What's New at Rob's World! What's new, changed, or improved recently.

Welcome to my most humble Web Site. I've been working on it on and off for nearly nine years now. I guess it's my way of keeping a journal. Buried between these pages you'll find all my secret desires, and passionate beliefs. Unfortunately, or luckily; I can't help but share them with the rest of the world. If you've found something amongst my web pages that has helped or entertained you in some way, then I've done what I've set out to do. I'll keep plugging away at the site; hoping to improve and expand it until it's complete. When's that? Robert L. Vaessen

 
 


This document is the "What's New" web log from 2004

 
 

December 29, 2004

Vacation update
Today I udpated a photo gallery (as promised). Pictures I took while Kim and I were on vacation in Wisconsin. If you were there you had just about as much fun as Kim and I. If you weren't there, well, there's always next time. Kim & I had a fantastic time, and we already miss everyone from back home. If we're lucky some of them can come visit us next year.

 
 

December 27, 2004

Boxing Day
O.k. that was yesterday. Kim and I went to a party at a coworkers house. Al & Carole threw a 'Boxing Day' party. They were stationed in England at one time, and brought back some curious customs. While the 'Boxing Day' celebration lacked in customary celebrations, we had a good time as Al & Carole graciously fed and hosted a house full of guests. Drinks & dinner were enjoyed by all.

Software favorites
One of my favorite programs underwent a minor upgrade this week. GraphicConverter moved up from its 5.4 release, the most recent version is 5.4.1b1. GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

My computer - PowerMac G5
Today I updated my computer profile. I updated some information and added links to images and web pages.

 
 

December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas
It's amazing how those two words could be so controversial, yet not be that controversial. It's as if we'd nothing better to focus on. Merry Christmas is not offensive. Yet some believe that the use of the phrase constitutes some sort of religious elitism, or at worst some sort of bigotry. I don't see what all the fuss is about.

Kim and I are having a merry Christmas, and I hope you are as well. If you're not Christian, I hope you're having a nice day.

Last night I watched a movie and Kim made me a Perch dinner. As you may (or may not) recall, I brought back a bunch of perch with me when I came back from Wisconsin. She fried them up to a golden brown, and I made a tartar sauce. Yummy, numshish, scrumshish perch! We also went for a little drive around Lowry. There are some very nice luxury homes there, and we wanted to see their Christmas decorations. We had a good time.

This morning we opened Christmas gifts. Thanks to our family we got a lot of nice gifts. I must have been especially good, because there's a Volvo XC90 in the garage! Now all we have to do is pay off all those credit card bills. I think this is the first time we've ever had to carry a balance on the cards. Now I know where the banks make all there money.

White Hat ISP
What's a White Hat ISP? A White Hate ISP is an ISP that doesn't tolerate spammers. They shut down the accounts of people who spam from their network, and they go after spammers who abuse their network. Their aren't that many of them around, and sometimes I think there are more Black Hat ISP's than there are White Hat ISPs. The other day (Dec 8th), I received an email response from a White Hat ISP, and felt like sharing their response (I did some format editing, but I didn't change the content of their message) with you:

Dear Robert,

Thank you for taking the time to contact the BT Customer Security Team about your concerns with unsolicited email (i.e. spam or junk mail). I'm sorry to hear about this inconvenience. I have carried out an investigation into this and have taken action against our user to stop this happening again. I'm sorry to say, though, that I won't be able to give you any more information about the user in question.

Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience caused and please do not hesitate to contact us with any further enquiries or comments.

Thank you again.
Yours sincerely,

Pauline
BT Customer Security Team
http://www.abuse-guidance.com

BT is a founding member of the Internet Watch Foundation, ISP Abuse Management Forum and the Internet Content Rating Association.

 
 

December 24, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D twice since Kim & I returned from Wisconsin. The new quest is underway. The party managed to recover a meteorite that they saw in a vision, and now they 're trying to figure out what to do with it. Here are some additional updates I've recently completed since returning from Wisconsin.

  • Monsters! The party certainly has had it's share of encounters during this adventure. Most of the encounters have been with cold based monsters, and the last sessions encounters was no exception. I added one new entry: The Chraal is a very dangerous cold elemental. Two party members nearly lost their lives after encountering this heavy duty monster.
  • Who's Who? As a result of the last two sessions, I've updated entries for two NPCs, and added one new one. The party learned more about Piyarz and Sion. I also added an entry for Auberge the 'warden' of the Tower's hostel.
  • Thanks to Mark and Sean, I've posted three journal entries. Follow the party's exploits by reading the journal entries submitted by the players.

Thanks goodness for Google!
Yesterday I inadvertantly over-wrote an entry on this web page. Then I wrote over the on-line version. Effectively destroying the content completely. I didn't even know what I had deleted! The entire entry for the 7th of November was wiped out! That's when I realized that Google has been caching my entire web site. I did a search for "Rob's World whatsnew". Lo' and behold I was able to recover my deleted entry by using Google's cached version of my web site. I guess those web spiders aren't all bad.

 
 

December 23, 2004

2004 World Forum
From 17 - 20 June; I volunteered at the 2004 AEI World Forum. The World Forum is held every year in Beaver Creek, Colorado. At former president Gerald R. Ford's personal invitation, the forum is attended by prominent business leaders, public officials, and scholars. Participants discuss the most critical economic, social, and security issues facing the United States and the world community.

After the event, I wrote an press release article for an Air Force publication. It took some time, but it was finally published in the October issue of the 'Spokesman'. It took me some time, but I just added it to my 'Think Tank' web page.

D&D®
We played D&D twice since Kim & I returned from Wisconsin. The new quest is underway. The party managed to recover a meteorite that they saw in a vision, and now they 're trying to figure out what to do with it. Here are some updates I've recently completed since returning from Wisconsin.

  • I've updated the 3E campaign page with the new game date (8 Jan 2005) and a note regarding the continuation of the campaign. Due to a change in my job, our D&D meeting schedule is going to be changing. No I'm not ending the campaign!
  • I updated the House Rules document. I added a bunch of additional references to the 'Rule Books Used' and 'Allowable character classes and races' sections of the house rules. The changes begin on page 4, and include many new rulebooks and six new races. Since there were no changes or additions to the rules, I didn't print a new copy for use during game play.
  • A new player character race. Mark (a player in our campaign) recommended and wrote up a new race for use in our campaign. I did a little editing and added some disclaimers. The new race: the Stone Gnome, is available for download/viewing on the 3E Campaign page. Players now have another campaign specific race to choose from.

That's it for now. There's definitely more updates coming. D&D updates, and other updates. But I'm only one person, and I need to take a break every now and then. Merry Christmas, happy holidays or whatever makes you happy this time of year.

 
 

December 21, 2004

Fools! aka 'Woe is me'
I so despise the utterly incompetent. This week I've been exposed to some highly inept administrative workers. This break I learned the following disappointing facts; which reveal the aggregiously inept cogs in our system.

  • Someone sent me the Northrop Grumman employee benefits package from 2002. Yeah, they sent me an obsolete TRW benefits package. Some of the material dated back to 1999.
  • I can't sign up for my Northrop Grumman benefits until I have one of the following things.
    • A 'fob'; it's a random number generator used in order to get onto the NG corporate web site.
    • Current enrollment forms. The forms for the new 2005 benefits. Northrop Grumman bought TRW, and the division I work for (used to be part of TRW) is transitioning to new benefits.
  • I didn't receive a benfits package or enrollment forms on my first day. My HR office didn't have them.
  • I called the benefits toll free number. 'Oh, that's been changed, call this number instead. Oh, we don't do that, I'll transfer you'. Click.....
  • I'll fax you the forms you need. I never heard from that person again, and they never faxed me any information. Luckily (It had to be sheer coincidence), I received the correct forms and current benefits package in the mail.
  • Oh yeah, military finance managed to screw up my state witholding twice. It looks like my retirement pay, and last paycheck will be taxed by California. Now I guess I'll have to ask them to screw it up for me again.
  • The clinic I went to a couple of weeks ago sent me a bill, despite the fact that I'm active duty military. Lovely. I selected one of the clinics listed on the referal paperwork that Tri-Care sent me, and now I'm getting the bill!

So much for a nice enjoyable break, where I can get a bunch of web work done. Instead, I've been spending my time dealing with administrative snafus and putting up with inept administrative workers.

D&D
Do you play D&D? Are you trying to figure out which sort of character you should play? Here's a link to a quiz that will help you decide. This little quiz asks you a bunch of questions, you answer the questions, and it calculates (based on your responses) which character type (Race, class(es), alignment, and deity) you'd be most comfortable playing. The generator kicked out the following for me: A Neutral Good, Half-Elven, Ranger/Paladin who worships Mielikki. Neutral Good Paladin? Is that legal? I don't think so.

I've been doing a little surfing. I discovered a couple of cool links for thos of you who play D&D. First is a site with flash animations of a comic called 'Knights of the dinner table'. The other web page is the official 'Knights of the dinner table' website. Finally a comic strip similar to 'KODT" is the 'Order of the stick'. Check out the links, I'm sure you'll enjoy one of these web sites, 'Monkey-Boy!'

Newsletter
If you're one of the subscribers to my newsletter, you may be wondering what happened to the November issue. Well, I've finally made a decision regarding that issue. I won't be sending a November issue. I'm still to far behind on this journal. A lot of stuff happened during November, and I regret not being able to catch up as quickly as I had hoped. When I send the December newsletter (1st week of January), It'll be a double issue. It'll cover November and December.

Software favorites
There have been a few software updates in the past couple of weeks. Most importantly was an update to my operating system. Other than that, one of my favorites also inched up another version.

GraphicConverter Moving up from the 5.4 release, the most recent version is 5.4.1b0. GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

Mac OS 10.3.7 Recently, (15 Dec 2004) I updated my operating system. Mac OS X (Panther) went up one notch to OS 10.3.7. Here's a recap of the improvements and bug fixes. The significance here is updates to some of my pages. As a result of my OS update, the following pages have been updated. myfavs.html, feedback.html, mycomputer.html.

 
 

December 20, 2004

My new job
I started working at my new job on the 6th of Dec. I've been working 12 hour shifts, and I worked this weekend as well. Working 12 hour shifts has made it very difficult to get any web page updates done. I'm on break today and tomorrow, so I should be able to get some web page updates done.

Other Games
While visiting my sister, we paid a visit to a favorite games store; 'My Parent's Basement' carries an excellent selection (although small) of 'Other Games'. Just the kind I like to play. While there I picked up a new game: Ogre Bash - A card game of sets. Players must collect specific sets of cards in order to win a hand. A good strategy game, but a poor marketing strategy. The name and game theme (Ogre bash), really doesn't have anything to do with the game. I think it was simply a ploy to target a specific segment of the population. I've since updated my Other Games page.

While on vacation. I played a bunch of other games with various willing 'victims'. I played the following card games: Groo, Fluxx, Ogre Bash, Give me the Brain, Settlers of Catan.

 
 

December 16, 2004

My new job
I started working at my new job on the 6th of Dec. Eventually, I plan to update my BIO page to reflect these recent changes (Military retirement, transition to civilian life, a new job) in my life. Until then, I thought I'd mention a quote I found recently. I plan to add it to some of my outgoing email. If you're a signals analyst or programmer, you'll probably get it. If not, don't worry.

"There are 10 kinds of people in this world; those that can read binary, and those that can't."

 
 

December 15, 2004

Update
Wow! Kim arrived home on the 1st of December, and I arrived home on the evening of the 2nd. It took us a while to unpack, unwind, and get back into the swing of things. I'm still trying to catch up on Rob's World!. The synopsis below, took me quite a while to update. Christmas, retirement, a new job, and the vacation in Wisconsin have really taken away a lot of my time. Now that the synopsis is completed, I'll start updating some other pages.

Software favorites
More updates to my software favorites page. There have been a few updates since I took my vacation. Safari, Graphic Converter, Stuffit Deluxe, and BBEdit have all had updates.

GraphicConverter (Two recent updates - 5.4b1 and 5.4 release) is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

Safari: Apple's default web browser for OS X, is way ahead of the pack. Apple's browser contains a plethora of incredibly powerful features. I wonder why Microsoft stopped developing IE for Mac? I'm currently using version 1.2.4. (v125.12).

Battle of the browsers. Netscape versus Internet Explorer. Those are your choices right? Wrong! Think different! Think Mac! Choose Safari, the new kid on the block. A fast (The fastest available for Mac) but full featured browser, which performs like a pro. Tabbed browsing, URL snap-back, a powerful but elegant bookmark implementation (with built-in import capability), Google search integration, built-in pop-up blocker, multiple standards (HTML, XML, XHTML, DOM, CSS, JavaScript, and Java, plus QuickTime, Flash and Shockwave plug-ins), and a host of other features. Just one more reason to Switch! It's won a place as my default browser, give it a chance and it'll soon be yours.

Stuffit Deluxe, (now at version 9.0.1.) along with the freeware Stuffit Expander, allows me to compress and encode any files that I upload to my web page. It's not really necessary for Web page authoring, but I've found it to be essential for MAC users who use the internet. Version 7.0 offers MAC OS X (Upgraded for Jaguar) compatibility, and additional unix file format/permission capabilities (using .sitx format). Stuffit Deluxe allows me to create archives in many different compression formats, segment the archives, save them with a password for protection, and it even facilitates emailing of the compressed files.

Stuffit expander (for Windows or Mac) can decode, decompress, and un-archive just about any compressed file you might encounter on the internet. It's a must have for anyone surfing the web.

BBEdit (now at version 8.0.3.) is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. It is designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text. BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any Mac enthusiast. Window's users eat your heart out!

 
 

December 3, 2004

Synopsis of our Vacation
As I was approaching military retirement, I had 60 days of leave to use. During the time frame, Kim (25 Nov - 1 Dec) and I (9 Nov - 2 Dec) took a well deserved vacation. I drove to and from Wisconsin, while Kim flew there and back.

  • 9 Nov - I'm driving the Volvo to Wisconsin. I stayed overnight in Dixon Illinois; birthplace of Ronald Reagan.
  • 10 Nov - I'm driving the Volvo to Wisconsin. I arrived in De Pere around 1030 in the morning. I caught the in-laws off-guard. They'd gone out for a walk.
    • I unpacked and relaxed for the rest of the day.
    • I stayed at the Kuchta's (Kim's parents: Ted & Sharon) from the 10th - 17th of Nov.
  • 11 Nov - I hooked up a DVD player to the Big Screen TV.
    • Ted and I shopped for, purchased*, and assembled a computer desk.
    • Watched Shadow Dragon - The Ninja movie.
    • I had a few beers (George Killian's Irish Red).
  • 12 Nov - I hooked up the G4.
    • Went for a walk with Ted (Kim's Dad). Approximately 4 miles.
    • I visited with the Konshak's (Pat & Dale's parents) & the Garrity's (Rob & Jimmy's parents). I dropped off many DVD copies of 'Shadow Dragon - The Ninja Movie' at the Garrity's.
    • We (Ted, Sharon and I) ate lunch at El Azteca's in De Pere. A mexican restaurant (other than a Taco Bell) in De Pere. Imagine that! The food was fantastic and the service was great.
    • After lunch we went to a coffee place next door (Freddie's Coffee Shop), and had something called a 'Snowy White Mocha'. An incredibly rich, frothy concoction that was refreshing, stimulating and delicious!
    • We (Ted, Sharon and I) ate dinner at Farr's Grove. A friend recommended the place, and Kim's parents said that they used to eat there a long time ago. We ordered the Perch (Yellow Perch) as recommended. Unfortunately, the coating was bland, the coleslaw was uninspiring, and it seemed that there was no seasoning on the fries. The bar (not a restaurant) was very crowded, smoky, and loud. My leather coat touched the ground because the table and chairs were very close to the floor. I wasn't very happy about that! The service was poor, due to the huge number of people in the place. We were disappointed.
    • We watched The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.
  • 13 Nov - I worked on the computer.
    • Went for a walk with Ted (Kim's Dad). Approximately 4 miles.
    • Bought* a new printer (An Epson C86) for the G4.
    • Bought* a surround sound entertainment system.
    • Watched part of Shrek 2.
    • We ate Bluegills for dinner.
  • 14 Nov - We went to church.
    • Went for a walk with Ted (Kim's Dad). Approximately 4 miles.
    • I went to See Pat & Becky Konshak. Boy their boys sure have gotten big. Saw the new house. Gave them a DVD copy of 'Shadow Dragon - The Ninja movie'.
    • Ted and I went to a Green Bay Packers football game. Yes, we went to an actual game at the stadium! Thanks Ted. Ted's brother had tickets that he sold to us. I had a fantastic time (aside from the beer in plastic bottles).
    • We ate a late dinner (after a somewhat confused and frustrating pickup from the game) from Subway. Good sandwich's, as usual.
  • 15 Nov - Went for a walk with Ted (Kim's Dad). Approximately 4 miles.
    • Ted and I connected a telephone in the computer room.
    • The cable guy came, and he hooked-up the computer for a cable internet connection. I spent about two hours configuring everything (internet, email, browsing, chatting) and making sure it was working properly.
    • Checked my email! Wow, I went a whole six days without email!
    • I was supposed to hook up with Jimmy sometime this afternoon/evening, but something must have come up because he never returned my calls, and I never did get to see him.
  • 16 Nov - Went for a walk with Ted (Kim's Dad). Approximately 4 miles.
    • Ted & I hooked up the surround sound system. This was no small task, and it took us about 6 hours.
    • I configured the G4 to use iChat. Later, I realized that audio won't work with iChat on the G4, because the version of iChat on the G4 doesn't include an audio component.
    • I worked on the computer.
    • I drove out to see my cousin Mike Vaessen. Saw his new house, met his room mate, and then we went out to catch a bite to eat at a restaurant called Grazies Pasta Company in De Pere. An excellent Italian restaurant. I drank a micro brew beer (they make their own) with my specialty pizza (Something Called a WisconsinZa. I asked for the Pale Ale, but the waitress brought me something darker, some sort of Bock with decent body, a sweet flavor, and a hint of bitterness.
    • Ted and I watched Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.
  • 17 Nov - I worked on the computer for a bit.
    • Went for a walk with Ted (Kim's Dad). Approximately 4 miles.
    • I packed up the Volvo.
    • Leonard (Alice's husband) drove Alice down to Ted & Sharon's.
    • Alice & I drove to Valders in the Volvo.
    • Alice, Eileen (my sisters) and I ate lunch at Eileen's (sandwich's).
    • We drove to Manitowoc to shop at 'My Parent's Basement'. I bought a D&D book (the Complete Arcane), a couple of card games (Ogre Bash and The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow), and ordered a D&D book.
    • Eileen, Alice & I went out to eat for dinner at 'CC Willows super club'. Kevin cooked our meals for us (He's the head Chef at the Willow's, and Eileen's husband. He's a great guy). I had lemon crusted salmon and deep fried frog legs. The salmon was cooked just enough to ensure that it was warm throughout. Not made into jerky, an unfortunate but common mistake when it comes to salmon. The frog legs are an old school favorite of mine. You can't seem to find them outside Wisconsin. The meat is white, firm, and has a distinctive but mild flavor. The food was awesome. As a birthday gift (for Eileen), I paid for her meal. She tried to refuse, but I had made prior arrangements.
    • I discovered a new tooth-pick at the Willow's. The owner (Moldy. No I have no Idea why he's called Moldy), introduced me to the 'Brush pick'. Available at Walgreens, I'll never go back to regular tooth picks again!
    • After The Willow's closed for the evening, we all (Alice, Eileen, Kevin and I) went back to Eileen & Kevin's to watch 'Shadow Dragon - The Ninja movie'.
  • 18 Nov - Alice and I went for a walk around Valders. It sure is a small town. We walked for about 3 miles or so.
    • We played a round of 'Give me the Brain'.
    • We ate Pizza for lunch.
    • Alice & I left Valders. Eileen had to go to work that evening, and Alice had to be back home. We stopped in Manitowoc to pick up the book I ordered. My book was ready (A leather clad 30th anniversary, 3rd edition D&D Players Handbook). You can guess how much that cost!
    • I drove from Manitowoc to Pound. Along the way, some road rage fool (towing a boat) just about forced us off the road.
    • Drove from Alice's place to my parents house.
    • Unpacked, ate dinner (Sauerkraut, bologna & boiled potatoes). Sure brought back memories of the Polish/Germanic cooking influences in my family.
    • That evening, I came down with a fever in the evening.
    • We (My parents and I) watched 'Shadow Dragon - The Ninja movie'.
  • 19 Nov - I went for a short walk with Mom. Approximately 1 mile. I stayed at my parents place from the 18th - 24th of Nov.
    • I was low on cash, so I tried to use my ATM card. Unfortunately, I forgot my pin!
    • I still wasn't feeling 100%, so I took a nap, and relaxed for most of the day.
    • Saw a flock of wild Turkey's in the back yard. There must have been 15 - 20 of them! I got a couple of photos.
    • I enjoyed a 'back home' treat. Pickled eggs. Or, as my mother sometimes calls them, 'Cackle berries'.
    • That evening we had leftovers and watched 'The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra'.
  • 20 Nov - I'm still not feeling well. I woke up with a fever, and felt a little queasy for the better part of the day.
    • Mom and I played 'Settlers of Catan' card game.
    • We ate left-overs for lunch. I had some more pickled eggs.
    • Mom and I went to eat at the church. They had a hunters dinner. It was basic home cooking. The best part was the outstanding volunteers who catered to our every need.
    • Mom and I played Dominos. I actually beat the queen of Dominos by 118 points! Mom has been playing Dominos ever since I introduced the game to her back in 1992? She usually plays once or twice a week.
  • 21 Nov - I'm feeling better today. I even went for a walk. I had to wear blaze orange from head-to-toe. Mom was afraid that the hunters would shoot me. It's deer hunting season in Wisconsin.
    • We (Mom and I) went to church in Crivitz.
    • We ate lunch at home.
    • We drove to Suamico to see Don & Dorothy (Dad's sister), and their new house. It's a great house. The windows and door treatments were really nice. I liked the garage that had a walkdown stairwell to the basement.
    • While I was at Don & Dorothy's. I received a bunch of documents and photos for my genealogy research. It'll take a while, but I plan to scan them all, add them to my database and post them.
    • We ate dinner and watched the Packer Game on t.v.
  • 22 Nov - I went for a walk. I walked for about five miles, and took a bunch of pictures.
    • Mom and I played some card games. Fluxx & Groo.
    • Ate lunch. Soup and Sandwich.
    • I read a book. No I didn't finish it. I was feeling kind of tired, so I laid on the couch and read for a while.
    • Ate dinner. I can't remember what we had.
    • Watched a little t.v. and went to bed.
  • 23 Nov - I went for a walk. Walked about 3 miles.
    • Mom and I drove to Marinette. We had to go to Wal-Mart. While we were there, I picked up a couple of movies.
    • It was a lazy day. Mom and I played some games, ate a little lunch, and I read a little.
    • In the evening, We (Mom, Dad and I) watched the movies I bought.
    • Watched 'The Terminal' with Tom Hanks.
    • Watched 'The Chronicles of Riddick' with Vin Diesel.
  • 24 Nov - I went for a walk. Walked about 3 miles.
    • Mom and I played dominos. Mom won.
    • I had a Thanksgiving meal at Mom & Dad's place. Mom, Dad, me, Alice, Leonard, and all the kids (Gregg Jr., Leo and Brooke) were there.
    • I took some photos of the kids.
    • I packed up the Volvo and drove to De Pere in order to meet Kim at the airport.
  • 25 Nov - I picked up Kim from the airport on the 24th, and we stayed at Kim's parents from the 24th of Nov, through the 1st of Dec.
    • Ted & I went for a walk. Approximately 3 miles.
    • We (Kim & I) ate a Thanksgiving meal at the Kuchta's. The house was full. (Kim & I, Ted & Sharon, Kary, Keith & Charlene w/Chantelle, Amber, Leah and Austin
    • After Thanksgiving we watched a movie. We watched 'The gods must be crazy', a NetFlix movie Kim brought with her,
  • 26 Nov - Went for a walk with Ted. Approximately 3 miles.
    • Spent the day shopping.
    • Ate lunch at El Azteca (see above).
    • Had a Snowy white mocha (See above).
    • Met Dale & Michelle. Ate dinner at Bilotti's (We had Pizza).
    • Saw Dale & Michelle's new house in Denmark Wisconsin. Too bad it wasn't light out.
    • Played a couple of card games: 'Give me the Brain' and 'Ogre Bash'.
  • 27 Nov - Went for a walk with Ted. Approximately 4 miles.
    • Went to Gever's barbershop. I needed a Shave and a Haircut.
    • We had some family photos taken at Ambrosius studio. (Kim & I, Ted & Sharon, Kary & Mark w/Emma & Sam, Keith & Charlene w/Chantelle, Amber, Leah & Austin.
    • We ate lunch at Tony Roma's. The food was fantastic, but the service was absolutely horrible. 14 people, and we only had one server. I guess he didn't want to split that 20% tip.
    • We (Kim, Sharon, Ted and I) watched a couple of movies. Watched 'Being There' and 'The gods must be crazy II'.
  • 28 Nov - Went for a walk with Ted. Approximately 4 miles.
    • We (Kim & I, Sharon & Ted) went to church.
    • We had breakfast at the Golden Basket. A family favorite. Great service, excellent food, and a warm atmosphere. Apparently the Vice President thinks so as well. Dick & Lynn Cheney ate there during a 2004 campaign stop.
    • For dinner, we (Kim & I, Sharon & Ted) went out to eat at Rock Garden supper club (A family favorite).
      • Going out to eat was the cover story for a Super Secret Surprise Retirement Party that Kim arranged for me. Fantastic! I suspected that something was going on, but I didn't know the details. Kim arranged for forty guests (Friends & relatives), the meal (The food was fantastic), a display of some of my awards, a guest speaker (Rob Hodges - A former supervisor) . What a fantastic woman!
      • I had a fantastic time at the party. I took a bunch of photos, and got to say hi to a bunch of friends and relatives. Thanks Kim!
      • As most of the guests haven't served in the military, I think some of them were confused about my retirement. They couldn't believe I was retiring at such an early age! I even had to explain it to a couple of people.
      • People brought gifts for Kim & I. The hilite gift of the evening was an antique watch. A restored pocket watch that my Grandfather had owned at one time. My sister Eileen had it restored (Eileen also designed this invitation). It's very beautiful, I'll treasure it always. As Kim says 'We have to get you a vest, so you can wear it'. My sister Eileen want's me to carry it with me, but I'm a bit hesitant to take it with me to work. For now it's the center-piece on our fireplace mantel.
    • After the party we went home and watched 'Office Space'.
  • 29 Nov - I went for a walk with Ted. Approximately 4 miles.
    • Kim and I stopped in Green Bay to visit with Aunt Marge and Michelle. It was good to see the two of them. While I was there I helped set up the Christmas tree. It was a bit depressing, as this was the first time I'd been in the old house since Grandma and Grandpa died.
    • After we left Marge's place (Grandma & Grandpa Vaessen's place on Webster Ave.), Kim and I drove up north to Alice & Leonard's place in Pound.
    • We visited with Alice & Leonard. We had the traditional Jashinsky feast. Chilled Jumbo shrimp, Crab Rangoon, Fillet Mignon, Twice baked potatoes, a salad and drinks. Alice & Leonard sure know how to entertain. I'm still full!
    • After dinner we watched the Packer game. We watched the Packers crush the St. Louis Rams.
    • At half-time we left and headed back to De Pere. We got back to De Pere in time to see the end of the Packer game. The score: 45 to 17 Packers!
  • 30 Nov - I went for a walk with Ted. Approximately 4 miles.
    • We ate breakfast.
    • We did a little shopping. I went and got some Emu meat. Bought Emu jerky, Emu sticks, Emu sausage, and Emu burgers. Bought some snacks, water, Cheese curds and a cooler. The Emu comes from the farm of a friend. Bob & Luanne Staszak run the Lazy-S Farm on the Western edge of De Pere (It's in the Oneida Indian reservation).
    • I met my aunt Joan for lunch at the 'Hazard', a bar and grill in De Pere. I had a Reuben on mottled rye, and some of their home made potato chips. The food was really good. I had a good visit with Joan.
    • That evening, Kim made one of my favorite dishes. Spicy chicken with capers and olives. Fantastic!
    • After dinner we watched a couple movies. Yojimbo and Planet of the Apes (The original 1968 release).
  • 1 Dec - I went for one last walk with Ted. Approximately 4 miles.
    • We (Kim & I, Ted & Sharon) ate breakfast.
    • We (Kim & I) packed up the Volvo for the drive back to Denver. Chock full of gifts, Yellow Perch, Cheese curds & dirty laundry.
    • We ate lunch at 'Kroll's West', then we went back to the house. I've since discovered that we can order Kroll's hamburgers on-line!
    • We drove to Austin Straubel and said our goodbyes to Kim.
    • We drove back to the house, and I drove out for Denver a few minutes later.
    • I drove until 2300. I can't remember the name of the town where I stayed over night, but I sure was tired.
  • 2 Dec - I finally made it back home to Aurora. Now the unpacking begins.

*Purchased for computer, internet connection and surround sound system were made by Ted. I hope he enjoys his new multi-media house.

I took some photos using my digital camera. Unfortunately, I didn't take enough of them. You can find the photos here. I may add more later.

 
 

November 10, 2004

Vacation!
I'm on vacation! and I'm taking the Volvo with me. I'll be away from Denver until the 2nd of December. As you can imagine, the web pages probably won't be updated until then. I'll check my email occasionally, but I'll be busy having fun. Maybe I'll see you in Wisconsin? Well, it's time to take off. See ya later!

 
 

November 9, 2004

Black Hat ISP
The other day (The 6th of November) I reported a spam message to the originating mail server. The email was a run of the mill 419 spam (Nigerian inheritance scam). The only reason I reported it was because I received 6 copies of the same spam. Anyway, I actually received a response from the administrator of the mail server responsible sending the email. Imagine that! The funny part of the message? He doesn't want me to report spam! Check it out; here's the response I received:

Dear Sir,

We have received your email. Please note that this mails come from cyber cafés.
We are very sorry that you were a victim of Spamming but let me assure you that supernet300 does not support or endorse any spamming efforts. If the spammer is a registered client of supernet300, the account will be deactivated and client invited to be advised on how to stop Spam. If he/she allows spamming again from his network, then his account will be deactivated for 2 weeks without refund. A third time will last 1 month before a termination takes effect.
Unfortunately, terminating cyber café accounts means discouraging those small-scale investors whom have put in their hard earned money into the cyber cafe business while the crooks walk away freely. We would appreciate if the recipients can stop responding to such emails. With time, nobody will tell the culprits that the fraud is no more lucrative. Please help us.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and we thank you for bringing this to our attention."

Now that's funny! They thank me for reporting the spam. But they don't want me (or anyone else) to report spammers using their service, because that might mean they would lose a customer (The Cyber Cafe' investors). At least he's being honest. So, why do they even bother with a pretense? This is why spammers get away with spamming you ceaselessly. They're paying to have email services, and the email service providers are happy to take their money. They don't want you to complain about the spam. Just shut up and take it! Most of the email services that are spam havens, operate complicitly. They feign ignorance, incompetence, or try to shift the blame elsewhere. This guy admits the spam came from his system. He just wishes we'd stop reporting it. We should shut-up and take it.

Well, as you can imagine, this incident is having the opposite effect on me. If the email service provider can't keep the spammers off the Cyber Cafe' systems, then the Cyber Cafe' systems SHOULD be shut down. I'll continue to report spammers, despite the less than encouraging results. Maybe, when email becomes ineffective (due to the volume of spam), maybe then something will be done about spam. Until then, I carry the fight forward.

 
 

November 8, 2004

Karate Joe Comics
It's been quite a while since I made any changes to my Karate Joe pages. Just in case you're a new visitor, or it's slipped your mind. Karate Joe is a comic I wrote and illustrated back in the 80's. It's available (all three issues!) at the link shown here. What's the change? Well, I redid the main page (using Dreamweaver MX 2004), and I posted pdf versions of the comics for download. So, what are you waiting for? Enjoy!

Saving Throws
It's been quite a while since I made any changes to my Saving Throw page. Otherwise/less descriptively known as the 'Mixed Chart' page. This page relays some house rules (For your Face-To-Face (f2f) Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign. If your run your own campaign, or you're a player in my current campaign. You may want to acquaint yourself with the rules on this page. They are applicable in our current campaign. I basically re-wrote the page using Dreamweaver MX 2004. There's no real changes to content, I just revamped the tired looking page.

Monsters
I made some minor updates to the list of monsters known by the party (The characters in my 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign).

 
 

November 7, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 30th of October). The new quest is underway. The party managed to recover a meteorite that they saw in a vision, and now they 're trying to figure out what to do with it. Saturday's session saw a lot of combat. We even had a couple of near deaths. Unfortunately, we were missing a couple of players. One is 'blind' (read the October 26 entry), and the other was completely exhausted from a deployment. Here's a listing of all the updates made as a result of that meeting:

  • I've updated the 3E campaign page with the new game date (4 Dec 2004) and a note regarding the continuation of the campaign. Due to a change in my job, our D&D meeting schedule is going to be changing. No I'm not ending the campaign! Kim and I are going to be taking a little time off, so there won't be any meetings during November. Our next meeting will be 4 December.
  • Monsters! The party certainly has had it's share of encounters during this adventure. Most of the encounters have been with cold based monsters, and two of last sessions encounters were no exception. I added two new entries; one for the 'Snowflake Ooze', and one for the 'Rejkar'.
  • Who's Who? As a result of Saturday's session, I've updated entries for three NPCs, and added one new one. The party learned more about Piyarz, Derwyth and Shalfey, and Derwyth provided the party with some information about Piyarz's student, Sion.
  • Where now? The party is currently on their way to a Dwarven mining community named Dunfee in order to get some supplies. I added Dunfee and the Galena mountains to the places listing, and did a couple of other minor updates to this document.
  • Thanks to Mark, I once again posted a journal entry. Follow the party's exploits by reading the journal entries submitted by the players. This session's entry comes courtesy of Ashedyn. It sure would be nice to see a journal entry from someone else's point of view every now and then... Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, no what I mean?

So, until December, that's it for any D&D entries. I'm looking forward to my vacation, but I'll miss our regular meetings. I can't wait to get back to the gaming table. I hope to see you there.

 
 

November 6, 2004

Mac OS 10.3.6.
Today I updated my operating system. Mac OS X (Panther) went up one notch to OS 10.3.6. Here's a recap of the improvements and bug fixes. The significance here is updates to some of my pages. As a result of my OS update, the following pages have been updated. myfavs.html, feedback.html, mycomputer.html. Oh yeah, with the new OS came a new version of Safari. I'm now running version 1.2.4. (v125.11)

Safari: Apple's default web browser for OS X, is way ahead of the pack. Apple's browser contains a plethora of incredibly powerful features. I wonder why Microsoft stopped developing IE for Mac? I'm currently using version 1.2.4. (v125.11).

Battle of the browsers. Netscape versus Internet Explorer. Those are your choices right? Wrong! Think different! Think Mac! Choose Safari, the new kid on the block. A fast (The fastest available for Mac) but full featured browser, which performs like a pro. Tabbed browsing, URL snap-back, a powerful but elegant bookmark implementation (with built-in import capability), Google search integration, built-in pop-up blocker, multiple standards (HTML, XML, XHTML, DOM, CSS, JavaScript, and Java, plus QuickTime, Flash and Shockwave plug-ins), and a host of other features. Just one more reason to Switch! It's won a place as my default browser, give it a chance and it'll soon be yours.

Genealogy:
The Vaessen family lineage. Thanks to some considerable assistance from some Dutch Vaessen's, I've been able to trace my family history back to 1526 (With a partial history back to 1125). If you're interested in the history of the Vaessen name, check out my Vaessen family genealogy pages. The information was compiled and posted using 'MacFamilyTree' software. The software is capable of importing or exporting genealogy data in various different formats, including GEDCOM standard .ged files.

If you are a member of the Vaessen family, or you're interested in the Vaessen family history, I welcome any corrections, additions or elaborations. Please feel free to write me with any relevant information. robert vaessen name

 
 

November 4, 2004

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. The author of GraphicConverter has released another full version of the software: Version 5.3. The software that just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

Movie listing
I've been tweaking the output of DVDPedia. I didn't like the default HTML output, so I downloaded some templates (You have to be a Forum member in order to download the templates). I wasn't happy with those either, so I deconstructed some template code, and tweaked it to fit my needs. I also tweaked one of the programs resource files. The graphic used for movies that lack a poster is too big. I resized it using GraphicConverter. So, I've been tweaking code this morning. So far, I'm happy with the results.

 
 

November 3, 2004

Hail to the Chief!
President Bush has won a second term. I didn't vote for him, but he's my President and Commander in Chief. I respect the man and I will do my best to effectively carry out his orders. I love this country, and I'm glad that I have the right to vote. Congratulations to everyone who worked hard for the President's re-election.

Movies
The recent purchase of some new software (DVDPedia) has allowed me to do something I've wanted to do for some time now. DVDPedia is movie cataloging software. It has all the features I was looking for:

    1. It allowed me to import my current movies database (Old database is in AppleWorks format).
    2. It allows me to manually add DVDs or VHS tapes.
    3. It imports extended data from various on-line movie sources (imdb.com, Amazon, etc.).
    4. It imports movie posters (cover shots) from on-line sources.
    5. It allows me to have customized fields.
    6. It allows me to track loaned movies (It even has an email reminder capability).
    7. It allows me to save the database in various formats.
    8. It has a template based, customizable, HTML output mode.
    9. It's inexpensive. $18.00
    10. It's heavily supported and updated.

What does this mean to you? You will now benefit from the 8th feature I listed. I've updated my movie collection, putting it into this new software, updating the listings, converting the ratings, and outputting the listing.

So, check out the New and Improved movie listing! I hope you enjoy it. If you notice any artifacts/remnants from the old listing, I'd appreciate it if you pointed them out to me. One major change is the rating system. I've switched from a 1 - 7 rating system, to the "Industry Standard" 5 Stars rating system.

 
 

October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween!
Kim and I dressed up in costume to hand out treats this evening. Here's a picture, just in case you're interested. Kim is dressed as the 'Fair Maiden', and I am dressed as the 'Evil Advisor'. We wore the same costumes at last nights D&D meeting (see below for more about the meeting), and we had a good time handing out the goodies to all those little ghouls and goblins. The weather was horrible. It started raining around 1730, and switched over to snow around 1830 or so. That's what kept the volume down. We didn't see many 'trick-or-treaters', and most of them were carpooled by concerned parents. The cap of the evening was a movie. Kim and I watched the 2004 remake of George Romero's 'Dawn of the Dead'. Yeah! That was scary. If you'd like to read my review, point yourself at my reviews page.

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 30th of October). The new quest is underway. The party managed to recover a meteorite that they saw in a vision, and now they 're trying to figure out what to do with it. Saturday's session saw a lot of combat. We even had a couple of near deaths. Unfortunately, we were missing a couple of players. Once is 'blind' (read the October 26 entry), and the other was completely exhausted from a deployment. I've updated the 3E campaign page with the new game date (4 Dec 2004), but the journal entry is going to have to wait a couple days.

I'm going to have to shovel in the morning!

 
 

October 28, 2004

Shadow Dragon - The Ninja Movie. I just reached a breakthrough in a project I've been working on since April of this year. As soon as I bought my new computer, I knew I had to complete this project.

Back in the autumn of 1984, before I entered basic training, my friends and I shot a movie. No, it wasn't a porno! We rented a video camera, someone wrote a script, and we gathered our friends. As total amateurs, we did our best to make a movie.

Ambitiously undertaken by a group of rank amateurs in the autumn of 1984, and undaunted by our total lack of skill or experience, our crew set out to produce a movie of epic proportions... Or at least amuse ourselves for a couple of weeks. What followed was our movie: Shadow Dragon - The Ninja Movie. Shot directly to VHS, it was transferred to digital video in the summer of 2004, remastered and re-edited using iMovie, and forever preserved on a DVD.

I finally succeeded in producing a final cut of the Ninja Movie. I had some HUGE problems with iDVD and DVD production, but I eventually overcame all the obstacles, and I'll be carrying some precious cargo with me on my trip to Wisconsin next month.

“A memory restored, lost youth recaptured, or simply folly followed. Everyone involved in this project remembers those days with great fondness. Perhaps this small piece of vinyl will let you experience our joy in reliving those ‘Glory Days’ when we were Kings.”

This movie represents our/my youth, and my friends and I often quote from it. Sharing an inside joke or two, while reminiscing on our youth. It will make a great Christmas gift for some of my oldest friends.

The DVD was produced/re-mastered from a VHS transfer by Robert Vaessen in October of 2004.

Software/Hardware used:
Hardware: Analog to digital conversion performed by Mike Vaessen (Robert’s cousin). DVD re-mastering and production performed by Robert Vaessen using a PowerPC G5 with 1.8Ghz 64bit dual processors. Operating system was Mac OS 10.3.5. An Epson Stylus Photo R200 printer was used to print to DVDs.

Software used:
MacTheRipper for media extraction from pre-production DVD. MPEG StreamRipper for to segment the digital video. GraphicConverter, Gimp, and AppleWorks for production of graphics and titles. Apple’s iMovie for editing, titles, transitions, sound/audio manipulation and addition of film elements. QuickTime Pro and an MPEG2 plug-in for digital video encoding/decoding. ffmpegx a Mac OS X front end to various Unix digital video tools for encoding, rendering and production of transport stream. DragonBurn to transfer data to DVD. Epson Print CD to produce and print graphics on DVDs.

D&D®
I scanned and posted a character portrait for Eilownwy. Another drawing by Jason's room mate, very well done. The new illustration was posted to the "Who's Who" page. I still need a character background for the following characters: Rezigrene, Alcarenque, Eilownwy and Zeddishous. I need character illustrations for the following characters: Alcarenque (currently using Lumiarti's illustration) and Zeddishous.

I also added a new house rule to the campaign recently. The house rule has been added to the House Rules document, and I've also posted it here for convenience. If you're a player, you should definitely read and heed.

SPEAKING DURING COMBAT:
During combat, a character* may only speak when it is their turn, unless they have an Intelligence bonus. If a character has an intelligence bonus, they may speak during other characters turns as well as their own. All characters get a minimum of one speaking turn per combat round. The minimum/default speaking turn may only be used during that characters turn. Characters with an Intelligence bonus receive (Intelligence modifier -1) additional speaking opportunities during the combat round.

Intelligence 14-15: +1 speaking opportunity
Intelligence 16-17: +2 speaking opportunities
Intelligence 18-19: +3 speaking opportunities
Etc. See 3.5 PHB pg 8.

A character may not speak more times than there are characters involved in the combat. For example: Two player characters are fighting a Troll. Character A. has an 18 Intelligence. He may speak during his turn, during character B's turn and during the Trolls turn (he's counted as a character). Character A. may not speak a 4th time during the combat round.

A character may always refrain from speaking. In addition, a character may refrain from speaking during his/her turn, while still retaining the ability/reserving the right to speak out-of-turn. Provided the character has an appropriate Intelligence modifier.

When characters speak 'out of turn', they may do so before or after another characters turn. Characters may speak during an opponents turn as well. Once again, they may speak before or after the other characters turn. They may not speak during another players turn. They may not interrupt that characters turn with their speech.

Under no conditions does speaking 'out of turn' create a 'command word' activation situation. Characters may only use verbal 'commands' (to trigger spells, magic items, spell like effects, etc) during their turn.

In order to facilitate this rule; players will not be prompted to speak or not speak during any turn (by the DM). Instead, they should act on their own, prefacing 'in character' speech with the phrase "I'm speaking here". A raised hand may also be appropriate to draw attention to your action/speech.

Keep in mind that a combat round only lasts six seconds. Characters may not use their speaking turns to recite great epics, give long elaborate speeches, or offer intricate instructions/suggestions. The DM may impose a time limit if he/she feels that characters are abusing this rule.

*Character implies player or non-player characters, including monsters.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. The author of GraphicConverter has released another update to the software: Version 5.3b1. The software that just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

Photos
Kim and I went for a drive in our new Volvo. A short little jaunt up into the mountains. A park we haven't been to before: Golden Gate Canyon state park. The Volvo got a good workout, a little bit of dirt and gravel, but nothing to extreme. While we were there we took some photos and discovered a fantastic lookout spot. The park is located north west of Golden, Colorado.

 
 

October 26, 2004

Happy Annibirthday!
19 years ago, Kim and I got married on my birthday. Why did we get married on my birthday? Well, we didn't plan it that way. It just sort of worked out that way. I was on leave following completion of an advanced school/course in Pensacola, Florida, and I had three weeks of leave before I had to report to my first permanent duty station. The banquet hall wasn't available on the first weekend, and some guests couldn't make it on the third weekend. My birthday was on a Saturday, and it just happened to be the same day that we booked for the wedding and reception. Purely coincidence. It certainly makes it easy to remember our Anniversary. So, once a year Kim and I celebrate the Annibirthday.

This year we couldn't afford much of a celebration (We've had a lot of expenses lately), we spent the day at home. I spent most of yesterday and today, struggling to complete a video project on the computer. Hopefully, we can have a little better time next year.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. Another new version of BetterHTMLExport (version 2.0.19) was released this week. BetterHTMLExport now allows you to build your own web page templates!

BetterHTMLExport is an iPhoto plugin which you can use to create web pages from iPhoto galleries. You can control the web page output much more efficiently than the you can with iPhoto's built in web page output controls, you have additional output options, and you can download, save, and use templates to create highly professional looking web pages. Or, you can build your own templates! This plugin is definitely worth the cash. I was tired of spending hours tweaking my photo web pages. BetterHTMLExport lets me spend my time more wisely.

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 16th of October). The new quest is underway. The party managed to recover a meteorite that they saw in a vision, and now they need to figure out what to do with it. If you read the last journal entry, or the last D&D entry in this log, you may have read about Alcarenque's death. Well, Nicholis' character didn't die. We were just playing a little joke. Unfortunately, it turns out that it wasn't a very funny joke. Nicholis missed the meeting because he was involved in another car accident, and he's legally blind! Yeah, so who's laughing now? Certainly not me. Nicholis has a degenerative disease that affects his corneas. Well, it's gotten so bad that he can barely see anything at all. He's going to undergo cornea replacement surgery over the next two months. We probably won't see him until after the new year, but Kim and I are praying for a successful outcome/recovery to/from his surgery. I'm sure someone will step up and play Alcarenque during his absence. With the return of my G5 from the shop, I now have copies of his character for our sessions.

I've since replaced the last journal entry with the 'official' version. I sincerely apologize for this ill-timed joke.

Get well soon Nicholis.

 
 

October 24, 2004

Software favorites
A recent update to my software favorites page. A new version of BetterHTMLExport (version 2.0.18) is now running on my copy of iPhoto 4.0.1. I also purchased the latest upgrade to Stuffit Deluxe (version 9.0).

BetterHTMLExport is an iPhoto plugin which you can use to create web pages from iPhoto galleries. You can control the web page output much more efficiently than the you can with iPhoto's built in web page output controls, you have additional output options, and you can download, save, and use templates to create highly professional looking web pages. This plugin is definitely worth the cash. I was tired of spending hours tweaking my photo web pages. BetterHTMLExport lets me spend my time more wisely.

Stuffit Deluxe, along with the freeware Stuffit Expander, allows me to compress and encode any files that I upload to my web page. It's not really necessary for Web page authoring, but I've found it to be essential for MAC users who use the internet. Version 7.0 offers MAC OS X (Upgraded for Jaguar) compatibility, and additional unix file format/permission capabilities (using .sitx format). Stuffit Deluxe allows me to create archives in many different compression formats, segment the archives, save them with a password for protection, and it even facilitates emailing of the compressed files.

Stuffit expander (for Windows or Mac) can decode, decompress, and un-archive just about any compressed file you might encounter on the internet. It's a must have for anyone surfing the web.

My computer - PowerMac G5
My G5 was had some serious problems this month. Problems so difficult that I couldn't fix them. The problems began on the 4th of October, and I troubleshot the problem for two days before I had to take the machine in to CompUSA. The problems weren't fixed until the 20th of October. After the repairs I found a few omissions, and made a few corrections to my computer profile.

Good News!
NetFlix recently lowered the price on their services! Lowered their price. That's right, you heard right, they LOWERED their price. They started out at $19.95 a month, went up to $21.99 a month, and now, are you ready for this? You might want to sit down. They've lowered their price to $17.99 a month! (For 3 movies out at a time).

NetFlix is awesome. It's easy to use - Pick your movies on the web. It's cheap - Only $17.99 a month. It's convenient - No need to go drive to the rental place. It's got a huge variety of movies - Over 25,000 at last count. Another feature that I'm beginning to appreciate; Movie recommendations. The more movies you rent, the more movies you rate. Rate movies and NetFlix recommends movie, rate a lot of movies and NetFlix gets better at making recommendations.

 
 

October 23, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 16th of October). The new quest is underway. The party managed to recover a meteorite that they saw in a vision, but at what a cost! Alcarenque is dead! I guess that's the price you pay for not showing up and not leaving a copy of your character with the group. :-(

  • Monsters - The party encountered three new monsters during the last session. A Breathdrinker, which stole Alcarenque's life, a group of Shades, and a Shadow Mastiff.
  • Journal entry - I posted a journal entry which Mark submitted. Thanks for the input Mark. I recommend that the players (Especially Nicholis!) read this journal entry before we play our next session.
  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 30th of October in case you're wondering.
 
 

October 22, 2004

Movies & Music
I just completed updates to two of my media pages. I added some recent DVD purchases to my movies page, and updated my main music page. In addition to these front door pages, I also updated the collection pages behind them. Adding two new CDs to my Music listing, and several new movies to my Movies listing. I also updated my movies review page.

Books
Another one of my media pages. I put three more books 'on the shelf'. I now have seven books lined up to read. That should be enough for a while. One of the books I added was a recommendation from a visitor to Rob's World!

 
 

October 20, 2004

My computer - PowerMac G5
My G5 was had some serious problems this month. Problems so difficult that I couldn't fix them. The problems began on the 4th of October, and I troubleshot the problem for two days before I had to take the machine in to CompUSA.

Well, CompUSA thought they found the root of the problem. They replaced the logic board (aka mother board), but that didn't fix the problem. So, I had to take it back again. They replaced the mother board and a processor on the second time around, and this time the computer is working fine.

Thank god I've got that AppleCare warranty! I would have spent nearly a thousand dollars in repair fees.

As a result of all this repair work, I've got a lot of updating to do.. I'll start with the new hard drive. I added a new SATA hard drive to my Mac. 200Gb drive that I plan to use as a backup drive. I used Apple's built in backup software to create a backup, but something's didn't work quite right. I think I'll take a look at Carbon Copy Cloner. I've updated the computer profile to reflect the addition of the new hard drive.

Sugar Grove
A favorite among visitors is my NSGA Sugar Grove page. It contains some information about an assignment to one of the remotest tours in the continental U.S. I often get questions regarding the base, the community, and what it's like to live and work at the little station known as 'the Grove'. I recently updated the web page to include some information about the nearby public school.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. The author of GraphicConverter has released two more updates to the software. Version 5.2.4b1 and the latest release, 5.3b0.. The software that just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

October 18, 2004

A drive in the mountains
On Sunday, Kim and I took a drive in the mountains. We drove up into the Rockies, Northwest of Golden, Colorado. We drove up to a state park — Golden Gate Canyon. A vista in the mountains. Some great views of Colorado's greatest peaks. We took the XC90, of course! Drove on some dirt roads, got it a little dirty. We took a lot of pictures, but I'm going to wait until I've got the G5 back before I put them on the computer.

It was a good day. The weather was great, and the skies stayed clear until 1300 or so. By then we were on our way home.

My computer - PowerMac G5
My G5 is having some serious problems. Problems so difficult that I couldn't fix them. The problems began on the 4th of October, and I troubleshot the problem for two days before I had to take the machine in to CompUSA.

Well, CompUSA thought they found the root of the problem. They replaced the logic board (aka mother board), but that didn't fix the problem. So, I had to take it back again. They think they've got it now. Another mother board and a processor this time. Thank god I've got that AppleCare warranty!

 
 

October 16, 2004

My computer - PowerMac G5
My G5 is having some serious problems. Problems so difficult that I couldn't fix them. The problems began on the 4th of October, and I troubleshot the problem for two days before I had to take the machine in to CompUSA. Well, CompUSA has thought they found the root of the problem. They replaced the logic board (aka mother board), but that didn't fix the problem.

On Friday they called and said the computer was ready for pick-up. Unfortunately, they couldn't boot it at the front desk, to show me that it was working. They don't have a Mac compatible monitor at the front desk. That monitor looked Mac compatible... Well, anyway; I took the machine home, and it wouldn't start up! It seemed to be the exact same problem as before. I tried starting it with nothing connected and that didn't help...

Suffice it to say, that after an hour of troubleshooting, I had to call CompUSA and return the computer for a second round of poking and prodding. They weren't too happy with me or my computer... How dare I imply that they didn't fix the problem. "Obviously, the problem must be on 'your' end. Some sort of environmental factor..." Blah, blah, blah.

They seem to think that it must be the keyboard, the mouse, the power outlet, the monitor, or me. Yeah, whatever. I've tried all that. The keyboard seems to be working fine here... typitty, typitty, test, test, test!

Back to the testing bench!

My Volvo XC90The new vehicle
Kim and I have been planning this for some time. For over a year now, we've been thinking about a new vehicle. With my retirement imminent, the Jeep on it's last leg (see below), and the acceptance of a job in Colorado, the time has come to start finalizing our plans.

News Flash!
It's official! We're now the proud owners of a brand new Volvo XC90. Oh yeah, the smell of new leather, the thrill of a strompin new SUV. Thankfully, this little baby is just the right size for our garage. Not too big, and not too small. What kind of features does it have? Well, I could bore you with a long list of features, but you can go to the Volvo web site if you want that kind of detail. Here's a little appetizer:

We got the following packages: AWD (Full-time 4WD, of course), Premium (Leather, moon roof, etc), Versatility (3rd row seating,etc), Climate (for cold & nasty weather), 18" wheels, and the back-up indicators.

The price? Embarrassingly high. That's about all I'll say. We saved a bunch by getting a 2004 close-out if that's any consolation. The 2004 model actually cost us less with more options (Versatility, 18" wheels, back-up indicators), than the 2005 model would have cost.

I'm ready for the trip to Wisconsin (Next month), and any driving adventures that might present themselves in the future... Hmmm, maybe a nice little drive in the mountains is due?

 
 

October 13, 2004

Moles!
We've got moles! Moles in our yard. Under the lawn. Burrowing, digging, skulking about in underground tunnels! They? I'm not sure how many there are, but they've infested four yards in my immediate vicinity. Unfortunately, that means we'll need some sort of coordinated attack in order to get rid of them. That's about as likely as meeting all my neighbors. I think that these moles have discovered a great survival strategy. They're living along the fence lines, bordering on four properties, they can simply retreat across the fence-line to the refuge of another unsuspecting resident.

These particular moles are likely the Eastern variety. According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, they are in Colorado, but the most recent distribution maps didn't show them in the Denver area. Well, I got news for you buddy. They're here! The tunnels, the volcano shaped eruptions of dirt, the tell-tale signs. There's a new menace in Denver. The suburban mole!

Top Ten Fugitive
Imagine my surprise. On Sunday I was doing a Google search on my name (I occasionally do a search on my name, internet domains, and copyrighted material) when I came across my name on the FBI's top ten fugitive list! Surprising indeed, but I wasn't laughing, that's for sure.

Here's what I think is happening: Some kid/joker in the Netherlands (The web page is in Dutch), decided to play a joke on his buddies. He copied the FBI's official ten most wanted fugitive's list, substituted five of his friends for five actual fugitives. Unfortunately, for me at least, my name is the same as one of his buddies. So, this prankster posted an altered for of the FBI's list on his web site. My name is number one on the list, right next to Usama Bin Laden.

Now, either this joker can't read English, didn't realize what he was doing, or he just doesn't give a damn. Because, what he's done is a violation of U.S. law, and would be considered slanderous in just about any nation. The fact that it's illegal is even posted right on his web site. He actually copied the FBI's warning /notice along with the rest of the official page.

"Notice: The official FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list is maintained on the FBI World Wide Web Site. This information may be copied and distributed, however, any unauthorized alteration of any portion of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives posters is a violation of federal law (18 U.S.C., Section 709). Persons who make or reproduce these alterations are subject to prosecution and, if convicted, shall be fined or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both."

Here's where it gets irritating. As you can imagine, I was less than amused at this discovery. I immediately fired off an email to the author of the web page and his hosting service. As you might have suspected, that didn't help much. The email to the joker responsible for the website simply bounced. A hotmail account that has no doubt expired due to inactivity. The email to his hosting service resulted in a ridiculously lame response.

"Unfortunately, we are unable to currently determine the truth of the statements in the Yahoo! GeoCities page you are reporting. We can certainly sympathize with your position and wish to take appropriate action.
Yeah, right. That's lame. There is no need to determine the 'truth of the statements' in the page I reported. What they should be doing is verifying the un-truths of the web page I reported. It took me a little less than a minute to figure out that the web page was an altered form of the FBI's official most wanted list. For some reason they appear incapable of seeing that this is an alteration. Oh, but that's not all...
"Please forward any personally identifying information regarding that situation to us -- such as a copy of your photo ID with full name. The more information you can give us, the more thoroughly we will be able to investigate this situation. State that you are the individual posted and would like the material removed. Indicate the exact location and name of the file in question and sign the document."

What! You have got to be kidding. My personally identifying information! Are you out of your mind? What good would that do? It might prove that I am who I say I am, but it wouldn't provide any useful information with regards to the web page in question. These folks are way off track. Anyway, I sent them an email back, explaining that I wasn't going to provide them with any sort of personally identifiable information. I tried to get them back on track.

I explained (again) that they are hosting a web page that is in violation of U.S. law, and that the web page was slandering my name. I indicated how the page was altered, directed them to the FBI's official wanted list, and told them that I would turn this over to the FBI if they weren't willing to take appropriate action. So, what was their response?

"Hello,

Thank you for contacting Yahoo! Customer Care.

Thank you for informing us of possible abuse on Yahoo! GeoCities.  We have investigated the site and taken the necessary action.  Please continue to notify us of any content you believe violates the GeoCities Terms of Service, located at: http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/geoterms.html

Thank you again for contacting Yahoo! Customer Care.

Regards,

Yahoo! Customer Care"

O.k. That's promising. So I check, and the web site is still there. I wonder what their "necessary" action was? Perhaps it was replying to my email? Perhaps it was laughing at my misfortune, and going back to the usual round of office gossip? In either case, I was tired of this futile discourse with a disinterested and incompetent help desk. On Tuesday I called the local office of the FBI. They took all my information and said that they would investigate the incident. Perhaps they'll have better success getting the web page removed.

My computer - PowerMac G5
My G5 is having some serious problems. Problems so difficult that I couldn't fix them. The problems began on the 4th of October, and I troubleshot the problem for two days before I had to take the machine in to CompUSA. Well, CompUSA has finally found the root of the problem (I hope). The computer needs a new logic board (aka mother board). I still think that the problem goes deeper. But hey, if replacing the logic board fixes the problem, I'm all for that. They've ordered a new logic board, and if things go right, I should have my Mac back by Friday.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

 
 

October 10, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 2nd of October). The new quest is underway. The party is currently investigating the site where the meteorite fell to Oerth. The meteor's impact has revealed a lair of "Wild Beast Men", and the party is currently planning an assault to recover the meteor.

  • Monsters - The party encountered the "Wild Beast Men" from their visions. These creatures are the Derro that Derwyth told them about. They also encountered a giant green mold, shaped like an "X".
  • Wherenow - I added and updated a few entries for new places that the party learned about. Places near and around the Tower of the Heavens.
  • Journal entry - I posted a journal entry which Mark submitted. Thanks for the input Mark. I recommend that the players read this journal entry before we play our next session.
  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 16th of October in case you're wondering.
 
 

October 9, 2004

Military retirement
The final day gets closer still. On Friday I completed my final out-processing requirements. After obtaining leave numbers from finance, I completed my final out with the separations section. At this point I've been relieved of all military duty requirements. It's basically a waiting game now.

During the next few months, I'll be busy getting paperwork and pre-employment requirements taken care of for my new employer. Kim and I will also be busy buying a new car, visiting our parents (back in Wisconsin), looking for a house, and transitioning fully to the civilian side of life.

XC90The new vehicle
Kim and I have been planning this for some time. For over a year now, we've been thinking about a new vehicle. With my retirement imminent, the Jeep on it's last leg (see below), and the acceptance of a job in Colorado, the time has come to start finalizing our plans.

We've decided on the vehicle (with a backup in mind), and started to plan our dealer negotiation strategy... That's when I came upon the AAA auto sales program. It's actually a broker service. AAA membership gives us access to this broker service. The AAA brokers are salaried by AAA, so they have no incentive to jack up the price when they're looking for our vehicle.

In addition to being salaried by AAA, the brokers deal with fleet sales managers instead of the standard showroom sales person that a walk-in customer might deal with. The fleet managers are also salaried. That's another layer of no pressure sales.

The broker will even look for the best load deal. I told him that our credit union has a 4.25% new car loan for 48 months. He said he'd see if he could find something better.

So, the AAA broker will canvass all the dealerships in the area, and try to find the best deal that meets our needs, and shop for a loan rate. No foot work for Kim and I. No high pressure sales tactics. No deceptive dealers. No stress, no hassle, no heartache.

Oh yeah, did I happen to mention the best part? It bears repeating...

The service is free!

"Go for it Mr. Broker man. Find us that awesome deal!" And with those magical words, our car search has begun.

 
 

October 8, 2004

My JeepMy Jeep
It's the end of an era. Long live the Jeep.

Kim and I purchased the Jeep back in 1987. My parents loaned us the money, and we paid them back as quickly as we could. Unfortunately, it didn't help our credit at all, as neither of our names were on the loan. The Jeep has been a loyal friend and adventurous companion over the past 17 years.

We were stationed in Italy when we bought the Jeep, and it was a great vehicle to have for the rough countryside of Southern Italy. It let us explore the countryside in ways that many others could not. The Wrangler (our Jeep) is a great icon of the American spirit, and I felt like an American every time someone turned their head to catch a glimpse of the G.I. in his Jeep.

The Jeep had it's share of problems. It was the first year they made the Jeep (Never buy a first year production model), and there were plenty of defects that had to be recalled, corrected and repaired. Kim and I spent a lot of money keeping the Jeep running, but it sure taught us a lot about perseverance.

In the end, it's six cylinder, 4.2 liter gasoline engine (Orphaned by 1988) was on it's last leg (so to speak). With the engine going bad, and problems with the transmission, Kim and I couldn't bring ourselves to spend $3-4 thousand dollars needed to keep our friend around. We knew it wouldn't pass emissions (The Denver area has some rather strict emissions restrictions), and the benefits of a life extension were outweighed by the financial considerations.

On Friday I sold the Jeep. I had a list of 38 phone numbers, and I started calling at 0900. By noon I'd gone through 27 numbers, and the Jeep was sold. I didn't get as much as I had hoped to get, but it was the best offer I received. I don't think any amount would have been enough, but it was time to say goodbye to my old friend.

We will miss our Jeep. Driving across the countryside in an open-air jeep is a thrill that's hard to describe, but I'll give it a try: It's freedom, pure and simple. Adventure, no holds barred. Liberation, with no man-made boundaries to hold you back. Drive on red Wrangler, drive on!

We'll miss our Jeep...

 
 

October 7, 2004

Military retirement
The next phase has begun. I'm currently out processing. What a pain. What is out processing.? If you're a civilian (and haven't served), this may be the first time you've heard this phrase. Anyway, I'm going to tell you... I inherited the motor-mouth gene from my dad, or so they say. Anyway, I was going to tell you about out processing.

Out processing.: An administrative function performed by military members just prior to a change of station, separation, or retirement. The individual who is out processing., is given one or more checklists (in my case four), upon which are listed various agencies, offices and specific instructions. These checkslists must be completed in a specific order, in a specific period of time. Failure to complete the checklists in a timely manner could delay a military members departure, retirement or separation.

It's an incredibly grueling treasure hunt, where the treasure is the coveted 'signature', and the reward is freedom from duty. The military member is sometimes thwarted or opposed in his efforts by any of the following hazards:

  1. The missing menace: Someone who is supposed to sign your checklist, but they're never around. - Go to the next item on your checklist.
  2. Between '1000-1200': A checklist item which can only be completed between certain hours. - Go to the next item on your checklist.
  3. Only on Monday or Friday: A checklist item which can only be accomplished on a certain day. When combined with item number 1, you're having a bad day. - Proceed to next checklist item.
  4. Only 'So-n'-so' can sign your checklist: Only a specific person can sign your checklist. - You may be able to bluff your way past this hazard. If you know that the item being signed off isn't important (i.e. doesn't apply to you), you might be able get someone else in the office to sign for you. This depends on a couple of factors. Your rank, the rank of the person who normally signs, the rank of the person doing the signing, other pertinent factors... If you can't get someone else to sign you can do one of three things. - Go on to the next item, come back later, or forge a signature. The later is not recommended, and should only be attempted in rare circumstances.
  5. Fill out this form: A common stalling technique - Fill out the form and continue on to the next item.
  6. Bring me a shrubbery: A devious sub-quest. Sometimes an agent of evil will request that you bring them some sort of paper-work, copy of your orders, proof of life, etc... Do your best to comply with the request. If they sign before you comply, you may be able to disregard there request. It depends on what they requested.
  7. Bad directions: Go to building 86, room 54: Building 86 doesn't exist, it's been torn down, or there is no sign indicating the building number. - If you're lucky, there's a phone number. If you're unlucky the phone number is wrong. Seek assistance from a veteran of the checklist. Find help from someone 'in charge'.
  8. 'Not Applicable': A dangerous pitfall. Some N/A items can be lined through and disregarded completely. Sometimes they cannot. Only good judgment and experience will help you here. - Line through the item and proceed to next.
  9. Out of order: Some checklists are in order, some are not. You may encounter a checklist which requires you to complete items 12 and 13 before item 6 can be signed off. - Proceed with caution.
  10. No agent listed: An all to common predicament. Sometimes a checklist may indicate that you are required to complete an action, or obtain a signature, but no office/representative is indicated. - Seek assistance from a veteran of the checklist. Find help from someone 'in charge'.
  11. Catch-22: Occasionally, you will encounter a checklist conundrum of this magnitude. For example: Finance will not sign-off on their portion of the check-list until your commander has signed your leave forms. But the commander insists on a completed checklist before he will sign off on your leave forms. Oh the humanity! - Complain bitterly, and get one party to concede a signature. This pitfall could prevent your 'Final Out'.
  12. The hostage taker: This could be an unpleasant or painful experience. You're pressed for time, but this person wants someone to talk to, or they insist on convincing you that you should sign up for the 'Survivor Benefit Plan', despite the fact that it's your decision, and you've decided not to. You're held hostage. You can't outprocess without a completed checklist, and they're showing no signs of giving you their signature. - Express indignation, go over their head, forge their signature (risky proposition). Hopefully, no one ends up crying, swearing, or leaving the office in hand-cuffs.
  13. The hidden item: Sometimes a checklist contains a hidden surprise. What's that, you didn't see the item between items 7 and 8? I'm sorry, you can't complete your 'Final Out' without that signature. - Arrrgghh, go back and get the signature. Paying close attention will prevent this snafu.
  14. Thirty days prior: Most of the time, you'll get five duty days to complete your checklist. Sometimes the checklist will contain items that are required many days prior to your five days of out processing. - Check the list as soon as you get it. If you're a senior military member, people like you, you had short notice, etc... you might be able to bluff your way past this requirement.

These are just a sampling of some problems you might encounter while completing your 'Checklists'. It's a daunting task, filled with administrative pit-falls. It reminds me of an old game by INFOCOM, called 'Beauracracy'. When the grueling quest is over, you'll possess one or more completed checklists. Completion of the checklists will permit you to advance to the 'Final Out' phase of your out processing. Once you are done with your final out processing appointment, you're free and clear!

My computer - PowerMac G5
My G5 is having some serious problems. Problems so difficult that I couldn't fix them. The problems began on the 4th of October, and I troubleshot the problem for two days before I had to take the machine in to CompUSA.

I called a 1-800 number for technical trouble shooting assistance, but that didn't help either. I've pretty much narrowed the problem down to some sort of system controller or bus problem. The computer is locking up completely at aperiodic intervals. It's also having problems booting up. It doesn't appear to be hard drive or memory related, as troubleshooting has pretty much eliminated those possibilities.

I don't like the fact that I had to entrust my computer to someone else's hands. I have no idea how competent these CompUSA technicians are, and I dread the worst. My primal fear is that their first line of dealing with any problems is a complete zeroing of the disk, and OS reinstall! Oh my aching hard drive! I hope that they don't do that. I sure am glad that I bought that 3 year AppleCare warranty!

If you'd like to learn a little bit about what my PowerMac G5 is like, you can check out the web page which describes my system. I'm currently using my PowerMac G4 to write/update my web pages.

 
 

October 3, 2004

Job Search
On Friday (the 1st of Oct), I made my decision. I accepted the Northrop Grumman offer. So, I'll be working shift work again, but at least I'll be doing Signals Analysis again. The pay was right, the benefits are excellent, the position they hired me for fits me perfectly, and I'm getting a $6,000 signing bonus (For having a SSBI). My job search is over. It took five months, but I found a good job. Oh yeah, on Saturday I received a letter in the mail from Raytheon. Apparently they don't have any openings that would fit my skill set at this time. Bullshit! The interviewer didn't like me. That's why I didn't get an offer from them. I didn't have any problems in my other interviews. I start working for Northrop Grumman on the 6th of December.

Military retirement
The next phase begins. It won't be long now. On the 1st I had a retirement luncheon. I received a few certificates, plaques, gifts, and a medal. Unfortunately the medal was incorrectly cited. Thankfully, many of my coworkers and friends were there. It wasn't an elaborate military ceremony. We held it at a pizza place down-town. I guess it could have taken place in a better (quieter) setting, but that was my fault. I chose the restaurant. Friday also marked my last day of work for the Air Force. When I go back to work on Monday, I'll be out processing. Hopefully I can get everything done in a week. If not, that will muck with my plans for terminal leave.

My actual retirement date isn't until the 1st of January 2005, but I'll be on leave for approximately 80 days! I'll certainly miss the military leave, but collecting that retirement pay every month will be sweet. Kim and I have a lot of things planned for the next couple of months. Stay tuned for all the fun.

Movies
One of my coworkers gave me some movies the other day. Five movies for free! Twister, Harold and Maude, and the first three Star Wars movies. I plan on giving the copy of twister to our parents. We'll definitely keep the others. See the updated movies listing for the new additions.

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 2nd of October). The new quest is underway. I updated the campaign page with the date of the next meeting, but I haven't made any other updates yet. This session marked an encounter with the Derro, a violent race of small under-ground dwellers. The Derro have the meteorite that the party is looking for.

 
 

September 30, 2004

Job Search
Yesterday I received the Northrop Grumman offer is writing. The best part of the offer, it was a tier/level 3 position. The pay is what I was hoping to get. You can't learn Signals Analysis in college, and Northrop Grumman realizes that. The salary, shift differential and bonus all add up to a very generous offer. I'm still waiting on an offer from Raytheon, but I plan to make a decision by Friday, with or without an offer from Raytheon. Both the Raytheon and Northrop Grumman jobs are shift work, while the Lockheed Martin Job would be straight days.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. The author of GraphicConverter has released another beta version. Version 5.2.4b0 is the latest release. The software that just keeps getting better! In addition to the GraphicConverter update, Bare Bones has released the first maintenance release of BBEdit 8.0. Release 8.0.2. patches a bug found in the release of 8.0.

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

BBEdit is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. It is designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text. BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any Mac enthusiast. Window's users eat your heart out!

Movies
I bought three movies the other day. All three were on my 'Buy' list. I watched eXistenZ last night (It's freaky!), and I'll probably watch the others within the next week. I know Kim is going to want to see The Closet (It's Funny!), and I'm going to explore the special features on the Yojimbo DVD.

  • Yojimbo: (Japanese) Produced in 1961, this black and white movie is another fantastic film by Akira Kurosawa. The story is exceptional. A classic which has been remade as Sergio Leone's - Per un pugno di dollari (otherwise known as A Fistful of dollars and Walter Hill's - Last Man Standing. A Ronin (Samurai without a master) wanders the countryside looking for employment. He comes upon a town in the midst of a two-way gang war. Pitting both sides against each other, the samurai nearly loses his life when his deception is uncovered. In the end the town is nearly destroyed, and both sides have been decimated leaving the town eerily 'Quiet again'. Outstanding direction, acting by Toshiro Mifune as the Ronin, a great musical score. An all around excellent movie. 7 out of 7!
  • The Closet: (French: Placard, Le) A great movie. Reminiscent of 'Office Space'. This was a terrific spoof/comedic parody on political correctness, prejudice, bigotry and office life. An office worker is about to lose his job because he's dull. A new friend helps him re-invent himself as a gay man, and his job is saved. The results are hilarious! Great characters, excellent casting, and an absolutely smashing story. This movie gets a 6 out of 7.
  • eXistenZ: Wow! Mind blowing, reality twisting sci-fi. The first time I saw this movie (back in 1999), I was a bit put-off by the incredibly twisted plot. This time around I loved it. Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Ian Holm and Willem Dafoe. This movie was written and directed by David Cronenberg. Cronenberg has directed some of my favorite movies: Naked Lunch, The dead zone, Videodrome, and Scanners. This movie reminded me a lot of Naked Lunch. What was it about? Try this out for starters. Video games that are living, weapons made out of organic material, teeth for bullets, games inside of games, revolutions and alternate reality. The casting was absolutely fantastic. The acting was intentionally stage like. The music was great; it really evoked an other-worldly feel. The props, costumes and sets were great. This movie gets a 6 out of 7. I'm glad I bought a copy.
 
 

September 29, 2003

Job Search
On Monday, I received a job offer from Northrop Grumman, and yesterday I did an HR interview with Raytheon. The HR interview went horribly. It seemed like the person interviewing me had a bad day, and she was taking it out on me. I could go into details here, but I prefer to be boring in person. :-) The Northrop Grumman offer is very generous, and I can only hope that Raytheon's offer (If I get one!) is commensurate with my skills, knowledge, and experience. Both the Raytheon and Northrop Grumman jobs are shift work, while the Lokheed Martin Job would be straight days. I'm going to make a decision by Friday.

 
 

September 24, 2004

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. Bare Bones has released the first maintennance release of BBEdit 8.0. Release 8.0.1. patches many of the bugs found in the release of 8.0.

BBEdit is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. It is designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text. BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any Mac enthusiast. Window's users eat your heart out!

Job Search
I took the day off today. I had an interview with Northrop Grumman. The interview was for a signals analysis position. It's the job I really want. But will they offer me enough money for my skills and experience? I haven't received an offer from Northrop Grumman or Raytheon, but I expect to see offers from both by early next week. If I can get an extension on the offer that's currently sitting in front of me, I'll have to make a decision between the three offers. I'm hoping to finalize my job search within a week.

 
 

September 23, 2004

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. The author of GraphicConverter has posted a new full release version for GraphicConverter. Version 5.2.3. was released today. The software that just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

September 22, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 18th of September). The new quest is underway. The party has encountered a few new monsters, and they read about ten more in the bestiary. After visiting Derwyth, they're now on their way to recover a meteor. Game on!. Here's what I updated today:

  • Monsters - As the party encountered many new monsters, I've updated the listing to reflect those creatures. The party also read about some monsters in a bestiary. All in all, I added thirteen new entries to the monsters page!
  • Wherenow - I added and updated a few entries for new places that the party learned about. Places near and around the Tower of the Heavens.
  • Journal entry - I posted a journal entry which Mark submitted. Thanks for the input Mark. I recommend that the players read this journal entry before we play our next session.
  • Who's Who - Added and updated some of the Non-player character entries. In particular, you may want to note the entry for Derwyth of Earthwood forest. I also updated the portrait of Ashedyn. The portrait is now a photo of a miniature. Mark did a fantastic job painting this miniature, and it deserves a place on the "Who's Who" page.
  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 2nd of October in case you're wondering.

Job Search
I took the day off today. I had planned to go to Boulder and attend a job fair, but I decided not to go. With a great offer sitting in front of me, another on its way, and an interview this weekend, I'm hoping to finalize my job search within a week.

 
 

September 20, 2004

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. The author of GraphicConverter has so far spawned two beta versions this month. Check off version 5.2.3b1 and 5.2.3b2. The software that just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

September 18, 2004

D&D®
I recently posted an updated version of the house rules. The new 'House Rules' pdf document is now available on my web site.
The following additions/changes have been made:

  • Added additional details regarding the planet's dimensions/geophysical characteristics.
  • Updated/amended the days of the month. Added the 'Shieldmeet' leap-day.
  • Added new rules covering vision and distance for outdoor adventuring.
  • Modified/updated the listing of acceptable (prestige) classes.
  • Updated the table of contents and page numbering.

Also, you (players in my/any 3E D&D campaign) might want to read/consider one of the house rules I added some time ago.

OUT OF TURN DODGE:
Taken from 3rd Edition Unearthed Arcana (pg 118): Any time you are about to be attacked, you can give up your next turn in order to gain a +4 dodge bonus to your AC. You must be able to apply your Dexterity bonus against the attack (so you can’t use it when flat-footed, for instance), and you declare this before the attack roll is known/announced. Your initiative does not change; you simply do not take an action on your next turn. You gain this dodge bonus until the next time your initiative comes up after your “skipped” turn.

This rule gives a character the option of defending himself, an additional element to combat tactics. It also provides adventurers with additional tactical options, such as a “wolf pack” tactic: When a group attacks a single target, whoever the target retaliates against uses the out-of-turn dodge to aid his AC, while each of the others attacks the opponent on his or her turn.

Job Search
I had to turn down two more job offers. Unfortunately, the AIA (Air Force) job that I was selected for wasn't suited to my core experience, skills, and knowledge. I thought I was applying for one job, but they selected me for a different job. Aside from that, the hiring manager told me that there was absolutely no negotiation in the salary. A GS-12 step one (Base pay 52,899). After taxes, that would be less than I'm making now! The hiring manager then asked me if I wanted to be considered for the other job; the one that I thought I was applying for; the one that I was led to believe I was applying for! Once again, I was informed that the pay was GS-12 step one, and there is no room to negotiate a higher salary. GS12-1 isn't enough. With locality pay it comes out to $61,712. I think my skills, experience and knowledge are worth more than that, and I'm not going to take a position that doesn't adequately compensate me for my abilities.

O.k. the AIA jobs are out. It's unfortunate, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it (at least I hope not). Aside from the AIA job, I have an interview with Northrop Gruman on Friday (the 24th), and a Raytheon offer (from my interview on the 9th) is supposedly on the way. On Wednesday, I'm planning to attend a job fair in Boulder. I'm out of the building by the 8th of October. Hopefully I can get something signed before then. If not, I've got eighty one days left before the 1st of January.

 
 

September 15, 2004

Insomnia has struck. I'm up at 0300 in the morning, updating web pages, searching the internet and working on a video project. My cold medicine is making it very difficult to sleep. I wish I could sleep...Insomnia has struck. I'm up at 0200 in the morning, and I'm supposed to get up at 0500. I wonder If I'll get any sleep?!

Job Search
I had to turn down Lockheed Martin's initial offer. The salary offer was lower than I had hoped for, and I think I may have hurt the initial salary offer by not including 7 years worth of experience on my resume. So much for the advice of the 'experts'. I revised my resume and sent them an email, followed up with a phone call. I've asked them for a revised offer. Hopefully, my additional seven years of experience in a relevant career field will make a difference in their salary calculations.

In addition to the offer from Lockheed Martin, I had a good talk with the team leader for a group working under a government contract. As a result of that talk, Northrop Grumman is trying to set up an interview with me. In addition to that, I was notified yesterday, that I've been selected to fill an AIA (Air Intelligence Agency) position. That's a government job with the Air Force (as a civilian). I have to check out the details some time today.

Things are starting to look better. I'm starting to get interviews, promised offers are starting to materialize, but I'm still looking for a job. This is a lot more work than I anticipated. Still no follow-up from SAIC. They promised me an offer, but they haven't followed through. I'm a bit disappointed. They were my first choice among the contractors.

If your company is hiring Signals Analysts, or you'd like to take a look at my resume', it's available in pdf format for viewing or download. Security clearance and CI polygraph are both current. I recently updated the resume (see above).

I hope to attend a job expo next week, but a couple of things could cause me to change those plans. Currently, there's no way to register for the expo, and I might already have a job by then!

Photos
Last fall Kim and I went on a couple of drives around Colorado to view the autumn colors. This year we've been a bit too busy, what with my retirement and the job search, plus the Jeep is on it's last leg. Anyway, we went for a drive on the Switzerland Trail and I took some photos. Recently, someone contacted me, and asked if they could use one of my photos on their web site. This autumn, one of my photo's is featured on the 'Rails to Trails' web site. Here's a link, if you'd like to check out their web site.

 
 

September 10, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 4th of September). The new quest is underway. The party has already had three encounters with monsters. They've also made a stop at the Tower of the Heavans. Game on!. Here's what I updated today:

  • Monsters - As the party encountered three new monsters, I've updated the listing to reflect those three creatures. The party also read about some monsters in a bestiary. I hope to post some info about those monsters later this week.
  • Wherenow - I added and updated a bunch of entries for new places that the party learned about. Places near and around the Tower of the Heavens.
  • Journal entry - I posted a journal entry which Mark submitted. Thanks for the input Mark. I recommend that the players read this journal entry before we play our next session.
  • Who's Who - Added and updated some NPCs. Shalfey the Elder Sage of the Tower of the Heavens. Hadley, ferryman and monk of the Order of the Night Sky. Piyarz, a scheming usurpers who has taken over the Tower of the Heavens.

Job Search
I had another interview yesterday. A face to face interview with a couple of Raytheon employees. Business unit managaer and team leader. They have a lot of facilities in the Denver area, and the job I was applying for was in the Denver area. As a matter of fact, it's in the same facility that I worik at now. I thought the interview went well. The job is shift work, will require 6-8 weeks worth of travel, and lots of overtime.

In addition to the job interview with Raytheon. I received a job offer from Lockheed Martin. At first look the pay is somewhat lower than I had hoped for. I think I may have hurt my initial salary offer by not including 7 years worth of experience on my resume. I'll have to take some time to read through the offer more carefully.

Things are starting to look better. I'm starting to get interviews, promised offers are starting to materialize, but I'm still looking for a job. This is a lot more work than I anticipated.

 
 

September 8, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 4th of September). The new quest is underway. The party has already had three encounters with monsters. They've also made a stop at the Tower of the Heavans. Game on!. Here's what I updated today:

  • Who's Who - Added and updated some NPCs. Shalfey the Elder Sage of the Tower of the Heavens. Hadley, ferryman and monk of the Order of the Night Sky. Piyarz, a scheming usurpers who has taken over the Tower of the Heavens.
  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 18th of September in case you're wondering.
  • Wherenow - I added and updated a bunch of entries for new places that the party learned about. Places near and around the Tower of the Heavens.
 
 

September 6, 2004

D&D®
Today I updated the on-line journal which recounts the party's adventures. It seems that the dates of the adventuring got mixed up somehow. I also updated the 'Say What' page. A listing of some humorous in-game quotes.

 
 

September 5, 2004

Dining out in Denver
This weekend we went out to eat a a place called Pappadeaux's. It's a Cajun restaurant. The food is unbelievable. We had Oysters St. Phillip, a Guinness, and a Appletini to get things started. Kim ordered the catch of the day special. Blackened tuna with some spicy sauces and cajun style dirty rice. I ordered a couple of jumbo lump crab cakes and some Louisiana style seafood gumbo. For desert we had a huge piece of vanilla cheese cake. It was great. We'll have to go back again. They've got a huge menu, and the prices weren't too high. Total damage came to $80.00 for the two of us.

Job Search
I had another interview recently. A face to face interview with some folks at Lockheed Martin. They have a lot of facilities in the Denver area, and the job I was applying for was in the Denver area. I thought the interview went well. I met with an HR person, a team leader and had an interview with an entire team. After the interview I received an email from the team leader. Good news! They said that they're going to forward me an offer! I think I may have another Lockheed Martin interview sometime in the next couple of weeks, and I definitely have an interview with Raytheon coming up next week. O.k. Things are starting to look better. I'm starting to get interviews, and more promised offers, but I'm still looking for a job. This is a lot more work than I anticipated.

D&D®
I've been working on a new calendar for our 3rd edition D&D campaign. Thanks to Mark (A player in our campaign), it even features lunar phases. The new calendar took me a while to compose. I had to create four complete calendars. Including the lunar phases necessitated a leap year or four year cycle. Thus four different calendars. I hope you enjoy the new calendar. Coding the tables was a bear.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. The author of GraphicConverter has spawned another beta version. The latest version is 5.2.3b0. The software that just keeps getting better! September also marks the release date for BBEdit version 8.

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

BBEdit is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. It is designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text. BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any Mac enthusiast. Window's users eat your heart out!

 
 

August 24, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 21st of August). A lot of things happened during this meeting. The characters took care of a lot of in-town errands, they met some new town personalities, two new characters joined the group, and they started their new quest. Here's what I updated today:

  • Who's Who - Added new characters: Zeddishous and Eilownwy. I need backgrounds and illustrations for both.
  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 4th of September in case you're wondering.
  • Wherenow - I added a bunch of entries for new places that the party learned about. (Mostly places mentioned in the journal entry from the 7th of Aug)
  • Journal entry - I posted a journal entry which Sean submitted. Thanks for the input Sean, Thalidimar's journal entry contains some good details regarding the new characters and an excellent start for the new adventure.

Saw a movie
Normally, I don't post my reviews on my "What's New" page. I stopped doing that a while back. However, there's one movie that was so funny that I had to share it with you in this forum...

The lost skeleton of Cadavra: A spoof on 1950's sci-fi movies. This little gem had me rolling on the floor. So funny I had to buy a copy of my own. It was incredibly funny. The lines! Oh my god. Whoever wrote this knew what they were doing. The cast were complete unknowns, but that was a good thing. The set and locations were perfect. The film style was also well done. A scientist and his 'scientists wife' are investigating a meteorite. An evil-scientist is trying to revive the lost skeleton of Cadavra, and a pair of stranded aliens must refuel their space-ship and recover their mutant. Put all these characters together for dinner and watch what happens! It wasn't just a funny movie, it was also a well crafted parody/homage. Incorporating time tested B (for Bad) movie film techniques, and directing style, this one was well worth the watching. Days later I find myself describing the movie to friends, and falling over with laughter at the comic genius of this movie. I give it a 7 out of 7.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. The author of GraphicConverter has spawned another beta version. The latest version is 5.2.2. The software that just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

August 21, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 7th of August). A lot of things happened during this meeting. The characters took care of a lot of in-town errands, they met a lot of new personalities, two new characters joined the group, the party became an officially chartered adventuring group, and they accepted a new quest. I was busy most of the week, but I managed to churn out a bunch more updates:

  • Who's Who - Added new characters: Rezigrene and Alcarenque. I need backgrounds for both and an illustration for Alcarenque. I also added some additional NPCs.
  • The journal - I updated the journal page, adding some information about the new adventure.
  • Journal entry - I posted a journal entry Which Mark submitted. This is the second journal entry for the meeting of the 7th. Mark's journal entry gives a lot of details regarding the party's latest adventure. It's the begining of a new quest.
  • Wherenow - I updated this listing of locations and locales. I added some of the places that the party will be visiting in the near future.
  • Articles of incoporation. The party has officially chartered themselves as S.C.R.E.W.O.F.F.S. (Several Crafty, Resourceful, Enterprising, Wanderers, Out For Fun and Simoleans. Yes, that's the name they chose. Here is the concordium that governs their group of adventurers.

So, our next meeting is tonight. I've been busy preparing for tonights meeting. I created some maps, a new magic item, a list of buildings known in Willip for one of the new characters, the web page updates listed above, and a bunch of research went into tonights session. I hope the players have a good time.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. The author of GraphicConverter has spawned another beta version. The latest version is 5.2.2b3. The software that just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

August 14, 2004

San Antonio
I'm back from Texas, and I had a good time. The conference at the MRSOC (Medina Regional Security Operations Center) was o.k. I think we actually got some work done. Aside from work, I stayed at the Marriott Plaza hotel, spent a couple of evenings with Dale, and one night on the Riverwalk.

I had dinner with friends (Dale & Lara) on Monday evening. We ate at a Mexican restaurant. The food was good, but the decor and artwork were better. On Wednesday, I spent the evening playing card games with Dale and one another friend. It would have been better with four people, but it's not always easy to get people together on a weekday. We played Munchkin and Naval War. I had bad luck with Munchkin, getting thrashed by repeated curses and high level monsters. I did better with Naval War, mounting a come from behind rally in the second round. I didn't win a single game, but I had a good time. If you're interested in these games, and others like them, you might want to check out my 'Other Games' page.

The night on the Riverwalk was pleasurable. I ate at a place called 'Steers and Beers'. The food was good, but the best part of that evening was the beer. I discovered (along with most of the folks in our group (eleven of us?)) a great local beer. Shiner Bock is made at the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. Shiner Bock is a distinctive, rich, full-flavored, deep amber-colored beer. It has an inviting smooth taste without the excessive bitterness that charaterizes many micro, specialty and imported beers.

Books
While I was in San Antonio, I happened upon the soft cover release of a Dune Novel. Not one to turn down an opportunity, I snatched up my copy at a very reasonable Wal-Mart price of $5.97. The 'Books' page has been updated. I can just imagine which book I'm going to read next...

Mac OS 10.3.5.
Today I updated my operating system. Mac OS X (Panther) went up one notch to OS 10.3.5. Here's a recap of the improvements and bug fixes. The significance here is updates to some of my pages. As a result of my OS update, the following pages have been updated. myfavs.html, feedback.html, mycomputer.html. Oh yeah, with the new OS came a new version of Safari. I'm now running version 1.2.3. (v125.9)

Safari: Apple's default web browser for OS X, is way ahead of the pack. Apple's browser contains a plethora of incredibly powerful features. I wonder why Microsoft stopped developing IE for Mac? I'm currently using version 1.2.3. (v125.9).

Battle of the browsers. Netscape versus Internet Explorer. Those are your choices right? Wrong! Think different! Think Mac! Choose Safari, the new kid on the block. A fast (The fastest available for Mac) but full featured browser, which performs like a pro. Tabbed browsing, URL snap-back, a powerful but elegant bookmark implementation (with built-in import capability), Google search integration, built-in pop-up blocker, multiple standards (HTML, XML, XHTML, DOM, CSS, JavaScript, and Java, plus QuickTime, Flash and Shockwave plug-ins), and a host of other features. Just one more reason to Switch! It's won a place as my default browser, give it a chance and it'll soon be yours.

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 7th of August). A lot of things happened during this meeting. The characters took care of a lot of in-town errands, they met a lot of new personalities, two new characters joined the group, the party became an officially chartered adventuring group, and they accepted a new quest. I was away most of the week, but now that I'm back I've updated a few pages:

  • Who's Who - Added new characters: Rezigrene and Alcarenque. I need backgrounds for both and an illustration for Alcarenque.
  • The journal - I updated the journal page, adding some information about the new adventure.
  • Journal entry - I posted a journal entry which Sean submitted. Thanks for the input Sean, Thalidimar's journal entry is a good example of a personal journal.
 
 

August 9, 2004

Books
I finished reading 'Flatterland by Ian Stewart.' No where near as good as 'Flatland'. There was some good stuff in the book regarding extradimensional math, a little bit about time travel, and some rather interesting material overall. Unfortunately the style of telling, the characters involved, and some of the quirky ways the story was told didn't work well. I think I would have enjoyed a plain textbook better. Not that good of a book. I won't be adding it to my books page. It's not one of my favorites.

I'll start reading 'Time and Again' by Jack Finey. A fictional book about time travel! Does the past actually exist? Supposedly, this book is being made into a movie. Or has it already been made into a movie? I'm not quite sure since the IMDB listings for 'Time and Again' don't mention the novel. I'll have to do a little more research in this regard.

 
 

August 8, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 7th of August). A lot of things happened during this meeting. The characters took care of a lot of in-town errands, they met a lot of new personalities, two new characters joined the group, the party became an officially chartered adventuring group, and they accepted a new quest. I'll be gone most of next week, so it'll be a while before all these new happenings make their way to the web site. The only thing I've had time to update so far is the campaign page. I updated the page with our next game date. That's the 21st of August in case you're interested.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. The author of GraphicConverter has spawned another beta version. The latest version is 5.2.2b2. The software that just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

August 2, 2004

Sick as a dog!
On Thursday (the 29th of July) I came down with some kind of virus. I've been sick ever since. At the moment, I'm officially on quarters. It's pretty bad. Fever (severe at times), diarrhea (or 'dais poopus of the blow hole' as my mother would call it), upset stomach, muscle aches and headaches. I went to the hospital. They're not quite sure what it is. They know it's some sort of virus, but they don't know specifically what it it. There was some thought that it might be food poisoning (I ate something I shouldn't have on Wednesday), but that usually doesn't last more than 48 hours. Whatever it is, it's kicking my Ass!

 
 

July 28, 2004

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. The author of GraphicConverter has spawned another beta version. The latest version is 5.2.2b1. The software that just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

Minor updates
Insomnia has struck. I'm up at 0300 in the morning, sifting through my web server error logs. I've been correcting minor discrepancies in my html and cgi files. I wish I could sleep...

 
 

July 27, 2004

New domains!
I recently registered two more domain names. I did it a while back, but recently got the pointers and email forwarding in place. The two new domain names are: Vaessen.name and Vaessen.ws. I've decided to use the Vaessen.name domain primarily for email. If your last name is Vaessen (like mine!), I can hook you up with your own Vaessen.name email address. No charge, just drop me an email. So far there are only a few names taken (Robert, Kim, Jan). I know there's a few Vaessen's out there; especially my relatives in the U.S. and the Netherlands. I will probably use the vaessen.ws domain for email related to the web site.

Since registering the two domains, I've updated three associated web pages. The front page, the feedback page, and the Spam offer.

 
 

July 26, 2004

Birthday girl
Yesterday was Kim's birthday. With a horrible start to the weekend, things got better once we got the car back. Unfortunately, we're a bit low on cash, so there was no repeat of last years vacation. On Friday, we had a free pizza from Papa John's. Kim received a bunch of cards from friends and relatives, and her friends from work threw her a little party. On Saturday we played D&D and had a birthday cake afterwards. On Sunday we went out to eat. On Monday we went and saw a movie.

Dining out in Denver
Last night we went out to eat at a place called 'The melting pot'. As you can imagine, from the title. It's a fondue place. Located in downtown Littleton, the building is a historic landmark, and a bit mazelike inside. The atmosphere was somber and subdued. With very low lighting and a labrynthine interior, we felt like we were in a dungeon. The food was o.k. Nothing spectacular. The most memorable part was the price. Overpriced, I should say. I think we were paying for the novelty of fondue cooking in a historic building. There certainly wasn't much distinctiveness in the cooking itself. We ordered the center-cut 4 course meal (there are two options), and while there was more than enough to eat, the novelty wore off when we saw the price tag. $86.00 for the two of us. It made for a romantic birthday meal, and the atmosphere was nice. But this place deserves more distinction in the cooking.

Saw a movie
Normally, I don't post my reviews on my "What's New" page. I stopped doing that a while back. However, I've decided that posting the movies that I go to see in the theater won't eat up too much space. So, Kim and I went to see a movie today:

The Bourne supremacy: Directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Unfortunately, Franka Potente's character dies early in the film. She did a fantastic job in the first movie, and it's a shame that she gets very little time in this movie. I'm not as impressed with Paul Greengrass' direction as I was with Doug Liman's in the Bourne identity. Matt Damon reprises his role, and the acting is excellent. Jason Bourne is framed for a murder, and must return to his old ways in order to clear his name. The story was pretty good, the music was good, the locations fantastic. There were two problems with this movie. One serious, one minor. First the serious problem: The camera work. I couldn't see what was happening half the time. Some really good action scenes, fighting and car chases, were ruined by this 'seizure cam' technique. Hopefully they'll buy a tripod before they film the third movie in this trilogy. The first movie had a kinetic feel to it. The action shots were tight, well focused, and energetic. In this movie, the action scenes are a blur of uncertainty, unfocused and careening out of control. I imagine it was done to imply an unharnessed energy and out of control feeling to the action scenes. In my opinion, they overplayed it. It ended up hurting the story. The minor problem? This movie lacked any explanation didn't do a very good job of explaining what was going on, and there were some plot flaws. If I hadn't seen the first movie, I'd have some serious problems forllowing the plot in this movie. Despite the disappointing direction/camera work, I give it a 5 out of 7.

D&D®
As I mentioned earlier, we played D&D on Saturday night. As a result, I've updated the campaign page with the next game date (7 Aug). I also posted an updated background for Ashedyn. Due to some rules changes (3.5 vs 3.0), Mark had to change a few things in his character's background. The session saw the generation of two new characters. A female Orog fighter, and a male Sun-elven wizard. The background/bio pages should be available shortly.

 
 

July 23, 2004

Car problems
Over the last three days, we've had some pretty serious car problems. Problems with both vehicles. First it's the Passat. Suddenly all the steering column controls stopped working, the home-link stopped working, and the climatronic controls stopped working. It took the dealer two days to figure out what was wrong with it, and twenty minutes to fix it. I'm now the proud owner of a brand new $550.00 dollar Sun visor! Of all things, the damn sun visor had a short in it that kept burining out a series of fuses. A new visor in the Jeep would have cost $15.00. That brings us to the other vehicle problem.

The Jeep has been on it's last leg for some time now. I've known that the engine is going for over a year. Now it's death is imminent. The Jeep is losing compression now. I can barely get the thing above 55mph, and it's spewing nasty smelling black exhaust whenever I step on the gas. It looks like we're going back to being a one car family for the time being. I'll try carpooling whenever possible, and we'll be relying on the Passat a lot more. I was kind of hoping the Jeep would last until after I retired, but now we've got no choice in the matter. We'll be a one car family until we know what the future holds.

D&D®
We'll be playing D&D tomorrow. The party is down three characters, but they're back in Willip. This meeting will most likely be used to update the surviving characters, introduce some new characters, and take care of some administrative stuff. This week I spent some of my time responding to general game related queries. As a result of these queries, I updated a game related document and one web page.

House rules: After a recent major upgrade. This upgrade is minor in comparison. Two items in the 'Going up a level' section were updated. I added some additional details to the experience points section, and I corrected an error in the 'Level advancement' section.

Level advancement: This stand alone web page has been updated to comply with D&D version 3.5 rules. This web page details the house rules for level advancement in our 3rd edition camapaign.

 
 

July 18, 2004

It's been nearly a week since my last entry, but I've been very busy of late. Here's what's been happening in Rob's World!

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 10th of July). It was the conclusion of the Black Sunday session. The party succeeded in it's quest and they're back in Willip. They'll be in Willip for some time, identifying magic items, healing wounds, splitting up the loot, going up a level and looking for new recruits. The following D&D documents and web pages were recently updated.

  • The Who's Who page has been updated with the addition of some new personalities (Thereman Ulath, Ironstump Nailbitter) and updates to older entries (Nibori, Tunadholm and the Rondolim).
  • The Wherenow page has been updated with the addition of some new locations (Eastern Base Camp and the tower of the Rising Moon), and updates to some older entries.
  • House rules. A considerable update to the House Rules (in PDF format) adds a table of contents and page numbers to help you find what you're looking for. Recent additions/changes include:
    • Added and updated a 'Rule books used' section .
    • Updated rules regarding character sheets.
    • Updated Feats section. Now includes info/rules regarding character Traits and Flaws.
    • A new section of rules regarding 'Absentee players'.
    • Updated rules regarding spell books.
  • New feats. Thanks to submissions from Mark, we've added some new character Traits and Flaws to our house rules. The updated newfeats.pdf is available via download from my website. What are the new Traits and Flaws? (For rules on how to use/apply character Traits and Flaws, see the new Unearthed Arcana)
    • Impulsive - New character Trait
    • Fatal weakness - New character flaw
  • Experience points from monsters killed. During this adventure, there was plenty of blood-shed. Here's a breakdown on the number of experience points gained from defeating your opponents:
    • Thalidimar - 5150xp
    • Ashedyn - 4157xp
    • Emrikol-Oz - 4747xp
    • Nibori - 4991xp
    • Duracell - 5341xp
    • Solindria - 5600xp
    • Kagnythus - 3361xp
  • Finally, the adventurers journal has been updated. Thanks go out to Mark for submitting this entry. This one is well worth reading. The exciting and suspensefull conclusion to one very difficult adventure.

Our next meeting is on the 24th of July, our players will be busy in Willip. It's time to collect a well earned reward, lick their wounds, and prepare for the next adventure!

Software
Not another software updates entry. This is a bit different. One of my favorite pieces of software (despite the fact that it's not on my Software Favorites page) is something called 'Check Off'. It used to be ShareWare, now it Free! The source code has been released to Source Forge, and it is now in development by the open source community. Why am I writing about it? Because I've take a personal interest. I'm using the opportunity to learn a little about coding on the Mac platform. In my efforts to make Check Off better, I've actually used the programs source code to locate and squash a bug. I even compiled a new beta version. Hopefully, this newly compiled software will be available to the public.

Vaessen family
Given my recent interest in my personal genealogy, and the great information received from Jan Vaessen (A Dutch relative), my Aunt Dorothy recently sent me some photo's and a obituary. The photos are of my grand parents families. A photo of the Saharski family (my grandmothers family), and one of the Vaessen Family (my grandfathers family). This data will be very helpful as I move forward with my family history project.

Saw a movie
Normally, I don't post my reviews on my "What's New" page. I stopped doing that a while back. However, I've decided that posting the movies that I go to see in the theater won't eat up too much space. So, Kim and I went to see a movie on Saturday:

I, Robot: Starring Will smith, this sci-fi murder mystery was 'suggested' by the book (of the same name) by Isaac Asimov. What exactly does 'suggested' mean? I've never read the novel, but I've read Isaac Asimov. I can't imagine the novelist coming up with anything resembling the script of this movie. If only the casting had left Will Smith out of the picture. This movie should not have been a comedy. All the characters were wooden cutouts. Everyone except Will Smith, playing a techno-phobe detective. If the writers lacked in giving the characters any life, Will smith made up for it by playing himself. The 'effects' were excellent, if unbelievable at times. This movie could have been much deeper. It was a shallow piece of hollywood fluff. It failed to live up to my expectations, and I'm rating it 3 out of 7.

Dining out in Denver
On Sunday, Kim and I ate dinner downtown. We made reservations, and arrived on time at Ristorante Venice in (5946 S. Holly, Greenwood Village, CO 80111
720-482-9191). We had a variety plate of Antipasto, some wine, and sparkling water. The water wasn't San Pelegrino. It was something called Lizza? It wasn't as good as San Pelegrino. It was flat, lacked character, and almost tasted of tap water. Kim had a glass of wine. For main dishes Kim had Agnello in a red sauce, and I had Poletto Picatta. My chicken was much better than Kim's lamb. The atmosphere at the restaurant was very upscale. In jeans and a short sleeve shirt (with buttons), I felt very under-dressed. The roasted potatoes weren't all that special. Were they ready made? The meal was a bit expensive, totaling $82 after a tip. It was good, but nothing I'd rave over. There are other Italian restaurants in the area, we'll try a different place next time.

 
 

July 12, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night (The 10th of July). It was the conclusion of the Black Sunday session. The party succeeded in it's quest. The details will be revealed in the next journal entry, so be sure to check back later this week. With the Rondolim recovered, and yet another party member dead, this has been one very costly quest.

  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 24th of July in case you're wondering.
  • Nibori is dead! Long live Nibori. As with other deceased player characters, I've created a web page specifically for her. I also updated the links to Nibori in the old journals, and the "Who's Who" page.
  • The "Who's Who" page has been updated to reflect some of the consequences of this quests conclusion.
 
 

July 9, 2004

Job Search
I had my first interview this morning. A phone interview with SAIC. Number 2 on my list of companies I'd like to work for. It sounded good. A signals analysis job, good pay, good benefits, and a sincere promise of a job offer. I'm glad I had the phone interview, it'll make the next interviews easier. The search continues, but prospects are looking better.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. The author of GraphicConverter has spawned another beta version. The latest version is 5.2.2b0. The software that just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

July 4, 2004

Dining out in Denver
On Friday Kim and I enjoyed lunch at an Indian restaurant. Located in a little strip mall, India's in Denver (3333 South Tamarac Drive Denver, Colorado 80231-4362) is arguablly one of the best Indian restarant's in all of Denver. Despite the fact that we chose the buffet, Kim and I were highly impressed by the quality of the food. We will definitely have to come back to this place. That Saag Paneer (Spinach) was incredible.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter made it's way to another full release. The latest version is 5.2.1. The software that just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

June 30, 2004

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter made it's way to 5.2.1b1. The software that just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday night. It was a Black Sunday session for our intrepid group of adventurers. The party recently uncovered the location of a 'secret' treasure vault and headed to the surface to find a way to unlock the treasure vault. The Kobolds were waiting on the surface. It wasn't a pretty scene. Follow this link to a synopsis, or check out the journal entry from that ill-fated session. The quest for the Rondolim has been very costly for the party.

  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 10th of July in case you're wondering.
  • The adventurers journal. Thanks go out to Mark (who plays Ashedyn) for continuing his excellent work on the Journal. This time Mark used a non-player narrative to relay important information that his character is unaware of. Players are highly encouraged to read the journal entries as a reminder of what happened last session. Plus, sometimes the entries contain vital clues!
  • Solindria is dead! Long live Solindria. As with other deceased player characters, I've created a web page specifically for her. I also updated the links to Solindria in the old journals, and the "Who's Who' page.

Hiking in Boulder
I went hiking in the mountains just west of Boulder, CO. It was a military function, but there were only four people who showed up to hike. Oh, well. Despite the poor turn-out, I had a really good time. I posted some photos I took. I hope you like them.

 
 

June 27, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D last night. It was a Black Sunday session for our intrepid group of adventurers. The party recently uncovered the location of a 'secret' treasure vault and headed to the surface to find a way to unlock the treasure vault. The Kobolds were waiting on the surface. It wasn't a pretty scene. Follow the link to a synopsis. A less than hopeful journal entry should follow shortly. The quest for the Rondolim has been very costly for the party.

 
 

June 24, 2004

In the Air Force
Bittersweet news: Today I received official notification that I have been selected for promotion to Master Sergeant! It's good news, but it doesn't change my decision. I'm going to retire on one January 2005. Unfortunately, this promotion comes too late in my Air Force career to influence my decision. Weighing the pros and cons of continued enlistment, I come up with the same decision as before. It's time for me to retire and seek employment elsewhere. It's still a good feeling to know that I made it. MSgt selectee Vaessen.

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday the 12th of June. It was a breakthrough session for the current adventure. The party remembered a vital clue, uncovered the location of a 'secret' treasure vault, finished off the remainder of the Co-Jahmi squad (of Kobolds), discovered some valuable love letters, and they now have a fresh lead on the location of the Rondolim.

  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 26th of June in case you're wondering.
  • The adventurers journal. Thanks go out to Mark (who plays Ashedyn) for continuing his excellent work on the Journal. This time Mark went to the extra effort of providing two points of view. One entry from Ashedyn's point of view and one from Thalidimar. Players are highly encouraged to read the journal entries as a reminder of what happened last session. Plus, sometimes the entries contain vital clues!
  • Monsters! I updated the entry for the Rusty Hinge tribe. Vital clues from Kobold love letters helped provided this information.
 
 

June 22, 2004

Software favorites
A couple more updates to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter made it's way to the full release version 5.2. (Which I helped beta test) Followed almost immediately by the release of 5.2.1b0. The software that just keeps getting better! I also downloaded and updated my copy of BetterHTMLExport. This new version (2.0.16) is now running on my copy of iPhoto 4.0.1.

Check out the awesome photo presentation formats offered by BetterHTMLExport. I recently posted one new photo gallery. Check out the page I created as a result of volunteering at the 2004 AEI World Forum.

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

BetterHTMLExport is an iPhoto plugin which you can use to create web pages from iPhoto galleries. You can control the web page output much more efficiently than the you can with iPhoto's built in web page output controls, you have additional output options, and you can download, save, and use templates to create highly professional looking web pages. This plugin is definitely worth the cash. I was tired of spending hours tweaking my photo web pages. BetterHTMLExport lets me spend my time more wisely.

 
 

June 17 - 20, 2004

Attendance at the 2004 World Forum
From 17 - 20 June; I volunteered at the 2004 AEI World Forum. The World Forum is held every year in Beaver Creek, Colorado. At former president Gerald R. Ford's personal invitation, the forum is attended by prominent business leaders, public officials, and scholars. Participants discuss the most critical economic, social, and security issues facing the United States and the world community.

Volunteers are solicited from military bases in Denver and Colorado Springs. Volunteers spend their days acting as security augmentees for the forum's events and drivers for the participants. In addition to the typical volunteer duties, this year I was privileged to serve as a driver in the Vice President's motorcade. I received instructions from Secret Service and White House Advance team members and drove a support vehicle in the Vice Presidential motorcade. Quite a thrill! I received a couple of mementos for my service, and there will be more to come later. I received a letter of thanks, a Dick Cheney pen, and a photo with the vice president.

This year Kim came along with me, and I even managed to take a few photos. As usual, we stayed in condominiums provided by the Vail Valley Foundation, and I received a $75.00 stipend to help pay for meals. If I'm still working in the Aurora/Denver area next year, I'll try to attend the forum for a fourth year.

 
 

June 13, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D last night. It was a breakthrough session for the current adventure. The party remembered a vital clue, uncovered the location of a 'secret' treasure vault, finished off the remainder of the Co-Jahmi squad (of Kobolds), discovered some valuable love letters, and they now have a fresh lead on the location of the Rondolim. Stay tuned for the journal entry.

Spammer Hell - Continues!
Spammers S*ck! It appears as if trivial identity forgery has become routine. I now see spam carrying my email address in the From: or Reply-To: field on a routine basis. Right now it constitutes less than 10%, but it's continuous. I've also seen the resumption of a Joe-Job using one of my email addresses. As a result of all this malicious spammer activity, I've had to stop manual reporting of the trivial identity theft. I'm now reporting it using SpamCop and a specially tailored comment.

Eating out in Denver
I almost forgot to mention a restaurant I went to the other day. On Thursday I went to a going away party for a former Flight Commander. The luncheon was held at a place called Senor Ric's. Serving Mexican food, Senor Ric's was a fantastic experience. The luncheon was very will arranged. All the guests pre-paid (including tip), we chose any of six entree's, there were chips and salsa (in a never ending supply) as appetizers, sodas and iced tea were refilled promptly, and the food was incredible. I didn't here a single bad comment, and my burrito was awesome. Not just hot, but well seasoned ground beef, with the perfect mixture of ingredients. A pleasant experience all around.

 
 

June 9, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday the 29th of May. The game began with the characters continuing their trudge through the dungeon of 'Pitsontraps'. Hopefully they're nearing the end. But then again, who said the Axe was down here? Umm, I sure hope the axe is down here... Bwah, huh, huh, ha!

  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 12th of June in case you're wondering.
  • The adventurers journal. Thanks go out to Mark (who plays Ashedyn) for continuing his excellent work on the Journal. As I've noted in the past, it is a refreshing change to see journal entries from other characters every now and then.
  • Monsters! I added a couple of new beastie to the list of nasties encountered. The party encountered some deceptive Gargoyle's, and a docile guardian.

The end of spammer Hell?
It appears that this latest bout of identity theft (a Joe-Job) has come to an end. When I got home from work today, there were spam related bounces in my inbox. It appears, at least for now, that the spammer has either been shut-down (not that likely), or s/he has decided to target some other innocent victim for now.

 
 

June 6, 2004

More spammer Hell!
The torrent continues to flow. As a result of this recent bout with the spammers. I've updated my email forgery page. A spammer is forging my email address in the From: / Reply-To: field of his/her spew. As a result, I'm forced to deal with the fallout. Hundreds of non-delivery bounces, auto-replies, and explaining to people that I'm not a spammer.

Eating out in Denver
Kim and I went out to eat this evening. We tried a new place. Pappadeaux's. It's a Cajun restaurant. Boy it was good. The fried alligator appetizer, Andouille Sausage & Seafood Gumbo , Crawfish Etouffee , and a Creme brulee for desert. It was great. We'll have to go back. They've got a huge menu, and the prices weren't too high.

 
 

June 5, 2004

I hate spammers! aka Spammer Hell!
If I could get away with it... If I ever catch the S.O.B...It has become apparent that there are at least two (and possibly three), compromised mailhosts out there that have been reconfigured to redirect all bounce to me! Some spammer SOB has compromissed these mailhosts, and reconfigured the machines, so that each and every bounce is redirected to my email address. What the hell do I do about that? If I knew how to speak Chinese or Korean, I could try calling the place phone number listed in the domain registry.

I guess I'll just have to bend over and take it. Just like everyone else who receives a butt load of spam. I'm on their list, and they are making my life HELL!

Six Flags: Elitch Gardens
Located in the heart of Denver, Colorado. Kim and I took a day trip. We spent most of the day (1000-1630) at an amusement park. We went to Six Flags: Elitch Gardens in downtown Denver. We both had a fantastic time. Rode a bunch of roller coasters, had some goofy photos taken, felt like kids again! Check out the photos.

More spammer Hell!
After returning home from Elitch Gardens, the Spammer Hell that I find myself has gotten a little bit hotter. It's another case of Identity theft. Another Joe-Job. A spam run where my email address is forged as the From: / Reply-To: address on the spam. I'm currently trying to live through the deluge of bounce reports, and auto-responders. There isn't much more you can do about something like this. Sys-admins have become so inundated with the evergrowing tide of spam that they almost never respond to requests for assistance in this sort of instance. I just hope I don't end up getting locked out of my email account.

 
 

June 4, 2004

It's been a busy week. Kim and I had off on Monday and Tuesday, and I worked late on Wednesday and Thursday. I've been busy posting my resume on Job sites, and shmoozing at work. I've already had one employment inquiry.

Software favorites
A couple more updates to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter made it's way to version 5.2b0. The software that just keeps getting better! I also downloaded and updated my copy of BetterHTMLExport. This new version (2.0.15) is now running on my copy of iPhoto 4.0.1.

Check out the awesome photo presentation formats offered by BetterHTMLExport. I recently posted two new photo galleries. Check out the Wisconsin Winter, or Denver Zoo photo formats.

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

BetterHTMLExport is an iPhoto plugin which you can use to create web pages from iPhoto galleries. You can control the web page output much more efficiently than the you can with iPhoto's built in web page output controls, you have additional output options, and you can download, save, and use templates to create highly professional looking web pages. This plugin is definitely worth the cash. I was tired of spending hours tweaking my photo web pages. BetterHTMLExport lets me spend my time more wisely.

 
 

May 31, 2004

Memorial Day
Kim and I are planning an outing today. The Denver Zoo is calling us. Since arriving here back in 2001, we've been to plenty of the scenic sites around Colorado, but we've seen very little of Denver itself. This summer our plan is to do Denver right. Today it's the Zoo, tomorrow it's Elitch Gardens, a Six Flags theme park. I'll take pictures and post them later.

My BIO
With my impending retirement from the Air Force (1 Jan 2005); there have been a few changes in our lives. As a result I updated my bio page. The page now contains a link to my resume', and an expanded section on post Air-Force employment. That 20 year mark is quickly approaching. The future is getting much closer to the present, and I plan to be there when it arrives.

A trip to the Zoo!
Kim and I spent most of the day at the Zoo. The Denver Zoo. We had a really good time. Sorry for the non-descriptive photo captions, but I can't remember the names of all the animals we saw. Have fun making up names for the ones you don't recognize. The Denver Zoo certainly has a large variety of critters. The food was incredibly expensive for hot hot dogs, and something called a cheeseburger link. No you don't want to know! Luckily, we wore plenty of sun screen, so neither of us got sunburned. Unfortunately, Kim sprained her ankle, so we won't be going to Elitch Gardens. Maybe some other day. I hope you like the photo page I created. The page layout was done using BetterHTMLExport, one of my software favorites. It was a snap, really! See my software favorites for more of the software that I consider indispensible (For the Mac user).

Wisconsin 2004
As promised, way back in January, I've posted some photos from our trip home. Kim and I went home to Wisconsin in January. We had a really good time. I took a bunch of photos, and I've finally gotten around to posting them.

 
 

May 28, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday the 15th of May. The game began with the characters resting and casting healing spells. If you missed last session (haven't read the journal entries lately), the party has take a loss. Emrikol-Oz, the Magic User has passed beyond. His departure from this mortal plane was less than heroic, and undeserving of such a fiery spirit.

  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 29th of May in case you're wondering.
  • The adventurers journal. Thanks go out to Jason for this latest entry. Mark (who plays Ashedyn) wasn't able to make it to our last session, so Jason helped out with the journal.
  • Monsters! I added a new beastie to the list of nasties encountered. Although the party has never fought a Flint Golem, they've encountered two of them.
 
 

May 26, 2004

Spam
Something astonishing happened today!
When I got home from work, I checked my email. Expecting to see approximately 70 spam messages, I was somewhat shocked to only find approximately 20 spam messages in my inbox. Something must be wrong I thought. I quit my email application, restarted it. Check a few other things, and came to the conclusion that my personal spam volume was actually down by approximately 35%. How could that be I wondered?

I thought about it for a few minutes, and then it came to me. A plausible reason. Comcast, sometimes referred to as Spamcast by many anti-spammers recently announced the implementation of a new anti-spam practice on their behalf.

Comcast is a very large provider, with millions of subscribers. Many of those subscribers have always on connections. Another large segment of that percentage have computers that have been infected and compromised by spammers. These machines are referred to as 'Zombies'. They're under the control of spammers, usually unbeknownst to their owners, these machines are busy sending out spew. Spam by the millions. Message after message. Current estimates pegged Comcast as being responsible for approximately 40% of all spam originating from within the U.S. That is a HUGE number.

Recently Comcast admitted the truth regarding it's spam problem. Then they announced an initiative that would help reduce spam. They were going to begin blocking port 25 on infected machines in their network. Port 25 is the internet port used to send email. This measure if effectively implemented could result in a dramatic reduction in the number of spam sources.

Is this the reason for my personal reduction in spam? I certainly hope so. It would be a very promising sign in the fight against spam. If this is the result of Comcast's recently announced initiative, it could become a model for other ISPs. A means of dramatically reducing spam for everyone!

Mac OS 10.3.4.
Today I updated my operating system. Mac OS X (Panther) went up one notch to OS 10.3.4. Here's a recap of the improvements and bug fixes. The significance here is updates to some of my pages. As a result of my OS update, the following pages have been updated. myfavs.html, feedback.html, mycomputer.html

 
 

May 23, 2004

Movies
I bought three movies the other day. Master & Commander - The far side of the world. This one was on my 'must buy' list. Paycheck, which was on my 'watch list' and Big Fish, which should have been on the 'watch list'. Check out my 'reviews' page for reviews! I'll update the movie listing when I get a chance.

Yard work/Spring cleaning
Kim and I have been busy cleaning the house and working on the yard. A contractor added a new sprinkler zone to the back yard, and it's been a problem. A one day job has turned into a three day job. The lawn in the back is starting to suffer. Mowing the lawn is another chore that seems more difficult this time of year. I use a muscle powered rotary mower. It's been some time since the blades were sharp, and the lawn is especially healthy this time of year. Mowing can sometimes be a work out. Kim and I are cleaning the carpets this weekend. The first room was a test. Everything turned out ok As a matter of fact, the carpet dried in under six hours, thanks to that ceiling fan.

 
 

May 21, 2004

Resume'
The security office at work has approved my resume'. I've been working on it this week. I hope to finish entering it into the computer by Monday. Once I've got it saved in PDF format, I'll post a link and start submitting it to potential employers.

Software favorites
Graphic Converter: One of my absolute favorites moved up another version this week. It went up to 5.1.2b1. The software that just keeps getting better! This latest upgrade marks an outstanding new feature. Everyone should know about the newest GraphicConverter feature. GraphicConverter 5.1.2b1 contains a 'Find duplicate files' feature. I just eliminated 62 duplicates from a folder of 2,638 images. This little feature is huge! It's awesome. It previews the duplicates side by side with some file info beneath the images. If you want to delete the duplicates, you simply click a button.

I can't imagine how long it would have taken me to manually find these duplicates. Eyeballing all the files one by one, and trying to remember whether there were any matches would have been a herculean task. Thankfully, I've got my own little Hercules. Sweet little GC! Go baby go!

Keep up the good work Thorsten! They'll make you a saint yet!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

May 18, 2004

Books
I finished reading 'Angels and Demons' by Dan Brown. This book is the prequel to The Da Vinci code. Since the DaVinci code wasn't out in paperback yet, I figured I'd start with the prequel. Ancient secret societies, Suspense thriller, real-time adventure. A plot with a roller-coaster ending. I thought I knew what was going on, I thought the climax was near, but then I noticed that there were way to many pages left. This engrossing read is a splendid example of writing. Rich characters, an engrossing plot with a miraculous ending.

Started reading 'Flatterland' by Ian Stewart. Like 'Flatland', only more so. A sequel to a century-old classic.

Loaned a copy of 'the Butlerian Jihad' to one of my co-workers. She's decided to read the Dune novels, and I set her straight on the path. This, not Dune, is the place to start.

 
 

May 15, 2004

Vaessen family

Recently, I was contacted by a Jan Vaessen from the Netherlands. Jan wondered whether we were related. I've always suspected that it would be relatively easy to trace my family lineage, given the unique last name. So I gave Jan some ancestry information, and he did a little research.

Less than a day latter, and I have thousands of new relatives. Jan has been able to fit my Great Grandfathers piece of the puzzle into our family tree. Jan has complete family records all the way back to the year 1585, and additional records as far back as 1125.

It's all very exciting, and I'm busy trying to digest all the information Jan provided me with. Given the recent breakthrough, I recently purchased some genealogy software, and I'll be working on getting everything into a database. Once that's done, I'll publish it all on my web site. I can't wait to tell the rest of the family about our 'Dutch Connection'.

Software favorites
A couple more updates to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter made it's way to version 5.1.2b0. The software that just keeps getting better! I added CSSEdit to my favorites page last month. This month the version was bumped up to 1.6.3.

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

CSSEdit is a lightweight editor with a heavy weight punch. If you're looking for a Cascading Style Sheet editor, look no further. With a very clean interface, point-n-click simplicity, and access to source code editing, you can't ask for much more in a CSS editor. Although I don't make extensive use of CSS, I've found CSSEdit to be the premier CSS editor in the Mac arena. The preview function takes all the guess-work out of a complex task (CSS editing), and the CSS extraction capability simplifies your plagiarization efforts. Inexpensive, powerful, and easy to use. I'm glad I found this gem.

 
 

May 9, 2004

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday the 1st of May. The game began with the characters searching the bodies of the Kobolds after a massive battle. The quest for the Rondolim continues. I've updated the following campaign related pages.

  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 15th of May in case you're wondering.
  • The adventurers journal. Thanks go out to Mark for his continued support in making these journal entries possible. Today I updated the journal entry for the current adventure. The party is making their way through a trap filled dungeon, searching for the Rondolim.
  • Who's Who? A page with all the characters and NPC's in the campaign. With the death of Emrikol-Oz, I had to make some changes to the Who's Who page. I moved Emrikol to his own page.
 
 

May 7, 2004

Fitness Test
I passed! Yes, I passed my Air Force fitness test. The last one I'll ever have to take. The Air Force has finally ditched the bike test (ergo-cycle). The new fitness test includes push-ups, sit-ups, a waist measurement (which is seriously flawed), and a 1.5 mile run. I didn't do so well on the waist measurement (I have some problems with this part of the test, not that I'm a lard body. I have problems with the way this part of the test is structured). I maxed my push-ups, doing 40 in under a minute. I maxed the sit-ups, doing 47 in less than a minute. The most difficult part (for me) was the run. I ran it in a new personal best, finishing the mile and a half run in 14:57. My total score was 75.6. I needed 70 to pass. I'm very pleased with my score. Everything just got better after passing the fitness test.

Software favorites
GraphicConverter: One of my absolute favorites moved up two versions this week. It went to 5.1.1b0, and now it's at 5.1.1. The software that just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

May 3, 2004

My new computer - PowerMac G5
The new computer is up and running. I've got all the bugs worked out, all the software configured, all the files transferred, and I even installed a bunch of Unix applications. I've been hard at work over the last two weeks, but it's all paid off. The new machine is a screaming fast monster. I even created a web page which describes my new system.

 
 

April 30, 2004

Snow!
More snow in Denver. The weather here sure is weird. On Wednesday we had temps in the 80's, today's the last day of April and we've got a snow storm. From 5 inches downtown, to 5 feet in the mountains. The white fluffy stuff came down all day today. It started early this morning, and didn't let up until late this afternoon. Luckily it didn't get very cold. More moisture is good. We're still way below average for precipitation.

Software favorites
Yet more updates to my software favorites page. I've finally got a copy of Dreamweaver MX 2004 (Version 7.0.1) installed on my machine. I've been yearning after the newest version of Dreamweaver since Christmas. Now I've finally got a copy. I also updated the information about my Mac on the favorites page. Oh yeah, with the new OS came a new version of Safari. I'm now running version 1.2.1. (v125.1). I also removed the entry for X11 until I can update the Unix portion of my Favorites page.

Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004: Learning HTML, and creating rich and appealing web sites, can be a difficult endeavor. Dreamweaver MX 2004 makes the heavy duty jobs lite weight. The only WYSIWYG tool that I use. I've been using Dreamweaver for some time now, and really appreciate some of it's more powerful features. It's a world class champ when it comes to editing HTML tables. With a tool box full of things I've yet to use, I'm sure I'll be learning more about HTML in the future, thanks to Dreamweaver MX 2004.

Safari: Apple's default web browser for OS X, is way ahead of the pack. Apple's browser contains a plethora of incredibly powerful features. I wonder why Microsoft stopped developing IE for Mac? I'm currently using version 1.2.1. (v125.1)

Battle of the browsers. Netscape versus Internet Explorer. Those are your choices right? Wrong! Think different! Think Mac! Choose Safari, the new kid on the block. A fast (The fastest available for Mac) but full featured browser, which performs like a pro. Tabbed browsing, URL snap-back, a powerful but elegant bookmark implementation (with built-in import capability), Google search integration, built-in pop-up blocker, multiple standards (HTML, XML, XHTML, DOM, CSS, JavaScript, and Java, plus QuickTime, Flash and Shockwave plug-ins), and a host of other features. Just one more reason to Switch! It's won a place as my default browser, give it a chance and it'll soon be yours.

 
 

April 29, 2004

Software favorites
A couple more updates to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter made it's way to version 5.1. The software that just keeps getting better! I also downloaded and updated my copy of BetterHTMLExport. This new version (2.0.14) is now running on my copy of iPhoto 4.0.

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

BetterHTMLExport is an iPhoto plugin which you can use to create web pages from iPhoto galleries. You can control the web page output much more efficiently than the you can with iPhoto's built in web page output controls, you have additional output options, and you can download, save, and use templates to create highly professional looking web pages. This plugin is definitely worth the cash. I was tired of spending hours tweaking my photo web pages. BetterHTMLExport lets me spend my time more wisely.

Domains Renewed
Both of my domains <http://www.robsworld.org and http://www.vaessen.net> were auto-renewed today. $35.00 got me a two year renewal on both domains. Thanks godaddy! If I hadn't been so busy, I would've registered some additional domains.

Encryption
Updated my encryption page. I added five new public key blocks to the page. I updated my encryption software to GnuPG 1.2.4 and GPGMail 1.0.1-10.3 and added five encryption keys to my keychain. These changes were precipitated by my OS update (It kind of came with my new G5!). I'm now using Mail.app 1.3.7 (v615/613).

 
 

April 28, 2004

Software favorites
Another upgrade to one of my software favorites. The worlds greatest text editor - BBEdit - moved up to version 7.1.4.

BBEdit is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. It is designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text. BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any MAC enthusiast. Window's users eat your heart out!

 
 

April 27, 2004

My new computer - PowerMac G5
I spent all of Monday and the entire evening (aside from two hours for dinner and a movie) transferring files and configuring software. I had a little trouble getting 'Firewire Disk Mode' to work, but a short phone call to the Apple 1-800 support number cleared that up.

 
 

April 26, 2004

My new computer - PowerMac G5
All the parts have arrived. The hardware and software is all here. Now that I've got all the parts, it's time to assemble all the pieces. Hopefully it won't be a difficult chore. Here's the latest arrivals:

  1. PowerMac G5 dual 1.8Ghz model - M9393LL/A. The big beast. Huge! Way bigger than the G4, it's an impressive monster.
  2. Apple 17" Studio Display (Flat-Panel display) - M7649Z/A. Nice! Weird. It's supposed to be a 17" display, but the display has more area than my previous monitor; which was a 17" Apple Studio Display (CRT).
  3. 15Gb (3,700 songs) iPod - M9460LL/A. It'll be a while before I manage to get this baby juiced up.
  4. A 3 year Apple Care extended warranty - M8850LL/A. I hope I don't need to use this, but I'm glad I've got it. The new computer is a hefty investment. This waranty just makes a lot of sense to me.
  5. Dreamweaver MX 2004. An upgrade from Dreamweaver MX 6.1.

The first chore is unpacking the new stuff, staging both computers in a workspace (on the D&D table), and connecting the two computers.

 
 

April 25, 2004

Dining out in Denver
Kim and I went out to eat this evening. The occasion? Kim won a bet. Recently, we had a light out on the Passat, and we wagered on the repair cost. Well, to make along story short... It cost less than I estimated!

Kim got to pick a restaurant. She selected one of our favorites. The Denver Chop House & Brewery. A LoDo (Lower Down Town) brew pub and restaurant just outside the Rockies baseball stadium. Housed in an old Union Pacific Railroad warehouse, the restaurant has a country club atmosphere, with dark wood paneling, exposed brick, and ceilings. The food is basic (but spectacular) American fare, and plenty of it: steaks, seafood, and chicken served with hot corn bread and honey butter. The appetizers are fantastic.

  • Starter:
    • Grilled Portobello Mushrooms - Huge woodland mushrooms, marinated and grilled. Garnished with lightly fried battered onion shavings.
  • Entrees:
    • Kim: Gorgonzola Filet - Two grilled medallions served on a pool of buttery Worcestershire sauce, Shiitake -mushrooms and topped with Gorgonzola. Served with wild rice.
    • Robert: Bourbon Beef Pizza - Grilled sirloin, Wild Turkey® steak sauce, Roma tomatoes and grilled onions with White Cheddar cheese.
  • Drinks:
    • Kim: Clos Du Bois Merlot and water
    • Robert: Buffalo Gold ale and water
  • Desert:
    • Both of us: Creme Brulee - Golden crispy coating. Candied ginger, raspberry and mint leave garnish

It was a good night out. The food and drink were excellent, and the company was fantastic. I know, all I had was a pizza, but it was good. Oh, the price? $71.73 + $11.00 tip + $5.00 parking. Denver is kind of expensive.

 
 

April 24, 2004

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. BetterHTMLExport advanced a notch to version 2.0.13.

BetterHTMLExport is an iPhoto plugin which you can use to create web pages from iPhoto galleries. You can control the web page output much more efficiently than the you can with iPhoto's built in web page output controls, you have additional output options, and you can download, save, and use templates to create highly professional looking web pages. This plugin is definitely worth the cash. I was tired of spending hours tweaking my photo web pages. BetterHTMLExport lets me spend my time more wisely.

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday the 17th of April. The game began with the characters barricaded in the central tower of the Keep. Oh, and just in case you missed it, There's a map of Sharisthek available. It's the Keep and grounds, but not the underground tunnels built by that crucified Gnome. The quest for the Rondolim continues. I've updated the following campaign related pages.

  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 1st of May in case you're wondering.
  • The adventurers journal. Thanks go out to Mark for his continued support in making these journal entries possible. Today I updated the journal entry for the current adventure. The party is in the thick of it now. They're trying to find a resting place after a prolonged battle with the Kobolds of the 'Rusty Hinge Tribe'.
  • Weapons. I updated the weapons page, and many of the downloadable versions of the weapons data. Sean noticed an error in the data and I've updated the documents. Ranseur's are now listed with a 10' reach. Note: Ranseur's cannot be used against adjacent (within 5') opponents.
 
 

April 23, 2004

My new computer - PowerMac G5
Parts have begun arriving. Another new component showed up at the front door today. It won't be long now, and I'll have the monster up and running. Here's the newest piece:

  1. Epson Stylus Photo R200 - A color printer by Epson. Six color, fast, efficient and packed with loads of features. This one can print borderless photos, prints on CD's/DVD's (another reason to buy a digital camera?) and has 5760x1440dpi resolution.

This printer was supposed to be part of a Buy.com order, but they backed out on me! I'm not happy with that. They had the lowest price, and they offered free shipping. As a result I had choose a different source for my printer. The printer cost more (only one cent more) at MultiWave, and I had to pay shipping. The new total system cost? $4,605.51

Snow!
More snow in Denver. The weather here sure is weird. Late April and we've got a snow storm. From 5 inches downtown, to 5 feet in the mountains. The white fluffy stuff came down today. It started yesterday afternoon, and didn't let up until early this afternoon. Luckily it didn't get very cold. As a matter of fact, it got warmer through the day, and most of the snow has already melted. There will be no shovelling, that's for sure.

More good news. We sure need the precipitation, and I didn't have to run my fitness test. The snow resulted in a 2 hour delay at the ADF, and many schools were closed.

Movies & Reviews
I added a link to the Movies page. I created a Reviews page a short time ago. I can't believe I spent all that time creating my reviews page, and then I didn't create any links to it. The only link to the reviews page was through this log.

 
 

April 22, 2004

My new computer - PowerMac G5
Parts have begun arriving. Various components showed up at the front door today. Two pieces of the new system were delivered. It won't be long now, and I'll have the monster up and running. Here's two more pieces:

  1. 2Gb PC3200 DDR400 SDRAM - Yummy! More memory for my PowerMac. This will crank the memory up to 2.5Gb's on my PC grater monster.
  2. iLife 04 - I bought the family pack; needed for multi-user machines (me & Kim). Apple's multi-media entertainment suite. Contains 5 different applications.
    1. iPhoto 4 - View and sort photos faster than ever.
    2. iTunes 4.2 - The best digital jukebox just got better. I'm sure my iPod will like this!
    3. iMovie 4 - Video and audio snap into place. Hmmm, I might have to buy a digital video camera.
    4. GarageBand - Making music has never been so natural.
    5. iDVD 4 - See your project at a glance. Yet another reason to buy a digital camera.
 
 

April 21, 2004

Crappy day
Yes, today was a crappy day. First off, this morning I found out that the car (our Passat) has a headlight out. Then my flight (military terminology, indicating a military formation and/or group of Airmen organized administratively) had a weigh-in today. As I grow older, I get shorter, heavier, and wider. Why! So now I'm on a diet. Gave up breakfast, only eating salad for lunch, and I've cut back on my calories at dinner time. Losing weight is about the only way I can make the Air Forces new fitness standards. Everything hinges on waist size... I'll stop there. You don't want to get me started on this subject. Wait until I'm out of the Air Force.

What else could go wrong? How about a dead battery? Yep, I left the lights on when I arrived at work this morning. Of all the days that it doesn't rain in Denver, today it's pouring out. So, I have to jump the battery in the pouring rain. Had to do everything myself. By the time I finished I felt like chilled salmon. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the rain was freezing. What fun.

My new computer - PowerMac G5
Parts have begun arriving. Various components showed up at the front door today. Three pieces of the new system were delivered. It won't be long now, and I'll have the monster up and running. Here's the first three pieces:

  1. MacLinkPlus Deluxe v14 - Conversion and translation software. Open anything with your Mac.
  2. iSight - A digital video conferencing camera. For use with iChat AV. Absoultely beautiful packaging, and sublime design.
  3. CanoScan LiDE 30 - A flatbed scanner for home use. A practical solution for home use. Got good reviews, does exactly what I need, and it didn't cost a bundle.

Software favorites
GraphicConverter: One of my absolute favorites has notched it's version up to 5.1b1. The software that just keeps getting better! This software gets updated on an average of three times a month. This man never lets up!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00, $30.00 without a CD). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

April 19, 2004

My new computer - PowerMac G5

G5 PowerMac I finally did it. Kim and I have been saving for quite some time now, and today I finally did it. We bought a new computer. The old G4 is on it's way out. We bought a new PowerMac G5. The dual 1.8Ghz model, not quite the top of the line, but way more powerful than the 350Mhz single CPU G4.

The G4 was purchased back in October of 1999. It served its purpose. It was/is quite an upgrade from the Performa 550. Its odd that I should think it's slow. I remember when I bought it, the computer was actually considered munitions, and I had problems getting it shipped to Japan (where Kim and I were living at the time).

Here's a list of the items that went into my new G5 PowerMac upgrade:

  • PowerMac G5 dual 1.8Ghz model - M9393LL/A
  • Apple 17" Studio Display (Flat-Panel display) - M7649Z/A
  • 15Gb (3,700 songs) iPod - M9460LL/A
  • A new copy of AppleWorks v6.2.7 - M9057Z/A
  • A 3 year Apple Care extended warranty - M8850LL/A
  • 2Gb (2x1Gb) of PC3200 DDR 400Mhz RAM
  • A LiDE 30 CanoScan flatbed scanner from Canon - 7890A002
  • One copy of MacLinkPlus v14 - 765205-011977
  • Family Pack version of iLife 04 - M9466LL/A
  • A new Epson R200 printer - C11C546011
  • Apple's iSight videoconferencing camera - M8817LL/A
  • Upgrade to Dreamweaver MX 2004

The grand total? With shipping & handling (I didn't pay any tax (Isn't the internet wonderful?)), it came to $4587.20 The goodies should start arriving in two days. I figure everything should be up and running by the end of the month. The easy part is over (saving the money). Now comes the hard part, the migration. I plan on setting the new machine up as if it were a stand-alone computer. Then I'll connect the G4 and G5 using an ethernet cable, and start transferring various pieces of software, and files from the G4 to the new G5. I'll let you know how it goes.

Books & Movies
I updated two web pages today. Added two books to my list of books to read. Flatterland and Time and Again. Time travel, physics, metaphysics. Subects I enjoy reading on. As for movies, I added my two recent purchases: Matrix - Revolutions and Donnie Darko to my movies listing. I also added reveiws of them to my reviews page.

 
 

April 18, 2004

Spam & eMail
FYI. In February of 2001, I reported 40 spam messages (addressed to my personal email addresses). In February of 2004, I reported 3,230 spam messages. Ouch! This month (April 2004) is only a little half over, and already I've reported 2,882 spam messages. That's a 26% increase, and there doesn't appear to be any end in sight. Check out this graph which charts the increasing tide.

My prediction: Spam will soon (within the next five years) kill email. Followed by the death of all (non-secure) interactive communication methods (chat, bulletin boards, guestbooks) over the internet; it's only a matter of time. We're going to lose the battle. Then and only then, will there be an imperative to fix the problem. Spam is currently growing at a rate greater than our ability to deal with it. We lack the means - economic, technological, or social - to prevent it.

In an effort to combat the spam onslaught that I've been dealing with, I've begun deleting email accounts. See my feedback page and junk mail declaration for the changes. Today I deleted my Bigfoot address. The only thing I was receiving from there is spam, spam, and more spam! No legitimate communications. I also deleted an Air Force Association address. I wish I could delete my Yahoo and Geocities addresses, but Yahoo doesn't listen when I talk to them, and the Yahoo account is mandatory if you want to make use of their groups.

 
 

Apr 15, 2004

Books & Movies
I recently ordered a bunch of goodies from Barnes & Noble. The first box arrived today. Getting that box and ripping it open is such a satisfying feeling! Contents? Like the tag-line says; Books & Movies. One copy Forgotten Realms: Player's guide to Faerun (I'm a D&D fanatic). One copy The Missing Manual: Max OS X panther edition (more news concerning this book is forthcoming. Stay tuned for computer news). Two DVDs. The 2-Disc Widescreen edition of Matrix Revolutions, and one copy of Donnie Darko. Both of these movies were on my 'buy' list. I should get a chance to watch them in the coming week.

Software favorites
GraphicConverter: One of my absolute favorites has once again notched it's version version up to 5.1b0. The software that just keeps getting better! This software gets updated on an average of three times a month. This man never lets up!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

Here's a list of the improvements, changes, fixes in the latest beta version. Wow!

  • MacOS X version is now muliple language
  • Cursor color in detail window is now selectable
  • Possible crash during dicom import fixed
  • Browser redraw issues fixed
  • Corrupt resource parts will now be ignored during icon creation
  • Download options from digital camera improved
  • Unicode filename editing support added to the browser
  • Picture information can now be scrolled in the browser
  • Display of unicode filename (on MacOS X) much improved (browser, window title, menu items)
  • Support for color table PNGs files with alpha color table added
  • Incomplete color profiles will no longer be ingnored
  • Option to open a preselected folder in the browser upon launch added
  • Bug with entering February 29, 2004 as IPTC date fixed
  • Redraw bug during erase/draw with icc profile fixed
  • Invert works now with selections, too
  • Folder item count display works now with unicode names, too
  • Download some images support now command + a for selection of all files
  • Bug during moving files with "#" char fixed
  • Applescript command to access all EXIF items added
  • Colorize function added
  • Browser can now display the search results in a new window
  • Browser e-mail supports now deletion of all metadata
  • Move bug on classic fixed
  • Glass blocks effect added
  • Scroll bar issues in the browser fixed
  • File move bug on classic fixed
  • iptc toolwindow resized for smaller displays
  • Tolerance for level effect is now adjustable
  • Crash upon opening JPEGs with corrupt looping EXIF directories fixed
  • Conversion to PDF works now from AppleScript calls, too
  • B key darkens now the slideshow
  • Compatibility with Photoshop plug-ins improved
  • Menu item in the aspect ratio popup for definition added
  • Possible bug during scaling CMYK images by batch fixed
  • Shortcut for rename in browser added
  • Display error in IPTC window on classic fixed
  • Web catalog adds now the filename to the subpages
  • Support for import of 12 bit color table tiffs (4096 colors) added
  • Batch conversion of movies to other formats will only ask now one time for the conversion settings
  • Crop for photoservice allows now a double click for OK on the current selection
  • Display quality of images with less than 8 bit in the slideshow improved
  • Scanned images get now a number for each scan for easy savings
  • FITS -> TIFF conversion will now keep 16 bit grayscale
  • CMYK scitex images are now imported as CMYK (no longer as RGB)
  • Possible crash during savings JPEGs with very large color profiles fixed
  • Print folder will now set the correct page range in the print dialog
  • Downloading of images from a digital camera will now longer overwrite double files (it adds now a number after the name)
  • ascii import improved (supports now grayscale)
  • Display speed of GIF animation improved
  • HPGL import supports now multipage HPGL files
  • Support for automatic rotation after download of images from digital camera added
  • Other bug fixes and enhancements
 
 

April 14, 2004

Heat wave
Once again Colorado's weather swings wide. These last two days have seen teperatures back in the high 70's. All the snow has quickly melted away, and we've even begun watering (and fertilizing) the lawn again.

Beta Testing
I've been doing some beta testing lately. Helping SpamCop test their new mailhosts configuration for spam reporting accounts. That's been somewhat daunting, and frustrating. I've also been helping someone develop an AppleScript which looks for a Mac virus!

Well it's not really a virus, it's an application mismatch that can be exploited to create a trojan. The Mac OS (since OS 7) has allowed users to slap an extension onto a file, even when that extension doesn't coincide with the file type (as stored in the files resource fork). When combined with the ability to change a files icon, this capability can be exploited to create a trojan virus. An executable application disguised as a non-executable file (media). The script I'm helping develop, is an AppleScript which can be attached to a folder. The AppleScript then scans that folder (continuously) for file type/extension mismatches. When a mismatch is detected, a pop-up dialog allows you to quarantine or trash the suspected trojan.

Software favorites
GraphicConverter: One of my absolute favorites has once again notched it's version version up to 5.0.2b3. The software that just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

April 12, 2004

Snowy weekend
Easter weeked in Denver was cold and snowy. We had snow on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday! It's about time. We had no precipitation in March, and all the plants were struggling to bloom. With this unexpected snowfall, spring is ready to burst forth. Unfortunately, the frost on Sunday evening damaged a lot of new buds. Of course the snow has already melted.

D&D®
We played D&D on Saturday the 3rd of April. The game began with a bit of a rewind, we rewound some of the events from the last session and started over. The party re-evaluated their position, came up with a new plan, and made their way into the central hold of the Keep. A better plan than the frontal assault they'd started on the previous meeting. The quest for the Rondolim continues. I've updated the following campaign related pages.

  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 17th of April in case you're wondering.
  • Who's Who. I added some new player information to the page. Sean, our newest player is running Kagnythus (an NPC) until this adventure is over. I also updated some info regarding Emrikol's familiar.
  • More monsters! One addition to the monsters page. 'Monkey-Man'. A blue skinned flying monkey!
  • The adventurers journal. Thanks go out to Mark for his continued support in making these journal entries possible. Today I updated the journal entry for the current adventure. The party is in the thick of it now. They've assaulted the Kobald stronghold.
  • A map of Sharisthek. Sharisthek is the Dwarven hold once ruled over by Tunadholm. Sharisthek is currently occupied by a well organized group of militant Kobalds.
 
 

April 08, 2004

Stress test
As you may recall, last month (March 1st) I had an incident which can best be described as scary! I thought I might have had a heart attack? Follow the link (the Stress test title) for the details of that event.

Fast forward a month or so. Today I had a follow-up appointment at the University of Colorado hospital. A heart stress/echo test. Getting there was a bit stressful. Traffic in Denver can be a bear. Plus, $2.50 to park at the Hospital! Now that's outrageous! I got there, they asked me a bunch of health related questions. I gave them all the answers they were looking for. They hooked me up to the echo machine. An ultrasound device that listens to and images the heart. They said that everything looked normal. Then I got to walk on the treadmill. Apparently most people end up running. I didn't need to. Long legs make the difference. After they got me sweating (10 minutes or so), they stop the treadmill, I layed down immediately, and they took more images of my heart.

The EKG while I was on the treadmill didn't show any problems, and my blood pressure was o.k. during the test. Now I have to wait for the results of the echo comparison. They compare the images (readings) of the heart at rest with those of the heart under stress. According to the technicians and nurses, the results should take less than a week to reach my primary care doctor.

I still think it was an anxiety attack, brought on by stress. I hope!

 
 

April 07, 2004

Books
I just finished reading "Gates of fire" by Steve Pressfield. A historical novel. A fictionalized account of the battle of Thermopylae, as seen through the eyes of one Spartan. This was a fantastic book. Absolutely breathtaking. Rich with detail, vivid, and believable. Told in a way that makes you think it's all true. If you look closely, you'll find that this book is about many things. The one thing that stuck out to me was Democracy. The strength of free men over slaves. The power of Democracy in the world today.

This book was recommended to me by one of the participants at the 2003 World Forum held in Beaver Creek. A fictionalized account of the battle of Thermopylae, as seen thru the eyes of one Spartan. If I see that person this year, I'll be sure to thank him for the recommendation.

I've updated my books page. The next book I'll read is "Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown, author of "The DaVinci code". It's the prequel to The DaVinci code. Since the DaVinci code isn't out in paperback yet, I figured I'd start with the prequel.

Spam
March proved to be a banner month for Spam. I reported approximately 3,800 spam messages, a 17% increase over the month previous. In addition to the increasing tide of spam, the virus emails have been increasing as well. This month the spam count is way up. As of this date, the amount is already up 21% over last month. While I was reporting spam, I happened to check my Yahoo account online. The spam/bulk folder was chock full. One months worth of spam was 1,670 messages. That's just one month of spam at my Yahoo/GeoCities account.

 
 

April 06, 2004

Software favorites
A couple more updates to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter made it's way to version 5.0.2b2. The software that just keeps getting better! I added CSSEdit to my favorites page last month. This month the version was bumped up to 1.6.2. on the 1st of April.

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

CSSEdit is a lightweight editor with a heavy weight punch. If you're looking for a Cascading Style Sheet editor, look no further. With a very clean interface, point-n-click simplicity, and access to source code editing, you can't ask for much more in a CSS editor. Although I don't make extensive use of CSS, I've found CSSEdit to be the premier CSS editor in the Mac arena. The preview function takes all the guess-work out of a complex task (CSS editing), and the CSS extraction capability simplifies your plagiarization efforts. Inexpensive, powerful, and easy to use. I'm glad I found this gem.

 
 

March 31, 2004

Software favorites
A couple more updates to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter made it's way to version 5.0.2b1. The software that just keeps getting better! In addition to the GC update, BBEdit moved up to version 7.1.3.

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

BBEdit is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. It is designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text. BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any MAC enthusiast. Window's users eat your heart out!

D&D®
After skipping a date, we played D&D on Saturday the 20th of March. The quest for the Rondolim continues. The party rescued a crucified Gnome, explored a subterranean garbage pit, had a nasty encounter with an Otyugh, and began their assault on the keep. As a result of that meeting, I've updated the following campaign related pages.

  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 3rd of April in case you're wondering.
  • Who's Who. I added two new NPCs to the page. Takaél Gathar, an evil Gnomish engineer and Zhabovekh, the Kobald leader of the rusty hinge tribe.
  • More monsters! Recent additions to the monsters page include: A garbage dwelling monstrosity and some flying lizard like creatures.
  • The adventurers journal. Thanks go out to Mark for his continued support in making these journal entries possible. Today I updated the main journal page, the party is in the thick of it now. They've assaulted the Kobald stronghold.
 
 

March 29, 2004

Reviews
O.k. I did it. I separated the movie reviews from this "What's New" listing. It's no longer listed on my Movies page either. It's got its own page now. Movie reviews only. The movie reviews really were taking over my "What's New" web page, but not any more.

A day off
Today I took a day of leave. Unfortunately, I did it in order to get a tune-up and oil-change done on the Jeep. While we waited Kim and I ate breakfast at Denny's. Always a pleasure. It sure is nice to get out of the house every now and then.

At the movies
Yesterday, Kim and I took in a movie, did a little shopping, and had dinner at a restaurant. We saw "Secret Window" with Brad Pitt. See my new reviews page for a little review. Before the movie, we did a little shopping at the mall. I bought some books. After the movie, we ate at a "Macaroni Grill". The food wasn't all that good. I'm sure glad we bought a new copy of the "Gabby Gourmet" guide. These franchise places are getting really boring.

 
 

March 27, 2004

Movies
I watched five movies over the last five days. Aside from that I haven't done much else. I've been playing Civilization III, but I'm engaged in a long drawn out battle with the rest of the planet, and it's been dragging on and on and on... It seems that this is becoming my movie review page. As a matter of fact, I'm thinking of moving the movie reviews to a separate section of their own. Perhaps I'll do that this weekend. Here's the five I did watch.

  • The Odessa File: Released in 1974, starring John Voight, directed by Ronald Neame. An excellent thriller. Well paced, a little long. John Voight plays a young German reporter just after WWII. He stumbles upon a secret organization who's goal it is to protect and relocate Nazis. He begins tracking a former concentration camp commandant. This thriller is well balanced between characters and plot. Lots of drama, action, and mystery. An espionage thriller with a considerable twist at the end. This one gets a 6 of 7.
  • Frenzy: Released in 1972, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. A twisted serial killer frames an innocent man. Excellent drama. Although the acting was somewhat lackluster, the characters were above par. The movie took a little long to make its point, and the ending was somewhat hurried, but overall this was an excellent movie. It gets a 6 out of 7.
  • Following: Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who also wrote and directed Memento. Shot entirely in black-and-white. This psycho drama revolves around a novice writer who follows people around London to build character data for his novel. Everything starts to unravel when he a burglar catches him, and lures him into a life of ever escalating crime. The film style was a bit hard to follow, but the story was riveting. This one gets a 7 out of 7.
  • Outland: Released in 1981, starring Sean Connery, written and directed by Peter Hyams. It's a western, it's a police thriller, it's a murder mystery, it's a sci-fi movie. It's a really good movie. Looking past the cheesy special effects, and lukewarm supporting cast, you'll find Connery shining through in an excellent role. There's a new marshall in town, and he's out to make a difference. This one gets a 5 out of 7.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 - Overdrawn at the memory bank: Starring Raul Julia. An incredibly bad movie presented by that wacky crew of MST3K. Unfortunately, this movie was so bad that even the cast of MST3K had a hard time making fun of it. An absolute bust. What a waste of my time. I had to stop watching about 3/4's of the way through. I gave this one a one. One out of seven. It's been a while since anything got a one out of seven, but this one managed. Avoid at all costs.
 
 

March 22, 2004

Movies
I watched three movies over the last two days.

  • Monty Python and the Quest for the holy grail: From my collection. An absolute riot. A cult flick unlike any other. I have many friends who quote lines from this movie, and I've been known to do so as well. It's a very funny movie. One of my favorites. Gets a 7 out of 7.
  • Secondhand lions: A recommendation from my Mom! I had it on my NetFlix list, but moved it up on Mom's recommendation. I'm glad I did. A splendid film. A young teen is left in the care of his uncles. Hidden millions, African adventures, and wild lions make this a great kids movie. Well acted, excellent directing, and a great story. This one gets a 5 out of 7.
  • The tragedy of Macbeth (aka Macbeth): Directed by Roman Polanski - 1971. A ruthlessly ambitious Scottish lord siezes the throne with the help of his scheming wife and a trio of witches. The Shakespere story is outstanding. Roman Polanksi's directing is excellent. The acting is pretty good. The only drawback to this classic tale was the language. At times I had a really hard time understanding what they were saying. Not that the accents were thick. It's just that Old English (aka Shakespere) speech is not what were used to hearing these days. This one gets a 5 out of 7.
 
 

March 19, 2004

Movies
I watched two movies over the last three days. Both of the movies were NetFlix recommendation.

  • How to get ahead in advertising: (British: In English) A very peculiar film. An advertising executive goes crazy when he can't come up with a slogan for a new pimple cream. The stress drives him over the edge. He develops a large boil, which begins speaking to him. Satire in the British tradition. Fairly well done, a little bit over the top. This one gets a 4 out of 7.
  • Black robe: This period piece depicts a 17th century Jesuit priests journey into the wilderness to convert the Huron to Christianity. This movie moved rather slowly, but it was very well done. The story was excellent, and I really like the use of native languages, and the very authentic portrayal of native Americans. A lack of decent music really hindered this film. This one gets a 5 out of 7.

Heat Wave
It's hard to believe that one year ago today, Colorado was suffering through one of the most brutal snow storms on record. Today's temperatures were record highs. Nearly reaching 80 degrees (High of 78), today's temps definitely signaled the end of winter.

 
 

March 16, 2004

Movies
I watched a couple of movies over the last two days. One was a favorite from my collection. One of those pseudo religious, supernatural, suspense, thriller themes. I'm a sucker for that type of movie. The other movie was a NetFlix recommendation.

  • The Seventh Sign: (from my collection) With Demi Moore, Jurgen Prochnow, and Michael Biehn. The acting by Demi is pretty good, but Jurgen delivers his lines like he has no interest in the role. I think he was cast for his looks. I've seen more life out of him in other movies, but for some reason he delivered the lines in a very dead-pan way in this movie. Michael Biehn does a good job. The story was very simple, or at least it was for me. The pacing was really good as well. This one gets a 6 out of 7. I may have to change the rating in my database. I marked it 7 of 7 in the movie listing.
  • Rififi: (France: French Title: Du rififi chez les hommes) French language subtitled in English. According to the film, Rififi basically translates to 'trouble' or 'guys who like trouble'. This film-noir style movie defines the 'Heist' movie genre. All the elements are there. Superbly directed, perfect pacing, excellent acting, good music, and a classic heist story. Gripping storytelling, this film sets the standard for generations of 'Heist' movies to come. This one gets a 6 out of 7.

Software favorites
A couple more updates to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter got bumped up two versions this week. A new full release (5.0) was posted on the 15th, and a new patch (5.0.1) was delivered less than 24 hours later. This software just keeps getting better! I also added another new piece of software to the page. CSSEdit, an editor for Cascading Style Sheets.

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

CSSEdit is a lightweight editor with a heavy weight punch. If you're looking for a Cascading Style Sheet editor, look no further. With a very clean interface, point-n-click simplicity, and access to source code editing, you can't ask for much more in a CSS editor. Although I don't make extensive use of CSS, I've found CSSEdit to be the premier CSS editor in the Mac arena. The preview function takes all the guess-work out of a complex task (CSS editing), and the CSS extraction capability simplifies your plagiarization efforts. Inexpensive, powerful, and easy to use. I'm glad I found this gem.

 
 

March 14, 2004

Movies
Kim and I watched a movie in the afternoon. Something NetFlix recommended.

  • The wages of fear: (French film) subtitled in english. This black & white movie is very multi-lingual. Scenes include dialog in French, Italian, Spanish, German and English. There may have been other languages, but I stopped trying to keep count. This movie is directed by a renowned french director: Henri-Georges Clouzot. The movie is set in central or south america (Nicaragua or Venezuela?). The setting is a backwater village where there is very little work. Foreigners abound, but there is no explanation as to why they are there. The beginning of the movie is rather slow. Eventually we get to the meat of the movie. An American oil company must hire drivers to transport nitroglycerin across rugged terrain in order to put out a well fire. Many of the desperate foreigners apply for the job, and two crews are selected for the suicide mission. Once this phase of the movie gets under way, the movie gets much better. Unfortunately, the ending is less than satisfying. This one gets a 5 out of 7.

Other Games
This planned event was a combination fish fry and gaming session. No, we didn't play D&D®. We played some 'Other Games' instead. The evening was in the planning for quite some time. I like playing these other games, but it's hard to find a group of people willing to try some new games. Something they've never played before. We planned on having six people, but one of the gamers didn't make it. With five people we still had a really good time.

Kim prepared some food for us (Thanks Kim, you're awesome!), and the guests brought some drinks. What did we eat? Fried Fish. Yellow lake perch to be precise. Fillet's we got from Kim's dad (Thanks Ted!). We flew them back in our luggage (frozen of course) from our last visit to De Pere. What else? A dill tartar or malt vinegar for your fish, French fries from scratch (used Russet potatoes), with two types of ketchup or Tabasco. Rye bread with sliced onions, Fresh coleslaw and Key Lime pie for desert. All very yummy. Drinks included beer, soda, and a little Jim Beam w/coke. No-body drank too much. The only disappointment was the Samuel Adams: White Ale. Yuck! What a horrible flavor. Strange, the web seems to think it's a really good beer. Maybe I'll give it a second try.

Aside from the food and drinks, we played two games. 'Other Games' mind you. No Scrabble or Monopoly. Role Playing games were out as well. We selected two games which none of us had played before. 'Deadwood' by Cheapass Games, and 'Munchkin' by Steve Jackson games. Both games have several expansion packs available, and Munchkin has developed a huge cult following.

Deadwood took us about an hour to learn, and three hours to play despite the recommended play time of one hour. Perhaps it runs faster when you're more familiar with the rules? The game is a refreshing acting parody. Two bit actors take acting jobs for various amounts of money. The western setting provides some interesting roles. Man who falls off roof, Boy down the well, Man falls of roof. The actor who makes the most money in four days of shooting is the winner. A lot of strategy involved in this game. I liked it quite a bit.

Munchkin took about an hour and a half to learn. Sure it took me less time to read the rules aloud, but we had to continually refer back to the rules. When you can play cards seemed to be the question most often asked. The rules left a bit to be desired. Not as clear as Deadwood's. The premise is a card game that recreates the fun of FRPGs without all the messy role-playing. I played a Thief, and thoroughly enjoyed stabbing people in the back every time they had to fight a monster. The object of the game was to be the first player to reach tenth level. How appropriate. I've often DM'd groups whose purpose was to reach tenth level. Sometimes the players forget why we play serious role-playing games. I play for the story, Munchkins play for the glory (First to reach tenth level). This whimsical card game was a great break from the usual campaign. More time is needed to learn the rules, but I enjoyed it.

Thanks to all for participating. If only I could find a group of gamers to play on a regular basis.

 
 

March 13, 2004

Movies
I watched a movie last night. Something NetFlix recommended.

  • Mishima - A life in four chapters: Well directed. Shot in three different film styles. This one qualifies as an 'Artsy Fartsy' movie. Highly cinematic, visionary, documentary. I wish it had been more documentary and less cinema. The story of a controversial Japanese literary giant, and the shocking events which defined his final chapter. This one gets a 3 out of 7.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter is now at version 5.0.b5. It just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

March 8, 2004

Movies
I watched a movie last night. Something from my collection. A movie I haven't seen in a while.

  • To kill a mockingbird: Fantastic storytelling. This movie captures discrimination and racism in the south. Set during the depression era. The characters in this story seem somewhat stoic, the music was pretty good, and the story pulled it all together. Gregory Peck is very memorable as the lawyer with morales, raising two children without a mother. This one gets a 6 out of 7.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter is now at version 5.0.b4. It just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

March 7, 2004

Movies
I watched the third disc in the 'Wild Future' series. This three disc documentary is an exploration of the future. What will life look like on the earth, 5, 100, and 200 million years in the future. I admit it was a bit of indulgence. I've always been interested in fantastic creatures, and this series looked to good to pass up. Kim and I saw a total of three movies this weekend.

  • The Future is Wild - Disc 3: Part of a television documentary presented by the Discovery channel Canada. This disc looks at what the Earth (and its creatures) could look like in 200 million years. I've got a soft spot for imaginary creatures, and this series is sugar for my addiction. The computer animation is kind of choppy, the narrators are stereotypical mad-scientist nerd geeks, the music is horrible (The same tune over and over and over and over). Luckily, the content is pretty good. It gets a three out of seven. I definitely won't be buying this series.
  • Gosford Park: A murder mystery set in the English countryside. Victorian England, A very large mansion, A lot of petty bickering and backstabbing. This gathering turns into a murder mystery towards the end. The begining of the movie moved a bit slow, but once the old man of the manor was 'offed' I got interested. This movie gets a 5 out of 7.
  • Boondock Saints: This movie is very violent, filled with profanity, some nudity, homosexual references, and lacks much in the way of story. Two brothers (twins) act as vigalante justice in a city filled with mobsters. The characters were horrible, the music wasn't that good, but the directing was pretty good. Another typical serving of Hollywood spew. This one gets a 2 out of 7.

D&D®
Unfortunately, we didn't play on Saturday the 6th of March. Too many players couldn't make it. Mark and Stacy showed up, so the four of us (Me, Kim, Stacy, and Mark) played some other games instead. We played a few rounds of "Give me the Brain", one round of "Ebolla Monkey Hunt", and a round of "Management Material". We had a good time. A prelude to next weekend. I updated the 3rd edition campaign page to reflect the next game date (20 March 2004) and hopefully everyone will make it to that meeting.

 
 

March 6, 2004

Books
I finished reading Red Rabbit: by Tom Clancy. Much better than the last novel. This plot to assassinate the pope makes for gripping reading. The female characters are still stereotyped and patronized, but not quite as bad as the previous book. I'm glad I read the book. Maybe I'll read his next one.

Next up? Gates of fire by Steve pressfield. A historical novel, which I seem to be reading more and more of lately. This book was recommended to me by one of the participants at the 2003 World Forum held in Beaver Creek. A fictionalized account of the battle of Thermopylae, as seen thru the eyes of one Spartan.

 
 

March 3, 2004

Movies
I watched a movie last night. One I'd purchased recently. It was on my "Watch" list for some time, and it's garnered a lot of praise and awards lately, so I decided to skip the 'Watch' phase and proceed directly to the "Buy" phase.

  • Lost in translation: Marvelous. Truly splendid. A bitter-sweet drama of unrequented love. What could have been but never was. More meaningful than the typical illicit love story. Two Americans are stuck in Tokyo. Bill Murray and a new comer? Scarlett Johansson. Her acting was dreamy. Well cast, appropriately paced, excellent directing (Sophia Coppola won an Academy award for this movie). Scarlett makes this movie work. Packed with desire, and dripping with chemistry. Bill Murray's character does the right thing by Scarlett's character, even if he's not a saint. I'll watch this one many times. I'm tempted to give it a 7, but it's just not my favorite genre. 6 out of 7.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter is now at version 5.0.b3. It just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review . The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

 
 

March 1, 2004

Heart Attack!?

Did I have a heart attack? The short answer is no. The long answer...

Here's the story. Today, I was at a military retirement briefing on base. Sitting in a conference room, and filling out some paper work. All of a sudden, I had an intense pain in the left side of my chest. Right around the heart, under the pectoral muscle, close to the sternum. I could barely breath, I was very warm, and I broke out in a drenching sweat. It was very scary. I never passed out, but man oh man was it painful.

The next thing you know, I'm laying on the floor, waiting for an ambulance. The ambulance arrives, by now some of the pain has subsided. They hook me up to some monitors, start checking vitals, asking questions, the sort of thing that emergency medical personnel do.

Twenty minutes later I'm in an emergency room, talking with doctors. By now the pain is completely gone. Maybe it went away on it's own, maybe the nitro had something to do with that, I don't know. Bloodwork is in the lab, and the EKG is running.

An hour later the initial results are all in. There's nothing in the blood, or EKG that would indicate a cardiac arrest or heart related problem. Whew! That's a relief. Now I have to wait six hours before they can do another test.

Seven hours later, the second set of tests are done, and the results are the same as the first test. I didn't have a heart attack. Or at least the tests didn't indicate that I had a heart attack. They don't know what caused the sudden onset of chest pain. They suggest I have a heart stress test done.

I get unplugged, they remove that IV; which was causing more pain than anything else, and I peel off all the stickers. Kim and I finally make it home by 1030, and I'm asleep by 1100.

That whole ordeal was very scary. At one point they asked if I was under any unusual stress lately. I just laughed and said "I'm retiring". If you've ever retired from the military, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Thanks to everyone who visited, or wished me well. I'm doing fine now. I guess I should relax a little.

- Robert

 
 

February 29, 2004

Movies
I saw four movies over the last few days. One was horrible, but thankfully, it was short. The other was a long one. As a matter of fact, it was part of a three disc set. I also bought two movie. I bought 'Lost in Translation' and 'The Order'. Both of these were on my 'Watch' list. I don't usually buy a movie before I see it, but I made an exception in this case. Since I haven't watched both of them yet, I haven't added them to my movie listing. I'll add them later, after I've watched and rated both. Here's a review/some comments on the four movies I did see.

  • The Future is Wild - Disc 1: Part of a television documentary presented by the Discovery channel (Canadian production?) This disc looks at what the Earth (and its creatures) could look like in 5 million years. I've got a soft spot for imaginary creatures, and this series is sugar for my addiction. The computer animation is kind of choppy, the narrators are stereotypical mad-scientist nerd geeks, the music is horrible (The same tune over and over and over and over). Luckily, the content is pretty good. It gets a three out of seven. I definitely won't be buying this series.
  • The Future is Wild - Disc 2: Part of a television documentary presented by the Discovery channel Canada. This disc looks at what the Earth (and its creatures) could look like in 100 million years. The computer animation is kind of choppy, the narators are stereotypical mad-scientist nerd geeks, the music is horrible (The same tune over and over and over and over). Luckily, the content is pretty good. It gets a three out of seven. I definitely won't be buying this series.
  • The Order: A pseudo-religious/supernatural horror mystery thriller theme. I'm a sucker for the genre. I bought a copy. Unfortunately, the acting was less than laudable. The only exception was Mark Addy as Father Thomas. The story also suffered from quiet talking. Yep, a lot of dialog that was muttered or murmurred. The music was pretty good, the costumes and setting were really good. The story was really good as well. This movie really should have been titled 'Soul Eater'. This one gets a four out of seven, and only because I haven't seen this antagonist before.
  • National Lampoon's Van Wilder: This movie sucked. It gets a one out of seven. It made me laugh a couple of times, but other than that. It was a rerun of all the bad frathouse party movies.

NCO of the Quarter:
Recently, I won an award from my unit (The 566th Intelligence Operations Squadron). I won the 4th quarter (Oct - Dec), Noncommissioned officer award. On Thursday they finally presented the award. A nice plaque, a 'take-shake-salute' from the commander, and a $50.00 gift certificate from AAFES. Thanks for the $50.00 that's how I was able to afford two of the movies listed above.

On Wednesday, I went before a base quarterly awards board. My unit submitted my name as a nominee for the base level awards competition. I thought I did rather well at the board, but there's a lot of competition. In any case I found it astonishing that some nominees failed to show up for the board. Can you imagine? The individuals nominated to the board are representing their unit and commander. These individuals are the best that unit has to offer, and they can't even make it to the board?

I must be getting close to retirement. I've been working on my resume (I'll post it after the security office has reviewed it), and I've been to one retirement briefing already. Next week I'll be spending most of the week (Tue - Fri) in a Transition Assistance Program seminar. 1 Jan 2005 is fast approaching. I'll be on terminal leave for a couple months prior to that date, so the end is approaching faster than I anticipated. Time sure does fly when you're having fun.

Mailbombing Spammer!
This weekend (Fri - Sat) my domain (Robsworld.org) was attacked from two different directions by a spammer. The spammer started sending spam to non-existent users at my domain. george at robsworld.org, david at robsworld.org, keith at robsworld.org, fred at robsworld.org, I think you get the picture. Well, the email was coming from two different sources. One source was theplanet.com, a domain that has a poor reputation with anti-spammers. It's sometimes referred to as a 'Spam Haven'. The other source was an provider I've never heard of before. westlin.com.

When I got home on Friday, I discovered a pile of duplicate spam. All addressed to different users at my domain. Well, since there's only two users (myself and Kim) at my domain, anything addressed to someone other than Kim ends up in my InBox. So I send the spam through SpamCop. SpamCop figures out who the responsible parties are, and I start reporting the spam. Eventually, I catch up with the spam run. I turn to the internet and start doing a little investigating. I find some 1-800 numbers and start calling.

theplanet.com is very receptive. They already know about the attack, they've received my SpamCop reports and they've been working on the complaint. They tell me that they're about to pull the spammers server off-line. Minutes later, one source of the spam is eliminated. The technicians at theplanet.com acted in an expedient, courteous, and efficient manner. Thanks.

Then I call TXU communications. (That's who SpamCop picked out of the headers) They're the second source (or so I thought). I get on the phone with the technician, but he's not very polite. Abrupt and insensitive, all he seems to care about is whether I'm a TXU customer. I give him the IP address that the spam is coming from, he says 'I'll look into it', and that's the last I hear from TXU. They never respond to my SpamCop reports, and the spam keeps coming.

By this time the tide has risen again. I spend another hour catching up to the ever increasing queue of spam. After reporting more of the spam I start an in-depth analysis of the headers. I do my own DNS lookups. It turns out that TXU has re-allocated the IP block where this attack is coming from. The IP is actually allocated to an outfit called westlin.com. O.k. I start CC'ing them on my Spam reports, and I look for a 1-800 number. In the mean-time I write my domain host and ask him to set up a filter to block all email coming from 207.70.170.45. It's late so I hit the hay.

In the morning my InBox is jammed full of spam. All of it from 207.70.170.45. I call Westlin.com. I never did find a 1-800 number. There's no answer so I leave a message. So now I spend another two hours reporting spam. Each report is CC'd to weslin.com. After a while, Kim and I have some things to do so we leave the house. There's no response from my domain host, txu, or westlin, and the spam is still coming! So I went and got a massage! :-)

When we get back from our errands, the InBox is full again, and I start reporting the spam. After I catch up, I take a breather and start going through my email. Two people at westlin.com have responded to my reports. Two clueless individuals. One suggested that I buy a copy of Norton Anti-Virus. Like Norton is going to stop a spammer? The other one called me an amateur and a novice. He claimed that the attack couldn't be coming from their network because the IP wasn't assigned. What ever!. So I fired off a couple of responses to these two yahoo's. In the meantime, the administrator of my domain has installed a filter. Guess what? The spam stopped! Thanks Dale.

So if the spam wasn't coming from 207.70.170.45, why would a filter against that IP cause the spam to stop. Chances are one of two things has happened. Someone hijacked the IP in question. They found out that it wasn't being used, and they altered their computer to spoof that IP. This isn't all that difficult, but it requires some finesse and a good amount of knowledge and effort. It's not something that spammers typically do. Noting that the spammer wasn't doing this with the theplanet.com account, it's less likely that he was doing it with the westlin.com account as well. What's more likely is the 'Spam Haven' scenario. The ISP in question allows the spammer to use an unassigned IP to send their spam, then they claim ignorance when someone complains.

A couple of quotes from this jokers email response should paint a nice picture for you...

"As you noticed it is a mail-bombing spam with forged headers and usually it is carried out by a virus/Trojan."

Actually, that's not entirely true. While it is mail-bombing spam, and much of the headers is forged, this type of spam run is carried out by a script. Not a virus/Trojan. A virus/Trojan might be used to replicate itself/or compromise a machine so that it can be used by a spammer. The email in question contained no attachments, no copies of a virus/trojan. The content of the email was a PayPal phishing scam. The spammer was trying to get users (at my domain) to reveal personal information (credit card numbers, etc) to him/her. The content was spam, not your typical virus email.

"Upon further inspection it became evident that the IP in the header is forged also. A novice or amateur like your self may not realize that right away."

O.k. Now he's resulted to demeaning terms. I'm hardly a novice or amateur. I've been fighting spam for over ten years, and I know how to read an email header. I'm knowledgeable about IP and other internet protocols. I've been dissecting and analyzing spam headers for many years. I know what they look like, I'm familiar with their tricks, and I know how to track them down. The one thing I didn't do, and for which I'm now kicking myself, is run a traceroute while this spam attack was still going on. The headers in question contain many forged items, but there are some things that cannot be forged, and I know what they are.

"The IP in question that belongs to Westlin Corp. 207.70.170.45 is unassigned at the moment – hence it can’t be sending SPAM."

Wrong! As I noted previously, there are at least two scenarios where the IP could send spam even if it wasn't assigned. As I mentioned above, a machine can be set up to spoof a particular IP. Spam sent by such a machine will contain the spoofed IP, but that IP is not forged in the email, the machine itself is pretending to be that IP. Under the other scenario, which I consider more likely, westlin has allocated/permitted the spammer to use that IP without 'officially' assigning it. I really wish I had run that trace route..

"I recommend Symantec’s Norton Anti Virus - only about 40.00 bucks - but may keep you from raging allover the Internet and senselessly SPAM-ing your problem to SpamCop creating unnecessary work for us our provider and SpamCop."

What is he talking about? Like I mentioned earlier. Norton cannot stop spam. This guy doesn't know what he's talking about. Or he knows what he's talking about and he's trying to throw me off by obfuscating his complicity in running a 'Spam Haven'. He's the novice/amateur. Even if this email were the result of a virus/trojan. Norton wouldn't prevent me from getting the spam, nor would it be able to stop the spam. Raging all over the Internet, what is that supposed to mean? I didn't express any rage by reporting spam. Reporting spam (Through SpamCop or manually) to the applicable abuse desks of ISP's is a sensible, responsible thing to do when one receives spam. Creating unnecessary work? Stop spam is hardly unnecessary, unless of course, you're a spammer!

Have a nice weekend
Peter J. Rospond
Chief Executive Officer
Westlin Corporation
" The Most Secure Data Center in the World"

Clueless! The most secure spam haven in the world. I'm just glad that Dale was able to put that filter in place. The response I got from this guy (and his cohort) is the reason we have road rage. I report spam, and the guy who receives the abuse report blames me for getting the spam. Couldn't be his fault! No way! I don't think he even read my abuse report. In the report, I clearly stated that I was the only user at me domain, yet he CC's two non-existent users (two of the ones the spammer sent his spam two (They're non-existent users!). So now I have to recieve three canned responses to everyone of my abuse reports! What an idiot!

Dale (my domain administrator) might be able to sue this Joker. If any good comes out of the CAN SPAM law it'll come in the form of lawsuits. That's disgusting.

Too much stress.

 
 

February 24, 2004

Movies
Kim and I saw three movies over the last few days. Well, I saw three. Kim saw one. Kim picked one; the same one Kim saw, and I saw that one plus two others. So, I saw three and Kim saw one. We saw three. Now that that's settled, here's the movies we/I/she saw.

  • 2 Fast 2 Furious: This sequel to 'The Fast & the Furious' is set in Miami. The movie sucked. a bloated, predictable, hollywood blockbuster corpse, laying on the sidewalk, rotting in the sun. The only good thing about the DVD was the 'Prelude'. A five minute short, shot with very low ambient sounds, and no dialogue. The film is shot in a soft off-focus flowing style. Pastels seemed to play heavily in the color scheme, and the music was excellent. The prelude follows the main character from L.A. to Miami, connecting the two films. Bringing you up to speed so to speak. The prelude was much better than the rest of the film. No reason to talk about the main movie. The movie gets 1 out of 7, the prelude gets 5 out of 7.
  • Daddy Day Care: Arrgghh! What a waste of time. I don't want to waste too many electrons on this crud. Eddy Murphy. I must remember to avoid any movie with Eddy Murphy in it. This movie rates 1 out of 7.
  • Be Good, Smile Pretty: A documentary about Vietnam? I thought, oh 'great' another condemnation of national policy, a diatribe about the injustices of that 'Police Action'. Well, I was pleasantly surprised. It's not really about Vietnam. It's about a daughters search for her father. The films lead lost her father in Vietnam, and she strives to learn who he was through the memories of others. A very touching film. Fulfilling and truthful, there's no vitriol or acrimony, just honest personal emotions. An excellent movie. Five out of seven.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter is now at version 5.0.b2. It just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review . The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

D&D®
We played on Saturday the 21st of February. The quest for the Rondolim continues. The party has hired a Dwarven Ranger to accompany them on their adventure. I haven't posted the journal or the usual updates. Just a few minor updates.

  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 6th of March in case you're wondering.
  • Who's Who. I added one new NPC to the page. A member of the Manor's staff. Castelly Hothmana, the Groundskeeper.
  • New feats: I updated the document that contains our campaign specific feats. It's a password protected pdf. If you need the password, please let me know. I added two new feats. Strong back and Armored Arcana. Thanks to Mark for suggesting these new feats.

 

 
 

February 18, 2004

Movies
Kim and I saw three movies over the last few days. Well, I saw three. Kim saw one. Kim picked one; the same one Kim saw, and I saw that one plus two others. So, I saw three and Kim saw one. We saw three. Now that that's settled, here's the movies we/I/she saw.

  • Whale Rider: (New Zealand: Maori title: Te kaieke tohora) It's in English (w/New Zealand accent), there's some Maori as well; which is subtitled in English). This was a NetFlix recommendation. I'm glad for the recommendation. It was a really good movie. A coming of age movie where a young Maori girl struggles with social norms in her tribe. When her twin brother dies at birth her family is left without an 'Eldest son' to carry on the tribal traditions. Who will be the next chief? This story is a fantastic self discovery movie. Very well directed, excellent music, and a talented cast. This one gets a 5 out of 7.
  • Shaft: The 2000 remake directed by John Singleton. This movie (which I own) epitomizes the definition of 'action flick'. I'm not sure why they had to do a remake of Shaft, but I'm glad they did. Samuel L. Jackson as Shaft (reprising Richard Roundtrees role) is unforgettable. There's some really good acting in this movie, and some good music. Too bad the plot was so cliche'. This one gets a 5 out of 7.
  • Chinatown: Another NetFlix recommendation. Another winner. Jack Nicholson & Faye Dunaway. An excellent hard-boiled detective plot. Excellent directing, the music wasn't all that good, awesome pacing. Characters you can sink your teeth into. This one gets a 6 out of 7.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. BetterHTMLExport advanced a notch to version 2.0.11.

BetterHTMLExport is an iPhoto plugin which you can use to create web pages from iPhoto galleries. You can control the web page output much more efficiently than the you can with iPhoto's built in web page output controls, you have additional output options, and you can download, save, and use templates to create highly professional looking web pages. This plugin is definitely worth the cash. I was tired of spending hours tweaking my photo web pages. BetterHTMLExport lets me spend my time more wisely.

http://www.droolingcat.com/software/betterhtmlexport/

 
 

February 16, 2004

President's day
It's a holiday, but Kim has to work, so I spent most of the day updating web pages and preparing material for Saturday's gaming session.

D&D®
It's been a little over a week since I updated the campaign related web pages. Here's what's been happening in the game. We last played on the 7th of February. It was a good game, we started the next adventure. The quest for the Rondolim. A Dwarven axe of legendary power was lost in the ruins of Tunadholms keep. Will the party be able to find it in time to thwart the destruction of a Dwarvish army?

  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 21st of Feb in case you're wondering.
  • The adventurers journal. Thanks go out to Mark for his continued support in making these journal entries possible. Today I updated the main journal page, and the most recent journal entry.
  • Another monster. Our last session only introduced one monster. A regenerating horror that took a long time to kill.
  • Who's Who. I added some new NPC's to the page. Characters we met or learned about during the last session.
    • Yes, we're still waiting for character backgrounds and illustrations. We need character backgrounds for Nibori and Solindria, and Character portraits for Emrikol-Oz and Nibori.
  • Where Now. I updated some of the entries on the Where Now page. In addition to a few updates, I added 15 new places to the page. Adventure backgrounds always add a lot of new places to the Where Now page.
 
 

February 14, 2004

Valentines Day
Kim and I have off together. It's a long weekend for me. Maybe I'll get some work done on the players next adventure. Maybe I'll finally create a calendar for 2004.

Valentines day is a dinner date with my wife. We've been married 18 years (19 in Oct), and it keeps getting better. Today we watched a romantic movie 'Underworld', then we took a mid-day nap. I sure was tired. In the evening we went out to eat at one of our favorite places. Fujiyama's. We sat at the sushi bar and had our fill. Miso soup, 22 pieces of various sushi (I like the Uni (Sea-Urchin, very expensive! $4.25 per piece), and we both like the Unagi (Fresh-water eel (tender, warm, salty and sweet)), beer and sake to drink, and Green-tea ice cream for dessert. Yeah, it was kind of expensive, but it was Valentine's day. Afterwards we went home and watch another romantic movie. This time it was on of Kim's picks.

  • What a girl wants: A NetFlix pick by Kim. I didn't particularly like this movie. An American teenager finds out that her father is a wealthy British lord, who was tragically separated from her mother. She just has to go to London to find out what her father is like. What follows is her adventure in london, a boy meets girl, daughter meets father, former lovers reunited, patently predictable plot. Oh yeah, don't forget the evil fiancee'/stepmother. The acting is poor, the plot and characters are regrettable cliches, and the setting is oh so overdone. The only bright spot is the acting by Eileen Atkins as the Grandmother. This movie (please forgive me Kim) gets a one out of seven. Better luck next time.
 
 

February 13, 2004

What's up?
My site seems to be at risk of becoming a movie review site. I haven't been doing much of anything lately. Yesterday I watched t.v. CSI is always worth watching. On Wednesday I watched a movie, and bought a movie. I really should work on my resume, as I'm retiring from the Air Force in a little under 9 months!

Movies
NetFlix is awesome. It's easy to use - Pick your movies on the web. It's cheap - Only $19.95 a month. It's convenient - No need to go drive to the rental place. It's got a huge variety of movies - Over 15,000 at last count. Today Kim and I watched one movie. Another feature that I'm beginning to appreciate. Movie recommendations. The more movies you rent, the more movies you rate, rate movies and NetFlix recommends movie, rate a lot of movies and NetFlix gets better at making recommendations. The movie below was a recommendation based on my ratings.

  • Rashomon: (Japanese film) subtitled in english. Another movie directed by Akira Kurasawa. Produced in 1950, this black and white movie contained some groundbreaking camera work. The opening scenes where the axeman walks through the woods is just fantastic. The use of weather as an element of the film is great. The setting is beautiful, and the story is terrific. A murder mystery where everyone sees things differently. This one has earned a spot on my must buy list and a rating of 6 out of 7.
  • Underworld: A movie that was on my watch list, I decided to buy a copy because of its visual characteristics. Visually, it was a combination of Matrix and Blade. The surprise was the love story aspect. Billed as a gothic Romeo & Juliet, where the characters are supernatural creatures, it was too short to develop any sort of serious romance angle. The movie ended with some obvious sequel narration dialog. A war between Vampires and Werewolves, that's been waging for over a thousand years. The movie moved very quickly, and the plot was tightly wound. Groovy special effects, and fearsome fight sequences didn't detract from the character based drama. This movie would have been better if the pacing had been slowed down some, with a little more attention to character development/interaction. This movie gets a 5 out of 7.
  • The last temptation of christ: A powerful movie. Spiritually uplifting but cinematically dark. The acting in this movie was great. The best performance was that of Harvey Kite as Judas. Controversial indeed, a movie that dares to interpret the life of christ. Slow at times, this movie didn't quite meet its potential. I give it a 5 out of 7.
 
 

February 10, 2004

Movies
The weekend's come and gone. Yesterday I watched television. Now I remember why I have NetFlix. Returning all the movies on the same day means you have to wait a while before you have any movies to watch. Thankfully, it only takes a couple of days for movies to get here. Sent three movies in on Saturday, got three new movies on Tuesday!

  • The Big Sleep: The black & white 1946 version starring Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall. This movie was incomprehensible. The acting was stage like. But all the acting from that era was stage like. The plot was incomprehensible. I guess my recommendations have caught up with me. Why did I deserved this? I liked the movie, the directing was good, the music was really good, but the totally incomprehensible plot left me stupefied. I still don't know who dunnit? This one gets a 2 out of 7.
 
 

February 9, 2004

Movies
The weekend's come and gone. We played D&D on Saturday, I'll post the notes from the meeting later. On Sunday we watched a movie. A movie I purchased a week or so ago.

  • Scotland, PA: This movie is actually based on Shakespeare's play: MacBeth. Set in a Fast Food restaurant. This movie is a dark comedy. A parody on PA in the 70's, and a swell retelling of MacBeth. The king is the owner of the restaurant, the casting was great, and the laughs were subtle. Anytime I get to see Christopher Walken on the set I'm happy. When he actually talks it only gets better. This one gets a 6 out of 7.
 
 

February 6, 2004

More Snow!
The snow continues to fall. We've had snowfall for the last three days, and I've had to shovel every day. This is really getting painful. I'm trying to recover from a heavy workout and three days of shoveling. Could it please let up for a day or two?

Movies
NetFlix is fantastic. Today I highly recommended it to a coworker. I should get a commission. With Kim working second shift, and me working 0730-1600, I find that movies are a good way to spend a couple of hours in the evening.

 

 

 

 

February 5, 2004

Snow!
Over the past two days we received somewhere in the vicinity of six - eight inches of snow. Shoveling is no fun, but I'm glad that we're getting some precipitation. We'll need it come summer.

Movies
NetFlix is awesome. It's easy to use - Pick your movies on the web. It's cheap - Only $19.95 a month. It's convenient - No need to go drive to the rental place. It's got a huge variety of movies - Over 15,000 at last count. Today Kim and I watched one movie. Another feature that I'm beginning to appreciate. Movie recommendations. The more movies you rent, the more movies you rate, rate movies and NetFlix recommends movie, rate a lot of movies and NetFlix gets better at making recommendations. The movie below was a recommendation based on my ratings.

  • Red Beard: (Japanese film: Akahige) subtitled in english. Produced in 1965, this black and white movie tells the story of a brash young intern who is apprenticed to a seasoned veteran at a backwater free clinic. This movie, directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, is an incredible piece of work. The story was absolutely riveting. Believable, moving, truthful and honest. The acting was excellent, the message was sterling, the telling worthy of applause. This one has earned a spot on my must buy list and a rating of 7 out of 7.
 
 

February 3, 2004

World Forum
Well, it took forever, but I finally got a letter of thanks. You may recall that I attended the World Forum last year. I've volunteered two years in a row now, and I'd like to do it again this year. The World Forum is an annual event sponsored by the American Enterprises Institute and hosted by the Vail Valley Foundation. The event is chaired by former President Gerald R. Ford. I volunteer as a driver for event participants, and as a security augmentee. I have a good time, and I hope to do it again this year. Yesterday I finally got a hold of my letter of thanks, signed by former President Gerald R. Ford. The 2004 World Forum is 17-20 June.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter is now at version 5.0.b1. It just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review . The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

Movies
NetFlix is awesome. It's easy to use - Pick your movies on the web. It's cheap - Only $19.95 a month. It's convenient - No need to go drive to the rental place. It's got a huge variety of movies - Over 15,000 at last count. Today Kim and I watched one movie.

  • Bad Boys II: Hollywood hogwash. I can't figure out how this movie got a 3.3 out of 5 on the NetFlix rating system. It's your typical gruel, served up in a typical hollywood style: Lowest common denominator. See corpses being run over on the highway; see bullets rip through a persons head or neck in painfully slow motion; listen to vulgar profanity for the sake of profanity. This movie was lacking in just about everything. No acting, paper thin characters, a lame love/romance component, one-dimensional villains, boring and predictable plot, blatantly ostentatious wardrobe, poorly matched musical score, poor scripting, lame dialogue, so-so directing, bad casting... You know what I'm getting bored describing how bad this movie was. The only good part was some of the car chases (less the stupid/useless dialogue) It gets a 1. That's right a 1, I wish I'd spent the time clipping my nails.
 
 

February 2, 2004

Movies
I bought two movies yesterday. I've seen both of them before, but I'll probably watch them again. They were on my 'must buy' list.

  • Scotland, PA: A winner this time! Thank god, I was getting really depressed with the crappy stuff I've been watching lately. This movie is actually based on Shakespeare's play: MacBeth. Set in a Fast Food restaurant. This movie is a dark comedy. A parody on PA in the 70's, and a swell retelling of MacBeth. The king is the owner of the restaurant, the casting was great, and the laughs were subtle. Anytime I get to see Christopher Walken on the set I'm happy. When he actually talks it only gets better. This one gets a 6 out of 7.
  • X2: X-Men united: Pretty good! - Watched it again this evening. The plot was rather simple, but well mixed. Lot's of action, but well balanced with some human/mutant drama. Special effects were pretty good. Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler did a really good job. I downgraded it from 5 to 7 though. Just a little bit too pedantic and predictable.

SuperBowl
I watched the game last night, and it was a fantastic show. But, there were a couple of things that upset me. Two in particular. The worst was Kid Rock wearing an American flag as clothing. It didn't look like he was protesting anything or expressing free speech in what he was doing. He cut a hole in it, wore it as clothing, then later discarded it, throwing it on the ground/stage. That disrespectful display upset me more than the second act. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. That was definitely a crass, crude, calculated stunt designed to shock. He sings "I'll get you naked before the end of this song.", reaches over and rips off a piece of Janet's costume. Her breast is bared before millions of viewers on prime time TV, and then they all pretend it was an accident. You know it was approved ahead of time, unlike that joker at the half-time kick-off. I say the FCC should fine them big time. If Janet wasn't planning to have her breast exposed, why was her nipple wearing jewelry?

 
 

January 31, 2004

D&D®
It's been a while since I updated the campaign related web pages. It's been more than two weeks since I last made any D&D updates. Two gaming sessions have come and gone. This time I have a valid excuse. Kim and I were on vacation for a week and I was on a business trip for three days.

  • The Hero's Gallery has been updated. I added some new characters (From our 3rd Edition campaign), and a link to Dokren's page. Linked to the Gallery are three pages dedicated to individual characters. Those characters/pages are:
  • More monsters! Recent additions to the monsters page include; Barbed Devil, Treant, Worg Wolves, and Bladelings. I also updated the entries for the Green Dragon and the Naga.
  • The adventurers journal. Thanks go out to Mark for his continued support in making these journal entries possible. Today I updated the main journal page; closing out the last adventure, and creating a new page for the next adventure. Now everyone can catch up on their reading.
  • The rules regarding the 3x5 index cards have been relaxed. 3x5 index cards are now mandatory for magic items only. They are recommended for mundane items of note (such as expensive, class specific, or master work items), and can still be used for all items a character carries.
  • The campaign page has been updated. I updated the next game date. That's the 7th of Feb in case you're wondering.
  • Who's Who. I updated some of the player character info on the who's who page. The player character listing has been put in FMN (F**k me number) order. I also added/updated the Emrikol-Oz, Solindria, and Nibori entries.
    • Yes, we're still waiting for character backgrounds and illustrations. We need character backgrounds for Nibori and Solindria, and Character portraits for Emrikol-Oz and Nibori.
  • Where Now. I updated some of the entries on the Where Now page. I added an entry for Rokugan and updated the Orlane entry.

Movies
NetFlix is awesome. It's easy to use - Pick your movies on the web. It's cheap - Only $19.95 a month. It's convenient - No need to go drive to the rental place. It's got a huge variety of movies - Over 15,000 at last count. Today Kim and I watched one movie.

  • The man on the train: (French film: Homme du train, L' ) With english subtitles. A compelling piece of cinema. An aging bank robber travels to a small French town to knock off the local bank. With plans to make and no place to stay he finds himself a guest in an aging teachers home. This movie was well directed, and the acting was o.k. The problem with this movie; it was very slow. I almost fell asleep seven or eight times. It gets a 3 out of 7.
 
 

January 30, 2004

Movies
NetFlix is awesome. It's easy to use - Pick your movies on the web. It's cheap - Only $19.95 a month. It's convenient - No need to go drive to the rental place. It's got a huge variety of movies - Over 15,000 at last count. Today I watched one movie.

  • Cuckoo, The: (Russian film: Kukushka) With english subtitles. A pleasant little movie. The setting is the Finnish border with Russia near the end of WWII. Two unlikely foes become the guests of a Lapp woman. This drama had some really good acting, and an excellent story. This one gets a 5 out of 7.

Software favorites
Bad news. One of the resources I use for tracking software updates has always been Macupdate.com. It used to be free. I'd receive an email every day. The email included links to the web site, where I could download the newest software updates. The email alerts now cost money! It's a sad day I tell you, sad!

 
 

January 29, 2004

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. BBEdit moved up to version 7.1.2. and BetterHTMLExport advanced a notch to version 2.0.11.

BBEdit is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. It is designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text. BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any MAC enthusiast. Window's users eat your heart out!

BetterHTMLExport is an iPhoto plugin which you can use to create web pages from iPhoto galleries. You can control the web page output much more efficiently than the you can with iPhoto's built in web page output controls, you have additional output options, and you can download, save, and use templates to create highly professional looking web pages. This plugin is definitely worth the cash. I was tired of spending hours tweaking my photo web pages. BetterHTMLExport lets me spend my time more wisely.

 
 

January 28, 2004

Texas
I went TDY (Temporary duty) from the 25th through the 28th. I spent the morning frantically trying to finalize all my travel arrangements! Thanks to an unreliable co-worker, I had to make all my travel arrangements over the phone at the last minute. Luckily that vast conspiracy to stop me was less powerful than my prioritization and organizational skills. I made my departure flight with a couple seconds to spare. I was the last passenger to board.

The TDY was for "technical discussions" at the Medina Regional Security Operations Center (MRSOC). Located about a half mile away from Lackland AFB in San Antonio Texas. While the conference wasn't all that productive, I had a good time none the less. I hooked up with an old friend on Tuesday evening. Him (Dale), his wife (Laura), and I went out to eat a BBQ place. The food (and beer!) were excellent, but the best part was catching up on old times.

I left in a hurry on Wednesday, and got back home around 9 pm. Just in time to hit the hay for work on Thursday.

 
 

January 25, 2004

Snow
A nice little snow storm blew into town today. Too bad Kim's going to have to do all the shoveling!

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter is now at version 5.0.b0. It just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review . The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

Movies
Kim and I have been enjoying our recent decision to subscribe to NetFlix. Today I watched another classic sci-fi movie

  • Soylent Green: This movie came out in 1973, and it stars Charlton Heston. He does a good job of acting, but its not the greatest movie. The movie is set in the distant future; 2022! The world is overpopulated, and the overpopulation is the root of all evil in this movie. The premise is chilling, but the movie lags at times. It was narrow in scope, and I kept thinking about the tag-line. This one gets a 4 for its vision and directing.
 
 

January 24, 2004

Wisconsin
Kim and I were home on vacation. Sure we live in Aurora, CO. But our home is Wisconsin. We've been official residents of Wisconsin ever since we were born there. We could have changed our state of residence several times since I joined the military, but we chose to stay official residents of Wisconsin. I don't know how much longer that'll last, but it'll always be home for the two of us.

We flew home on the 17th of January, and met Kim's parents at Austin Strabel airport that afternoon. As soon as we arrived we drove downtown and picked up our rental vehicle. Thanks to Kim's dad, we were able to get a fantastic deal on a 4 wheel drive Blazer. At less than $250.00 for the week, you couldn't ask for a better deal. Thanks Ted.

Kim and I spent half our time in De Pere and the other half in the woods near Pound. Kim and I grew up in De Pere, and Kim's parents still live there. My parents moved up north into the woods near Pound Wisconsin soon after I left for the Air Force.

Kim and I had a really good time visiting with all our friends and relatives. I could spend all day talking about the things we did, and people we met, but I'm sure I'd forget someone or something. Let's just say thanks to all the people who made our visit memorable. We wish we could've stayed longer.

Movies
While we stayed at Kim's parents place, Ted (Kim's father) and I watched a Sci-fi drama. On the last day of our stay I watched one more movie.

  • Frank Herbert's - Children of Dune: (From our collection/Not NetFlix) I love the Dune series. The books are the best thing I've ever read. This movie captures a small piece of the rich tapestry woven by the books. Riddled with corruption, intrigue, and deception, two twins strive to hold together themselves and their fathers legacy. An excellent story. I rate this one a 6 out of 7.
  • La Strada: (An Italian film) with english subtitles. It's an old movie, dating from 1954, but it's timeless. A movie directed by the Italian master Federico Fellini. The characters in this movie are haunting and memorable. A tragic story about a wandering strongman and the woman who can't help but love him. It's tragic and moving a movie packed full of emotion. I felt like I had been drawn into their personal lives, a participant, a victim and touched by the power of this movie. This one gets a 7.

Other Games
While visiting my sister, we paid a visit to a favorite games store; 'My Mothers Basement' carries an excellent selection (although small) of 'Other Games'. Just the kind I like to play. While there I picked up a bunch of new stuff.

  • Two new games
    • Who Stole Ed's Pants? - By Eight Foot Llama (We played this with Dale and Michelle)
    • Management Material - A card game recommended by the store owner. Claims they've played it so much they've worn out two decks. I haven't played it yet.
  • A Special Edition of a game we've enjoyed for years.
    • A new release which includes over 40 standard laminated playing cards featuring new artwork and rules. Undead fast food workers share a brain to get things done.
  • Three expansion products for a game I enjoyed tremendously.
    • Zombies!!! 2 - Zombie Corps(e): An expansion that adds new map tiles, new event cards, additional rules, and six glow in the dark zombies!
    • Zombies!!! 3.5 - Not Dead Yet: An event card expansion. 50 new event cards.
    • Bag o' Zombies!!! - You guessed it, a bag of 100 zombies!

As you can imagine, I updated my other games page to include these new goodies. I also added asterisks to indicate the games I haven't had a chance to play yet.

 
 

January 16, 2004

Movies
NetFlix is awesome. It's easy to use - Pick your movies on the web. It's cheap - Only $19.95 a month. It's convenient - No need to go drive to the rental place. It's got a huge variety of movies - Over 15,000 at last count. Today I watched one movie.

  • Metropolis: It's an old black & white silent movie, but it's magnificent. A sci-fi throwback from 1927. This movie illustrates a dystopian future where a strict social caste forms the basis of revolution and romance. The directing, music and scope are fantastic. The only drawback is the over-dramatic acting. This one gets 6 out of 7.

D&D®
I updated three pages today. They're all character links from the hero's gallery. Kragus, Dokren, and Lumiarti will soon be leaving the group, and I've updated these pages in order to take that change into account.

 
 

January 15, 2004

Vacation
Kim and I are going home to Wisconsin. We fly out of Denver on the 17th, and return on the 24th. We're only going to be gone a week, but I figured I better get some updates posted before we leave. I'm sure we'll have a good time, and I'll take a bunch of pictures while we're home. We will be back in time for D&D on the 24th.

Movies
NetFlix is awesome. It's easy to use - Pick your movies on the web. It's cheap - Only $19.95 a month. It's convenient - No need to go drive to the rental place. It's got a huge variety of movies - Over 15,000 at last count. This week I've seen a bunch of movies, they are:

  • The life of David Gale : The states (Texas) leading anti-death-penalty activist is framed for a murder, and ends up on death row. This movie is an excellent drama. The writing/script is powerful, the acting compelling, the ending left me reeling. This one gets a 6 out of 7.
  • Bowling for Columbine: This is a very well done documentary. Unfortunately, the point of view is skewed in one specific direction. I think Michael Moore wines too much. I'm pro gun-control, but this movie contained so much wining that I wish I could have shot Michael Moore half way through the movie. I wasn't real happy with the genre bending rules used in this documentary. Stick to the facts, and let me come to my own conclusions. The directing and production were way above par. This one gets 4 out of 7.
  • Indecent Proposal: (From our collection/Not NetFlix) The chemistry between Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore nearly made my VHS player overheat. Unfortunately, that's about all this movie had going for it. The acting was o.k. The story is so thin that the entire movie is summed up in ne line of dialog. Despite its shortcomings, it gave my tear glands a work out. I give it a 4 out of 7.
  • Mean Streets: A Martin Scorsese film. Starring Harvey Kite and Robert De Niro. I almost didn't recognize De Niro. He's so young in this film. Excellent directing, with some nice camera work. Good acting from two greats. The only flaw of this movie is the lack of a plot. None. None whatsoever. The entire movie is based on the life of a small time mob collector. Interpersonal character drama drives this flick. I give it a 4 out of 7.

Software favorites
Some negative commentary about Apple. I don't usually complain about Apple's business decisions, but I was sorely disappointed this morning. When I logged on to my computer, there was a dialog alert waiting for me. My version of iChatAV was reverting back into a text only chat tool. That's not right! You can't give something away for free, and then take it back. I'll gladly pay for the AV version, but Apple shouldn't have made the AV beta available to the public at large. They should have distributed the beta to beta testers only. Not the general public. What they did smacks of MicroSoft. Uncool.

I upgraded my productivity suite today. AppleWorks is now running version 6.2.8 for Mac OS 9, and version 6.2.9 for OS X.

AppleWorks is a productivity suite for the MAC. It comes free on consumer Mac (iBooks, iMacs, eMacs) In my opinion it is 'the' productivity suite for the MAC. Far superior in ease of use and integration than the extremely bloated and super-expensive MicroSoft product. I make extensive use of the Paint and Draw modules in order to create banners and graphics for my web site. Distributed in two versions; 6.2.8 for Mac OS 9.X, and 6.2.9 for OS X. This latest update scroll wheel support. Finally!

Die Spammer Die!
Forgery of email headers is easy to do, and it's the first thing a spammer learns. In November of 2002, I was the victim of an intensive spam run which used my domain in the From & Reply-To: fields. Recently spammers have begun increasing their use of this tactic. Not only was I a victim again, I also received email from two other victims seeking advice and information. Thanks to one of those victims, I've updated a link on my 'Forgery' page. I hope you never have to explain that you're not responsible for sending that 'Penis Enlargement' spam. But if you are, you might find some of the advice and information on my forgery page useful.

 
 

January 10, 2003

D&D®
It's been a while since I updated the campaign related web pages, and we're due to play tonight! Two weeks have passed and I haven't had a chance to post any new updates. Hopefully this entry, and the updates associated with it will make up for a big back log.

  • As I've mentioned previously, I've been working on a 3.0 to 3.5 conversion. Well, I'm ready for the conversion now. The most important update has been completed and posted. It's a new weapons page, and updated weapons listing on the 3rd edition campaign page. Hundreds of weapons, pages of descriptions and details, and enough content for the players to choke on. Be sure to chew thoroughly. Aside from the new weapons page. The weapons update also includes updates to three other related documents.
    • Weapons listing page. The weapons list in html table format. This page also includes links to downloads of the weapons listing (the statistics table) in various different formats.
    • 3rd Edition weapons preface document. A key of sorts. Definitions of the statistics used to describe the weapons.
    • 3rd Edition weapons text or descriptions. A document which describes each weapons characteristics and specifics.
    • 3rd Edition weapons list. The weapons and all related statistics in column/table format.
  • Monsters. With the final encounter, I added some more details regarding the Naga. I also added an alpha-linking index at the top of the page.
  • The journal has been updated. It took a while, but I've finally got the entry from the 27th of December online.
  • Who's Who. I updated some of the player character info on the who's who page.
  • The campaign page has been updated. I added a link to the new weapons page, and updated the next game date.
  • The House Rules have been updated. Numerous updates to house rules are detailed below.
    • Rules regarding heroic luck have been modified to include use of luck stones.
    • Weapon non-proficiency rules have been changed. The penalties (used for both non-proficiency and illegal use) have been modified to be class dependent.
    • The Equipment section of the house rules has been modified to include the use of the 3x5 item cards.
    • A house rule regarding initiative and changing your attack/weapon has been established.
    • Rules regarding initiative and multiple attacks/weapons have been clarified.
    • A section of rules regarding sapping attacks has been added.
    • Rules regarding fumbles have been reformatted.
    • The rules covering clone insurance have been expanded and clarified.
    • Experience point rules/rules covering 'going up a level' have been corrected/modified.

Other updates
Perhaps you've noticed a few other changes to the web site. I've been very busy. It took me a while, but here's some additional changes for you to sink your teeth into.

  • With the new year upon us. I turned over the "What's New" page. If you're looking for entries from last year, you'll need to check out last years web log.
  • Movies. I updated the main movies page, and the movie listing. I've seen a lot of movies, and bought a bunch as well. Oh yeah, I almost forgot (not!); I'm a NetFlix member now!
  • Updated one of the index pages. Added and updated links to some of the D&D® campaign related pages.

I tried using iBlog (Software I received for free for being a .Mac member) to revamp my "What's New" page. It didn't work. Oh, the software worked, but I found it lacking in control features. I wasn't able to do what I wanted with it. The main page was a complete disappointment, I couldn't edit it at all. I had difficulty getting articles/entries to appear in the exact order I wanted them. The file hierarchy and page linking was incomprehensible, and the publication/publish feature could not be used to export the files to where I wanted. I'll stick with this format for now.

 
 

January 9, 2003

It's a new year
Well, it's been a while since I updated this page. As a matter of fact, it's been a while since I've updated any of my web pages. The holidays kept me busy, and I've been busy getting ready to switch the D&D campaign to version 3.5.

Holidays
Kim and I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Dungeons & Dragons
I've been spending a lot of time getting ready to 'Game On!'. Converting from 3.0 to the 3.5 version of the game has taken longer than anticipated. The main reason is the weapons update.

I've been playing D&D since 1976 (Kim's played since 1985), and no it's not some sort of 'fad' mom. Kim and I love the game (I'm the one responsible for indoctrinating her into the game), and we've been playing since we arrived in Denver. I restarted the Rob's World! campaign on 10 January 2003. Tomorrows session will mark the one year anniversary of the campaign.

Software favorites
Another update to my software favorites page. GraphicConverter is now at version 4.9.3. It just keeps getting better!

GraphicConverter is an image converter and manipulator. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price ($35.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. Available in 68k, OS9, and OSX versions. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, but don't just take my word for it. Even Apple has written a glowing review . The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box.

Movies
Kim and I didn't get that gift subscription to NetFlix, like we'd hoped. So, I signed us up anyway. The savings over Block Buster is just one reason to go NetFlix. Since we started our NetFlix subscription I've seen four movies. They are...

  • Along came a spider : (From our collection/Not NetFlix) A marvelous little criminal mystery thriller. This movie moves along nicely, with some fair acting (Morgan Freeman is the lead). The best performance came from Mika Boorem (as Megan Rose) as the young spoiled kidnap victim. Thankfully the plot twists kept me guessing. Even after watching this movie for the third time, I was surprised at a couple of turns. 5 out of 7.
  • With a friend like Harry: (French film: Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien) With english subtitles. This movie was on my "watch" list, and it didn't disappoint. A dark, disturbing little psycho-drama. The acting was good. The setting/sets, and costume were all unpretentious and believable. The story was well done and well directed. The movie starts out innocently enough, but it doesn't stay that way. By the end of the movie there are 4 dead bodies, and no one's crying... This one rates 5 out of 7 as well.
  • The experiment: (A German film, Das experiment) with english subtitles. Another movie from the "watch" list. This movie is based on the infamous "Stanford Prison Experiment" conducted in 1971. A makeshift prison is set up in a research lab and volunteers are divided into two groups. Prisoners and Guards. They are given a very simple set of instructions. Act according to your roles, but there is to be no violence. Well, things get out of hand. Way out of hand. A tense psycho drama with some excellent acting. The lead (prisoner 77) is played by Moritz Bleibtreu. He starred in Run Lola Run as well. Another one of my favorites. This one gets a 7. Rent it and own it. I had no idea it was this good.
  • The last supper: Yet another movie from my "watch" list. Thank you NetFlix. Done in the style of a play. This little gem deserves watching. Five liberal housemates decide to murder people with extreme right wing views. They're making the world a better place. The pacing was well done, the cast was a good pick, and the story was interesting. This one gets 3 out of 7.

I must say, I'm glad I chose to make the switch from normal rentals to NetFlix. The selection is excellent. I pick and choose from the comfort of my home. The DVDs arrive in the mail. I watch the movies. I return them in preposted envelopes. So convenient, oh yeah, I almost forgot something very important. It's cheaper than Block Buster!

 
     
 

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Author: Robert L. Vaessen e-mail: robert robsworld org
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