September 2008 Archives

Financial Woes

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Not much time to write--I woke up late and have to get to work soon, but I did want to take a moment to review a couple points on the financial situation.

First, as a Washington Mutual customer, my bank has been seized and sold. That doesn't bother me--I just used it as a parking place for my long-term savings since it offers such a high interest rate. I don't have enough to worry about the FDIC insurance not being sufficient to cover any losses. My biggest concern is that JPMorgan Chase won't keep the high savings interest rate. But even if they do lower it to more industry-standard (i.e., ridiculously, laughably low) rates, there are plenty of other high-rate accounts out there.

I also have a couple thoughts on the stock market situation. That doesn't affect me directly since the only money I have invested is for retirement, so I have no plans to take any money out of the market. In fact, I've been considering increasing my IRA contributions this month. But it does affect me in other ways. For one thing, it will probably tighten up the job market, which is unfortunate since I am now looking for work. Even so, I'm in a position to more easily find a job given my education and work history. Perhaps more serious, the tightening credit market means that I'll have trouble selling my house in the next couple years if I need to. But even that isn't too bad. I see no reason that I can't rent it out a while. In fact, that may be better--fewer people in the market for houses means more people looking for rentals.

So the short version is that I will be somewhat inconvenienced. But I'm one of the lucky ones. Many people will find their already tight budgets dry up, and will have to make some serious sacrifices (not just canceling a Netflix subscription). It will be far worse for those who lose their jobs. The fact that things will be so bad for so many only highlights the obligation of the rest of us to help out where we can. This may be financial or in kind, but it will become increasingly important.

Friday Catblogging!

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This post was supposed to go up on Friday, but there was apparently some weird meltdown in my server.  I’m not sure what happened, but apparently it took a long time to fix, and it had to restore an older backup in from around Monday (thus losing two posts from later in the week).  They’re still in the database, though, so I could restore them.

Here’s Sebastian in the crate in which I receive my vegetables from the farm:

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He doesn’t look happy, but I swear that I didn’t put him there just for the photo.  I found him in there, but by the time I took the photo, he wasn’t looking at the camera.

A couple things:

  • My phone also actually sounds like a phone—and I’m proud.
  • This robot is totally awesome—I love it when the guy tries to kick it over.
  • The press account of Justice Scalia’s appearance at our bar conference—I was there, and the article is reasonably accurate.
  • Wondering about my choice for President?  Here it is.  Only the cognoscenti need click.

In other news, I finally started playing Team Fortress 2.  TF2 is an online-only game that pits two teams against each other.  A player can be any one of nine classes, and each is quite unique.  I’ve had the game for almost a year now, but I’ve never really played.  Part of this is that I’m not nearly as adept at the first-person shooters as many of the people playing this game, so I was reluctant to inflict myself on the general public.  While I figured I could be passably good with time, I hate to cause a ton of frustration on others while I learned.

Tonight I dove right in, and it was really fun.  I wouldn’t say I got to be particularly good, but I managed to become a passable medic, one of the support classes.

I’m still working on the Traffic book, so I don’t feel the need to repost it here.  In any case--

Have a great weekend!

Breaking News

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Nobody tried to run me over yesterday.  That’s always nice.

Free Book

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Don’t forget, you can get a free electronic copy of Neverwhere.  Check it out.

Trifecta!

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Today was not a great day.  First there was there three times that I almost got run over.  But wait, that that's not all. 

On the other hand, there were certain good things.  First, I was never actually hit by a car.  I suppose that counts for something.

But still it would be nice to take a walk at lunch without having to avoid the motorized vehicles.

In other news, and I watched the season premiere of Heroes.  I liked it.  After the … unfortunate second season, I wasn't sure that they would pull it off.  But, the new season of actually seems interesting.  Of course, the series that I'm really waiting for is Dexter.  For my money, it has always been one of the most innovative, fantastic, and smart series in recent memory.

There is, of course, more.  Pushing Daisies will be awesome.  So will Breaking Bad as soon as it begins again.  For anyone who hasn't seen it, definitely check out Breaking Bad.  You won't be disappointed.

Not much else to say right now.

Pleasant Weekend

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Quite a nice weekend, I must say.  Aside from playing around with Vista’s voice recognition, I had all sorts of other fun.  For one thing, I actually managed to watch a couple movies that I’ve been putting off for a while.  They were both older movies—Out of the Past was released in 1947, and The Shop Around the Corner came out in 1940.  The first is a prototypical film noir, with just about every typical twist you could imagine, including voiceovers and your typical noir ending.  Awesome.  The Shop Around the Corner is a rather typical classic-style romantic comedy.  The gender relations are pretty outdated, but let’s face it—that’s not that unusual even in today’s romance films.  Still, it was nice to see.

In computer news, I’m happy to have fixed a long-irritating issue.  I posted a while ago about some keyboard problems I was having.  The short version is that all my multimedia keys stopped working.  One forgets how much one comes to rely on those little conveniences.  Well, I managed to finally get it fixed this weekend.  The problem turned out not to be software related after all.  A piece of debris had gotten into my number pad’s equal key and was holding it down, though I didn’t know it.  I can’t understand how that blocked the multimedia keys and didn’t cause problems with typing and the like, but that must have been it because it started working just fine once I got that little pebble or whatever out of there.

Also, I started my coaching with the High School Mock Trial teams from one high school, which promises to be a lot of fun.  It has been a while since I did much in the way of volunteering or sizable amounts of community service, and I missed it.  In addition to coaching, which is a relatively minor service, I’m looking to get involved in a program that is being started by a friend of mine.  It’s still in the preliminary stages, but it appears to be a program that helps low-income families by providing extensive community support.  I’m looking forward to finding out more about it.  Depending on my involvement necessary, I may get involved in a couple other things, too, but we’ll see.

It’s nice to be getting back into volunteering.

Captain's Log Star Date 37960.4

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So today I got Vista's speech recognition software to work.  At first I was having big problems, but most of those were because the microphone that I was using sucked.  Right now, I'm using a headset microphone, which is a much better.  The first microphone I tried was in my little web camera, and it had a very hard time understanding me.

Dictation isn't perfect, even with the headset microphone.  But it's a lot better.  From what I understand, it will get better as I use it and as I correct its mistakes.  I actually think it's much more useful for controlling windows as opposed to dictation.  It seems to understand windows commands very well.  I'm still trying to develop that is useful, of course.  Time will tell.

Friday Catblogging!

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After Sebastian’s extreme closeup, I thought I owed Jupiter one, too:

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Unfortunately, I didn’t finish my book as I’d anticipated.  It turns out, this week was a very busy one.  Who knew?

Have a great weekend!

Film Series

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Last night was the first of the fall film series here in Cheyenne.  The film was Hors de Prix, with the only notable name to a US audience being Audrey Tautou.  It was a cute little movie, and probably perfectly appropriate to begin the series.  It’s nice that the series is back.

Light Blogging

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Things are a little light lately as I’m spending a great deal of free time doing things that involve finding my next job.  That’s right, my clerkship ends in about 11 months.  While many clerks have jobs waiting for them, I did not do summer work at a firm.  Instead, I worked at the AG’s office, and governments don’t usually make offers a year in advance.

I’m not a fan of looking for a job, which I understand is not unusual—I don’t know anybody who does.  But I am enthusiastic about the wide range of options I have available, lots of them involve really interesting work and other opportunities.

I look forward to being settled in practice, whether private or public, and not having to worry about it.  That was an option in my current position, but I firmly believe that diversity of experience makes a better lawyer.

I’m being pretty vague about the job search, of course.  I’ll be a bit more clear once I settle on something.

Friday Catblogging!

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Extreme Closeup:

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I think this look is very slimming.

In other news, today is the last day of the Bar Convention.  Overall, it’s been pretty fun.  I’ve gone to some excellent CLE sessions and made some good contacts for my post-clerkship job search, currently in progress.  Last night, Justice Scalia spoke at our banquet, but more on that later.

Monday I’ll be judging a moot court (appellate) competition at the law school.  This will be interesting because, unlike others that I’ve judged, the students wrote the briefs.  I’ll study them this weekend, but I hope that they’re very good overall.

In other news, I’m still working on the traffic book, though I expect to finish it in the next couple days:

Have a great weekend!

Hurricane Madness

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So I mentioned that a couple weekends ago, MackenzieMom and I spent a fair bit of time monitoring Hurricane Gustav.  It did not hit New Orleans directly, but it was close enough to create a significant risk of damage and to knock out the power for a few days.  It seems like a good thing that people evacuated.

Well, it appears that Ike is heading directly toward my parents’ place in Texas.  Of course, they’re far enough inland that it will have petered down to a nasty storm by the time it reaches them, but still.  Unpleasant.

I’m Being Served

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Last weekend, one of my little projects was to get my trial edition of Windows Home Server up and running.  I’ve had a 120-day trial sitting on the shelf for a long time, and I was just waiting to get a new hard drive so that I could use my old PC as a server.  That happened about a month ago, so this weekend I got to the server install.

I have to say, I really like it.  I have it running in the basement, and it performs backups of my main PC and my laptop every night.  I nuked my laptop’s windows installation (installed Ubuntu) just for fun.  Then I restored my Windows installation from the server backup.  The only hitch I had  was the boot loader, which Ubuntu overwrote during its install and which was pretty easy to fix.

Another nice feature is that it allows web access to the server—very cool.  I can put files on the server and access them any time.  Next, I need to find a reasonably inexpensive terabyte drive so that I can back up all my game installs (instead of just my Windows installation) and put all my music and video on the server.

I love the security of having it—I’m definitely a convert.

‘Tis the Season

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On Saturday, MackenzieMom and I took a little trip to the Farmers’ Market.  It was awesome.  I was afraid that I missed the season for chilis, but I didn’t.  Instead, I made my annual purchase of five bushels of the medium-hot variety.  I still have plenty of the dynamite left from last year, so I didn’t need to get any of those.

At this point, my freezer is pretty well full.  The chilis are part of it, but I also have a lot of stored-up soup:

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I have the soup stacked three deep:

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And the chilis are also filling up the basket at the bottom:

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It would be interesting to see whether I could live off my freezer for a month.  Perhaps January will be the time to give it a shot—it’ll be completely packed at that point.

U.S. Culture and Video Games

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This comic is a perfect illustration of our country’s messed up culture when it comes to video games.  It’s very strange to me that we are generally so worried about representations of sex and sexuality, but it’s totally fine to blow people into a fine pink mist.  As much criticism as games like Grand Theft Auto get, things only ramp up when there’s some sort of discussion of the sex in the game.

As research shows, this is probably a bit of a backward attitude.  We should probably be more worried about the violence, and even about the particular manner it is portrayed in a given game.  Bloodless, cartoonish violence is probably more harmful in the long term than realistic violence.  This makes sense to me.  A long time ago, a game called Soldier of Fortune was released.  At the time, it was billed as the most realistic violence ever put in a video game.  The injuries of your opponents would change depending on where you hit them and with one weapon.  If it was not an instant-death wound, the men would often scream and wail.

It was the screaming and wailing that prevented me from ever playing the game more than a short time.  I never did finish it.  There’s a lesson there: when violence is portrayed realistically, it has more of an impact.  Soldier of Fortune had consequences, human consequences, to the in-game violence.  When the ‘gore’ in games is turned down so that all that happens when you shoot someone is that the victim falls over, that minimizes the impact.

In the end, I think that countries like Germany or Australia are a bit more rational in their approach.  While I think they take their censorship too far, they at least have their priorities straight.

Friday Catblogging!

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I’m afraid my camera batteries ran out before I could take a new photo this week, so we get a slightly older one:

Cuddly9

With the cold weather beginning again, I think this will be a much more common scene.

I’m Reading:

Have a great weekend!

Spore Review

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Reviews of Spore are popping up all over.  I’ve been looking forward to getting this game, but I’m beginning to have second thoughts.  I may wait a bit.  We’ll see.  Here’s the most in-depth review I’ve seen so far, from PC Gamer US.

Another Free Gaiman Book!

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Last year, Neil Gaiman’s publisher offered American Gods for free online.  Well, they’re at it again, and this time you can actually download the novel as a PDF.  The book is Neverwhere, a fantastic modern fairy tale.  The download is still time limited—it will self-destruct in 30 days.

Generally, I’m not a fan of on-screen reading.  There’s just something about the feel of holding paper that can’t be replicated.  Of course, I say this never having seen a Kindle.  Anyway, I don’t see this as a chance to read the whole book, but rather a chance to see if you like Neverwhere.  If you do, go to your local bookshop or library and check out that and his other work.  You won’t be sorry.

It Lives!

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After a harrowing day or two, I finally managed to get my Movable Type installation working again. I had to delete the prior installation in its entirety, but it appears that things seem to be working nicely. I can even post from the web, an ability I lost around version 3.1 or so.

Given my problems in the past, I'm quite relieved that it worked. I like MT, but my facility as a web programmer is limited, so upgrades can be trying.

Anyway, it's to bed I go.

Tech Updates

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Lots of technological ups and downs today.

I tried installing the newest version of my blog software, MovableType 4.21.  I got a crippling error immediately, so I downgraded to my prior version.  It’s a good thing I backed up before the ‘upgrade.’

But better, I installed Google Chrome.  For those not in the know, it’s the new open-source browser that Google has released.  My preliminary impression: I kind of like it.  I can’t really speak on all the back-end improvements, like stability and such.  But I can say that it certainly seems fast.  Really fast.  Its pretty nice.  I won’t make the switch until there’s a portable version, if then, but for now I enjoy playing around with it.

Hurricane Update

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I spent a fair bit of time this weekend monitoring the Hurricane Gustav situation.  Overall, it appears things went fairly well, though it was disconcerting when a couple ships in one of the canals came unmoored during the storm.  It looks like power will be restored in fairly short order and everyone will be able to return to New Orleans and the surrounding areas.

There’s no telling how MackenzieMom’s house has fared just yet.  She suspects it’s probably fine, with the only worrisome area being a top-heavy tree that may have fallen over.  My best friend J is staying there for the duration of her AmeriCorps service, so she prepped the house, boarded up windows, etc., and then evacuated.  When she returns, that’s about the first that we’ll be able to tell.

Overall, though, I think it worked out.

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