Friday, August 21, 2015

Computer Troubles with a Capital "Troub"

I spent a good chunk of time this week trying to troubleshoot a problem with my laptop. Starting last week, a BSOD -- Blue Screen of Death -- began popping up with precise regularity. If it didn't boot in Safe Mode, it wouldn't boot at all. As a result I had to dig into the "guts" of software, the bios, and all those things that I've largely detached myself from.

Not since the "good ol' days" of DOS on our family's trusty XT and later our 486 (which sported a "Turbo" button), have I been forced to understand the operation of my computer any deeper than pressing the button to turn it on or possibly downloading a specific hardware driver. This was full-on poking around in stuff that I didn't fully understand but kinda, sorta thought that changing settings here, there and everywhere, might goad the computer to boot up properly. It was a voyage of discovery as I came across settings and options that I often thought I should tweak, but never had the gumption to sit down and just figure it all out. (Of course, if everything was working fine, why would I start tweaking things?) There were completely unexplored areas and diagnostic options that I had no clue were present.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

And We're Floating... Inside a Tent

The homestead. February 2008.
It sounds weird when the words tumble out of my mouth.

"We packed up our camping gear, drove down to Seattle from Vancouver, put all that camping stuff on a plane then camped at Walt Disney World. Yeah, Orlando in Florida. That one."

It might have been easier to have those words come out had it just been me and my wife since it reduces the gear factor to a large backpack. Two people camping after a long plane ride doesn't seem weird. (Mercifully we left all the cooking equipment in Vancouver -- we made use of the Walt Disney World "Dining Plan.") But at the time of the trip we had three kids along for the ride, which exponentially increased the amount of stuff to bring. Extra clothes, shoes, a big tent, sleeping bags, air mattresses... And none of them were really at age where they could handle more than a wheeled suitcase and a "fun size" backpack, which meant Jennifer and I were left to lug everything from place to place.

So, you might be able to imagine us arriving at Fort Wilderness Resort. Haggard from an early departure in Seattle and a 6 hour flight, arriving at our campsite in the dark, hungry, irritable. I'm pretty sure my shirt was torn but at least the cut above my right eye had finally stopped bleeding.

Comparing Fort Wilderness Resort to "real" camping is a bit of a stretch. Camping to me is marked with pit toilets, sharing the lake with sucking leeches, and hour upon hour of driving to finally reach a spot we can start to relax. (The wind-up to get "back to nature" and start "relaxing" seems counter-intuitive because it takes so much frantic energy to get there in the first place.)

The Fort Wilderness Resort is high end camping. (Hell, the word "resort" is right there in the name.) There are nearby laundry facilities, two large pools, hammocks, relatively flat campsites, small lizards, a couple of shops. Very nice! But arriving in the dark after so much travelling, there was really only one thought in my mind: My God, I hate camping.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Project NL: Millennium Falcon

millennium falcon night light
Joey, have you ever wanted split open the Millennium Falcon?
Over the years I somehow came into possession of two 1979 Kenner Millennium Falcon toys. I know one of them was given to me by my younger brother, but the other one I don't really have any recollection of acquiring. After kicking around in boxes and surviving a couple of moves, they were both in danger of being offloaded at a thrift store. Rather than see them disappear I started on a project to turn one of them into a night light because what else does one do with multiple Falcons?

I performed a once-over of each Falcon trying to decided which one would be the successful candidate. Neither one was in the best condition to start with but one was definitely in better shape.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Excerpt from Chapter 13: Roy Arrives in Less Dramatic Fashion

The text below is from a novel in progress. First draft so there's still plenty of editing that will need to be done before it's "ready."

“It was marked on the wall outside.”

“Show me,” Tex moved from behind the counter toward the door.

Outside, Roy pointed at the graffiti. Tex considered the markings for only a moment before heading back inside.

“I don't suppose, Canuck, that you carry a sidearm?” Tex was rooting behind the counter. “I've got one here if you don't.”

“A gun? For what?”

“La Madre is one of the local gangs. Involved in drugs, illegal hooch, drug smuggling. People sometimes,” Tex stood up holding what Roy knew was a shotgun, but didn't recognize the type. “Rile up all kinds of trouble in town. When they feel like it; when someone ain't paid up protection money or wronged them some way. Not happened in a spell, quiet lately. We've been marked for target practice, I expect.”

Tex banged a side of the counter top and a small spring-loaded drawer opened on the customer side of the counter.

Roy's wide eyes stared down at some kind of handgun. Growing up in the wilds of Canada, Roy knew about rifles – a tool that his family used on a regular basis to hunt game – but handguns? What use was there for a handgun? Using a rifle was all about keeping a safe distance from dangerous game. The effective range of a handgun made it impractical unless you wanted to make a lot of noise without getting much done. He reached for the gun.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Daredevil

After a couple of episodes of Marvel's Daredevil -- obligatory, "Now available on Netflix!" -- one thing that really stands out to me is just how hellish life is when you're not on SHIELD's helicarrier. Throughout the Avengers/Marvel Universe movies, we get a sanitized version of the results of the kind of violence that meta-humans and gods can unleash (not to mention the aliens) on a city. Those gargantuan Chitari flying whale-things in Avengers easily topple buildings and the Hulk is smashing everything that is and isn't moving but you never get a sense of the human cost behind all that destruction. Thousands must have died in the "Battle for New York." Never mind that "The Council" was going to nuke Manhattan, there must have been massive causualties on the ground.

Daredevil doesn't really get into that aspect of the Battle for New York, but it has featured the aftermath as a boon for organized crime to rebuild sections of the city and swindle huge amounts of cash into their bank accounts. What Daredevil has done is bring the Marvel Universe right down to the streets, grime and garbage included. (And at the end of the second episode, we go under the streets in one intense round of combat.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fat-Man & Burger

I think I was 7 or 8 -- somewhere around that age -- when I got hold of a mechanical pencil for the first time in my life. I loved the fact that the tip never blunted, which is still a problem with modern pencils, so I spent and afternoon/evening drawing "Fat-Man & Burger."

The ending lacks a punch, but I'm fond of some of the illustrations, particularly the panel where Fat-Man is sweating profusely.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

TV Theme Songs

Something about TV theme songs really appeal to me. It might be because they're short, usually have memorable lyrics, and conjure up whatever good feelings I might have associated with the show. Bojack Horseman (on Netflix) features an instrumental opening that is currently buzzing through my brain. Here's an extended version: