Monday, January 31, 2005

And the world was never the same...

The Altair 8800

from MITS of

Albuquerque, NM.

Image from Computer Closet

I could not let January pass without noting that the Personal Computer is now 30 years old. (Note: Not the IBM PC, that johnnie-come-lately didn't come on the scene for another six years. Personal Computer was an existing industry term, co-opted by big blue. In a striking prophetic act, they Trademarked the name...) MrGadgets, along with the rest of the world, became aware of this device when it appeared in an article in the January 1975 edition of Popular Electronics.

The Altair is recognized by most as the first true personal computer. More information here: There is an article here: (Note the EIGHT INCH floppy drive. I think I still have some 8" media buried upstairs.) Also check out Tom Sanderson's Virtual Altair Museum.

This, boys and girls is the progenitor, the one that started it all. Lest you under-estimate the importance of the Altair, you still can see it's influence on the modern technological world.

Upon seeing the article, Bill Gates and Paul Allen saw an opportunity. They DROPPED out of HARVARD and moved to NM to write Altair BASIC.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Also worth noting, MITS didn't really intend to start the Micro-Computer revolution. What then? The clue lies in the name: Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems. What kind of telemetry? Model Rockets, of course.

And so began the revolution...

A Great Day for Freedom

Except for the title, I will let the Iraqi People comment on today's event:
"There will be no turbans in the government. Everyone agrees on that."

- ADNAN ALI, on an agreement among Shiite leaders that Iraq's new government should be run by lay people, not Islamic clerics.

"I want to vote, but as you can see, the situation is getting worse. We see these leaflets every day."

- KHALIDAYAH LAZEM, a Sunni Arab, on insurgents' warnings of violence against Iraqi voters.

"Election, that's the best weapon for us. Terrorists, they use car bombs. We use the election."

- DIAA AL-TAMIMI, an Iraqi expatriate who voted yesterday in Skokie, Ill.

"A hundred names on the ballot are better than one, because it means that we are free."

- FADILA SALEH, an Iraqi voter.

Go Read "The People Have Won" at Iraq the Model:


Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Great Debate

Today, I went to traveled to the neighboring School District to judge a Novice Forensics Tournament.

The Hickman Mills School District has a long history.
Hickman's Mill was along the Santa Fe Trail and was one area of Missouri where the Red-Leg JayHawkers raided during the civil war. These raids were a pre-cursor to the trip by the James' and Youngers' with Col. Quantrell over to Lawrence, but that's another story.

It was also the first Missouri School District to Consolidate back in 1902.

My mother taught Fifth grade in the district before she retired, and my wife started her teaching career there and spent thirty+ years teaching English, Speech and establishing the Gifted program before moving to the next district over (Center) to take a administration job.

This connection to the Speech department has led to one or both of us adjudicating over our married life.

I noticed several t-shirts indicating that they have taken to referring to this tournament as the "Blizzard Classic." (It is always in January.)

I assure you it is in no way personal self-interest of avoiding an early-morning Saturday wake-up and chilly drive when I say that it always seems to be our participation that causes the precipitation... ;-)

I have avoided judging Debate all these years, as I felt unqualified.
I was never in Forensics in high-school, but was acquainted with most and friends with several of the participants.

I have enjoyed Lincoln-Douglas on a couple of occasions when the organizers have 'mistakenley' assigned me the task, but, to me, Debate was serious business.

This time around was different, in more ways than one.

I had two rounds assigned, the first was Student Congress.

I found it quite interesting, it was a mock congressional session, with student participants giving speeches for and against proposed legislation.

Of course, they were Novices, and it showed, but it was really a blast.

The two topics of legislation:
Abolishing the Death Penalty
Banning Alcohol at Sporting Events.

The biggest problem was they didn't quite sound convincing enough.
Real politicians would have stressed money a WHOLE lot more... ;-)

The second round:

I must admit it took even more effort to not let my personal opinion influence my judging and concentrate on the skills of the speakers and the efficacy of their interchange.

I don't know if it was the in-experience of the participants, or the new fashion, but at least one could follow the arguments. Besides my lack of expertise in the debating art, one of my other motivations for eschewing Debate rounds is the style change I noticed over time.

I have often had to restrain from making an announcement that I did NOT subscribe to the (S)He-who-talks-fastest-wins school has never been a personal favorite. I know we are under time constraints here, but if I can't follow your argument, in my mind you LOSE, know matter how cogent it might be.

Other things I noted. Debate has always had a certain sense of order and civility that is every bit as structured as the Congressional protocol mimicked by the earlier 'Legislative' session. The two young ladies who made up one team expressed impassioned arguments, but, in stark contrast, were always the most courteous in their cross-examinations. This, I think, is fitting. It is something the general public, who's work does not involve daily close inter-action in adversarial roles, find hard to understand. How can the prosecuting and defense lawyers join each other for libations at the end of the day? How can the Democrats and Republicans see each other after-hours socially? I am not sure a little civility would not help other political discourse. Of course, I think MY side is the one that spends it's time practicing TOLERANCE, not just Kvetching about it...

Once change I found disconcerting was the influence of technology on process.

Back in the day, citations were hand-copied onto index cards. Now, the participants carried standard 8.5 x 11 in. sheets of paper. Such are not as practical in either making arguments, nor finding citations during cross. The paper is just too flimsy.

Plus, I know from experience, that copying something by had is as much a memory-exercise as it is a way to transfer the data into portable form.

In short, I believe my pre-computing peers were better debaters because they had better INFORMATION at their fingertips. And the very method of compiling their source data was part of the process of transforming into information.

At one point the young man on the affirmative side cited two definitions, from Would it have KILLED him to walk into a library and find a Webster's?

Ah, well...

I did note that the participants still cross with their flows on legal pads turned sideways. Score one for traditional!

Note to debaters and their coaches: If you are going to be using well known news events in your arguments, you really should make sure you pronounce the names of locations and groups involved properly.

In spite of all MY Kvetching, it was a pleasant day of service to the intellectual development of America's future.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Technological Tribute to the Bard

January 25th brings the grand Scottish tradition of Burns Night.

As with all things Scottish, it is a great tradition.
As everything else is CRAP!, we shall, of course, give the grand night it's just due.

An so, here is just the kit for the modern technologically-up-to-date Scotsman:

MIDI Bagpipes!

Now all we need is a men's Kilt rack at Wal-Mart...

Monday, January 24, 2005

Today I am a Man

On this day, January 24 or the Year of our Lord, 1984 the Macintosh was released, and personal computing was changed in ways we barely even understand, even today.

Don't believe me? Once I figure out that the Ctrl key in WindoZ is the same as the Command key on the Mac, and the Mac Option key is pretty much the Alt key in Redmond's copy-cat world, I could transport from 1984 directly to today and wouldn't need a manual.

Mr. Bill countered with WindoZ 1.x and 2.x, complete jokes. Version 3 finally got something of a following, but it was still pitiful when compared to what Apple was doing, even with Jobs forced aside by the sugar-water salesman. He also tried ganging up with IBM on OS/2( good UI, but he just can't play nice.)

The first REALLY good UI out of Redmond was 98, and, surprise, surprise! It was the one that mimicked the Mac. (Court cases can sometimes be wonderful things...)

I guess it should not be surprising how long it took, Redmond didn't use their normal method of buying a solution.

There is a nice site that Chronicles the Mac's creation.

Andy Hertzfeild, one of the original designers, has written a book on his recolections of the process.

Read some of the stories and history, if you are not familiar. In a world where the PC is barely beyond a beige-box mentality, it seems strange. Treating a technolgy device as a work of art. Applying as much the aesthetic as the innovative in an elegant total design. This has always been the forte at Apple.

I have been asked by more than one musician why I didn't persue a musical career full-time.
In the early days, those of us who saw the future of technology could see the revolution.

As Andy's title indicates, the Mac embodied that revolution.

Apple has stumbled, but not quite fallen.

It has managed a nice recovery from the brink.

Many of my friends in the Ameteur Radio community were dumb-founded with my Mac-using habits. I never saw Apples demise as a good thing, even when a new job took me away from daily usage of their product. Who else would be the burr under Mr. Bill's saddle? Whatever it's faults, and they are legion, Apple has prodded the rest of the industry in so many ways, and continues to do so.

To that end, my oldest friend recently asked my thoughts on the new Mac Mini.

While that will be the subject of another post in detail, I will say this:

Mac mini Dimensions

It is, by far, the smallest system, bar none. WindoZ or Mac.

And don't it just look COOL?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The End of a Frustrating Week

The week started out quite nicely, with a family friend's call on Monday. (A Holiday to boot...) Instead of my attempting to drag her ancient (in dog years) Compaq system into the new millennium and install DSL, she wanted to purchase a new setup.

My second favorite thing in life:
Go to the store and purchase techno-toys w) someone else's money and get to set them up...

Off to purchase a new laptop, WiFi Access Point, Network-ready printer (WiFi or Ethernet), USB key-fob, Microsoft Office, etc.

Got everything to her house and started configuring:
1. SBC/Yahoo DSL disk install. A-OK, create account, connects fine w) laptop-to-DSL Modem.
2. Connect AP/Router/Firewall to Modem. Connect to Access Point. Everything fine.
3. Install Office.
By now I have lost track of how many times I have re-booted.
4. Run printer driver installation program while connected to printer by Ethernet cable. Wizard sets up WiFi connection from printer to AP. Printer drivers install.


Wants to boot in safe-mode.

Eventually accept last known good configuration.

Windows XP (SP2) boots, shows desktop for about two seconds, then that stops and the only application running is Norton Anti-Virus.

I repeat the reboot process numerous time.

I attempt a recovery, though the disks provided w) machines now-a-days are SP woefully inadequate that that word seems hardly applicable... ;-/

At one point, in fact, I successfully run the Norton Update. It connects to the site, through the AP and updates, pretty as you please.

Apparently, the computer is running perfectly, with the 'minor' problem of having no desktop... ;-/

I return the whole mess (sans printer) to the retailer on Tues. @ noon. The young Squadsman assures me, in his geek-smugness, that he won't even have to check it in, just run a quick non-destructive recovery. I said I would leave it.

Good luck kid.

I call @ 4:30, as they have not contacted me.

"Oh yeah, we are just finishing up, it should be ready by 5:00"

Hah! At least some vindication.

Haul the whole thing back and notice that the recovery was a LITTLE more 'destructive' than he thought. He, He, He...

Re-install Office. Re-install/configure printer.

Everything working fine, although I did have to 'play' a bit to re-establish the WiFi connection to the AP. (There were at least five other signals in her neighborhood, but everyone is running WEP and we should all be able to play nice...)

Left her working on a Word document.

She called later that evening, couldn't re-connect to the WiFi connection after the machine had gone to sleep. A little research indicated a problem with XP SP2 and WEP encryption. Seems the WPA addition in SP2 BREAKS WEP! Told her I would come by Thurs. and fix it. (I could always turn off WEP as a work around, while simultaneously stop the AP from broadcasting it's presence. Then seek out the driver fix on the laptop-manufacturer's support site...)

Wed. Traveled to Columbia for my daughter's endocrinology appointment. While I was gone, SBC calls my friend wondering why she hadn't connected. (What, exactly, had done the night before?!?) The SBC rep was happily leading her through their little support script, including RESETTING the MODEM, before she determined that a wireless network was involved. At that point, the SBC rep started doing her crab imitation (can't back up fast enough) and washed her hands of the whole thing...

Thurs. Can't get to the outside world, although I can see the printer just fine.
Re-run SBC/Yahoo DSL installation wizard. It fails to recognize the modem. (Yes, I had plugged directly into it.)
I am forced to re-boot.

It wants to boot in Safe-Mode.

Same exact scenario as Monday.

I went with my friend, everything in tow this time and explained what had happened.
Spoke w) the Geek Squadron-leader.
Learned about what I had done wrong, vis-a-vis the DSL modem.
I left her to deal with the manager about installs, fees for same or returns.

I could probably have patched the whole kit together just fine, but will never know for sure.

The Squad sent a pleasant young Geek to get everything functioning this afternoon.

Things I learned/re-learned.

NEVER run the DSL install wizard!
Set recovery points!
Sometimes your Murphy field is just too strong. You should just walk away, before you cause permanent damage...

What I know:

It should NOT be this HARD. If I can't do this, it's for DAMN sure the average customer will be out of their depth. We go to the store and purchase thousands of dollars of equipment and then spend hours of time with on-line or phone support getting it to all work together.

And we accept it.

Admittedly, if it were easy, I would be out of a job.
Well, I would probably be gainfully employed MAKING it easy, but you get the idea.

But, in the end, It should NOT be this HARD.

In the meantime, I will be changing my e-mail. If you wish to e-mail me, please click:

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Newly found deleted scene from LOTR

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Seven Wonders of the World


To See.

To Hear.

To Touch.

To Taste.

To Feel.

To Laugh

To Love.



Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Just how short an attention-span do they think we have?

Ok, given that a high percentage of this Blog's readership doesn't watch Tele-Vision, this may be a waste, but:

This morning I heard a radio spot promoing Alias, with the delectable Jennifer Garner.

"From the producers of Desperate Housewives..."

What the?!?!?????!!!

OK, so a lot of people thought Season 3 was on the weak side, and the season debut is 3 months late, but come ON!

The real question is, do they know something I/we don't?

Just how short is the attention-span of the American mass-media consumer?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Seven Wonders of the World...

To See.

To Hear.

To Touch.

To Taste.

To Feel.

To Laugh

To Love.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Lose the Weight... of Guilt

First Timothy 1:12-17 (KJV)
[12] And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
[13] Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
[14] And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
[15] This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
[16] Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
[17] Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

God Loves You in Spite of Your Past.

God Will Save You in Spite of Your Sins.

God Will Use You in Spite of Your Failures.

Accept Forgiveness - Forgive Yourself...

Friday, January 07, 2005

Totally Un-Scientific Indicators of New Year's Resolutions err, well... Resolution

Two items:
I heard on this morning's news the results of Men's Fitness magazine's most fittest cities list:
Most fit:  Seattle
Least fit: Houston  (Must be all that BBQ & Tex-Mex...  ;->)
KC rated No. 17, if I remember correctly.
I then arrived @ the office and took my first reading on the resolve of my fellow cube-ites on that most infamous of all New Year's Resolutions:
Lose some weight. 
For the record, Mr. Gadgets did well in this regard for 2004  (Admittedly, all the weight came off in the first half of the year, with the time since the NYC theater vacation week in 'holding-pattern' mode.  At least mostly so.)   I lost well over 10% of my body-weight, but less than 15%.  I need to re-start the downward path.
ANYWAY, each Friday, the Silver Spoon, the Breakfast/Lunch cafe on the ground floor of my building, brings in Lamar's doughnuts.
(For those unfamiliar with KC, Lamar's is a local landmark.)
For the last few years, I have noticed a unique aspect of the Friday sugar-n-lard-packed treats:
Only in the first few weeks of January do these delicacies last past 9:00am.
Usually there are fewer and fewer left at this late hour as the month goes on, with the first Friday in Feb. finding us back to normal operations, i.e. get there early to get insulin-shock.
This morning there were only two items left in the box: a cake doughnut (my personal least-favorite from Lamar's.) and a long-john.  (The long-john may NOT have been filled, thus lowering it's near-magical pull on the human pallette.)
Looks like the prospects for next year's poll on fitness don't look good...

Thursday, January 06, 2005


That's Dutch.
In German: Heilige Drei Könige.
In Spanish: el Dia de los Tres Reyes, la Fiesta de Reyes, or el Dia de los Reyes Magos.
Translation: Three King's Day, also known as Epiphany.
(Although, technically, This is the culmination of the season of Epiphany, directly following Advent. In more common parlance, the twelve days of Christmas...)

Many Christian traditions have the visit of the wise men occurring on this day.

The wise men have been on my mind more this season than recent years.

Just as ballet has "The Nutcracker", so opera has a special piece for children at Christmas: Amahl and the Night Visitors.
For two years The Lyric mounted productions and I had the pleasure of portraying Kaspar. As a boy, growing up in Italy, Menotti and his brothers had their own addition to the lore of the Three Kings. Italian children to not receive presents from St. Nicklaus. It is the Wise Men who bring the Christmas booty. He and his brothers always wondered why they might not get everything they asked for, and would, instead, receive some mundane practical piece of clothing...
They determined that one of the King's MUST be hard of hearing.

Years later, while writing his opera, half of Kaspar's lines seemed to be: "Eh?"

Whenever I see a creche, with the king's depicted in all their glory at the humble beginnings of the King of Kings, their is always one with a chest of jewels.

To most, this is the king bearing gold.

To me, it is gentle old Kaspar, with his box of magic stones.

This is my box,
this is my box.
I never travel without my box.

In the first drawer I keep my magic stones...
... carnelian against all evil and enemies...
... moonstone to make you sleep...
... lapis lazuli to help you to find water...

In the second drawer I keep my magic beads...

In the third drawer … I keep...
Licorice! Licorice!
Black string Licorice! Black string Licorice!
Have Some!

One last chance to say, Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Chicago River Delta Blues

It's like Sno-Blowin' Baby...
Sno-Blowin' into the wind.
And I'm thinkin' that maybe...
there's a finger I can't bend.
The ice crystals they may sting,
but you know the pain they bring,
ain't nothin' to the way you left me cold.
Yeah, it's like Sno-Blowin' Baby,
But THIS wind cuts right through my soul.

Monday, January 03, 2005

A Uniquely ODD Day

Of Prime (;->) interest to us uniquely odd people...

Sunday, January 02, 2005

My NEW New Year's Resolution - What's Yours?

This Morning's Service/Sermon inspired me...

Artist: Tim McGraw
Album/Title Song: Live Like You Were Dying

He said I was in my early forties
with a lot of life before me
when a moment came that stopped me on a dime
and I spent most of the next days
looking at the x-rays
Talking bout the options
and talking bout sweet time
I asked him when it sank in
that this might really be the real end
how's it hit you when you get that kinda news
man what'd you do

and he said
I went sky diving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named FuManchu
and I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter
and I gave forgiveness I'd been denying
and he said someday I hope you get the chance
to live like you were dying.

He said I was finally the husband
that most the time I wasn't
and I became a friend a friend would like to have
and all the sudden going fishin
wasn't such an imposition
and I went three times that year I lost my dad
well I finally read the good book
and I took a good long hard look
at what I'd do if I could do it all again

and then
I went sky diving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named FuManchu
and I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter
and I gave forgiveness I'd been denying
and he said someday I hope you get the chance
to live like you were dying.

Like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about
what'd you do with it what did you do with it
what did I do with it
what would I do with it'

Sky diving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named FuManchu
and then I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter
and I watched an eagle as it was flying
and he said someday I hope you get the chance
to live like you were dying.
To live like you were dying
To live like you were dying
To live like you were dying
To live like you were dying
Don't wait to Live.

Learn Everyday.


Leave A Legacy.

Sounds like an interesting year to me... ;-)