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Quite an eventful day

Today (October 16th, technically yesterday) was a bit of a strange day for me.  Around 11:15 or 11:30 at work, we noticed the not entirely unusual din of sirens were all stopping nearby.  Then we noticed a flood of people coming out of the building next door.  There were cops all around.  The one we could see most clearly was very adamantly stopping people from driving near the building.  Several people attempted to re-enter and were quickly turned around.  We couldn’t really see anything but people outside, though.  Then, maybe 20 minutes later, we hear that we are to evacuate our building (200 South Hanley).  Not a huge deal, a break from work on a gorgeous, if slightly cool, day.

Throng of people lined up along Hanley doesn’t really know what’s going on.  I heard everything from having to do with Barack Obama (who will be in town on Saturday) to an explosion or bomb of some sort.  After about an hour standing around, we hear it would be at least 4 hours to get back into our building, so we should just go home.  I park in the lot under the building where all this is happening, so, I have no car.  By this time, word on the street is that it was a bomb, also heard a description of a pretty badly-injured person.  Several people felt it and heard it, but I did not.  Figuring there was not a chance I’d see my car anytime soon, I hitched a ride with someone that parks in our building.

Turns out, word on the street was pretty much right.  A packaged incendiary device in the parking garage exploded and severely injured one man, though the press release said “non life threatening”.  So, at some point today, I was parking my car in the garage, and someone could have been planting a bomb then.  That is really pretty terrifying!  I parked way down on the lowest level and this all took place on the highest level that I believe is only for tenants of the adjacent condo high-rise, but still.  I’ve heard that anyone parked in that garage can now be escorted to their car, and I would imagine they will still be fairly tight about security tomorrow – I suppose I’ll find out.

I hope I don’t see another day that eventful for quite some time.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Seeing

Ok, so the title is a shameless play on a book I’ve never read.  Be that as it may, back in, let’s call it May, when my blog was down, I saw a bumper sticker on my drive home and immediately wanted to comment on it.  It was yellow and had a little picture of a motorcycle and the text “Start Seeing Motorcycles”.  Perhaps it was all caps, don’t recall.  First, I get the point, and I appreciate that all drivers could pay a little more attention to motorcycles.  I just think it becomes hilarious if you interpret it as “Start ‘seeing’ motorcycles”.  As in, start hallucinating motorcycles!  It’s a directive… these people are telling me, “regardless of what you think you are seeing, start seeing some damn motorcycles!  Now!”

And you know what, I think I do see more motorcycles.  Maybe I’m crazy (Nikki can help you with that one), but I didn’t think we had a motorcycle in our living room before.  Try it yourself.  Next time you are driving, or eating, or counting your fingers and toes for the 80th time just to make sure they are all still there (hey, you’re the one doing it, and yes, it makes you weird), I implore you to start seeing motorcycles (as if you weren’t already… but yes, more).

Music reviews

Just a quick note to let anyone interested know that I’ve set up a music review blog.  I used to post one giant mega-review once a year about all the music I found that year.  It was kind of a nightmare to get the information right, really long, and probably not interesting to family and friends.

It’s called Meine Lieblingsmusik (roughly “my-nuh lee-blings-moo-zick”) which means My Favorite Music.  You can find it at meinelieblingsmusik.wordpress.com.

That is all, thank you.

It Lives!

My computer is a computer again.  Only two months and I think it’s back to its former self.  So, absolutely the power supply and motherboard were shot.  Not sure what happened.  Not sure if they were related.  Was pretty dusty, the mobo mabye just shorted out somewhere.  New power supply was a steal at Radio Shack, $35.  I bought a new CPU, which may or may not have been needed, but $35 later I have the fastest single core Socket 939 chip available (Athlon 64 4000+) – only 3 years old by now!  There are very few Socket 939 motherboards left for sale, mostly the higher end ones with SLI or Crossfire support, and mostly north of $150.  But, I was able to find a Tyan model for only $45.  Of course, there had to be a problem (I discovered after receiving it)… it needs an additional 8-pin ATX power connector.  The new power supply did not have one.  So, I dropped another $80 on a PSU that has one.

Get that all set up (replacing a motherboard is tantamount to building a new computer from scratch) and it won’t boot.  Well, it does POST and I can configure the BIOS, so the parts are all working.  And it does boot to the Windows boot menu, but will never get any further (not even safe mode).  So, I pray that the hard drive didn’t get hosed.  Start up the recovery console and I can see that things are still there where they should be, which was a relief.  Of course, I’ve never actually used the recovery console before, so I have no idea what to do to recover from an error that I can’t really describe.

So, I let it sit for a few weeks.  I figure I’ll find another hard drive to toss in, install windows on that and not lose data from the old drive.  When I got time, I slapped an old 30 gigger in, and nothing.  So, I grabbed the 80 GB drive from a computer that was marked for the dumpster (thanks Shawn!) and slightly more than nothing.  BIOS can read the manufacturer information from the drive, but Windows Setup can’t use it to install Windows.  So, I talked to a few people and arranged a couple loaners once they got cleaned off.

In the meantime, I was pleading with Google to tell me how to fix this and the great and powerful Google offered me a soupcon of hope.  I don’t really install Windows that often, but I had remembered something to recover or repair an installation.  I just assumed it was the recovery console, and forgot about it.  I forgot that Windows Setup could actually repair an installation.  I never had a drive or partition I even thought about sacraficing, so I never took that leap into “setup Windows XP now”.  Per the repair guide above, I did a repair installation, and boom, it’s all good.  Got XP Service Pack 3 set up and few other updates, and all seems to be well.  Windows Setup repair, gasp, just worked.  I don’t know what the problem was (I did try rebuilding the MBR before the repair), but it wasn’t beyond repair.  Total pricetag, $221.92 with all the shipping and thermal paste and whatnot.  My father-in-law just bought an eMachines system, dual core, 2gb, decent hard drive space, 19″ widescreen monitor, new printer… $500.  Why do I build computers again?

Happy 1st, Sam!

Today our son is one year old.  Just about 1 year and 15 minutes ago (born at 9:15 am) Nikki and I met our little bundle of joy.  He was perfect.  We still think he is.  Nikki has written more about his milestones and day-to-day activities, so check her blog out if you want to know about that.  I just wanted to write a little about how my life has changed in this first year.  Above all, he has the power to make everything else seem so trivial.  Have a bad day?  I just pick him up and get a smile and then it’s a much better day (Nikki, that’s not to say you don’t cheer me up too, you do).

At first, knowing that we alone were providing for him was scary.  I was pretty nervous-I had no idea what I was doing.  But, I found that it really didn’t matter.  You learn because you have to, it’s not a choice.  Too tired to take care of him?  Apparently not, we always managed to muster enough strength between the two of us to keep going.  And looking back, we must have done alright… he’s just such a happy baby.  I feel very blessed.  I feel almost guilty because we’ve heard of difficult babies, and that just never was Sam.  We’re planning to ride this roller coaster again, so maybe we’ll get that, but I now know we’ll do just fine.

One year old seemed so far off, even just a month or a few weeks ago.  This morning we went out for breakfast, he still doesn’t seem like a one-year-old.  He’s the same Sam we’ve loved all along.  Of course, when I see him pulling up with ease and eating chicken nuggets, I do wonder how we got here so quickly!  Now that we’re at one year, I’ll just go ahead and say that two years old sounds insane.  He’ll be talking and running around, he’ll look different, he’ll probably be excited about his birthday.  What will this next year hold in store?  Let’s find out!

Computer updates

So my computer died.  That sucks, and so far, it really makes me want to give up building computers and really lots of other things to do with computers.  It’s just frustration, really not much more benefit anymore.

Anyway, right when it happened, I tried turning it on, no dice.  Just absolutely nothing, no lights, no fans.  So, I figured power supply and replaced it.  Hey, now lights come on and fans spin up.  I hear a little hard drive action, but the monitors never get signal.  No POST noises or anything but lights and constantly on fans.  Take the CPU out and I hear a diagnostic message about a missing CPU, so I guess that’s the problem.  Buy a new three-year-old CPU, heat sink, and good thermal interface material.  Drop the new chip in, grease it up, and lock the heat sink in place.  No change at all.  Same lights.  Same fans.  Same hard drive action.

So, at this point, I’m not sure what to do.  I don’t have the time or resources to fully test the components and see what the problem really is.  I’ve ordered a new mobo, which brings me up to about $170 on revamping an aging system.  I probably have two good single core socket 939 processors, but few people want those anymore.  If this new mobo doesn’t fix it, I may just try and sell the lot of it and take some (more) time off from computer ownership.

So many times computer geek type people want things to “just work”, but I find most often they just don’t.  I won’t delude myself into thinking that a computer built by someone else will work any better, it will just contain lower quality parts, but I guess I can get a warranty. And, if I wanted a Mac, I’d let you know…

Starbucks “Energy + Coffee”

Occasionally when I get groceries on my way to work (I have PB&J most days), I will grab a drink from the cold drink case. Since it’s in the morning, I generally get something coffee-ish. Lately, I’ve really been enjoying Starbucks Doubleshot, but they are rather expensive—$1.99 for like 8.5 oz. or something. I generally get two, but then that’s $4… could have just stopped at Starbucks.

Amid all the news of store closures in St. Louis, they apparently launched a new drink in the Doublshot lineup. The previous little ones are “Espresso & Cream” and the new ones are dubbed “Energy + Coffee” and are about twice as big (for only $2.50).  For the original, they really did a great job of making it taste good.  It tastes like coffee and cream, something I want to drink.  The new one has “Guarana”, “Ginseng” and “B Vitamins” tattooed on the top of the can, so I was a bit skeptical.  I’m familiar with energy drinks from various late night drives home.  I generally get Mountain Dew branded drinks that taste pretty crappy, but keep me alert.  Sometimes, I get coffee themed drinks like Monster and others… they taste like ass with a hint of coffee.  I’d have to say the “Energy + Coffee” from Starbucks—I had the Mocha flavor—is more like coffee with a hint of ass.  It’s drinkable, but there is apparently little that can be done to hide the “flavor” of what the can calls “Energy Ingredients”: maltodextrin, taurine, L-Carnitine, inositol, Panax ginseng, and guarana.

Unless you are a huge fan of energy drinks or are strapped for cash, get yourself a Doubleshot “Espresso & Cream” or two, they taste much better, and the ingredient list is much less scary.  The Iced Coffee drinks are pretty good too; a little less flavorful, but a little better value.


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I would like to thank Mike Hellrich for hosting a couple redirects for me while I sort out my web server problems.