Friday, March 31, 2006

Participate In 1 Protest, Get 1 Day Off From School For Free

My blog has stayed away from any political commentary for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact I don't care for all of the BS that goes along with any discussion of politics. Don't worry, I'm not about to end that anytime soon. When I've managed to take one of my 10-second peeks into what's going on around the country, there have been lots of high schoolers protesting the illegal immigration bills in Congress. At least that's what I've gathered from only reading the headlines.

I'll take up any cause if it lets me miss my social studies test.

Oh sure, the media will publish quotes from kids who may actually care about the topic, but don't fool yourself. 95% of those high schoolers are protesting because it lets them miss class. Proving once again that there's safety in numbers. One year in high school, we walked out for what I guess was something about teacher contracts, but who knows anymore. Everyone else acted like they were taking some big stand so I did too, since they couldn't put us all in detention. Anyone in school looks for any reason to miss class, so why not say you're protesting (though protests rarely change anything) when it's really just an excused day of hooky.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Don't Worry, I'm Still Around These Parts

Thanks to some issues with blogger and a major change in my blogging schedule, my posts will be a little intermittent until the weekend. Fear not. The posts you've come to love to loathe will still appear in all their glory, just with a different timetable.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Need to Send a Large File?

My friend was looking for video of Kobe Bryant's 81-point performance. Since I have a habit (really an addiction) of collecting sports videos on my computer, I told him I had saved's streaming video clip showing each point. The file is 24 MB, too large for any email message, but a perfect excuse for a site he told me about called Yousendit (Delivering over 43,973,865,717,760 bytes per day).

It lets you upload a file up to 1 GB, then sends you and your (sometimes imaginary) friend a link to the file for downloading. I uploaded the file in about 10 minutes last night with my connection. You may only upload one file at a time so to get around this, I suggest zipping your files into one file and sending that. Otherwise, you could always complete multiple uploads. It's a helpful site when you don't have any CDs to burn your larger files.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

No Title For Bacne's Career!

Woohoo! Duke lost to LSU a few minutes ago. That means JJ graduates (finally!) and does so without any championships. It also means the last team I really care about losing is done. Redick is a great shooter (other things like playing defense and ballhandling we'll ignore) and did enjoy a phenomenal college career...outside of that whole being a champion part. For a program that has had a #1 seed so many times, you'd think there would be more titles on campus. Just call them the Atlanta Braves of college basketball - too few titles for the number of conference/division crowns. Ratface (Coach K for my new readers) does a great job in getting his teams to the sweet 16...which is a fine accomplishment if you don't have higher goals.

JJ, I'll always remember what we had...lots of ACC titles, but no championships. Let's cry together.

Heckle'em all ya want, at least they got their championship.

Bird Droppings - The 11th Plague

Ya know how sometimes it feels like everyone's taking a dump on you? Just visit Orlando for the real thing! It seems Orlando is having some issues with a horde of bird droppings. "The problem began when city workers removed cypress trees on 'bird island' at Lake Eola in Orlando. The trees had to be removed because the bird droppings were polluting the water, according to the report. Now, the birds have moved into the city and are covering anything and anyone between Lake Eola and Central Avenue with droppings."

BirdPoopLand is one attraction you'll find in Orlando, but not Disneyworld.

The article also gave way to such glamorous quotes like, " 'I was walking the other day and got pooed on walking under these trees,' Orlando resident Lisa Valentine said." Worst of all is that Orlando can't do anything about the birds because federal law prohibits disturbing any nests.

Signs like this will surely do wonders for tourism.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The X Chromosome and Basketball

I did the unthinkable last night...I actually watched 3 straight minutes of women's basketball (at any level)! Maryland played St. John's in the "other" NCAA tournament so I watched it by default because the men's team has been piss-poor for the last 3 years and will be so until the 2007 season. It also helps that the women's team is #3 in the country. MD won with some key offensive boards and clutch free throws so I'll continue to root them on, especially when it gives me another reason to hate on duke.

I see jumpshots like this all the time in pickup games. The YMCA jumpers just don't go in as often.

I'm not about to hate on the women's game because they're very talented, but watching an entire women's basketball game is running neck and neck with crochet. The women's play is akin to my friends and I - not much hangtime with plenty of jump shots. The lady Terps and their opponents are very very very skilled YMCA players. Meaning there isn't any real above-the-rim action. Lots of women hold their own with guys and lots of women beat them too. I'm not arguing that topic. I'm saying the style of play in a women's game isn't as appealing as a men's game. I wouldn't be interested in watching my pickup games in person or on TV, even if we made more jump shots.

Women's hoops...the last place a coach's word matters.

I've heard and read that the women's game is pure, unselfish, and the last area of the sport that still understands the importance of fundamentals. That's all well and good if you're teaching your kid how to play or if you enjoy coaching - all a coach wants are players who'll listen. However, for the casual attention deficit disorder fan of my generation, we don't have the patience for that and would rather see the ego-driven drives to the basket while someone is double-teamed or 3-pointers shot despite 3-on-1 fast breaks. If I want exciting basketball, give me plays that I can only dream about doing. Anyone can make a layup or hit a jump shot, but not everyone can throw it down or hang in the air before laying it in.

Hey! I can do a layup too...just not at this level.

Maybe I should have let sleeping dogs lie, but I prefer the men's game because they play at a higher level. Just as I infamously said in my final project for a women's studies class (it knocked out 3 core requirements at once), "at the highest level in all sports, men outperform women." Well you'd have thought I said, "women should only cook, clean, and make babies." The class had heard what it wanted to hear, but I stood my ground and corrected them...for all mankind I might add! I appreciate the talents of female basketball players. I'm just saying I enjoy watching athletes do things I can't do. Of course, God willing, should I have kids of my own, they'll probably be girls and I'll watch their basketball games and even go to higher-level (WNBA) games. But I'll still enjoy my windmill dunks and rebound slams over any YMCA jump shot anyday.

Use anything you can, even a tree, to get above the rim.

Video Killed the Radio Star? Well Now HDTV is Killing the Video Star

Owning all of 4 CDs that are hand-me-downs at that (though I own a few hundred MP3s), I'm really the last person with any right to critique the music industry. Chalk it up to my response to music overload during college thanks to my roommates, I relegate myself to top 40 songs that I happen to catch while I flip channels. In fact, my car has a 6-CD changer that has only been filled with 6 CDs once and that was when someone else brought them. Despite my penchant of not listening to music, I feel the need (because this is MY blog afterall) to relay a disturbing trend in the music industry - widescreen music videos that fill the black bars with more video.

Good'ol 4:3 ratio. It's fine as long as you don't know what you're missing.

With so many HDTVs on the market and their 16:9 (width:height) ratios, music videos that were already shot in the widescreen format (condensed for your normal 4:3 TV ratio viewing) are now shown in widescreen no matter the TV you're using. The only way to fit a widescreen image on a 4:3 TV is by way of horizontal black bars on the top and bottom that fill the space sacrificed to make your 4:3 TV show a 16:9 picture. Conversely, a 4:3 picture on a 16:9 screen has vertical black bars.

A 16:9 picture is better than 4:3, so why do we need even more video?

The black bars have always done a fine job of creating that widescreen feel on your squarish TV. Unfortunately, some record exec got the ass-backward idea of filling in that black space with more images. The black bars are not "wasted space" since they create the 16:9 ratio and a better viewing environment, but apparently music video producers want to confuse viewers with overlapping images.

Call me crazy, but isn't a 16:9 picture of Beyonce enough to hold anyone's attention? We don't need the confusing extra video.

What happens when you add video where the black bars should be? When someone is singing in the widescreen portion, there'll be random things like martini glasses in the top and bottom bars. This makes it seem like the singer is balancing martini glasses on his/her head while those same martini glasses are being used on the bottom as step ladders for the singer. There's no need to take away from the main shot. We already get the idea that the singer likes martini glasses because they're all over the main video, so don't put them in the previously-empty space. When you watch Beyonce's "Check On It" video as she shakes her moneymaker, you'll see that it's fine without the sensory overload of other things in the top and bottom bars. Next time you watch a video, see if it's widescreen, and pray that the empty space remains empty.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Fix your registry

A few weeks ago I was asked to fix a Windows XP computer that wouldn't get too far once it booted. During the computer's BIOS check, it gave the following message:

Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM

Yet again, I was stubbornly determined not call Dell for any help so I searched the Internet and found that Microsoft's help page actually helped and was easy to follow. Like a boy scout earning a badge of knowledge, now I can fix this problem with the best of'em. When the above error message appears, it means your registry is corrupted. This usually happens when new hardward or software is installed. It's times like these that it pays to keep your Windows operating system CD. Instead of recapping Microsoft's advice, just click here to see what I did to fix the computer. Of course, I made it a point to backup all of the data once it was up and running.

Friday, March 17, 2006

You take the good, you take the bad, you take 'em both and there you have...The Facts of Life

Life sure is funny sometimes. Yesterday I heard some bad news about two people close to me. In a dark way I am relieved to hear that they have and were diagnosed with their health issues. The diagnoses give them the ability to confront their issues. Do the ends justify the means? This time they do. While I'd rather not have either person be alerted to things of concern in either fashion, it's infinitely better than the alternatives.

In one case, the person received just about the grandest warning sign that something is wrong with his health without serious complications. He will finally get the tests completed that have been asked of him for so long and maybe, just maybe, this will be the wakeup call that he finally answers. I sure hope so. The phone call I got last night could have been infinitely worse, but it wasn't. With this diagnosis, I want to believe that he'll take the steps necessary to ensure that that call won't be needed. I'm relieved that he has even been given this chance to right the wrong that has taken its toll for many years.

In the other case, the person's diagnosis allowed him to avoid putting himself in harm's way when he would've wrongly been there in the first place. It also alerted him and his close affiliates to the need of more help. Nobody wants to hear a disappointing diagnosis, but it's better to be diagnosed and get the requisite help than not at all. The larger issue is he now has the chance to fix things in the first place.

In both cases, their diagnoses aren't necessarily welcome or even surprising news, but both (diagnoses) give them the opportunities (time) to ultimately treat their issues and make full recoveries. Bad news can be good news when it means the bad news doesn't become grave news. Life sure is funny sometimes - thank God for that.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Pants Around The Ankles Motion Detector

Achtung! What you're about to read is based on a true story. It is not for the faint of heart, nor those without a sense of humor for a very awkward quandry. No animals were hurt. Do not try this at home.

I'd appreciate it if I didn't have to think about this with each bathroom visit.

There's a semi-public bathroom that 1/2 of the population is allowed to frequent a few times a day around these parts. Overnight, the lights are turned off and a motion detector is reset until the morning. When morning arrives, the bathroom is dark until someone enters to trip the detector into temporarily turning on the lights.

When do you make your move?

On several mornings, a (tall, dark, and handsome I might add) man would enter said bathroom, trip the detector, and go forward with his "business". However, a few times his business has taken a little longer than the motion detector's creator intended. After sitting for two minutes, he hears three beeps (which he has learned (because it has happened so often) is a 25-second warning of the unimaginable) letting him know the lights are about to turn off. It's impossible for him to trip the detector from the stall or be ready to go in the 25 seconds - so the fun begins.

It's like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book except you actually deal with the consequences.

With the lights out he faces a dilemma of epic proprotions. Does he (A) get up from the toilet, open the door, walk out with his pants around his ankles, frantically waving at the detector 3 feet away?...Or...Does he (B) attempt a quick cleanup (in the dark no less), hike up his pants, open the door to calmly alert the detector to the need of more light? If he choses option A, he risks having someone open the door to the bathroom at the same time he's putting on a show. If he chooses option B, he's literally "covered" if someone walks in at the same time he's alerting the detector, but he takes a grave risk in having a poor temporary cleanup.

When you're done laughing, tell me what would you do?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Can You Read These Right The First Time?

Can you read these right the first time? (from a forwarded email)

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present .

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

MD Recruitment Shopping List: Heart, Pride, and Rebounding

So MD wins the national title in 2002 and I expected a dynamite recruitment class, counting on the fact that we just won the title. Gary and his staff get some highly regarded kids that seem like decent players on paper. However, Gist, NCM, and Ibekwe don't have..I don't know, what am I looking for? Oh yeah...heart. These players don't fit into Gary's system. The blame falls on the players and him for things not working out. I'm not at the point where I want MD to get a player from one of those basketball "academy" high schools, but it sure is tempting. Losing Gary's assistant coaches may have hurt more than anyone is willing to admit.

Is there a reset button like my XBOX?

The MD men's basketball team underperformed for the third year in a row (compared to what we were used to). They've been a bubble team each year and may not have even made it two years ago if not for winning the ACC tournament. This team wasn't shafted by any NCAA committee - they shafted themselves. Since I've really followed this team (mid-90s or so), I've become accustomed to a sweet 16 appearance. MD regularly got players good enough for the round of 16, but not much else. Not until my Senior Class did we have players who broke through that round to a level of play not seen in a long time. Sadly, this year's squad had no heart, nor desire to play hard. Strawberry seemed to show emotion and desire during the season, but what good is it when only one player tries to get pumped only to look in his teammates' eyes and see them slack off? actually placed this picture of Ibekwe getting rejected by the rim in its recap of the BC loss. Believe it!

Sure if McCray had gone to class (or gotten the "right" kind of help from his tutors) MD would have had a better chance of making the tournament, but this still wasn't a strong team. I know the strength of schedule was very strong, but it doesn't help when you don't have any quality wins outside of BC (barely at home). What pisses me off about these guys is what they said after games. Most amount to thinking what they did was good enough to win or just that they thought they were good enough to cruise to victory.

I could always root for...the women's team...haha. At least they try and they are #3 in the country.

After finding out they didn't make the tournament, NCM said, "If you told me that we'd have 19 wins and go 8-8 in the ACC before the season started, I'd think we'd make the tournament." That's the exact problem I'm talking about. Too much expecting what they put out is enough to get by instead of just blowing things out of the water and leaving no doubt in the outcome. Instead of thinking a blowout over Georgia Tech would be enough, try to stay close to BC for at least the first four minutes instead of being down 17-2.

At least we have better cheerleaders.

Though John Gilchrist's attitude was a pain to watch and play with for his teammates, it was clear when he gave his all, the team elevated its play. Getting him to give his all was a problem, but he's the only one to show he could even do that. I know next year will also be a struggle when we have to count on Bowers' rebounding prowess for a low post presence. I know this is all subjective, but nobody on this year's team ever seemed to be trying hard. NCM and the rest of the cast should have realized over the last two years that just showing up and going through the motions were not enough. Unfortunately, they didn't so they get to sleep in the NIT bed they made.

Monday, March 13, 2006

D.C.'s Real St. Patrick's Day Parade

I went to the (six days early) St. Patrick's Day parade on Sunday. With St. Patty falling on this Friday, I doubt many people thought of the parade taking place yesterday. I certainly didn't mind because I didn't arrive on Constitution Avenue until a few minutes before the start. I had been warned of large crowds, but the early date gave us plenty of room on the curb to stretch out. A smaller crowd was good for us, but it didn't help the program sellers walking up and down. By the way, they kept asking for $1 throughout the parade, but shouldn't it have at least gone down to $0.50 by 2 PM?

How exactly do you tune a bagpipe?

The parade was 2.5 hours long, which was about an hour longer than it needed to be. I know I could have left at anytime, but I got addicted to bagpipes so just when I thought about leaving, I'd hear another set coming down the road. I'm all for celebrating different cultures and heritages, but I can only take so many Irish dance clubs/groups dancing on their flatbed trucks. Sure I know nothing about that dancing, but I wasn't impressed.

Everyday, Irish mothers are thankful for wigs with curled hair.

Why did every third firetruck driver feel the need to blast the truck's horn? Without any noise pollution, the horns were incredibly loud and had me covering my ears until they were a block past. I'd hate to be in one of the troupes/floats in front of a truck and have to hear that all day, or worse yet, those people riding on the ladder extension who were all of 3 feet away. Also, why were ultimate frisbee players in the parade? I know I suck and haven't played in a few months, but those guys couldn't complete any of their simple throws...damn hippies.

Instead of throwing candy from the ladder, I would have liked some earplugs.

I'd like to commend the paradees on using candy to keep all of the kids interested, but this really backfired a few times. When candy wasn't thrown close enough to the curb, kids ran into the street to grab their grub. Yet, police would ride along the curb to ensure the parade had enough room to get by. Well, one time, this kid ran to the third lane out from the curb for some candy while a cop on his motorcycle (and sidecar) came roaring up the curb in the second lane. The fear was the kid would hear the engine and turn just as the cop went by, ensuring a calamity (I like that word). The kid's mother called for him to be careful, causing him to turn around, but just a second after the bike zoomed by. It would not have been a good scene otherwise.

I know I'm not the only one who was curious what a fall from one of these bikes would look like.

I enjoyed the classic corvettes that revved their engines all the way down and the competition they got into with one of the police Harleys for loudest engine. It was sadly funny that one of the loudest applauses went to the kids who had to follow the horses with buckets and shovels. Other highlights included the: first set of bagpipers, Shriner cars, tall bikes, only drum line, live Irish music float for some bar, and watching kids fight over candy like their lives depended on it.

The ultimate go-kart.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Live-Action "Simpsons" Introduction Video

So I don't lose my loyal readers after two weightlifting entries in a row, here's a great live-action video of the Simpsons introduction.

Live-action "Simpsons"...woohoo!

Drop Sets and 30-Second Breaks

Since I wrote about lifting weights again, I figured I should explain my usual routine, or at least write it down so I won't forget. I've read plenty about lifting and how you should change your exercises at least every few weeks to keep yourself and your muscles from getting bored, but I'm too stubborn for that. My circuit has worked well for the last 10 years or so when I've lifted which means I must be doing something right. I'm not serious enough to target different muscles each day, so this takes care of everything (I've never cared for any leg exercises which would explain my negative vertical leap). The order alternates muscle groups which lets you finish faster.

The keys to this circuit are drop sets and only waiting a mere 30 seconds between sets. You'll notice it's all free weights. I used to do more machines, but realized free weights are better because they require more muscles to keep your form. Machines are helpful at the start and I'd even recommend using one for a tricep pulldown, but if you can, go the free weights way. It helps to use your mp3 player's song countdown (or a simple clock) to time out the 30-second wait. Doing this workout will make 30 seconds seem way too short, but it's worth it. I also recommend buying some good lifting gloves with some sort of wrist strap. The strap isn't just for heavy lifters since I find it helps on the lightest weights too. When I'm doing well for myself, I follow these steps twice a week.

Dear Harbinger, my wrists thank you for your fine lifting gloves.

As it stands now, here's my circuit:

-3 sets + 1 drop set of standing hammer curls. After breaking my right wrist twice, I can't do standing barbell curls.

I do the exercise just like this...without the guns.

-3 sets + 1 drop set of sitting overhead two-handed barbell tricep presses/lifts. Holding the barbell vertically, I use an overlapping grip on the "top" weights and do, let's say 8 reps with the left hand on top and right touching it underneath, and then 8 more (or however many I can do that set) with the right on top and the left underneath. This is my favorite exercise, however it is dangerous (at least how I do it) because I lift the barbell from the floor and raise it over my head before starting the set (and to switch hand position) and it is also almost over my head with each lift.

Don't forget the other 1/2 set comes when you carefully(!) switch hand positions. And no, you don't get to take a rest while you switch hands because it's all 1 set.

-3 sets + 1 drop set of a barbell concentration curl. I usually start with my left arm because it can't always do as much as my right. This way, I keep them even by only doing as many with my right as I did with my left. I like this exercise because I can spot myself.

My baby pythons are as pale as his.

-3 sets + 1 drop set of standing barbell shoulder flies. The number of reps varies each time with this one.

Just like this, but don't wear jeans while you lift.

-3 sets + 1 drop set of standing barbell curls. This drop set is special because after you've finished the drop set and decreased your weight to one or two very-light plates on each side, you do a "21" which is 7 full curls, 7 curls that start at halfway and go to the top of a full curl, and 7 full curls again (though most will tell you by definition the last 7 usually start halfway and go down, then start at halfway again, etc.). Nevermind that, I just do another 7 full curls. The last 7 curls kill your forearms, but in a good way of course.

Damn you 21's!

-3 sets + 1 drop set of tricep pushups. The last drop set of pushups isn't a true drop set, but more like a 4th set that just kills your triceps like drop sets.

For a greater challenge (more weight), place your feet on another bench.

-4 sets of pushups. This allows for differences in how the pushups are done, like a set on each foot or a very slow set, etc. I usually see how many I can do in my first set and use that as how many each set requires, even if it means taking a break of a few seconds midway through a set to finish it.

When you get bored of this, throw in a few on one foot for more weight.

If you'll notice, there is no bench press in my circuit. This is because I've never liked bench press since I've never had good form and because I don't have a bench for it in the first place (see reason 1).

Who needs to bench press anyway? Not me.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dusting Off The Old Weights

Way back in the day (at least six months ago) I used to lift weights on a regular basis. I did the same exercises each time and kept the weights about the same since I wasn't looking to get bigger, etc., and I couldn't exactly vary my weights too much anyway. While I always good about myself after lifting, it was always a struggle to get myself there each day. Let's face it, I am a great exercise procrastinator. To do this, I've talked myself into needing a decent amount of food in my stomach, to taking a shower before working out, to checking my email, to watching TV, or the best - needing a short nap to rest before exerting myself (always a bad idea since it turns into a long nap).

Long time no see.

While it would have made sense to lift during the fall and winter since it wasn't so nice outside, I didn't move the plates at all and have impressions in the carpet to prove it. After six months of little exercise outside of a few runs and bike rides, combined with a voracious holiday appetite, it's time to break a sweat again. Yesterday, I literally dusted off my weights and tried remembering how much I lifted before my sabbatical. My estimates were okay for where I am now, but I still have a little ways to go to lift what I could before. By the way, nothing ever smells as bad as old gym gloves. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, well maybe.

Avoid the crowds and odor with your own set.

I don't lift at any gym or club, but instead I lift at home or at my apartment's community gym. By lifting at home, it ensures I get my weights when I want and I hear the music I want. Of course, going to a gym doesn't let me procrastinate because once I'm there, there's nothing else to do, but workout. I know I could wear headphones while I'm there, but I think they'll just get in my way. At least when I'm home, the second I'm done, I've got my own shower and I avoid losing time to travel to and from the gym. My weightset has served me well ever since I bought it about three years ago. With two barbells, one dumbbell, 4-10 lb plates, 6-5 lb plates, and 4-2.5 lb plates, I've been able to create almost any weight I need. Now that I've started again, I hope I don't procrastinate too badly this season.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

H (and) M Clothing - Lost In Translation

Over the weekend I made my way to the White Flint Mall and Montgomery Mall (sorry, Westfield Montgomery) because it was about time I replaced two dress pants (I don't like writing "pairs of pants"). The first stores I went to were places like Banana Republic and H & M. Banana's prices, not surprisingly, were just a wee bit too high, even with a gift card so that left H & M. I hate shopping and only spend a minute or two browsing the selection before moving on. Well at H & M, I found two pants that looked formal enough for my needs in the first 30 seconds so I gave them a shot. I got my size and one above just to be safe. Unfortunately, I really should have found pants at least 8-10 sizes above my normal waist.

I know the tape says inches, but H & M thinks it's centimeters.

I was warned by my cohort that H & M clothes are small, but this was ridiculous. I couldn't get my real size up to my waist in the first place (and no, it's not because I'm in some sort of size-denial). The next size didn't help much either. I went back and looked for my size +8, but at the time that size wasn't on the rack so I left. I went to a department store in the Montgomery Mall and bought two pants in my normal size without issue. This begs the question, why are H & M clothes so much smaller than their sizes? Perhaps something is lost in the size translation from Europe. I don't know. If anything, I'd make clothes a little larger than the printed size so everyone feels better about themselves.

I know how ya feel.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kosher - The Final McNugget Frontier

Distraught kosherites in Israel will finally be able to have their (what's supposed to be) "chicken" McNuggets and hamburgers. "At two of the fast-food chain'’s kosher branches in Tel Aviv, the standard logo has been replaced with a blue and white one, with 'McDonald's' printed only in Hebrew, in white letters against a blue backdrop. The word 'Kosher' is printed in English and Hebrew to the side of the restaurant name."

Everyone can read Hebrew when it phoenetically spells English words.

I've never been one to follow the kosher way and only make it a few days into Passover before I can't help myself to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with levened bread. However, to those kosher kids out there, this is welcome news that they too may enjoy the golden arches (really an upside-down shin).

McDonald's does what it takes to say "shalom, do you want fries with that?"

Monday, March 06, 2006

Livin' On The Edge In Georgetown

When I was younger I had this origin-unknown fear that we'd run out of gas. The moment the meter went below 20% I became worried that we'd be stuck on the side of a rural road and eaten by crows. I never thought crows would get us, but that would be the next logical step. My thinking was wrong for two reasons. 1. The reality was we always had plenty of gas to get there and back, and 2. There's no such thing as a rural road in northeast New Jersey.

When you see this...

As I've, gulp, matured, I no longer fear imminent death with low amounts of gas. Now I practically revel in my ability to cheat emptiness. When I've said those famous last words, "Sure I'm low on gas, but I think I can make it to the gas station," I've only been burned once, about 8 miles from the Maryland House reststop on 95 North, and that was about 7 years ago.

...either get to one of these...

I cut it close with Silverman a few weeks ago while on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring as my car started beeping and yelling at me to give it some fuel. I almost considered putting it in neutral and coasting down the last hill before safety at the Exxon/Mobil station just before the beltway. This morning, my fellow carpooler said, "I think I've got enough gas in my car to get to work, but then you'll have to fill it up." Here we go again. Those famous last words that have a nice caveat at the end, letting you know it'll be kahriboo-sana (that means "very close" for the Swahili readers out there). Really, it does.

...or call AAA for one of these...

After dropping her off it was time for the last 7 or so miles of my morning commute. Before I was 200 feet from her, the warning light came on with a few beeps in case I didn't get the message the first time. This wouldn't have been an issue if we hadn't hit traffic a mile before the Key Bridge which never happens. Yes, there's an Exxon station there, but the light wasn't on yet so I kept going and I was told the car can go quite a few miles on empty. I made my turns and headed onto the GW Parkway. Then it hit me, why didn't I just stop and get gas at the BP station I just passed after dropping her off and play it safe? Afterall, last week, a truck misjudged its height and stopped everyone at the Memorial Bridge. If that happened again today, I'd be screwed. the ominously called "murder of crows" don't attack you.

However, just like the idiot contestants on "Deal or No Deal" who keep taking chances for slight increases in money when they should just hit the button, I went ahead with my drive. By the way, as dumbed-down as that show is, I still watch it and really enjoy the over-zealous/annoying contestants end up with a few bucks after turning down 10s of thousands. Anyway, I got to work and made sure I filled up before parking for the day. Of course, the next time I'm low, I'll stubbornly go ahead with my drive and once again, hope that it's not the one day where I hit some traffic and run out.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Download Your Own Ringtones Free (seriously)

After upgrading to a phone with color, I brokedown and got a media package with Internet access. While I don't see any need to surf the Internet on my phone when I won't be too far from a computer most of the time, it lets me download ringtones, backgrounds, etc. I never could do the ringtone download thing with my old poo-poo phone so I'm making up for lost time. As usual, I've done some (or too much) research for ringtone downloads. After playing about 50 tones on Cingular's site without any favorites (though the NFL Films song was close) and noticing the $2.99 cost, there had to be a better way.

There are lots of sites offering ringtone and other cell phone downloads, but they seemed a little shady and didn't have ringtones that I wanted - essentially ones from my MP3 collection. I made my way over to's download and shareware pages and found plenty of make-your-own ringtone programs. Their trial versions had some limitations, but one program, Xingtone, seemed like it might be worth the $20 if the trial went well. Like many programs, it lets you send as many of your own ringtones to your phone after paying for the program.

Thanks to overresearching the idea of make-your-own ringtones, I came across PC Magazine's roundup of such programs. It reviewed a site called Mobile 17 that'll convert your song files (WAV and MP3) into ringtones for free. It's downside is you have to either cut the segment yourself or tell the site when to start the ringtone and your file isn't always immediately ready for download. However, if you can get around these issues that I think are minor, it's a great site because it's free and it works. Granted the pay programs help you edit and upload your pictures through them, I'd rather save the cash for other frivolous things.

After the simple registration, you receive a code in your email to verify your account and you're off. Once you know your song, you'll need to figure out where you want the ringtone to start and end. The apparent greatness of making your own is that it's your choice instead of Cingular's or wherever you'd get the ringtone otherwise. Do you only want the chorus or maybe some select lyrics? The choice is up to you. Since I'll hear the ringtone more than anyone else, I want to be as precise as possible with the start and end points and don't want to leave it up to the website. I never tried leaving it up to Mobile 17 to cut the segment so this is really an excuse to do some more computer fiddling.

I went to your soon to be favorite software/shareware repositories found on the network: and is free while software usually has some limitations but offers higher quality programs. Anyway, after downloading quite a few programs, I've settled on one called Audacity. It's only 2.3 MB, fully functional, and free. After opening your file, just highlight what you want to cut and press delete. It should be noted that you can't delete any of the file if the top control buttons are selected so you can't pause and delete for example. After you've cut the sound file to only what your entire ringtone will be, you're ready to upload it to Mobile 17. Again, I think you're better off uploading the exact part of the ringtone you want instead of just telling Mobile 17 when to start and stop.

Since you've already registered, just upload the file and leave the start point at "0 min 0 secs". I set the ringtone length to a few seconds longer than the actual file just to play it safe. You'll be given a wait time after which you just enter the URL in your cell and follow the directions to download the file. I chose the first MP3 file from the list, saved it, and made it my ringtone as desired. Depending on the number of users, you might have to wait 20 minutes before visiting the URL, but it's worth the wait. Enjoy your free ringtone.