the least I could do was buy a Nintendo Wii. And play we did.

It’s a little over a week later, they’ve finished off all of my Sake and have motored down the road, leaving me alone to contemplate my Wii. So now that the rice wine buzz is gone what do I think of it? Is it worth the price? Is it fun? And more importantly, is playing with your Wii exercise? Way back in April I blogged about people using it as fitness regime!

Well the verdict is in on the fun part. It is. I love being able to play tennis at night. I love playing baseball whenever the desire strikes without having to call up my busy middle-aged friends and finding a free baseball diamond. I love playing a quick three holes of golf at lunch without having to take the afternoon off. And that’s all on the Wii Sports game the console comes with. There’s a proliferation of games designed to work with the Wii‘s revolutionary new motion-sensitive controller design.

But is the time I spend fiddling with my Wii time wasted, or does it do more than provide me entertainment when I should be working or reviewing cigars? This question is a bit more difficult to answer. A week later, I think I’ve noticed an improvement in the way my clothes fit and increased energy, but my bathroom scale tells me nothing has changed. The words of the scale might be enough information for some, but I’ve long suspected my scale of being a malicious, pathological liar. So I’ve decided to back that suspicion with a bit of science and fitness geekery: I donned a heart rate monitor.

We’re not talking about just any heart rate monitor here. This thing has been calibrated with my age, weight and gender. It can tell me exactly what my heart rate should be to achieve an optimal workout. It can tell me how may calories I burned, how long I worked out, and how long I achieved that optimal heart rate. And once it does all that, it’ll tell me what my Body Mass Index (BMI) is and how horribly overweight I am. In short, I have the technology to prove my bathroom scale a liar and justify my hours spend playing to my wife.

Here’s stats for an average session:

Playing Time: 35 minutes
Activities: Batting practice, Tennis, boxing practice
Target Heart Rate: 122 – 150 BPM

Heart Rate
Pre-Wii: 76 BPM
Average: 126 BPM
Highest: 158 BPM

Total Time in “The Zone”: 19:54
Calories Burned: 491

Wow. It’s hard to argue with the stats. With nearly 20 minutes spend in the optimal heart rate range and 491 calories burned, it’s safe to say this qualifies as exercise. And my scale is a damn liar. I happen to know that at a brisk 3.2 MPH walk on a 5% grade only burns around 300 calories.

So it’s exercise, but is it worth it? I already pay hefty HOA fees that include work out facilities. Is the additional money spent just redundant. Well, that all depends. Yes, it would appear redundant, but the truth of the matter is that I haven’t been using those facilities. (Excluding the sauna!) My wife takes great pleasure in pointing this out. (I swore I’d us them because of the convenience!) I am using the Wii. So while I’m not exactly being responsible with my money, I am getting exercise I wasn’t getting before. So I’m going to say yes, it is worth it. Especially if you pay the lower $250 price tag.

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Weekend Realizations

Brian's Random Thoughts: No nutritional value, but tasty!Though I do my very best to avoid it, I found my self thinking this weekend. My wife hadn’t realized I had a free moment to myself, and my mind wandered. And these are the random things that came to mind.

Advertising is sucking the meaning out of our words. I came to this realization as I watched a ridiculous feel-good commercial for some boring product or business. The lyrics to the background music featured the phrase “just another ordinary day miracle“. I’m sorry, but weren’t “miracles” supposed to be rare, amazing occurrences that were difficult, if not impossible to explain using rational or scientific means? I’m sorry, your underdog hockey team winning a prestigious game is not a miracle. It’s just unlikely. And it’s probably the plot for fifty unimaginative sports movies.

I’m seeing this in the cigar world too. At one point, a “premium” cigar would have been a top dollar, high quality cigar, full of rare and well-aged tobacco. Now almost any cigar that’s made by hand with long filler claims the word. So what is a really great cigar to do to distinguish itself in the “premium” forest? The only thing that can be done is to stack up increasingly meaningless words. Hence the new labels “super-premium” and “ultra premium”. If I ever come out with a cigar line, I’m gonna slap “hot-fucking-damn premium cigar” on the label, and outline the words with fire. And since I can’t count on any of those words conveying the desired meaning, I’ll also have a Navy Seal fist-fighting a dragon in front of a massive explosion on the cigar band. (Anybody see the move Idiocracy? I’m totally thinking about it right now.)

If pot is a “gateway drug”, the Nintendo Wii is a gateway activity. Suckered in by the lower price tag and fake scarcity of the Wii, I finally took the plunge and bought one. Holy crap, I love it. It’s the first new game console I’ve purchased in years. And I do mean years. The last brand new console I purchased was a Super Nintendo! I feel a review coming on. But that will have to wait until I’ve given it a good workout. (Or vice versa.)

But it’s dangerous. After a weekend of playing tennis and fishing I’m reminded of when I actually did these things. For real. Outside. And I kinda want to do them again. Its scary to think that around the country there might be chubby, pasty white guys remembering what it was like to be physically active. And emerging from their basements to fish, play baseball and tennis! It been like a zombie movie, only with more mountain dew. That can’t be good for video game sales.

The tasks my wife has for me multiply to fit the my available hours. As I’ve been scaling my weekly work hours down to something that doesn’t make me want to light myself on fire and leap from a freeway overpass, my wife is ramping up the random tasks she expects me to get done. They’re multiplying like guppies unattended. (Or attended. I don’t think presence of an audience makes a difference.) It’s simply not possible to accomplish even half of them, but when I start working on one, she gets excited. She gets a look in her like she’s won an expenses-paid shopping spree. So while I’m trying to complete one task, she’ll rattle off fifteen more that I really must remember to do.

Sound irritating? It is. But the good news is that even she can’t remember all the random chores she comes up with in the heat of the moment. (It really is like blood in the water for a shark.) To maintain sanity, I try to forget them all. The ones I can’t forget are probably the ones that really need doing. Or the ones my wife keeps bringing up. So yeah, the ones that really need doing. I find a similar approach often works in the office. (Use at your own risk.)

It’s been a week since I put up a post. It’s also been a week since I started this post. I really need to get adjusted to the new schedule. This new job is so absorbing that it’s easy to work longer than normal hours. And the convenience of working from home just magnifies that. That’s the danger of working from home: Because you can work anytime, you may just start working all the time!

OK, I’ve got some cigars to smoke, and some reviews to write. And it I think I hear the footsteps of my wife coming heading this way…

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Alabama Mussels Flex, Atlanta Gets All Pruney

Happy Shootin’ DudeWhat do fresh water mussels on the coastal shore of Alabama have to do with Atlanta? The first answer that comes to mind is “who cares?” A slightly more accurate, and possibly less interesting answer is, a lot. Right now the shellfish on the gulf coast of Alabama are lazily soaking a constant flow of three billion gallons of fresh, Georgia drinking water, compliments of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a very parched, very unwilling state of Georgia. That’s three billion gallons a day.

Still doesn’t add up? Well, the story is that Georgia is going through a record dry spell. The majority of Georgia’s drinking water is held in a huge man-made reservoir named Lake Lanier. What makes things interesting is that Georgia isn’t actually in control of this lake. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is running the show there. And they’ve determined that the endangered Fat Threeridge and Purple Bankclimber mussels on the gulf shore need constant flow of fresh water from the state of Georgia to keep them healthy. To accomplish this, they are draining billions of gallons of water from Lake Lanier, which is already at historic lows. (Don’t ask me exactly how the water is getting all the way down there, the process involves at least three different rivers that are a bit difficult to track on Google maps. There’s an explanation of it in this article on the AJC website.)

Up until today, I was among the ranks of the populace that takes things like watering restrictions and stories about drought with a grain of salt. “Our clean water being dumped by the ton in the sea for snails during a drought? Meh, typical government idiocy,” I thought with a shrug. This isn’t the first dry year I’ve seen in my short history in the area. And since I don’t have any greenery to maintain, the watering restrictions aren’t relevant to me. Every time I turn on the faucet, I get water, no problem. But then I heard that Atlanta has about 150 days worth of water left before people turn on the tap and hear it give a dry sputter. Holy crap! I like drinking water. I tolerate bathing. I’m kind of used to both!

And then I heard something else. While Georgia has instituted a complete ban on outdoor water activities and is asking it’s residents to find ways to reduce consumption, Florida and Alabama is doing nothing. Nothing! It seems they have no official process in place to handle drought conditions. That’s right, people in the regions slurping down billions of Atlanta’s drinking water to keep a handful of Mollusks nicely moist are still out there washing their Cameros and splashing about on their Slip ‘n Slides. Memo from Georgia: Take care of your own damn shellfish!

As if that weren’t bad enough, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has recently admitted to a colossal screw-up. In the early days of the drought, they drained off too much water. Way too much water. Billions of gallons of water. Officially, a faulty gauge is being blamed for a loss of two feet of water from the lake, though the truth of the matter is that local residents repeatedly warned them, and the Corps ignored the warnings.

Unbelievable, huh? What if I told you the story isn’t finished? No way! You say. Way, sez I. Apparently the state of Georgia has taken the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to court to get them to stop pissing away our water. That’s right. This very moment countless gallons are still coursing their way toward ungrateful slimy critters in shells. And those stupid mussels too. (I kid, I kid! I couldn’t help myself! I like Florida. And Alabama… well, hey!) And you know how rebellious us Southerners can be (I guess I’m guilty by proximity), there’s even talk about seizing control of the dam on the lake from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Damn, all this writing is making me thirsty. I guess its time to stockpile bottled water.

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1 Pound of Beans + 15 Hours = A Month Of Joe

Toddy Coffee Maker In ActionI just spent fifteen hours making a pot of coffee. That really doesn’t sound like something anyone should brag about, does it? Unless maybe you’re waiting in line to hop on the short bus. No, as you’ve probably guessed, I didn’t spend the last fifteen hours waving jazz-hands in the air yelling “coffee’s brewin’! coffee’s brewin’!” while pouring thimbles of water on coffee grounds. Quite the contrary. In that period of time I watched a movie, smoked a couple of cigars, slept, scanned a few websites and even forgot to shower. Not a lot of coffee-related activity, you’ll notice.

At this point, you must be intrigued. “Why on earth haven’t you taken a shower yet? And what sort of coffee takes fifteen hours to brew?” You must be asking. Ignoring the first question (‘cuz that’s none of your beeswax), it isn’t the coffee that’s particularly special. It’s an interesting Starbucks blend named Arabian Mocha Sanani that I selected because it’s extra bold and happens to be a variety I haven’t tried before.

The special bit is the brewing method. I cold brewed a pound of coffee. That’s right, I brewed an entire pound of coffee. All at once. In a big white bucket with cold, filtered water.

Essentially this is what I did:

  1. Add water to bucket.
  2. Add coffee to bucket.
  3. Repeat until all the coffee is in the bucket, or the bucket is full. Don’t pour coffee or water on floor or counter. (My wife’s addition to the instructions.)
  4. Wait 12 hours. (I always mess this one up, both because it’s easy to do and because waiting longer results in more potent coffee.)
  5. Pop the cork in the bottom of the bucket and drain tasty dark nectar into a carafe.

Sounds simple, huh? And because I’m withholding information, it probably sounds decadent and wasteful. “One whole pound of coffee in one shot,” you think. “Dear god, Brian, that makes my venti-froo-froo-frappucino look cheap!” And while I think nothing lights a $20 cigar quite like a fifty-dollar bill, what I’ve actually made here is the ultimate lazy cheapskate’s coffee. (And I was kidding about the fifty. We all know Benjamin burns better than Grant.)

I’ll explain. What this process produces is a coffee concentrate, not something you want to drink straight. A cup of this stuff is a express train to Heart Explosion City, with a single stop in the twin cities of Diarrheaville and Yack City. It’s not a train you want to ride. Anyway! What you have at the end of this twelve plus hour process is enough coffee concentrate for around a month’s worth of coffee drinking. (Your results may vary, of course).

A big selling point of brewing coffee this way is that it’s less wasteful than your traditional drip coffee pot. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brewed an entire pot of coffee only to let the drain drink half the pot. You make this coffee one cup at a time. Which means that you don’t make anything you won’t be drinking. Immediately, the caffeine elite will point out that there are special funnel-shaped brewing cones that will allow you to make a cup at a time also. I know, I have one of those too. They’re OK, but kind of a hassle. (And of course, there’s also those spendy “pod” coffee makers out there.) But the main difference here is the smoothness of the coffee.

The biggest selling point, and the reason I originally bought this “Toddy” coffee maker, is it makes incredibly smooth, low-acid coffee without the need of a chemistry set and without sacrificing the flavor of the coffee. I went through an annoying period of time last year where my stomach was constantly in an uproar about everything and anything I ate or drank. Suspecting the culprit might be strongly acidic coffee, I went in search of an alternative. I tried my dad’s secret trick of sprinkling a little bit of salt on top of your coffee grounds just before brewing them, and unsurprisingly I wound up with salty coffee. And then finally I tracked down the Toddy Coffee Maker, which I’d heard rumors about for a while. And it helped. It didn’t fix the problem, but it helped. (It turns out I wasn’t the coffee, and it wasn’t food allergies. I was eating too much fiber. Yes, you can overdo it. My doctor still thinks I’m nuts.)

And I’ve used it ever since. It’s convenient, the coffee’s smooth and tasty, and you can even drink it when you’re hung over. If you’re looking for an alternative to your normal cup of joe, or you have digestive issues, I’d recommend picking one of these up. (Alternately, Toddy sells pre-made concentrate at their online store, so you can try the result out before you buy it.) I still have a soft spot in my heart for my French press and for Americanos, but the Toddy is hard to beat when it comes to convenience.

The only real drawback to the Toddy is that you will have to buy new filters from time to time. They are reusable, but eventually the little fibrous discs get gunked up and stop working. They aren’t that expensive (you can get two of them for about four dollars), but I’d really prefer to have a permanent filter. Because they’re specialized filters, I do have some concern that should the company eventually go out of business, I’ll be stuck with a coffee maker I can’t use. For now that doesn’t appear to be a likely, as they’ve received a lot of major press coverage, and are sold at the Seattle’s Best Coffee shop in my local Border’s. And at $37.50 for the whole system, if I’ve probably already gotten my money’s worth out of it!

Oh yes, and another thing, I wasn’t paid or bribed to write this review. (Though I did try to see if I could get some swag or coffee if I wrote a review for them. No dice. Hey, you can’t blame me for tryin’!) I just want them to continue to do well so I can keep buying my coffee filters!

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No, It Wasn’t As Good For Me As It Was For You

Happy Shootin’ DudeSunday afternoon I took a what I thought would be a quick break from my on-the-side I.T. consulting gig to pick my wife up from the grocery store. I didn’t want to be gone too long, because I had plenty of work to do and not a great deal of time to get it done in. So I rushed out to the car, hopped in and started driving away without even bothering to light up my customary short-trip Sancho Panza cigarillo. I didn’t get five feet from my parking spot before I felt it. My vehicle was waddling. Yep, shaking it’s hind-quarters like it was a giant, 6-cylinder fiberglass duck.

Some of you have probably already guessed what’s wrong. But my mind was elsewhere. I checked the dash for the emergency break light. It wasn’t lit. But to be sure, I engaged the emergency break and then released it. I drive a few more feet, and nope, that wasn’t it. My vehicle is still wiggling its butt like the driveway was a catwalk. So I try putting it back in park and then putting it back in drive. A few more feet. Nope, more waddling.

Then a scary thought occurs to me. I might have run over something and somehow got it caught between the tire and the car’s body. It could even now be tearing healthy chunks out of the side of my car. (For that thought alone, I’m adding the “crackpot theories” tag to this post.) My car is no beauty, but it’s no red-neck body-by-Bondo affront to the car gods either. And I’d like to keep it nondescriptly normal.

As I walk around the car, I breathe a sigh of relief. No car chunks on the ground. And then I see the culprit: A flat tire. I was literally driving on the rim of the back passenger-side wheel. I’ve changed flats before. In fact I changed a flat on a large rental van in a gravel parking lot in the rain once. No kidding. But I’ve never changed any flat without a jack before, so I went the easy route. I called Triple A (AAA), and asked a neighbor to pick up my wife.

With nothing better to do, I fire up 5 Vegas Gold and wait for the AAA guy to show up. And if there’s one thing to learn from this little anecdote, it’s that you should smoke a cigar while you’re waiting for AAA. You will have the time to finish it! No matter what they say, it will be at least an hour before they show. Don’t sweat it, smoke it. (Another one for the Quotable Brian!) True to form, about five minutes after I finish that mild, but tasty little robusto, the guy drives up.

Fast forward ahead about an hour and a half. I’m at a local shop having the tire looked at. It doesn’t take long for me to spot a little metallic glint near the outward edge of the tread. I’d been nailed. It had to have been the sloppy bastards working on the condo construction next door. When I drove back from the herf the night before, I must have picked up a little present they left in the middle of the road. So the tire guy starts extracting the nail. Inch by inch. And it just keeps coming! And suddenly, it’s threaded! I hadn’t been nailed, I’d been screwed! And despite the evidence to the contrary (the cigar), I wasn’t enjoying this!

But actually, it all worked out as well as you could ask. Everything was sorted out by 7 that evening. Hey, if you’re going to get screwed, what better time than Saturday night? And what better place than at home? And can you beat thirty bucks to cover all the costs? Sure, the rubber broke, but we were able to plug it up just fine before any real damage was caused. OK, I’m out of innuendos (or in-your-end-o’s as a friend of mine used to say), so I’ll leave it there before this post just gets creepy. How was your weekend?

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Toilets And The Crap We Put Up With

Happy Shootin’ DudeDon’t ask me why. For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about toilets. I might have something to do with the leaky, finicky Kohler crapper in our master bathroom. (The linked model looks like ours, but probably isn’t the same one.) The one that sounds like a balloon slowly loosing air. Or a snake in a permanent state of hiss. Of course, this means it has a broken part.

Broken parts are understandable and an acceptable part of doing business with daily-use machinery. Things break, we fix them and move on. But what isn’t acceptable is a defective product right out of the box. Ladies and gentleman, I’m convinced that 99% of us are shelling out $300 plus dollars on defective products. That’s right, I’m saying that porcelain throne in the tucked away in the corner of your home isn’t worth the cheeks that press up against it or the matter left behind in it.

“What on earth are you talking about, Brian?” you ask. Well, let’s look at it this way. What is a toilet’s primary function? Is it to look nice? No. When was the last time you invited somebody into your bathroom to have a look at your crap cruiser? A water bowl for the dog? No. (Well, maybe, I guess it depends on the number of cars you have on blocks in the front yard.) A place to read the paper? No. No the sole purpose of is of a toilet is to make crap disappear.

“And isn’t that what it does?” Yes and no. Slim, spritely vegetarians may live their entire life and never comprehend the true failure of the western world’s toilets the way hefty steak-and-potatoes people do. What I’m saying is that the our toilets are marvelous when it comes to whisking away bird droppings, but absolute failures when it comes to processing the end result of a hearty meal.

“But it’s better than using an outhouse!” That may be so, but better than bad does not equal good. But wait, is it actually better? Sure it’s indoors and climate controlled, and you’re not likely to get a splinter, but when was the last time an outhouse backed up? Unless the countryside is flooding, you’re not going to have a problem until it’s time to dig another hole. And no matter how bad that breakfast burrito was, you’re not going to smell up half the house when you’re ridding yourself of it.

So here’s what needs to be done. For ages Asia has had some fantastic all-in-one johns; virtual spas for the backside. I understand the cultural reluctance to embrace something like that, to be honest, they kind of creep me out too. So that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about improving the existing toilet of the western world so it reliably does its job. No toilet should ever again clog up. Ever. If it does, it’s broken and in need of repair or replacement. Think of the garbage disposal. It has a very similar function, does it plug up every other time you use it? And when it does gunk up and stop working, it’s a good sign that it’s in need of repair. That’s what I’m talking about.

I know there’s a push for less water consumption in toilets, and I don’t think this is a limiting factor. Manufacturers need to look at other options. Motors. Pumps. Grinders. Pressure, suction and vacuums. Guppies with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads. The answer is out there, and it’s time we had a decent toilet! For what we pay, we deserve to be able to push the lever, let it go (without holding it down!) and see the ghost of dinner past swept on it’s way. Every single time. Our bathroom floors and cabinets should be free of the filthy toilet-crutch, the plunger. I should be able to dump an entire bag of potting soil in the bowl hit the lever and see a sparkling bowl 30 seconds later. Damn it, it’s time we had an actual toilet!

(I bet you’re wishing I was still talking about cigars right about now, huh?)

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The Mystery Of The 5 Minute Browser

Heed the sage words of Brian!I had the weirdest problem recently. Five minutes after booting up my office laptop, in the midst of checking the news online, my browser stopped working. That isn’t to say I couldn’t use the buttons or select items from the menus. Functionally speaking, the browser application was fine. The problem is that pages stopped loading. All of them.

Expecting that it was a network outage or a corporate firewall problem, checked the usual things. I verified that my network cable hadn’t broken or been disconnected. I tried unplugging it and plugging it back in. Still dead. I fired up Innernut Exploder (I use Firefox by default. [Funny Side Note: In getting this link, I've noticed Firefox's website has determined I'm Italian. I have no idea why, and there's no convincing it that I'm not. I wonder if it's flirting with me.]) Still nothing. I checked with some other people in the office. Their connections were fine, and they hadn’t experienced any outages whatsoever. Damn, it’s me.

I often listen to radio programming streamed over the internet while I’m in the office. Every now and then the little embedded applications used by these stations will cause me trouble that can only be resolved by rebooting. So I reboot. And I’m back online, happily getting my news fix. For about five minutes. Then I’m dead in the water again. About this time, I get an email. What the heck is going on? My browsers are dead by my email application is humming right along like everything’s fine. And I can ping Yahoo from the command window.

So I reboot again. This time, I don’t expect this to fix the problem, I just want to establish that this problem is a repeatable and demonstrable, so I don’t look like an idiot when I speak with the help desk. Like clockwork, after about 5 minutes, I’m dead in the water again. So off I go on a help desk adventure. I’ll spare you the details. All you really need to know is that this bug owned the help desk. If you seriously suggest wiping and re-imaging a PC, you are conceding defeat. You are owned. I have to give them credit though, before admitting defeat, they spent hours chasing this problem, trying increasingly more obscure solutions. I’m probably not worth the effort they put into it, if you run the metrics.

I had no intention of reinstalling and reconfiguring this machine. I’ve spent too much time getting it configured just right. I took the problem home, and scoured the internet for a solution. (From another PC, of course.) And I found a lot of possible fixes, which I sent to my Crackberry for use the following day at work.

Here are the valid candidate solutions I found. I’m listing them all here, because what worked for me may not be what works for you. I know you won’t be surprised to hear that there are a variety of things that can cause this problem.

Fix Candidate #1 – IP Renewal:
This is probably the easiest possible fix and least likely to cause trouble. For this reason it was the first I tried. (I’m kind of surprised that neither Help Desk or I thought of this.)

  1. Open a command window (Start -> Run -> “cmd”)
  2. Type ipconfig /release and enter.
  3. Type ipconfig /renew and enter.
  4. Close the window and try the browser. If this was gonna work, it would be now.

Fix Candidate #2 – Flushing DNS Cache:
This is similar to the first, and if the websites and newsgroups I read are any indication, the odds favor it as the winning solution. (There are some additional steps that involve updating registry values to set minimums and maximums for DNS cache, but I’m leaving them out. They’re non-essential, and I don’t want to encourage people to go mucking around in their registry. If you want to know, let me know.)

  1. Open a command window (Start -> Run -> “cmd”)
  2. Type ipconfig /flushdns and enter.
  3. You should get a message indicating success.
  4. Close the window and try the browser. If this was gonna work, it would be now.

Fix Candidate #3 – Hijack This:
This fix is simple as downloading HijackThis (official website on Trend Micro), running it, and deleting the following items, if they appear. If they don’t, this isn’t the fix for you. Because I’m all about saving time, do a search for “win32exe.exe” on your machine before downloading or installing anything.

  • O4 – HKLM\..\Run: [winbin32] win32exe.exe
  • O4 – HKLM\..\RunServices: [winbin32] win32exe.exe
  • O4 – HKCU\..\Run: [winbin32] win32exe.exe
  • O4 – HKCU\..\RunServices: [winbin32] win32exe.exe

After that you need to reboot and delete the file file named “win32exe.exe”.

Fix Candidate #4 – The Repair Install:
I save this one for last for a couple of reasons. To begin with, it sounds kind of stupid. Also, it happens to be the fix that got me back on track. It’s dumb and it works. As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently began the slow, painful process of migrating from one mail client to another in the office. As a part of that transition (which, I’m annoyed to say, is ongoing) I had to install AT&T network client software. And wouldn’t you know it, the install blue-screened. That’s all the background you need for this fix.

  1. Start -> Settings -> Control Panel -> Add or Remove Programs
  2. Select AT&T Network Client from the list and click the “Change” button.
  3. Select the repair install option. (Or uninstall, if you no longer need the software.)
  4. Follow instructions.
  5. Reboot optional. You may find that your browser works immediately.

If you don’t have the AT&T Network Client installed, and are having this problem, have no fear. The word is that these steps can also be used on systems with Symantec AntiVirus or Microsoft Media Connect. Generally speaking, if you have the problem shorty after installing new software, consider re-installing it, or removing it.

I hope in posting this, I’ll save somebody the pain of formatting and reinstalling their PC in frustration. If you do use this information to fix your machine, let me know! I’ll consider the warm-fuzzy payment for services rendered. :)

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Tagged: The Things You Can’t Prove Are Lies

Antoni Gaudi’s Sun MosaicOK, I’m back from the 10th circle of hell. Yeah, you read that right, the 10th circle. You’re quite right, there were only nine circles. Until Saddam Hussein started demanding a corner office in the 9th circle. God he’s such a pain. So the devil gave him his old office and built a whole new circle for himself. And he needed some I.T. help. Of course, the devil likes to work with people who both know they are for sale and know what their price tag is. Naturally, that means he hires consultants.

One recommendation. If you’re on your way to hades, by either handbasket or the regular route, don’t forget your MP3 player and your shades. The eternal shrieks of the damned get sort of grating after a while, like an alarm clock left running by a vacationing neighbor, and the hell fire can get kind of bright. Especially if you’re hung over.

Ah yes, I’ve been tagged. I hope this isn’t the payment the red-horned guy was promising me for my work. You can’t ever count on him paying his invoices as agreed.

The Rules
1.) Post the rules first.
2.) If you are tagged you have to tell your faithful blogging public 8 random facts about yourself in a post on your blog. It can be habits, an idea, facts, or just um… stuff.
3.) At the end of your post, choose eight other bloggers you’d like to know something about and tag them.
4.) Leave a comment telling them you’ve tagged them and that they will need to read your post on your blog.
5.) Bend the rules as convenient. (My special addition!)

The Things You Can’t Prove Are Lies

I. I’ve been published at least twice under different pseudonyms. But before you think back on the articles you’ve recently in major publications, it’s only fair I tell you that once was for an underground high school newspaper and the other was for a slightly more high brow (i.e. pretentious) college literature magazine. I still have both.

II. I started seriously enjoying writing in a high school English class. Fed up with all the essay writing, in irritation I wrote a very antagonistic paper as one of my assignments. The plan was to make reading the assignment as much of a pain as it was to write it. As many of my plans do, it backfired; the teacher loved it and started treating me as though I were literary elite. Being the obnoxious bastard I am, I found that the prospect of writing angry for good grades a win-win proposition. I was brimming with pointless teen angst. I aced the class and was put in the advanced class the following year.

In college, to keep it interesting, I made a point of writing my papers in support of whatever view point I thought my professor disagreed with the most or in favor or anything patently absurd. Somehow my textual nettles continued to be well received. And I got pretty good at supporting the unsupportable. (I should have been lawyer!) I was very Swiftian. (Not to be confused with “Swift Boat“.) Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, I was just being sadistic.

III. My crowning achievement in art of the chafing word was contributing three pieces of poetry/prose to the college literary magazine under an ridiculous pseudonym. The incredibly obnoxious ditties made it in and I had the pleasure of hearing one of the editors angrily discussing their inappropriateness. Ah, good times. :)

IV. I’ve been in a small (four seater!) plane when all the electronics went out. In the clouds. I participated in an emergency line of site landing that involved a tight spiral down through a small hole in low cloud cover. Once down, the problem was diagnosed (pilot error), and we got back on and flew the rest of the way to our destination. Same plane, maybe an hour later. Several people still claim to have the “Oh Shit” email I sent them from my Crackberry while I was in the air. Sadly, I don’t.

V. I started smoking cigars with a friend on the Oregon coast in the middle of the night. We’d leave campus after in the evening after classes and arrive well into the night. On the way we’d stop at the “Mecca of Convenience” and pick up some firewood for a bonfire and whatever cigars they had at the counter. They were horrible in the way you would expect a convenience store cigars to be, but an essential part of the evening. (A better cigar probably wouldn’t have burned worth a damn on those gusty nights.) As was the “flaming manhood”, but that’s a story for another day.

VI. I’ve worn a kilt on numerous occasions, but I’m not going to prove it. That will disappoint at least one occasional reader of this blog, as he wants to submit it for Photoshoping on Fark. But I can tell you that I looked dead-sexy. Especially back when I had long hair. Don’t worry, you would agree. (Even if it required adjustments in your blood-alcohol levels.)

VII. I’d much rather be rich than famous. If I suddenly disappear, you’ll know I got my wish. Either that, or I was crushed under a collapsing stack of cigar humidors.

VIII. I won my wife over with my dance moves. Quit laughing, it’s true. She’ll vouch for it. A friend of mine (and at the time, co-worker) from Nigeria and I were really kicking some ass on the floor of a Malaysian dance club when we were approached by my now wife and her friend. The dancing continued well into the early hours of the morning. And again a few weeks later. The rest is very colorful history.

Honestly, I think nearly everybody I know in the blog world has been tagged already. (I was sooo gonna tag Laurie Kendrick, but somebody got to her first.) And the cigar bloggers I know would probably put their lit Arturo Fuentes out on my arm if I tagged them. In keeping with my new rule to bend the rules for my convenience, I’ll let people tag themselves. Wanna be tagged? Leave a comment, and I’ll update this post to make the tagging official. (Brilliant or lazy, you make the call! ;) )

People who have brought this tagging on themselves

  1. Space Chronicles Tiffany

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Solution To Iraq War Up For Sale On eBay

Heed the sage words of Brian!Well now it’s confirmed. You can buy anything on eBay. Anything! I just learned that a U.S. Army Intelligence Officer has put up the solution to the war in Iraq up for auction on the ‘Bay. But if you want the solution to the Iraq war, you better have some deep pockets. Or better yet a deep couple of brief cases, full of hundred dollar bills. Because it’ll cost you a dollar under $100 million. (I know it sounds like I’m building up to a MasterCard commercial spoof here, but I swear I’m resisting the temptation!)

I’ll bet all those bidders are sorry they didn’t spring for the $1 million Buy-It-Now price tag when the auction first went up! Talk about over-bidding! It’s a shame that they’re hiding the bidder’s ID’s. It’d be pretty interesting to know who’s doing the bidding. :twisted:

One other thought, do you suppose Officer Thad Krasnesky will waive the $1.25 shipping fee? Or maybe throw in free shipping insurance? If it gets much higher, he may be able to fund his own troop surge! ;)

[UPDATE: D'Oh! It looks like eBay doesn't have a sense of humor! Or practical business sense for that matter. They've taken down the auction! Just think of the hefty chunk of change of a sales fee they're missing out on! Sorry guys, I guess this is now a non-story. :( ]

[UPDATE 2: Those of you who didn't get see it before it was taken down are in luck! I still had a window open showing the auction.  Here, for your viewing pleasure, was the going rate for an Iraq war solution as it was right around the time I wrote this:

Solution To Iraq War Up For Sale On eBay]

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2200 Percent Growth In This Ugly Flower Of A Blog

Brian’s brain is still in weekend mode. Which isn’t such a bad thing since the big item of the day is to get a software side-grade (transitioning from Microsoft Outhouse to NoDice Notes does not qualify upgrade, I don’t care how many cute graphics it automatically embeds in your email). Of course, I don’t want to get into incriminating things like where I work or what I do specifically. (Those things are best left to your imagination.) Well no more than to say this is a big, big place, and new software and network access is comes to you at the speed of Heinz 57 ketchup.

Of course there are two things I do when business is slow. Troll (in the fishing sense, but sometimes in the inflammatory sense if the mood strikes) blogs and cigar auctions looking for what passes for action while sitting on your backside. What passes for action today is a graphical representation of my blog (via BabyChaos‘ list o’ links, which I hope someday to make it onto ;) ). And as a graph, this blog makes a pretty ugly flower. One that had a dangerous session with the Weed-B-Gon. The kind you’d back up the lawn mower for to be sure you got it all. Check it out:

Brian’s Random Thoughts: A Certifiable Cluster-F*ck

If you click on the image above, you can go see how your website/blog stands up.  [UPDATE: Image link fixed.] Is your blog a delicate orchid, or is an abusive, alcoholic dandelion like mine? C’mon. You know you wanna. Don’t make me “tag” you.

Of course, after that a sad spectacle, it’s fun to go re-inflate the ego with lies, damn lies and statistics. My favorite being the “How much is my blog worth calculator“. Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve tried this thing out. Previously this blog came in at a handy little figure of $1,129.08. So lets see if I’ve made any progress in the mythical blog stock exchange:


Congratulations!
You’ve just agreed to pay $25,968.84 for my blog!

How much is your blog worth?

 

Ah, now that’s what I like to see! Progress! A 2200% increase in value! :) Oh yes, and thank you for your interest in buying my blog. Very kind of you. While I’m certain the check is in the mail, I regret to inform you that this blog isn’t yet for sale! (Though perhaps I should consider selling shares of blog stock…) ;) Anyway! If you haven’t checked your blog recently, you may want to take another peep. You might be in for a surprise!

Oops, looks like business is picking up. And as this particular post wasn’t going anywhere interesting, so I’ll be back when I have more interesting things to discuss. (Which may be soon. Apparently, I’ve just been “tagged”! Word has it if you don’t immediately act on it, your spleen will explode and you’ll have a rough bit of luck. :) )

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