Friday, June 30, 2006

Take Control of Your Startup Programs & Fight Spyware

Thanks to all of the spyware we're so lucky to get from surfing the 'net, most computers take a while to startup and run even slower when they're up and running. Computers that act slow are usually the result of software that always boots upon startup. If you know your programs well, using the add/remove program options in the control panel may do the trick when you're sure you won't need some software. Going through Start-->All Programs-->Startup may help, but doesn't go far enough. Spyware doesn't always appear in the add/remove software window, and even when it does and you select "remove", it may not be fully removed.

How do you see what software boots when your computer does? For the last 5 years, I've used this very small program called Startup Control Panel. Basically it reads through your registry for any and all programs that run when you turn on your computer. CNET's review argues that while the program is useful, it doesn't give additional information about the programs, nor does it let you do a direct uninstall of a listed program. While it's true you have to have some idea of what the program is (or like me just take an educated guess) this program is so simple and so small that it should be on every computer. If you accidently delete a program's startup entry, it's not gone until you remove it from the "Deleted" tab. When spyware won't go away, this is incredibly handy so you may disable it and remove the annoyance. It should be noted that the file is accessed in the control panel. For removal and more info, checkout the official site below:

Monday, June 26, 2006

Metro Tested Everyone's Deodorant Today

Like everyone else who trudged into work today, I had my fair share of delays thanks to the rain and Metro's under-the-water-table stations. I arrived in Rosslyn on time, but had to let one car pass because it was crowded. I am not going to be THAT guy who smooshes everyone else after they have all established their personal space. I found room on the next train only to wait for 15 minutes until it actually moved out of the station. Of course, 10 minutes into our wait, THAT guy pushed his way on, to which I said, "really?" After striking up some close-talker conversation with my new friends, the train was on its way. I decided to get off a station earlier than normal and walk to work. Fortunately, everyone on my train smelled like they showered and wore deodorant. With so many arms reaching over total strangers, it was a great perspiration test.

Believe it or not, things don't work well when it's a rare weather event.

Am I angry with metro? Nope. Disappointed? Nope. As mentioned in one of the Post's online chats, this was rainfall of a biblical level. The storm stayed on top of the area and just kept pounding us with water. You have to expect delays with your morning commute. Maybe it's a DC mindset, but it's shortsighted to think everything will be the same when something extraordinary takes place. That's why it was an extraordinary event. If there's an earthquake, we'd still hear people complain they weren't allowed over the key bridge, even when it has a crack. It happens. It happens to everyone. Of course, if the complainers had their way, they would have had Metro not reverse trains out of Metro Center and have them driven through a pool of water - nevermind Metro runs on electricity.

DC complainers don't have any sympathy for travel delays when this happens.

Perhaps it's the eternally stubborn optimist in me, but if Metro is extremely reliable for my (albeit short) ride every workday about 98% of the time, I can deal with the 2% of the time when it would have been faster for me to walk. Maybe we would have all been better off with DCites running to the stores to stockup on bread, water, and canned goods just as they do with a 2" snowfall after listening to the local news hype. At least that way, less people would have been able to complain about their rough commute.

I remember a time when I drove this tunnel.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

DC Cab Drivers, For My Safety, Please Drive Aggressively

By taking a more downtown-centric route to work these days, I often get to enjoy the near demolition derby obstacle course comprised of metro buses and DC cabs. Coming from the "city", or really just one of its suburbs, I have driven around Manhattan enough times to know the cabbies know what they're doing and to know that if you can drive well in the city, you can drive anywhere. They know their cabs' width and length to the millimeter so when they make a quick move around a car that looks close, I know they'll make it through. They know the traffic lights, the traffic patterns, and which pedestrians actually won't cross when the sign says "don't walk" (only tourists don't). Most importantly, NYC cabbies know everyone wants to get to wherever they're going as fast as possible - not only the people in the backseat, but every driver around them. Unfortunately, DC cabbies don't recognize this mindset and are the most passive paid drivers in the history of livery service.

I never knew this movie existed either.

Outside of Sunday joy rides, most everyone with a pulse is trying to get wherever they're going as fast as possible. When you ride in a cab, you expect the cabbie knows his implied job is to quickly get you where you need to go. DC cabbies skip that class in cabbie school like college seniors skip their last class in phys. ed. Whatever the reason, the cabbies around here stop at yellow lights and don't turn right on red when they're allowed. If DC wasn't operating under a zone system, they'd be trying to glean that extra quarter from the customer by making the trip last longer, but even without customers they'll still drive like your grandmother.

NYC cabbies...the best of the best.

If a cabbie and I are in the right lane and waiting for a driver to make a right turn in front of us, the common sense (aggressive) move for us is to briefly turn into the left lane and get around the turning car. I want to show courtesy to the cabbie and let him/her make the move first, but they never do, so I'll turn into the left lane first and head down the road. All a DC cabbie has to do is make a decisive move around the car and all of DC's traffic issues would go away. Well not really, but it'd be a start.

As far as I know, finding the gas pedal in a cab can't be this hard.

Outside of not blocking the box (that's the center of an intersection) and getting stuck in no man's land (I mean no person's land to be PC and all) on a red light, my continuous traffic engineering internship (gained from 10 years of driving) has taught me that traffic would improve faster than a NJ K-turn once cabbies drive aggressively and faster than 2 miles over the speed limit. In other words, like the rest of us who didn't growup in DC, MD, or VA.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

70,000 Cans of Beer On the Wall, 70,000 Cans of Beer...

This is probably old for those of you are "with it" about internet stories, but checkout this house filled with several thousand beer cans. The tenat had cheap taste since most of the cans were Coors Light, but it's an awesome achievement. I'd put it on my resume' if I were him. It's not like he probably has much else going for him, plus it's a great icebreaker at an interview for that corporate executive position....or not. The real estate agent who discoverd the collection, Ryan Froerer, said he has spoken to the previous owner who said he has stopped drinking and was welcomed back to his old job. I wish him the best, but I know nothing else in his life will eclipse this beer collection.

The place looks fine from the outside.

Until you try opening the door.

70,000 x $0.05/can = $3,500 for recycling!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

An Open Suggestion to Chevy Car Designers

Please do not place a chrome/metallic panel along the back of the trunk. When the sun is out, the panel's reflection blinds the driver and passengers in the car behind. I'm not talking about a dimmed light that wearing sunglasses would handle (not even aviator glasses). I'm talking about the car's ability to bring the enjoyment of looking directly into the sun all the way to M street in Georgetown on Monday morning. Fortunately, Chevy's metallic panel does not affect the sun's gravitational pull, but that might be in the next model's design. The glare forced me to put my visor down and move my head and point of view all over the place in a failed attempt to save my retinas. I gladly let a car in front of me before going over the Key Bridge. Voluntarily losing 30 seconds to traffic is worth it to avoid seeing that point of light us migraine sufferers always hate.

One time when bling-bling isn't appreciated.

Friday, June 16, 2006

I'd Like To Welcome Myself to the 21st Century

The other day, I overheard someone talking about this gadget called TiVO. Have you heard of it? I knew nothing about it, let alone how it's spelled so I decided to investigate. It turns out, this TiVO thing is pretty cool. No longer would I have to do things on "the man's" schedule. No longer would some programming director or TV executive determine when I'd be able to a break for a few minutes and wash the dishes from last night's dinner. Nope. I would tell TV when and what to play. If I had to take out the garbage or check to see I didn't burn the mini tater tots, I'd no longer have to wait for the opportune time during commercial breaks. I would decide that time. Who knew this incredible invention has been around for a few years and that anyone who's anyone who knows TV has been using it?

My new TV slave. I shall call him...TiVO.

I've never seriously considered making the TiVO move until the last few weeks when I got a personal demonstration by our mini-golf friends. It seems easy to understand, easy to use, and easy to become addicted. All of which means it's a good buy for me. I never thought I'd get enough out of TiVO so I always brushed it aside, until I realized there actually are many shows I enjoy watching and always miss or forget to tape (yes, I still use a VCR to catch a show that I want to watch). Also, TiVO would improve the quality of my TV watching in that I'd skip commercials and other unimportant and uninteresting parts of a show.

The magic box that changes lives.

Unfortunately, the lifetime subscription for $300 is no longer available execpt off of EBay for twice that amount. This leaves me with the best deal - 3 pre-paid years for $469 (~$13/month). With the dual-tuner, 80-hour box, the total comes to $499 (~$14/month). My order was placed a few days ago and I should be TiVOing all of my shows sometime next week. The next-generation TiVO box will have HD capability, but since my budget doesn't allow for an HDTV (nor that I really need one anyway) and that it's not for sale yet, I'm fine with this current generation box.

I will enjoy my power trip...telling the RB when he's allowed to run.

Now I will finally take control away from the TV programmers of the world and watch my idiot-box on my own schedule. Viva TiVO Freedom! Viva La Revolution!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Sushi Is Overrated...Yeah, I Wrote It

No really, sushi is overrated and incredibly overpriced. Sushi is not worth the price for what and how much you get. From California rolls to shrimp tempura, sushi is not worth the cost nor risk that comes from eating raw seafood. I'm not saying sushi is awful, but I am not in love with it as many claim to be.

That's a lot of sushi.

Ordering sushi at most legit sushi restaurants isn't difficult since you usually just mark how many of each type you want. Once the food arrives the activity of actually eating sushi is pretty solid. From someone like myself who cuts food like a caveman, chopsticks present a hilariously awkward challenge. The food is presented nicely on a platter or wooden block and stuffing your face begins. Of course I tend to put a bit too much wasabi on my sushi (partly because I can't portion control it well with two large toothpicks as utensils).

He's laughing all the way to the bank.

A typical sushi meal will consist of three things: food wrapped in seaweed or rice, food that has been fried, and food placed on a cube of white rice. The food is (thankfully for my intestinal tract) quite fresh (still being raw afterall) and easy to eat since you don't really have to chew too much. It's a good thing you don't need much chewing because when you order "that fish I've never had before," you usually realize you will never order it again either. Perhaps it's an "acquired taste" like coffee, beer, wine, chopped liver, and gefilte fish, but I don't have it.

Is the sushi experience a scam?

I've gone to sushi restaurants and do know the difference between just-prepared sushi a few feet from my table and sushi prepared within the last (few?) days available at the local supermarket. However, even when I eat restaurant-grade sushi, it just doesn't leave me eager to figure out how soon I could eat there again. The food is so simple that I'm completely underwhelmed.

A typical sushi roll of 4-6 pieces consists of: 1 tablespoon of rice, 2/3 slice of cucumber, a teaspoon of raw tuna, and 1 teaspoon of some avocado-like vegetable. Wow, all that for $5! What a bargain! I sure hope I have room for seconds! Sushi restaurant owners must laugh that they can charge what they do for such little food that doesn't even have to be cooked. Fine, throw in some labor consideration, but if Alton Brown on Good Eats can teach you how to roll like a pro, some of the price has yet to be explained.

While anything fried tastes good, this isn't so "exotic".

Besides your typical sushi roll, there's also tempura which is nothing more than seafood or vegetable fried in some luscious oil. Please. Fried food is everywhere from fried chicken to friend twinkies. At least rolled sushi is something you can't find at Wendy's. Speaking of which, they're changing to a new oil in August that will cut the amount of trans fat by 95%. All the more reason to get the best combo meal - a spicy chicken sandwich, fries, and of course a frostie (just ask them to switch). That has always been one of the most reliable meals out there. If only I were to combine the sandwich and frostie with McD's fries and sweet and sour that's a dream meal, but I digress. Simply frying some vegetable is not worth the cost nor artery clogging. (Of course a spicy chicken sandwich is clearly worth both.)

And this is impressive how?

The last sushi category is the piece of seafood or vegetable on a pack of gum-sized cube of white rice. Is this really that great tasting or special? I always steer clear of this menu offer since it is such a waste of my money and the cook's time to make it (which of course is all of 5 seconds). Even if you put high quality raw fish on the rice, this dish wouldn't be worth ordering. My dad always tries ordering things he (or my mom) couldn't make himself or at least would challenge the kitchen's chef and a piece of shrimp on boil-in-a-bag rice doesn't make the cut.

Sushi tastes good, but just realize what you're really paying for.

I've gone to Cafe Asia (before and after the management change) and plenty of other sushi joints around the country, including Ebisu in San Francisco, but I can't tell which one offered good sushi. Fresh sushi tastes the same at every restaurant. All I know is if it's not from a supermarket, then it will taste fresh, but will definitely cost more for less food.

If you're unsure of my feelings, know that I don't hate sushi, but I also don't go out of my way to eat it more than twice a year. I think the whole sushi craze is way overblown, overrated, and certainly overpriced. The only difference between restaurant sushi and visiting the beach to stuff some seaweed in your mouth and then bite into the side of a freshly-caught salmon is one offers tables, chairs, and a toilet, while the other is free, offers plenty of salt water, and always gets sand in all the wrong places. Maybe because of the sand I should stick with the restaurant.

Friday, June 09, 2006

My Mom's Aviator Style Was Ahead of Her Time

I am no fashion maven, expert, or savant compared to anyone. Determining what to wear outside of when I'm going to exercise, catch a game, or just run some errands is beyond my understanding. Nevertheless, this is my blog so it is my space to remark on things that even I deem as fashionably unfashionable fashion. Maybe I'm just out of the loop or don't understand the difference between style and real style, but this trend of gigantic bug-eyed sunglasses has got to go. Part of my reasoning is some people fail miserably while trying to pulloff this style and the other is my mom has worn these shades for as long as I can remember. That's right. My mom has always worn these shades so what does that say about you?

Where's the flyswatter?

Fortunately, my mom doesn't quite fit perfectly into that stereotypical Jewish mother, Linda Richman (Cawfee Tawk), fashion sense of style thanks to my sister who looks over her clothes whenever she visits. Nevertheless, amid my mom's penchant for Ann Taylor and comfy clothes from the Gap, the only trendy, current generation (what letter generation is this by the way?), hip, with the times, trendsetting thing that she has worn has also been her staple forever - bug-eyed sunglasses. My mom has been ahead of the fashion world's curve by a few decades and now her style is all the rage. She has been wearing gigantic sunglasses as long as I've been alive and who knows how long before that. Such foresight to know, that in a mere 26 years, large sunglasses would be worn by everyone who's anyone, from the fashionably snobbess streets of Beverly Hills and Brentwood to Fashion Week in New York and the runways of Paris, my mom is a style psychic.

I'll give you a topic...people trying to look like me 15 years after my skit aired.

Before J-Lo, Britney, Mariah, or any other shallow talentless celebrity woman out there began wearing this all too typical Jewish mother style of sun protection, my mom beat them to it. My mom deserves credit for having the revolutionary idea to wear sunglasses whose lenses have diameters the size of softballs. Sure, most people want a sleeker and cleaner looking pair of shades that slickly hides the windows to their soul from the sun. But not my mom. Nope, she and every high-fashion person who knows everything about style and design, desire sunglasses nowhere near proportioned to the size of their face. Why only protect your eyes when you can cover your face from the bottom of your forehead to your entire cheekbone? At this rate you'd think a full facemask is the next step. Ah, but you'd be wrong as my mom does not wear a full facemask in the sun.

Aviator glasses are so cool when you're not flying a plane.

Though the frame and lens colors should agree in some way, it really doesn't matter once you've already put on a pair of my mom's signature series oversize sunglasses. By then, you're automatically (I suppose) too cool for school - nevermind my mom started the trend over 25 years ago. I love my mom and her style is her style, but is copying her sunglasses the best you can do?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Woody's Golf In Herndon Virginia Was Shweet Dude...Shweet

Two Sundays ago I ventured to Herndon, a town found in that crazy world known as Northern Virginia (NoVA). We met up with some friends for some exciting putt-putt action. We went to Woody's Golf after finding it to be one of the only places in NoVA to play mini golf and after reading a review in the Washington Post that called it one of the things you have to do as a DC resident. We figured it'd be worthwhile as long as there wasn't that backup to play each hole that often happens when kids are playing ahead of you.

Believe it or not, this isn't the most intricate hole on the course.

What we got for our 30ish minute drive was a weekend warrior's practice paradise. Besides mini golf, it had a driving range with a real grass tee area and some batting cages. I saw a basketball court there, but doubt it was used recently because the court has some potholes and was littered with sand. Nevertheless, we made our way to the first tee after watching some hackers at the range and paying the $8.50 entry fee/cover. Though it was a higher price than I was accustomed to for putt-putt, it was well worth it.

Yeah, just be careful when you play on this guy's part of the course. Perhaps you should get the crocodile hunter.

The course had a congo/jungle theme to it that was far more intricate than you'd ever expect. Either they (or someone they paid) are gifted craftsmen or they used leftover movie props and sets, because the detail of this course was phenomenal. From moving spiders and swinging monkeys to tribesmen shooting darts and talking mannequins, it was worth it just to see the design and hear all of the great sound effects. A word of warning, around the 10th (?) hole, several frogs will "spit" at you when you walk by the actual hole, so don't end up like one member of our party who appeared to have pissed him/herself when it was just frog spit. I kept wondering what would happen if someone was on a date and got nailed with water to ruin their clothes.

Blown darts by some tribesman? All par for the course (sorry about that pun (well, not really)).

The course itself was about average difficulty. Plenty of holes required us to walk from the tee to find the hole's location before starting, but we were none worse for wear. The variety of hilltop and valley hole locations, along with bumps, turns, and obstacles kept the variety going to ensure a high replay value if we ever come back. The only change I'd make to the course is to improve the border that's only made of small stones. Too often a ball would come off the course even after it wasn't hit all that hard. A few times we thought a ball was lost only to find it behind one of the rocks or just short of entering a pond. I sort of kept score and developed a system in which I'd only record someone's real score if they were at or below par. After that, everyone else would get one over par. I ended up winning to sort of continue my father's legacy as a putt-putt champion. Of course, in our group, the girls were the only ones to get hole-in-ones.

A river...such peace...such beauty...and such an easy place to lose your golf ball.

After golf, we walked to the batting cages where I was able to prove (yet again) that I never played Little League baseball by whiffing on 16 of 20 "slow" baseball pitches. I did a lot better on the way-to-slow softball so it's clear that my career as a pro baseball player will never get off the ground. This is unlike the other guy in our party who was regularly making solid contact on the "fast" (70 mph) and "very fast" (85 mph) baseball pitches. Despite my embarrassment in the cages, Woody's Golf was a great place, especially for mini golf and appeared to be offer a solid driving range thanks to real grass tees. Believe it or not, it actually made it worthwhile to drive out to NoVA...if just for the afternoon.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Race for the Cure With 49,999 of My Friends

This morning I joined my SO and 49,998 of our closest running friends (for the day) in the Susan G. Koman National Race for the Cure. As mentioned before, this was my first running race since a very weak attempt in my high school track and field career. It was a 5K or 3.1068559611866697 miles (now those hate letters from mathematicians won't be sent for rounding too few digits) and I think I did pretty well for myself by finishing in under 28 minutes for a pace just over 9 minutes/mile. If I was really into my racetime, I'd make the excuse that the first 1/2 of the race was spent zig-zagging through the crowd so it was hard to concentrate on a good pace, but I won't because it was just good to get out there, help a great cause, and I'm thankful nobody in my immediate family has had to deal with this disease.

I will gladly show-off this t-shirt logo.

We found a snug parking space along 6th and D and used enough quarters for our 2-hour maximum. We did a quick run from the runner's start to the walker's start and some assorted stretches before it was time to lineup. It was hard not to be inspired by the mass of people and those with pink shirts and pink signs declaring whether they were running in "Memory of" or in "Celebration of". At the start, we stood next to a girl whose sign said that her stepmother and two best friends' mothers were survivors. The sign also said she was running for every woman who is diagnosed in the future. How do you not get goosebumps and chills after reading that and the other signs of support? When I wished all of them good health, she proudly mentioned that her stepmother had just finished her last treatment. It certainly gave me zero reason to complain about being tired at the end of the race - as if being tired after a 5K is one of life's real legitimate pains.

Good times in the District.

After Condoleezza (who sadly lost her mother some 21 years ago to breast cancer) said some words and we had a group stretching session, it was finally time to race. With dark gray clouds overhead and a solid breeze, we were off and running, or at least trying to avoid stepping on anyone around us. My SO is a world-class crowd zig-zagger and she quickly put some distance between us because the second she'd make it through an opening, it would close and leave me lagging. I pressed on without the pacesetter I've had during any of my once- or twice-weekly runs and concentrated on my own lane changes. I was able to keep her in sight (thanks to her colorful bandana from last year's race that everyone seemed to want this year) until the end of the race.

Last year's race didn't offer much elbow room either.

A few times I used the sidewalk to avoid the backs of other runners' shoes, but this didn't work much better with so many people running alongside. I felt like I had a good pace going until I realized I hadn't seen the first mile marker. Apparently it was at the first water area, but my oblivious self didn't notice. I kept wondering how far I had to go until I finally approached the 2-mile marker in a few seconds under 18 minutes. As we crossed to other side of the mall, I got as close as 3 people behind my SO and was going to finish with her until she made a dramatic move all the way from the far left to the far right to pour water on her head. Before turning down the final straightaway, I saw a blue finish line sign and assumed it was the end so it was time for me to sprint.

After making the final turn, I kept looking for that large blue sign declaring the end of the race. I told myself it had to be soon, it had to be soon. Actually, it wasn't the finish line. It was a sign for some folklife festival also taking place. It was a hard way to learn I should consider wearing glasses when I run. Eventually I realized my sprinting occurred juuuuuuuust a bit too early and would have a nice struggle to the finish. I made it to the end and somehow met up with my SO to hit up some of the freebies for our hard work. I made a nice dent at the water and banana table before drinking a yogurt smoothie and eating a bag of chips. We also grabbed a few scarves and pins to pass to our female family members. I got an airbrushed breast cancer ribbon on my left bicep and picked up some press-on tattoos because I'm hardcore like that - and of course it was some more free shwag. After that, we made it back to our car about 30 minutes after our meter expired without any tickets to be found.

DC, Chicago, wherever...just give it a shot.

It was a good race that was really a great experience. With so many participants, many of which were survivors themselves, it's definitely something worth doing every year hereafter and that's just what I want to do.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

How Moses Dealt With Metro Paparrazi

On the heels of finding out I'm not the only one undressing in DC during the recent hot spell, I'll share what happened to me after reaching the metro lastThursday- with just my undershirt on of course.

Hold onto whatever you can and get ready for the next great rollercoaster - DC rush hour!

Last Thursday's metro ride home was quite eventful for my lowly 10-minute journey. I overhead someone on the platform say that around 3, trains were running 30 minutes apart which meant less trains to move more and more people. When I got to the platform just after 5, trains were running every 2 minutes as usual, but people were waiting 3 or 4 deep and had to let a train or two passby because there was no room. I only had to let one go buy before jumping onboard. And no, I didn't have to push my way on as some others did on the train before (not wearing my dress shirt gave me that necessary breathing room). I had just enough room to literally stand my ground through 3 stops.

Am I out of line with this comparison?

After reaching my stop, I realized being 3 or 4 deep wasn't so bad because now it was just a mass of people (8 deep) waiting to get a ride. When the doors opened there was no clear path onto the platform as those waiting clearly forgot how this whole let-people-off-first strategy works. As the lead person getting off, I made my intentions known and the sea of people parted like, well, the Red sea. Suddenly I felt like a celebrity (or Moses if you want to keep the pious theme) with bodyguards around me clearing a path to my stairwell of freedom (or like leading the Israelites out of Egypt). There were so many people on each side of the platform just staring at me that I felt like a celebrity. I almost thought I should stop and sign some autographs and deal with the paparazzi, but the reality they just stared at me because my seat was now open. If only for a fleeting moment, they were fans of me because I was off the train meaning more room for them.