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« October 2005 | Main | December 2005 »

November 29, 2005

Christmas Decorating is Becoming a Disaster

By: The Dude on the Right
Okay, so this, my next Blog, isn't about a scientific study about unit size, hopefully for you dudettes, it will be the next, but I just wanted to lament about my Christmas decorating and how it isn't going too well so far. 

The Dude's Original Christmas Tree

My Christmas decorating used to be the easiest thing in the world, usually taking about 15 minutes. It started probably about six years ago, when I finally broke down and bought a tree. Now, me, being the generally lazy decorator that I am, of course bought a tree with lights pre-installed. I had ornaments thanks to my Mom ordering me Hallmark ornaments for a number of years, and so, I moved one of my end tables in front of the front room window, assembled the tree, put on the ornaments, and even bought some Christmas tree skirting. Bamm, that first time it took me about 60 minutes to go from opening the box to having a lit tree complete with ornaments.

Christmas came and went that year, and as it went, I was faced with the crappy task of packing away the ornaments, taking apart the tree, and in all honesty, this seemed like it would take longer than the assembly. But then a moment of genius occurred to me. I had a spare bedroom upstairs, the tree wasn't that heavy (it's only a 4 1/2 foot fake tree), so I said to myself, "Self, why don't you just carry the tree upstairs, ornaments and all, throw an old bed sheet over it, and then next year, all you have to do is move the end table, carry the tree down the stairs, and you'd be done?" And so, for years, that is exactly what I did. I'd get back from the Old Country after Thanksgiving, move my end table, go upstairs and remove the bed sheet, carry down my decorated tree, and "VoilĂ !" , about 15 minutes from start to finish, my Christmas decorating was done. I was always so proud of the time it took me to decorate that whenever I was in a conversation about how long it would take someone to deck their halls, and had to regale those present with my genius.

My bare tree this year.

Then, visiting a friend of mine, I was shamed, at least in my head, at the total lameness of my Christmas decorating. At her house they had this giant village built, in their basement, that stretched along one wall and halfway along another, and as proud as I was that my decorating only took 15 minutes, in my head I decided something more needed to be done. So, after Christmas was over, I saw an ad that the village houses and props were 75% off, so it started.  I bought a couple of houses, a lighthouse, and the next year, my decorating started to get more complicated. This was a few years ago. Then I added a ski-lift, an old train set, and things got a little worse, although not as bad as this year. In the previous year I sort of had the train set halfway done as I didn't have the width to make the full loop. It looked alright, but the train didn't work. So, this year, I calculated all of the space needed, set up the plywood, and started to get to work. This is where things really started to go wrong. First mistake, bringing down my ornamented Christmas tree and plopping it on the plywood first. Yup, there was my tree, standing proud, only now I needed to install the train track.

Ornaments strewn on the floor.

No biggy, until, well, sprawled along the plywood trying to get the thumbtacks put in to secure the train track, my svelte body under the tree, well, wouldn't you know it, I lifted my back just a little too much, and then the tree started to tumble, I caught the tree, but not before 90% of the ornaments decided to vacate their place on the tree and onto the floor.

Great, my decorating is now starting to go horribly wrong, now I've got to re-ornamentate the tree, and the angel on the top of the tree, while taking her tumble, well she lost her wings.

But that wasn't all.

Nope, finally settling into the fact my decorating was getting slightly more entailed than I planned it to be, I continued laying the train track, only to quickly realize that I didn't have enough track connectors. So much for getting my decorating done on that night. So, decorating not finished, I go to bed, wake up the next day, head to the hobby store, get more track connectors, and I'm psyched that "Yes, I can finally finish this Christmas decorating crap this evening, it will be great, the train will work, and it will officialy be the Holiday Season in the dude-pad." Evening comes, and begin decorating again, and I thought I would be creative with the train by kinda loopy-looping it rather than just having a normal oval, except there was one other problem - I miscalculated the amount of track needed. Yup, there I was, most of the track tacked down, getting towards at least finishing the train, when, low and behold, I was one track short. One freakin' track short.

A section of track is needed.

I've already spent way to much time on this project, I've got a tree with only a few ornaments left on it, I'm sure I need more fake snow, and I need ONE PIECE OF TRACK THAT I COULD HAVE BOUGHT AT THE HOBBY STORE EARLIER IN THE DAY BUT NOW THE STORE IS CLOSED.

I thought of just leaving my decorating as is, tree half done, train not finished, ski-lift still in its box, especially since I rarely entertain, so who is going to see it anyway, and wouldn't it be a funnier story if I had people over with my "not done" decorating, but, after this blog, I'm going back to work. I decided I will untack some of the train track, remove one piece, re-assemble the train, so hopefully I can at least get the train going. Then it's time to unpack my village, get the skiers skiing and the boat boating, and I can almost bet you by the end of the night, I will have one last problem, not enough fake snow.

That's it for this one! I'm The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!

Posted by Rightdude at 7:07 PM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2005

Sorry Neil, I Didn't Buy Your CD Today.

By: The Dude on the Right
I was faced with my first ever CD purchasing dilemma today.  I had heard of the dilemma before, the fact that Sony music has been putting copy protection on some of their CD's, but today it stared me right in the face, at the f.y.e. store in my local mall, as I contemplated purchasing the latest CD from Neil Diamond called "12 Songs."

It seems, unbeknownst to most of the music purchasing public, you know, those who actually go to a store and buy the CD with the sole intent of just listening to it on their CD player, computer, or maybe iPod or other portable device, Sony has been encoding some releases with a form of copy protection.  Pretty much if you put the CD in your computer to play, the Sony player opens up, you accept their agreement without reading it because that's what you do, and in the background the CD installs a copy-protection scheme on your computer so you can only rip the music to the Windows protection scheme (sorry, no iPod installing for you), but even worse, installs this copy protection scheme in what is known in the hacking world as a rootkit on your computer.  Suddenly your computer is actually more prone to getting a trojan horse virus, and you didn't even plan on it.  That's the easiest way I can explain this issue, but for more, head to your favorite search engine and type in the phrase "Sony rootkit" and you can research it to your hearts content.

So, there I was, seeing that there were actually two versions of the CD, one with 12 songs, and another with two bonus songs, and just as I was ready to shell out the extra bucks for the two bonus songs, I turned the CD over, and low and behold, in what really just looks like your standard "To run the extra features on your computer you need" box, it vaguely referenced the fact it would load this crap on my computer.  I knew some work-arounds to this issue, but really, is it worth my time and frustration to get Neil's new music on my iPod?  And yes, I know I could actually save money by just downloading it from the iTunes store, even with the two bonus tracks, but  for me, there is something permanent about actually owning the physical CD, a fact I realized after downloading the latest Bon Jovi CD from iTunes rather than buying it.  I was torn, because I really wanted the CD, but it really pissed me off with the Sony folks trying to force copy protection on me, and not even in what was really a secure way.

So I didn't buy the new Neil Diamond CD.  I took a stand, and Neil, as much as I love ya, until Sony gets rid of this copy protection crap (and supposedly from the latest news the Sony folks are pulling the CD's from the stores and re-issuing them without the protection, but we'll see), and will let me put it on my iPod, I've got to take that stand, although it probably won't matter much, and in the end, I'll probably just download the songs from iTunes and save a few bucks.

The record companies, still, just don't seem to get it.  They didn't get it when file sharing started, they didn't get it when Napster exploded, and they sure as hell don't seem to be getting it now, especially by installing hidden software on your computer that can actually make it more vulnerable to getting a Trojan virus, or if you try to get rid of it, you actually f-up your computer.  Maybe instead of just someone who is a great business person, the record folks might actually try to put someone in authority who has a clue to the buying public, and how technology is affecting them.  "Don't steal our music," and "Dammit, we want more money from Apple" seem to be the music company's current mantras, and all those mantras do is make the music buying public seek out the same ways to get music they have been continually been fighting, by downloading it free from someone who has figured out how to get around the copy protection scheme, or at least from their friend next door.  Really, until the record company folks actually figure out a way to stop someone, in the most simplest terms of copying songs, from A:  Purchasing a legal version of a CD.  2:  Playing that CD on their stereo.  III:  Having microphones in front of their speakers, plugged into the "Mic In" on their computer sound card and using any generic sound recording software to record each track.  Quatro:  Making sure that the individual songs are in an mp3 format.  5:  Sending those songs to two of their friends, who then send them to two of their friends, who then send them to two of their friends, and so on, and so on, and so on, the record companies have no shot at really controlling music piracy.  But if they want my ten to twenty dollars to buy it, and I will, all I really ask is that they don't fuck up my computer, and they let me put it, easily, on my iPod.

I'm stepping off of my soapbox now.  My next Blog will be about the proposed size of Garth Brooks' unit, not by my recollection, but by something our crack reporter Trash witnessed at a press conference, and our dudette, Whammy, who really loves Prince, especially since he's back to using his real name, that being, of course, Prince, and her scientific study on how to figure out the size of a dude's unit.  I'll bet you will all be waiting for that.

That's it for this one!  I'm The Dude on the Right!!  L8R!!!

Posted by Rightdude at 7:19 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2005

I Missed My High School Reunion Again. Damn.

By: The Dude on the Right
Last weekend was my 20 year high school reunion and I didn't go, and the more I think about it, I'm a little bummed I missed it.  The worst part about it, as things ended up working out, in hindsight, I could have gone.

The first hindrance in making any plans was that by the time I found out when the reunion was, I had already put in a request for concert clearance for Bon Jovi.  Jovi was playing in Chicago last Friday and Saturday, and when I put in the request, I said either show would be fine.  Not knowing if I would get clearance for Friday or Saturday, or get clearance at all, I couldn't make definite plans.  And in a case of unbelievable coincidences, I missed my 10 year reunion, because of, well, a Bon Jovi concert.  Anyway, my plan was that if I got clearance for the Friday show, or didn't get clearance at all, I would head back to the homestead Saturday morning for the reunion on Saturday night, then head back to the Windy City on Saturday.  As it turned out, I didn't get clearance at all, so could have gone, but something else got in the way.

In addition to this web site, I also do some business consulting, and one of the companies I do work for was having problems with this GPS unit they recently purchased.  They wanted to use it to find manholes for a construction job they had, and got the manhole coordinate files from the General Contractor.  I got it installed, but something wasn't right.  When I installed it at their office, I knew that the manholes were anywhere from 30 to 40 miles away from their office, but the GPS unit kept saying the manholes were about 500 miles north.  That put them in Canada.  The G.C. files also contained a "coordinate system" file, saying the coordinates were in something called a "Stateplane Illinois East 1201" system, yet every time I entered that into the GPS unit, I kept getting the same thing, manholes 500 miles away.  Not being a mapping dude, I tried to do some investigating on the internet, but no matter what I tried, the result was the same.  Then one of the computer dudes at the GC said they had problems getting the right distance out of their office, but when they were actually in the near vicinity of the manholes, it worked fine.  Well, the company was really jumping to get this thing to work right, so I agreed to go up to northern Illinois on the Saturday of the reunion, pretty much cementing my missing the reunion.  The thing is, in my gut, I knew it wouldn't make a difference.  I figured something was wrong with either the coordinate file or the coordinate system they said it was, but I went up to the north shore of Illinois to do some testing anyway.  Sure enough, I get up to the North Shore and the manholes are now around 470 miles north of me.  Yup, according to the GPS, they are still up in Canada.

As things worked out, on Monday I got a hold of the engineers who supplied the original coordinate file, and low and behold, the coordinate system was in something called "UTM NAD83 ZONE 16," or something like that, and the coordinates were in meters, not feet, like the G.C. supplied file said they were.  I popped that into the GPS unit, and yup, everything was right with the world, or at least the manholes were right where they were supposed to be.

My problem, still to this day, is that at times I don't listen to myself.  Everything told me not to waste my time heading to northern Illinois last Saturday, it wouldn't make a difference, and it didn't.  No Bon Jovi clearance, the GPS unit still wouldn't work right, and in the end I could have gone to my reunion.  I will give the folks that organized the reunion credit, though, because they put it together even though my high school closed down, and they posted some pictures from the shindig, but I have to say, that for the most part, after checking out the photos, I'm having a hard time recognizing most of them.  Me, I look in the mirror and I don't look like I've aged a day after high school.  Well, alright, maybe a year or two.  The hair is the same, I've still got the svelte body I had back then, and figure I would have walked in the door with everyone saying something like "Dude, you look exactly the same as I remember you!  What's your secret?" to which I would reply back "Who are you?"  All I know is I hope Bon Jovi won't be in Chicago the same day as my 25th year reunion because that started the entire process of missing my reunions ten years ago.

That's it for this one!  I'm The Dude on the Right!!  L8R!!!

Posted by Rightdude at 6:54 PM | Comments (0)

November 5, 2005

The Big Dicker, Howard Stern

By: The Dude on the Right
Okay, the celebrating might have went  on a little longer than planned for the White Sox winning the World Series, especially since all I've gotten done publicly was a podcast with my take on the singing that went on during the series, but behind the scenes, you cannot imagine the things I've gotten done.  But enough of that, this blog is about what I'm calling "The Big Dicker."

I can hear you saying something like "Dude, what's 'The Big Dicker,' and how does it relate to Howard Stern?"  If you're a Howard fan and have visited his site anytime of late, I think you already know.  If you're in an area of the country that Howard Stern was never on your airwaves, you almost might be saying "Who's Howard?"  And if you're a Stern hater, you're probably saying something like "Fine, Howard's a big dick.  That's no surprise to me."  In any case, if you are 17 years or older and went to see an R-rated movie this weekend (as was my case), or maybe are under 17 and bought a ticket for "Chicken Little" and snuck into see "Jarhead," you may have gotten a little shock at one of the commercials shown on the screen before the start of the flick.

Without ruining the visual for you by my lame writing, you can go directly to the commercial with this link.  And even if my writing doesn't do it justice, I still urge you to check it out.  In any case, the commercial starts out with a simple starlit night.  Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op.30: Einleitung" is playing in the background, at least I believe that is the piece (you might recognize it better as the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey").  Then the stars begin to re-align, into something that resembles, well, I'm  naming it Peni Major, in other words, The Big Dicker.  As "Also Sprach Zarathustra" gets to its climactic moment (yes, the pun is intended), Peni Major begin to tremble a little and a shooting star bursts out from a place in the night sky that one would expect it to burst in relation to The Big Dicker.  And as the commercial is concluding, the wording is filled in at the bottom of the ad: "Coming in January.  Howard Stern.  Only on Sirius..." satellite radio that is.

Love him or hate him, know him or barely recognize the name, there's a pretty good chance you will start to see five words in tons of places, in print, on TV, and little did I figure, at a commercial at a gigaplex near me.  Those five words, in some combination, will be Howard, Stern, Sirius, satellite, and radio.  Yup, the advertising blitz is beginning as Howard Stern goes from the normal FM dial to the Sirius Satellite Radio system.  For some quick disclosure, even if I really don't need to, I'm a big Howard fan, based part of my last car purchase on the fact the Sirius was factory installed, and even own some Sirius stock.  But it's an important time for satellite radio, and Howard's switching sides is part of that importance.  My quick assessment goes like this:  Sure, both systems have commercial free music, music purists argue which is better, but I see the future of satellite radio's success will be based on content other than music.  Why?  That's where the additional money comes in, in terms of additional subscribers, signing on to hear someone they want to during the day, and maybe more importantly, the addition of advertising revenue, because it's only the music that is commercial free on satellite, and both companies own up to that fact.  The content has commercials, and commercial revenue is bumped up by the quantity of listeners, and you can be damn sure both satellite radio companies are aware of this.

Alright, enough sounding like I'm turning into a college business class or an investment blog, I just found it pretty funny to see Howard Stern's Sirius ad, on the big screen, before I got ready to see "Jarhead," which is a pretty good movie by the way, and my review is to come in the next couple of days.  In any case, be warned, you probably won't be able to get away from Howard Stern in the next month and a half, like it or not.

That's it for this one!  I'm The Dude on the Right!!  L8R!!!

Posted by Rightdude at 5:48 PM | Comments (0)


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