Monday, November 29, 2010

A Little Car Karma

My car has been acting more and more erratic lately. The speedometer and RPM indicator have been spontaneously cutting out. Worse, for the last two weeks the car has become increasingly more difficult to start. After a herculean effort, I was able to get it going so that I could drive up to my folks' house for Thanksgiving. And, by sheer luck, I able to, after several attempts, get it started again so that I could get back home the next day.

Several mechanic friends have indicated to me that there must be a short somewhere in the wiring. Slamming my ass down on the driver's seat in just the right way seems to clear the short and allows the car to draw the power necessary to start. Problem is, that method has become less and less successful over the last month. I resolved to fix the issue myself yesterday after several more failed attempts to get the car to start. I inspected the wiring and traced back what I could. It was little better than a bowl of spaghetti. It had been messed with quite a bit and I could see pin-pricks in some of the wires indicating that someone had been testing them. Someone had even patched in speaker wire at some point, probably a year ago when the car was in the shop for about three days. Still, none of my tweaking did any good. I was tired, hungry, and was at wit's end.

I don't problem solve well on an empty stomach, so I hiked down to the local Walgreen's to get some snacks and clear my head. When I emerged with my Doritos and Dr. Pepper, I found myself face-to-face with a Salvation Army bell ringer. He was dressed as Santa Claus and was singing Christmas carols. With a smirk and a shrug, I figured "What the hell....I could use some good karma right now". I dug into my pockets and put all the money I had into the kettle.

As I approached my house, the Dr. Pepper putting out the fire on my taste buds that had been started by the habanero Doritos, I noticed that the hood of my car had been popped. Had I done that inadvertently while troubleshooting? I opened the driver's side door and looked wasn't possible to accidentally trip the release. I took another swig of Dr. Pepper and proceeded to undo the hood's latch, raising it up so I could access the engine. For a moment, I thought about checking the fuses, but thought better of it because others more mechanically inclined than me had already done so. Out of nothing more than instinct, I pushed the battery further back into its seating. Instantly, I heard the friendly ring of the car's reminder signal telling me that I had left the keys in the ignition.

"It's ALIVE!", I exclaimed.

Sure enough, when I sat down to start the car, the beast roared to life on the first try. So, what does this mean? Does it mean that the battery clips and contacts simply need to be cleaned? Does it mean that one of the connector wires is faulty? Is there indeed a short somewhere and pushing the battery back gives the wires in question enough slack to clear the short? I don't know. What I do know is that the Saturn S series, is persnickety when it comes to anything electrical to begin with, and, whatever the problem is, it couldn't hurt to buy a little karma here and there to help get it working

Friday, November 26, 2010

The LG Optimus One

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of LG. All opinions are 100% mine.

Readers of this blog know full well about my love for the Android operating system. There are a lot of cell phones out there that use it, but none of them are like the LG Optimus One.  LG just recently launched the Optimus One, which was created in order to deliver the ultimate smartphone experience while allowing for  easy accessibility for the growing number of consumers looking to purchase their first smartphone. Check out some of the great features they've included:

  • A lightning fast, user friendly interface which allows for two to three times faster and smoother internet browsing, web-page loading, application pop-ups and multi-tasking.
  • The LG App Advisor, which will recommend 10 highly rated applications for you every two weeks.
  • A camera with face tracking and smile detector technology for taking that perfect photo to post to your Facebook wall or Twitter feed.
  • A 3.2" wide HVGA screen back by a 1500mAh capacity battery for long lasting power.
  • Synchronization with your Outlook Calendar.

Since the LG Optimus One uses the Android 2.2 operating system, the phone is already optimized to use use popular Google apps like Google Voice, Google Goggles, Google Shopper and Google Maps with Navigation.


Visit Sponsor's Site

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crying Crocidile Tears To Kaplan University

I got a call recently from a recruiter for Kaplan University. I decided to take a different approach this time and informed him that the person he was looking for had recently passed away. I then erupted into tears. I wanted to see how well Kaplan University trained its callers to handle this sort of emotional situation. Have a listen below and see how he did:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Art Imitates Life In World Of Warcraft

The latest notoriously bad behavior by the TSA has quickly become the biggest hot-button topic in America. In a clear dig against the TSA and their latest invasive search procedures, the folks over at Blizzard Entertainment have created a scenario in World of Warcraft where players conduct searches of NPCs at the gates of capital cities while the inside of the cities themselves are filled with dozens of obvious cultists. One of the strengths of any good MMORPG is the ability to integrate topical content in a fun and meaningful way and this is just what World of Warcraft has done with the "Show Me Your Papers" quest.

Announcing The New Enhanced Screening Procedures
Although I personally see it as a dig against the TSA and their new procedures, the content is vague enough, I believe, that the quest line could be seen as a show of support for the TSA. After all, a grave new threat has risen to threaten the security of the capital cities and the searches that the player conducts does uncover valuable evidence against the cultists and furthers the quest line along. Plus, the good guys win in the end. That's what so great about this particular political reference: it can be taken either way.

Personally, I would have found it even funnier if the fine folks over at Blizzard had added "Don't touch my junk!" to the NPCs' repository of reactions to being searched. And, although it's a tad risque, it might have been fun to have a character, while searching an NPC, automatically utter "Is that a dagger in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Car Donations for Homeless Veterans

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Vietnam Veterans of America. All opinions are 100% mine.

Do you own a home? If you do, isn't it nice to have a a warm place to spend the night? Can you even imagine having to sleep in a cardboard box or spend the night in a shelter? We Americans often take for granted the items we own and the advantages we have been given. Imagine if all of that were to be taken away from you. What would you do? Could you survive?

In order to guarantee our freedom and to protect the advantages we as American citizens have been given, our United States Veterans put their lives on the line. If you'd like to show your support, Vietnam Veterans of America is accepting car donations. Maybe you have an old car that you're trying to get rid of. Perhaps you don't want to go through the hassle of trying to sell it. If that's the case, then donating your car to Vietnam Veterans of America is a great way to get rid of that old car while helping out some of America's veterans.

For over thirty years, Vietnam Veterans of America has been supporting our veterans and their families by providing them with food and shelter. However, during these tough economic times, they are struggling to keep up with the high demand for help. In order to help raise funds and to continue meeting the challenges of providing help to our veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America is now accepting car donations. When you donate a car to Vietnam Veterans of America, you will be helping those who have given so much for us already. Your charitable gift is also eligible for an IRS tax deduction.

For instructions on how to donate a car, make sure to visit the Vietnam Veterans of America's website. Our veterans need your support and, if you have a car that you are able to donate, 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Beatles Are On iTunes

After years of negotiation, The Beatles finally arrived on iTunes yesterday, with tracks from their catalog available for purchase individually or as complete iTunes albums. The much hyped announcement met with some fanfare, but was generally regarded with little more than a yawn. Still, hours after their songs arrived on iTunes, music from the Beatles began steadily climbing the iTunes Top 20 list.

Once you get past the Monday morning hype that Steve Jobs put out there, making the Apple fanboys get their panties in a twist over what they perceived to be a forthcoming announcement regarding the next step in iPad/iPod technology, this news may seem petty. Indeed, the casual music lover probably doesn't see this as a big deal. After all, most Beatle fans probably have all of their CDs and have ripped the songs into their iTunes library already. The reason why this is newsworthy is because one of the most influential bands in the history of popular music has finally embraced digital distribution. This is an acknowledgment that using physical media to distribute music is going by the wayside. The CD isn't going to disappear anytime soon. However, when we look back upon the scrapheap of history, the Beatles showing up on iTunes will be seen as one of the major indicators that the major music labels began to concede the demise of the physical media distribution model.

Now, if only we could get The Beatles to release The White Album Demos, Live at the Hollywood Bowl and the Threetles version of Now and Then.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Have Heeded The Call Of Duty

I called Jason up a few days ago to gloat about getting a copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops.

"I've joined the legion of neckbeards ganking noobs on Call of Duty: Black Ops multiplayer", I bragged.

"So, wait, you bought a PS3?" Jason asked.

"No...I bought Call of Duty: Black Ops for the Wii", I explained.

A huge cackle of laughter exploded from the other end of the phone. "You bought Call of Duty: Black Ops for the Wii? You may as well have bought it for an Atari 2600, or maybe the PS2".

Okay, I see his point. The Wii is an underpowered, lobotomized gaming platform that no hardcore gamer would take seriously. And the Wii version of Call of Duty: Black Ops features graphics that are inferior to the PS3 and XBOX 360 versions of the game. And, yes, the Wii version of Call of Duty: Black Ops is missing a ton of features as well, including the ultra-cool zombie map, "Five", which features JFK, Richard Nixon, Fidel Castro and Robert McNamara fighting zombies in the Pentagon.

Still, I stand by my decision. As merely a casual gamer, I don't need the ability to record entire multiplayer theater encounters or the Kill Cam so that I can review the footage later. I don't need an emblem creator and my character doesn't need custom face paint. And the PS2-era graphics don't bother me....much. Honestly, for a guy who just wants something to occupy his gaming time until World of Warcraft: Cataclysm comes out, Call of Duty: Black Ops is an excellent game for the Wii.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Photos From My Geocache

Back in March, I hid a Geocache not too terribly far from my home. Geocaching is an outdoor activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System receiver to hide and seek containers that usually hold a log book (to record your visit) and perhaps some small trinkets. It's basically a high tech game of hide and seek. For a little extra fun, I put a disposable camera in my camera and invited everyone who found it to take a picture of themselves. The camera ran out of film recently, so I had it developed. Some of the film was damaged, probably due to water leakage into the original container I had used. You'll find a decent set of pictures below.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What I Like About Visiting Home

I ventured up to see my folks and some old friends this past weekend and, on Saturday, a meeting of the mindless occurred when former Kitchen Sink co-host, Jim, graced the Mac estate with his presence. We discussed the usual issues including the likelihood of either of us ending up on the radio again. The verdict, as usual, was that it's pretty damn unlikely.

In the midst of all the discourse, I made a little video blog describing the things I like about visiting home. You'll find it below, in glorious widescreen, just above a list of music I recently added to my ipod.

Recent Additions To My iPod
San Francisco - Brett Dennen
Via Con Me - Paolo Conte
Too Late For Us Now - Roger Manning
Half Of My Heart - John Mayer
Acoustic #3 - Goo Goo Dolls
In Love With A Girl - Gavin DeGraw
Your Woman - White Town
Sunrise - Simply Red

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mt Lyon Institute Calls Me

The fine folks over at Mt Lyon Institute rang me up recently. I was actually prepared to take the call this time and managed to stay in character for the duration. The rep from Mt Lyon Institute was impatient from the get-go and cut me off a mere three minutes into the call. She must have already gotten her recruitment quota for the month

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stick Bug

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the phasmatodea, better known by it's colloquial name, the stick bug. Phasmatodea are an order of insects whose natural camouflage makes them resemble small sticks or leafs. I found this particular one crawling on the wall of Jason's garage two weeks ago. This specimen decided to play dead when I picked it up.

Nice tactic. Had it been a chillier night, this stick bug's excellent camouflage may have gotten it tossed into a bonfire.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ben Folds: Lonely Avenue

I've been a fan of Ben Folds ever since my days at WXAV when the debut album of Ben Folds Five was pushed into main rotation. I often cite him as one of my favorite musicians, ranking him just below Miles Hunt and Paul Westerberg. I have tended to liken him to a younger, more indie Billy Joel. He has created some of the most beautiful ballads along with some very catchy/poppy hooks. I've come to expect a lot from Ben Folds, and, most of the time, he doesn't disappoint. That being said, I had some very high hopes for Ben's latest album, Lonely Avenue.

Something happened with his previous album, Way To Normal. Ben Folds stumbled. I only liked about half of the songs on Way To Normal, which was surprising as I could usually listen to one of his albums track-to-track. When I learned that Ben Folds would be collaborating with Nick Hornby in a quasi Elton John/Berni Taupin type of team, I was certain Lonely Avenue would mark a return to greatness. Now, however, after listening three times to Lonely Avenue, I have to ask: What's the punchline?

This album is a tragedy. There's so much talent between Folds and Hornby that you'd think that they'd be able to come up with at least one track that was listenable. They didn't, though. There's nothing on Lonely Avenue that I can latch onto. The album feels like a collection of over-produced first-draft demos. It's like Ben tried to force the lyrics into fitting the music and tried to hide the fact by adding too many layers to the production. The songs drag, fail to build and fail to go anywhere. It's just a bunch of words and music thrown together with no direction.

I hate to say it, but I enjoyed Ben Folds' collaboration with William Shatner more than anything on Lonely Avenue.