26 November, 2005

Recent activities - Thanksgiving, Surround Sound, Pool

            Thanksgiving was fun, although I worked Friday.  Thus, I had to come back early <frown> from the in-laws’ place.  That was disappointing, but I had the pleasure of seeing if I could eat a turkey leg, and two pieces of pumpkin pie, while simultaneously navigating the country roads.


            The wife and kids stayed the night there, in order to shop the Black Friday sales.  They ended up staying over Friday night too, due to the snowfall making for hazardous driving conditions.  I look forward to their return!


            I got the itch to start writing, recreationally, and it is going well.  It’s as much fun, for me, to write as it is to watch a flick, so the more time I can spend doing that, the better.


            Recently a friend came over and tuned the surround sound system in our newly finished basement.  Although I enjoy joking with him and telling him that “I can perceive no difference”, the change is quite striking.  He loaned me his copy of ‘Genesis: The Videos”, and a Queen videos compilation, both with DTS soundtracks.  I don’t know a heck of a lot, about sound – that is his department – but after watching the entire Genesis collection last night, I agree with him that DTS (in general) blows Dolby Digital away.  I felt like I was in a concert.


            At this point, I am still not HD; I have the 32” flat screen JVC TV, and unfortunately, it’s picture is so good I have no need to upgrade.  Darn it.  But, when I do, I will jump straight to an overheard projector, since I wired for it and also laid in a piece of PVC, through which to push the video/audio cables.  The benefits of having access to the ceiling prior to the drywall going up.


            I used to shoot pool, recreationally, back when I actually went to bars.  A while ago a friend of mine and I went to some local bars and played a game, using the crappiest assortment of cues I had ever seem.  It seems to be a theme, in Waukesha, that the bars have okay tables but horrid cues.  As such, I went to Wal-Mart and bought one, complete with a case, and extra chalk and tips, for a hair over $30.  Have I used it yet, in the past two weeks of owning it?  Heck no, but it’s in my car, just in case it’s needed.


            I took the two older kids to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, while the baby and Mommy shopped.  A decent flick.  My older girls are savvy movie viewers, and they were not visibly frightened, nor did they later claim nightmares.  I consider that a successful viewing, when no one admits to later terrors.





Dan Reams

BLOG: http://waukeshawestside.blogspot.com/

Local Coffee Shops: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/coffeejoints/


26 October, 2005

Added a better antenna to my wireless router and improved my home LAN

            My decision to house my wireless router, underneath my basement stairs, while aesthetically clever, is tactically a bit silly.  Wireless routers should really be on the top floor – not in the basement – to best cover a house.  Since I routed all my network cables down there, when we built, I am somewhat stuck.


            So, to improve reception/transmission, to and from our notebooks, I added a $19.99 omni-directional antenna (purchased from the Bluemound CompUSA at http://www.compusa.com/products/product_info.asp?product_code=312338&pfp=cat3).  Configuration is as simple as unscrewing the old antenna and screwing the new one in.  Instantly, our notebooks can now connect flawlessly from the farthest reaches of the house.


            Because I had been considering scrapping my old workhorse D-Link DI-624 router for a new, sleek NetGear MaxRange ($129), I feel I just saved myself $110.


            Thanks to Joey Colwell (next door neighbor) for suggesting I check at CompUSA.  Before that, I had been researching antennas, and I was going to drop $40 online for one.  This model seems to be doing the trick.

27 September, 2005

Okay, so it’s to the point where, if you don’t have a DVR, it’s akin to not having a VCR by 1986. Get one.

I have been watching the following shows lately. Not that I have time to watch, but I tend to only sleep four hours a night, so I do get in a few shows now and then.

Surface - http://www.nbc.com/Surface/

Both on NBC and Sci-Fi (which makes recording it all that much easier, because I can get around conflicts with other shows), this stars ex Boston Legal gal Lake Bell as a oceanographer who discovers a race of giant alien marine mammals at the bottom of the ocean, around volcanic vents. Yeah, I know, but check it out. It’s kind of Jacques Cousteau meets the X-Files. It’s not just about her though.

You can catch a repeat of the first episode this coming Saturday at 7:00 PM CT, followed by episode two at 8:00 PM., on NBC. (or on Sci-Fi from 8:00 AM CT – 10:00 on Sunday). Its regular slot is on Monday’s at 7:00 on NBC.

Prison Break - http://www.fox.com/prisonbreak/

I think of this as The Oz meets Escape from Alcatraz (because I must think of everything as a something meets something). A brother gets himself thrown into prison to help bust out his innocent brother (or is he?) before said inmate gets the chair. The helpful brother just happens to have worked for the company that designed the prison, and before he gets himself thrown in the pokey, he has tattoos drawn all over his body containing the blueprints, recipes for explosives, and all other kinds of goodies.


Now is season five, it has moved nights, to Thursdays at 7:00 PM CT on the WB. In the season four finale, the spaceship transported him to the Arctic circle, and compulsively he threw the crystal about a half mile out into the snow . . . yeah, we all know what that means; For the first time, we see The Fortress of Solitude. You won’t want to miss this one. Additional tid-bits: Chloe is also transported to the Arctic, but being human, is overwhelmed by the cold. Also, two Kryptonian aliens emerge, from a crater of the latest meteor shower, and go lookin’ for the big guy. Oh yeah.

Interesting Smallville site:

http://smallville.warnerbros.com/flash_large/flash_large.html - Tour the town by moving the map and clicking on sites.

The 4400 -- http://www.the4400.com/

Not technically a fall show, because it is on hiatus (its season is a cable season and thus a bit sideways, it is a good opportunity for you to get caught up. Season 1 is out on DVD, and they are re-airing recently ended season 2. Plot: People from the future abduct 4400 humans, over the course of 50 years, then return them all to 2004. Some have special powers. Regardless, Homeland Security has to keep an eye on them. Why did the future humans do this? What is their angle? Find out.


We didn’t watch it when it first aired, but we caught up this summer. In case anyone on the planet doesn’t already know…

A plane crashes on an island a thousand miles off course. Somehow some 48 or so folks survive. The island is inhabited by polar bears (yep), wild boars, shadowy CGI wraiths, “the Others”, and a workout addict living in an underground bunker. Oh, and the chicks and guys are all hot, so you can even watch it with the sound off.

Stargate: SG1 and Stargate: Atlantis -- both shows can be found at http://www.scifi.com/stargate/

Their seasons just ended, but you can catch up on the past season on Sci-Fi Friday nights. SG1 is shown all the time, and the older episodes air (among other times) Mondays from 5:00 – 7:00 PM.

Justice League Unlimited – http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/tv_shows/jlu/

The Batman – http://www2.warnerbros.com/thebatman

Both shows are on the Cartoon Network. I am 14 again. Luckily, my 6 and 7 year olds will watch TV with me, these shows and Stargate. Nothing like being covered with one’s off-spring while watching Hawkgirl and Green Lantern open up a can of whoop-ass on Solomon Grundy. Nirvana. This ain’t your ‘Super Friends’, Folks (although they do make a funny nod back to the Wonder Twins now and then).

If you want your Batman a bit less intense than the JLU version (or the fantastic live-action Batman Begins), check out ‘The Batman’. Still cool, but aimed at the pre-teeners versus the full blown teens (like me). A Bruce Wayne who only recently has donned the cowl. Still kick-ass and funny, with advanced plots and great writing.

Medium -- http://www.nbc.com/Medium/

Patricia Arquette just won an Emmy for best actress in a drama series. Aside from the fun ways she “talks to dead people” to solve murders or abduction cases, the main reason I like this show is her interaction with her family. I may be biased, because she has three girls, and a husband who’s a scientist, but whatever.

Honorable Mention


Battlestar Galacticahttp://www.scifi.com/battlestar/

This is a remake of the old 70’s show, far superior. It’s more of a serial than the first, and very dramatic. Edward James Olmos is involved, so ya know it’s gotta be good. I won’t blather on about how it’s “the best show on TV”, because I don’t buy into the critics’ hype. I do think it’s great though, but to be honest, I removed it from my DVR’s roster, because there is a point where even I do not have time to watch it.

12 July, 2005

Right lane means slower than left lane

What more need be said? Look, if you're in the left lane, you had better be going faster than the folks in the right lane who are near you. This applies to interstate highways, multilane county highways, and yes, even local in-town streets (though to a lesser extent). This ain't rocket science, folks. We were all taught this in Driver's Education, and if we weren't, we've all been driving long enough to figure it out.

19 June, 2005

Last Tuesday I took my WiFi notebook to the Panera out on Capitol Ave., by Menard's, in Pewaukee. Free wireless Internet access, and my work secure VPN tunnel works great there. The experience was much better than being prompted, for a T-Mobile hourly rate (of $6 or whatever) at a Starbucks. The connection was great; I never lost it.

At Panera, they have a 'stay as long as you like but please get out of the way of other customers' policy. That is, they would prefer it if WiFi users do not hog tables during lunches, and instead retire to one of the comfy chairs.

For me, I bought a cup of coffee (free refills) and a bowl of soup, and I was there from just before 4:00 PM until they closed at 8:00 PM. So, for $4.50 of product, I got a ton of work done. I was able to take over my at-work PC, via my VPN connection and pcANYWHERE, hook up to my work's Exchange email server directly to my laptop's copy of Outlook, and thus get everything needed doing, done. They have great coffee (on par with Steep N'Brew, my favorite).
We go to Panera often enough, as a family, that I do not at all feel myself a bandwidth hog. I will certainly go back there for a little recreational writing on my next "night out".

For a Panera location near you, that has WiFi, go to http://www.panerabread.com/locations.aspx?WiFi=1 (they also have directions to non-WiFi locations, if you follow the left frame up one level). In Madison, there is one on University Avenue, near Shorewood Hills.

The bottom line is that free WiFi Internet is a good draw, for customers. When I was there, two other people came in, ordered dinner, browsed the WEB for a bit, via their laptops, and left. I asked them if they came specifically for the WiFi, and they both answered similarly; a guy at work mentioned they WiFi was available there, and they thought they would check it out.

In the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel a month or two ago, they ran an article about Waukesha coffee shops. I did a mini-tour of them, and I found a great one downtown that has free WiFi. The problem is, as with many small coffee shops, is their hours suck. By the time I get off work and ready for a night out, the place is closed. I asked them, as they were closing, if they planned to have longer hours, and the guy said they were. (He also said he was willing to stay as long as I wanted to stay, and he mumbled something about his wife putting the smack down on him for having to mow his lawn; I felt too guilty to stay).

13 March, 2005

I bought a Gateway notebook

I am typing this on my new Gateway 7210GX notebook. I never thought I'd buy a Gateway, much less a notebook, but I decided the only way I can ever get any non-work writing done (essays and short stories) is to have a notebook to take to Starbucks or my other favorite coffee shops.
I bought it from Best Buy's WEB site last week and picked it up at the store, and after tax it came to less than $1,000. It's got an 80GB hard drive, Windows XP Home Edition, a DVD and CD BURNER, and a wide-screen 15.5" fantastic monitor. What's more, it has built in WiFi wireless, so it really is on my lap, without any wires, while I'm on the internet. Fun stuff. Sure, I'll do work-work on it, but I'll be able to do my own thing too. We'll have our deck done by June, and I plan to be out there wirelessly typing away, assuming it's not too bright out to use the darn thing. Of course, I could be out there at night with the mosquitoes, having a grand old time.

23 January, 2005

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow - The Shaft

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow - The Shaft

Written January 22, 2005, by Dan Reams

Part 1 - Something Clinky This Way Comes

After years of pleading, begging, whining, and other manly actions, I finally got a two-stage snow thrower. It was waiting for me in the garage when I got home from work, thanks to my wife having arranged for free shipping.

This morning, still with my pre-coffee headache, with just two sips in me -- keen to get out with my new tool -- I donned my "puffy pants", water proof gloves, and other garb. Since the hardware store folks had run the machine to test it, its oil level was full, so I put fresh gas in, plugged in the power, turned it over, and it started like a dream.

I put it in reverse, backed out of the garage, and started down the driveway. At the bottom, where the plow had deposited three feet of snow, my Yard Machines GOLD series 8.5 HP 26" bundle of energy cut through it like it was butter (okay, hard butter, but still butter). Overjoyed, I went across the street, and cleared the bottom of our neighbor's driveway.

[Reams Snow Throwing Guide, Chapter 1, verse 1: Yay, let it be that he who hath the biggest snow thrower, or a capable snow thrower, must clear the bottom of his neighbor's egress, prior to their getting to it themselves. In this way, thine neighbor's penis shall shrivel, and thine shall engorge, and thee shall be hence unto a manly man.]

I went up their driveway. I went down. I went up again. I went again down. I went to change it to reverse, but it would not change into reverse.

[Reams Snow Throwing Guide, Chapter 1, verse 2: And if it comes to pass that one's mechanical beast of burden shall not reverse, check thy shift control shaft, to see if it still exists.]

Puzzled, I did a cursory visual examination. What had I done? I set my mind to investigate this after I finished my neighbor's drive.

[Reams Snow Throwing Guide, Chapter 1, verse 2, addendum: Cease thy foolish ways and investigate the cause immediately, lest the consequences of thine sloth be apparent.]

I muscled the rig backwards, manually, turned it around, and plowed back into the snow at the bottom of the drive.


'What is this?!', thought I, disengaging the auger. Looking into the scoop, I saw nothing obvious. I tried to spin the unit, but its torque was too high, and I could see no obstruction in its then current position. Knowing my neighbors were probably watching, I chose to continue on, vowing to have a package deal of auger-checking and directional-changing-fixing back at H.Q.

[Reams Snow Throwing Guide, Chapter 1, verse 2, addendum 2: And should it come to pass that a <CLANKing> sound is evident, cease all activities. Smother thy mechanized beast's breath. Enjoy the majesty of nature, on your puffy panted knees, and bow to the inside of its maw, lest you forever -- or for the remainder of the weekend -- live in shame.]

The racket was intense, but I cleared a bit more snow, then made an automobile path, for their next door neighbor, and went home.

Turns out my gear shaft had sheered off, and on my next pass I had scooped it up. It wrapped itself instantly around the drive shaft for the auger. I tried to budge it with vice grips, but it is steel, and the once straight shaft now resembled a small shock absorber spring.

They are coming to pick it up on Monday, and they will fix it for free, since I only had the thing turned on 15 minutes before the unfortunate event took place.

Part 2 - Yin-Yang, Shrinky-Growy - One man's shame becomes another's glory

Once I had ascertained that both problems -- the ability to change reverse/forward directions and the noisy auger condition -- were linked to the same source problem of the fallen, then consumed, gear shaft, I went inside. Being an oddly shaped portly individual, I was out of breath anyway, from dragging the thing backwards (before I figured out I could reach out, with my foot, and change the direction control), and I needed a coffee break.

Explaining the situation to my wife, Kristie, she offered to call Michelle, across the street, to ask her husband to come over and plow out the bottom of our drive. Kristie explained that this should be no problem, since they had called anyway, offering to clear our driveway, after seeing I had come in for a rest. Grudgingly -- manhood at risk -- I agreed, knowing my older snow thrower was not up to the task of the "big job" at the curb. The older unit is fine for light to near moderate conditions, but today's event would overwhelm it.

Shawn came over, blew my drive, and I helped as much as I could, with the shovel, toppling the snow to be lower, to help his machine. His thrower is as good as mine, or better, considering he has a functioning gear shaft. My assistance, with the shovel, did not really help him, but it made it look like I still possessed some small amount of testosterone. Of course, it diminished his sacrifice too, psychically implying that I could do the entire job by hand, and that I only "let" him do it so he could use his nice toy. Indeed, it was almost like he owed me one, at that point. To passers by it was I who was Hercules, and he merely Aeolus, gas-powered. I was like a go . . . or not.

I told him I felt like I had taken a generic Viagra, only to have it fail midway through the process [leaving the recipient wonting, the deliverer shamed].

Shawn was kind enough to clear the snow not only from the end of my drive, but also from a large part of the rest of it too.

His engine then failed, and he had to push the thing home, an arduous task through the snow. Being a man, he (rightly) refused my offer of aid. I offered to get him fresh gas, which he also (again rightly) declined. Being a man, he will deal with his engine failure in his own way, and I wish him well. It happens -- or so I hear -- to all of us, at one time or other.

Part 3 - Of Non-Human Bondage - The Belt

WARNING - The following segment contains low-brow innuendo. Reader discretion is advised.

Knowing that I still had some snow moving to do, on the sidewalks, and that more snow was yet due to accumulate, through drifting or downfall, prior to the return of my new machine Monday, I knew I would have to resurrect my old machine. She is a single-stage (a.k.a. eunuch) two-cycle putt-putt.

Being plumb out of two-cycle oil, I went to the local convenience store gas station and filled both my large gas can and my two-cycle gas can (with oil mixed at the appropriate 50:1 ratio, of course). My gas guzzling 4x4 Expedition had no problems on the road, and I made sure to make folks in lesser vehicles uncomfortable and impotent as I sped past them in the snow-covered lane.

Feeling all testosterony, having recouped some of my losses after the 'dropped shaft' affair, I plunged the nozzle into my awaiting, waifish little snow thrower. Mmmm. Filled it to the rim. Want some more? No. Maybe later? I'll be ready in about ten minutes.

I plugged her in, and she squealed with delight. I rolled her onto the driveway, and engaged the auger . . .

. . . no, no I didn't. The auger would not spin. Had she been faking, all those other times, or did she feel slighted by the more buxom replacement? Why could she not satisfy me, and why could my touch not bring about spinning culmination in her?

I brought her into the welcoming warmth of the garage, gently laid her on her side, and screwed her cover off. A tear! Oh no! Her belt was asunder. I felt good again, for me, though sad for her. It may have been my strength that did it. Not my ineptness! (Never that!).

Off to the hardware store I went. I bought a new belt. I will put it on her tonight, and she will blow as much as she can, until she is overcome.

No matter how much she moves for me, it shall not be enough. As I use her, I will think of her replacement, and dream of her return. Both the little one and I know this, though we do not speak of it. We have a momentary return to the way things were. Though this short time be all that we have left, all that there can be . . . it will be enough.

For me.

- Fin -