Friday, March 30, 2012

My Textbook Uses Interesting Stock Graphics

I love teaching my computer technology classes. Every semester offers something new and exciting. This semester, one of the books I use recently put out a new edition. Not much has changed. The cover is different, some of the case studies have been updated and some of the stock graphics have been changed. It's basically akin to a mall moving things around and re-painting the walls. I usually don't pay much attention to the book while I lecture, but, earlier this week, a student asked me a question that I had to refer him to the book for. When I directed him to the appropriate page, I ran noticed the picture below. I nearly had to remove myself from class because I was laughing so hard.

Technically, He's Not Managing Servers, He's Managing Cables

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Best Songs With Your Windows Down

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Kia Rio for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

The weather has been amazing lately, which means that a lot of us are driving around with the radio up and the windows down. Personally, I'm driving with the ragtop down, but not all of us have that luxury.  In the spirit of these beautiful driving days, Kia Rio and Spotify have joined to help you create a soundtrack for drive with their "Best Songs with your Windows Down" playlist promotion.

To add your own song, go to the Kia Rio Facebook page, search for your song, and hit Submit. The song will go through an approval process, so you might not see your song immediately. If you don’t already have Spotify, you’ll need to download it to see and enjoy the playlist. Once you do have Spotify, you'll be able to add more songs to this playlist within Spotify. Once that's done you can imagine driving along while listening to your favorite songs in a Kia Rio equipped with the voice-activated UVO Infotainment System, powered by Microsoft. With Microsoft’s advanced speech technology, you can teach UVO to understand the way you speak, so you’ll be able to easily use your Bluetooth phone or MP3 player without ever taking your hands from the wheel or your eyes from the road. With UVO, you’ll even be able to stream music from your Bluetooth-enabled phone – like the “Best Songs to Play With Your Windows Down” playlist! UVO offers more functions, like a color touch screen, HD radio, even a rear-view camera.

To me, the perfect driving song is "Running Down a Dream" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It makes me want to crank my stereo up to 11. Another good one to add would be "Life's Been Good" by Joe Walsh. But, don't just take my word for it. Go and create your own!
Enjoy the weather, folks, and Happy Driving!
Submit your own song!


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At Least He's Wearing Boots

I love Skyrim. I'm over 200 hours into the game on two different characters and I'm still finding new things every time I play. Bethesda certainly put a lot of time, effort and love into making Skyrim and it shows with every nuanced layer that the game exhibits. Unfortunately, as with any game these days, Skyrim has its share of glitches. Some of them are frustrating, like quest lines that can be impossible to complete if you don't perform them in an exact order. Most, however, are kind of funny, like when an NPC materializes partially within a wall. While playing last night, I kicked off the Dark Brotherhood quest line and, when the courier tracked me down to give me their letter, he wasn't wearing his clothing. It's obviously a glitch somewhere in the Skyrim engine.

I felt bad for the guy, after all, Skyrim can get pretty damn cold. I decided to reverse-pickpocket him and give him some clothes. Turns out, he already has clothes, he just hasn't equipped them. When the Skyrim engine generated the courier, for some reason it glitched out and didn't equip his clothing. So, the courier has clothing, he just doesn't care.

I Don't Want To Know Where He Keeps His Letters.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Buy Me Lunch!

Yet another generic college match company called me recently and, once again, their call center had been outsourced to overseas. I could tell that this particular rep's English was really shaky, so, when she asked me if I had graduated from High School, I told her that I had and that I expected some sort of reward for having done so. At first, I had wanted a plaque, then I decided to settle for a free lunch. Obviously, the rep didn't understand what I was talking about. There's a part at the end where she's not speaking English and I can't understand what she's saying. I've had a number of my foreign friends listen to this and nobody can make out what she's saying. I assume it's something like "Nobody trained me for this! Can I hang up?"

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bored At The Doctor's Office

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month which is meant to educate people on the importance of getting screened. A good friend of mine from high school is a Colorectal Cancer survivor, and I've been participating in a number of activities this month in order to show my support for her and my express my happiness that she kicked Cancer's ass. Really, the best way for me to show my support is to go and get screened, so, after much hesitation, I made an appointment and went.

After being told by the nurse to put on the standard gown, I was kept waiting in the exam room for a really long time. I was in there long enough to read through every magazine in the room, send a few emails from my phone and read a number of articles from my favorite news aggregation site. When severe boredom soon set in, I began searching for other things to do to occupy my time.

There was a scale in the corner, so I decided weigh myself. After that brief distraction, I began to wonder what other items in the office weighed and decided to just start weighing stuff. I began with my shoes, then my clothes and soon moved on to weighing the stack of magazines and the little roller stool that the doctor normally sits on. I had just about run out of stuff to weigh when I came to the conclusion that I simply had to know how much the chair I had been sitting on weighed. I tried to weigh it, but I could not find a stable position for it on the scale. No problem. I figured that, knowing my own weight, if I were to stand on the scale while holding the chair, I could take that weight and subtract my own weight from it, thus giving me the answer.

Manipulating the scale sliders while holding a heavy waiting room chair proved to be challenging. It took some stretching, but I was soon able to get a decent reading. I quickly did the math in my head and deduced the weight of the chair. "YES!" I exclaimed, satisfied that I had done a fine job solving the problem. It was at this exact moment that my doctor and his resident opened the door to enter the room. They stood there dumbfounded as I looked back at them wearing nothing but a hospital gown and socks standing on the scale holding a chair with my ass hanging out.

"The chair weighs twenty-seven pounds", I said without any hint of shame.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Pros and Cons of Owning a Convertible

I've owned my Mustang convertible for three months now, and the unseasonably warm weather we've been having lately has been a definite boon to me and my fellow ragtop owners. I've personally been loving all of this top down weather we've been having and have been taking full advantage of it.

That being said, I have discovered a number of disadvantages to owning a convertible. If you're thinking about buying one, it's best that you're aware of the pros and cons of owning a convertible:

PROs:
  • Driving with the top down feels like true freedom. It's like driving your own personal roller coaster.
  • They look great and turn heads.

CONs:
  • It seems to me that they get extra cold in the Winter. Thankfully, the Mustang has a great heater. 
  • One slice with a knife through the ragtop and your car can be broken into. Then again, if someone wants to break into your car, they're going to do it one way or another. 
  • A pressure wash can instigate some minor leaks if you haven't been careful. Nothing major, but it's annoying. I keep a small towel in the glove box for when this happens. 
  • You have to keep the interior completely free from clutter. At 60mph, it's all potential projectiles.
  • Noisy. 
  • I suppose the roof motor can short out, but, I've never heard of it happening. 
  • Blind spots.
  • Forehead sunburn. Ouch.
I do think that the disadvantages to owning a convertible are easily mitigated through a small amount of vigilance and discipline. In the end, all of those disadvantages are negated by the feeling I get when I'm driving around on a sunny day with the top down and a friend in the passenger seat. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Convertible Weather

After rehearsals Tuesday night, I was driving around town with the ragtop down enjoying the weather and digging the ride. I decided to pay a visit to Jason. He jumped into the car and we cruised around for a while before stopping for a few beers at the pub.

"I wonder what the poor people are doing!" I said in my faux-rich voice with sounds a lot like Thurston Howell III from Gilligan's island.

I like driving, but I haven't loved driving since I got rid of my '97 Pontiac Sunfire GT several years ago. As a sporty car, the Sunfire is more like a short soccer player than a full blown jock of a car, but it was still a lot of fun to drive. And I especially liked cruising down Lake Shore Drive with the moon roof open. It was a sad day when I had to get rid of it for something more family friendly. I spent a good 10 years seeing driving as a chore, especially when the old Saturn starting having problems two years ago. My Mustang convertible has freed me and now I find that I will make any excuse to get into the car and drive somewhere.

I took the day off yesterday and decided to take my daughter out shopping for dresses. We hopped into the car, put the top down and shot up the highway to the mall. I looked back every so often and saw her digging the ride. It reminded me of when my own father had splurged on renting a convertible in Maui and drove my sister and I around in it. With the palm trees shooting by at 80 mph against the backdrop of mountains covered in green, I thought that there could not possibly be a better moment in all of creation. I was wrong. Actually being the driver beats it. And it's even better when you have someone with you to enjoy the ride. My daughter said that riding so fast in it, it felt like jumping into a pool to infinity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Merchant Of Venice

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. I was going to take a break from acting for a while. I've got a lot going on over the next few months and figured that I wouldn't have much time to take on another acting gig. One should also be willing to leave the audience wanting more while passing the torch to the next crop of aspiring actors. I got a phone call recently from the director of a local production of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" asking if I might be willing to take a small part. I was asked to play The Duke of Venice but wasn't too thrilled with the prospect because I've already played a Duke in a Shakespeare play. I was about to decline when I was also offered the role of Launcelot Gobbo.

I couldn't resist the opportunity to play a fool and do some real comedy for once. I accepted the roles and got myself to rehearsal straight away. The best part of playing Launcelot Gobbo is that I get to play opposite my old college friend, Nicole who plays Launcelot's blind father. Having known each other for nearly 20 years, Nicole and I naturally play off each other well so our scene together is going to be very funny.

So, once again, it's time to lace up the boots and don the puffy sleeves. This time, there aren't many lines to memorize and I won't have to work too hard to get into the roles I've been given. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I Took The Activia Challenge

Jamie Lee Curtis is such a passionate shill for Activia that I simply had to respond to her when she threw down the gauntlet and asked her fans to take the Activia 14 day challenge. So, that's exactly what I did and, thankfully, I didn't grow a uterus.

You can judge the greatness of a civilization by the degree of its poop jokes and they run rampant here as I take on Jamie Lee Curtis' Activia Challenge. How will the bifidus regularis contained within this magic poopie food affect my stubborn bowels? Watch the video below and find out.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Traveling Stars and Balancing Brooms

Kiddo and I were outside last night in the hopes of catching some stray aurora in the night sky. After hearing of the solar flares hitting Earth, I had hoped that perhaps enough charged particles would filter down to the Midwest to give us a decent fireworks display. Looking North for a few minutes, we didn't see anything. However, to the West, I spied Jupiter and Venus so close together that they seemed to be engaged in a cosmic dance. I saw this as a great opportunity for some telescope time, so kiddo and I took turns looking at Jupiter and Venus through it. To the naked eye, planets often are indistinguishable from stars in the night sky. Venus is easy to spot though, because it's often the brightest nighttime object aside from the Moon.
Jupiter is the dimmer of the two dots here in the night sky.

It's amazing to think that, some four hundred years ago, Galileo looked at these two planets through a telescope much like the one I was using and, seeing the phases of Venus and four moons around Jupiter, realized that the prevailing view of the Universe was completely wrong. Galileo's discoveries contrasted with the theory that everything revolved around the Earth. It was a theory that had existed since the beginning of science and was endorsed by Aristotle and Ptolemy and the Catholic Church. Galileo must have crapped his pantaloons when he realized what was going on.

This moment of scientific glory came in sharp contrast to the junk science I encountered when we went inside and I turned on the computer. My Facebook and Twitter feeds have been buzzing with people balancing brooms claiming that the alignment of these planets (Mercury is also visible in the night sky, but too close to the horizon for me to see it) along with the upcoming Equinox are causing enough of a shift in gravity to allow broom balancing. There's no broom standing phenomenon going on. If the pull of Mercury, Venus and Jupiter could counter the force of gravity enough to make brooms spontaneously stand up, they would also be able to float.

The truth about broom balancing is you can balance a broom on the equinox or at any other time of year. You just have to find the right balancing point. The trick with the broom is to put enough pressure on the bristles which will force them apart enough to form a stable base. That is what allows it to continue to stand by itself. So, if you posted a picture on Facebook of your broom standing up, congratulations: You just participated in a collective study on the science of stupidity.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

About The Mayans And Leap Year

There has been an interesting quote running around the Internet (especially Facebook) this week regarding the Mayan Calendar.

There have been about 514 Leap Years since Caesar created it in 45BC. Without the extra day every 4 years, today would be July 28, 2013. Also, the Mayan calendar did not account for leap year…so technically the world should have ended 7 months ago

The above quote, while true in a strict technical sense (indeed Mayans did not have leap years as we understand them), demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Mayans kept track of time.

Currently, we use a calendar called the Gregorian Calendar which is based upon the solar cycle, which is 365.2425 days long. Since a solar year is longer than a calendar year by a few hours, we have to compensate for that difference or the seasons start to drift out of alignment with the dates and we end up with snow in July. The Gregorian Calendar does this by adding an extra day every four years. The years in which this happen are called leap years. Unfortunately, those extra few hours at the end of each solar year don't quite add up to a quarter of a day, so, in order to further compensate for this discrepancy, the Gregorian Calendar ignores the leap year rule in years that are evenly divisible by 100, unless those years are also evenly divisible by 400. So, for example, the years 1600 and 2000 were leap years, but 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not.

The Mayans viewed time in a completely different manner than we do today. They used a system of calendars based upon different methods structured around several cycles or "counts" of varying length to keep track of time. They had a 260 day calendar called the Tzolk'in which combined a system of 20 days with 13 numbers. The also used at 365 day calendar (360 named days plus 5 unnamed days at the end of the year) called the Haab' which was the foundation of their agrarian calendar and used month names that were based on the seasons and agricultural events. Mayans used both the Tzolk'in and the Haab' when recording dates to form a synchronized cycle lasting for 52 Haabs. The passage of 52 Haabs was referred to as a "calendar round". After the passage of 1508 Haabs (29 calendar rounds), 365 extra days would have had to have been adjusted for and it just so happens that the solar cycle and Haab count reset to zero after 1508 tropical years. This means that the Haab calendar auto-adjusted for leap years, it just took 1508 years to do so.

In order to keep track of time over periods longer than 52 years, Mayans utilized the Long Count calendar which is what this whole Mayan Doomsday hoopla is based upon. The Long Count keeps track of days by using a base-20 and base-18 scheme rather than the base-10 scheme that we usually use. The calendar was broken up into sections. A k'in was equal to a day. After 20 days, the k'in number would reset to zero. A winal equaled 20 k'in and would reset to zero after 18 winals had passed. A tun equaled 18 winals and would reset to zero after 20 tuns had passed. A k'atun equaled 20 tuns and would reset to zero after 20 k'atuns would pass. A b'ak'tun equaled 20 k'atuns. A b'ak'tun is roughly equal to 394.3 solar years.

Using the Long Count calendar, today's date (March 7, 2012) would roughly be expressed as: 12.19.19.3.11 (12 b'ak'tun, 19 k'atun, 19 tun, 19 winal, 11 k'in). Doomsday alarmists are all in a panic because sometime on December 21, 2012, the Mayan Calendar is going to hit 13 b'ak'tun or 13.0.0.0.0 and that sort of resetting of the numbers is seen as a significant event. The calendar isn't ending, it's just adding 1 more to the number of b'ak'tuns and resetting all the other numbers to zero. The same sort of thing happened on September 18, 1618 when the Long Count date reached 12.0.0.0.0 and on June 15, 1224 when the Long Count date reached 11.0.0.0.0 and so forth. And the world is still here.

When I first saw the leap year quote on Facebook, I typed out a long response debunking it. When I saw it again, I typed out a shorter response. Soon, I trimmed down my responses to something like "The Mayans were aware of it and corrected for it. The people who compared our current calendar to the Mayan Calendar were also aware of the differences and compensated for it". Now, after seeing the quote so many times over the past week, I find that I'm tired of trying to educate people on it. And it's a waste of time because the quote incorrectly debunks something that didn't need to be debunked in the first place. Anyone who's actually stupid enough to believe in Mayan Calendar doomsday prophecies is already far out of the logical loop anyways. It's on a par with believing that the world will end on December 31, 2012 because the calendar that I bought at Wal-Mart ends on that day. So, if people want to post that stupid quote and feel like they're smarter than these crazy doomsday predictors, it's still a net gain.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Invisible Ninja

This is video I made just a few months before I launched this website. The first half of 2008 saw me fixated upon the idea of making a movie about an invisible superhero who never spoke, so, in the end, you'd never really know if he saved you or not. This was borne out of watching the Futurama episode "Godfellas" where Bender is told "When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all". At the time, I had access to a pretty fair amount of people willing to act this whole thing out and took only a token part for myself, as I wanted to concentrate on putting this whole thing together.

In a world filled with crime, strive and poverty, an unseen hero protects the innocent, the helpless, the powerless. What was that? Who stopped that criminal? Invisible Ninja, was that you? We may never know.