Goodbye Miss Ruby

Ruby: 1996 - 2010

Ruby has been in my family for the past 14 years of my life. Right before my freshman year in high school my family and I went looking for a dog. We ended up picking a 6-month old pointer mix from the SPCA. I remember exactly how Ruby was when we first had her in the visiting room in the SPCA with us, how she was wildly wagging her tail, sniffing at us and so excited to be meeting people. We couldn’t not take her home with us after that. Her excitement and friendly nature would define her for the rest of her life, and our first big task in training her would be to get her to stop jumping up on people to smell them, followed by not pulling on her leash in an effort to meet each new person or dog, the latter we never could stop her from doing.

Ruby’s was very similar to a dalmatian, being slightly smaller with her weight being around 45 lbs, with small brown freckled spots covering her white coat in addition to the two large spots she had on one side. Like many other hounds of her type she was very vocal, more likely to make high-pitched yelps and other “talking” sounds instead of barks, the first greeting into my home that visitors had for years, at least until Bailey got her to bark “properly.” Her favorite thing of all was to meet people and to have them pay attention to her. Her tail would soon become the bane of visitors as she would whip it back and forth whenever she was happy, to the detriment of any unlucky shins nearby. And training her to sit and stay was always a struggle when she would sit down and whip that tail of hers like she was cleaning the floor while she sat up so prim and proper, her head held up while her front paws would dance up and down alternating as she would get anxious for her treat. We never did get her to shake hands properly as frustrated plus “give paw” turns into, “flail one paw out wildly until the treat appears.” Her white hairs have also permeated every single piece of fabric in my home. The hairs are short and white and she always seemed to be shedding them, the shape of them almost needle-like, threading themselves into everything and becoming almost impossible to remove.

Ruby was always energetic and playful, and I spent many hours wrestling over ropes and working on that whole fetch concept with her. When it came to walks Ruby always wanted to go ahead of you, and would pull at her leash just a little bit to get where she wanted to be despite all attempts to get her to heel nice and ladylike. She was always good about staying in our yard, except when she wasn’t, and then she would adventure off wherever she pleased. Once she slipped out and when we found her she had walked half of the subdivision away to a nearby church, Bailey following her lead, the pair of them like two misbehaving kids sneaking out.

It seemed like Ruby was destined to stay young forever, strangers mistaking her for a puppy or 1 year old dog until she was past ten years old. But time slowly began to catch up with Ruby. It started with small things, not greeting me or anyone else coming in the house in favor of staying put, no longer wanting to go for walks, and certainly not pulling on the leash. Her arthritis become worse and worse, and in this last year I’ve spent much of that time lifting Ruby up onto high beds and wrapping her in blankets so she can be in her favorite places and stay in the same room as wherever her mama was, her favorite place to be.

Earlier this month we took her to the vet because she had lost a lot of weight. Were informed she had a mass on her spleen. The vet said the mass was most likely cancer but didn’t appear to be spreading, and they couldn’t confirm what it was without an ultrasound, and all that would do would tell us if she had an condition where the only treatment is surgery, something that you shouldn’t put a 14-year-old dog through. So we took her home and were given antibiotics, in case it wasn’t cancer, and were advised to give her a little extra pain medication if she needed it. We tried switching her to wet Beneful meals instead of the dry dog food she’d lived her life on and that seemed to convince her to eat more, and she ate up her new food with gusto, and put on 5 pounds in a few weeks, and with her added weight seemed to be doing better and getting along fine and comfortably.

But last night on Valentine’s Day she suddenly showed signs for the worst. She had extreme difficulty walking and going outside to use the bathroom. Instead of going on the couch or following her mama to bed she instead went to her little dog bed in our living room, and even then she stumbled to get over the little trim of the bed. The whole family ended up spending that night in the living room to be with and comfort Ruby. The next morning we thought maybe she was feeling better as she got up to go outside, but once she got out she once again had such difficulty walking, and looked like she was “crumpling” from the strain. I was about to go outside and carry her inside when she finally mustered up the will and made it back into the house. After some more time with her and getting her to eat a few fistfuls of liver treats and some small nibbles of food hand fed we took her to the vet. She’d always liked being in the waiting room of the vet, and she insisted on standing and smelling what she could while we were there, but once we got into the examination room she was totally exhausted and went to lay right down on the blankets that had been laid out there and didn’t even budge when the vet examined her. So after much discussion we decided it was best to put her to sleep, and so at 10:15AM eastern time today, Ruby passed away laying next to me on those same blankets while I pet her.

She was the first dog I’ve ever had. When we got her Clinton was running against Bob Dole to clinch his second term in office, Duke Nukem 3D had just come out, WordPress and Livejournal didn’t exist yet, and America Online hadn’t yet unveiled their $19.99/month unlimited access plan which ushered the majority of America onto the internet. It’s still hard to believe she’s gone. I’d almost do anything else other than be writing this now, but I don’t want to forget today, and immortalizing this on my blog is the best way I know how to make sure I remember how I feel right now. Goodbye Miss Ruby. I’ll miss you.

<More pictures will be added here later>

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Two Eye Slicings and a Mugging

Ello. My name's Horatio, Horatio Harpell, and I've been stolen by bloody wankers.

Monday turned out to be one of the busiest days in recent memory for me, a day that started out with great and exciting events and ended with a bit of a nasty blow to the rickety jury-rigged thing I call a life. It started out with me around noon going down to get LASIK surgery for my eyes. I’ve been horribly nearsighted for a very long time with -6.5 prescription. Having to spend a couple hundred dollars a year every year for new lenses and exams and sometimes contacts seemed like a horrible waste after my father had the procedure done and it worked great. So I spent my afternoon drinking a coke and a baby Valium, signing the last of forms, and finally getting wheeled under the most terrifying looking machine, and getting a little flap cut in my cornea followed by a laser flashing a few times, smelling burnt ozone and thinking, “So this is what the lemon feels like when it’s being zested,” all while trying to remain totally still and calm. I make it sound worse than it is. The whole procedure is almost entirely painless. The only pain I felt was when the suction cup with the microkeratome cut the flap in my eye, like a needle prick, and before you even realize you’ve felt anything it’s over. Honestly I’ve had cavities drilled out and filled which were more traumatic than the LASIK procedure, and this procedure is really only so stressful because it’s unfamiliar. But even though it’s not so bad, it still leaves you a bundle of nerves, because you are getting your eye cut and your lower brain functions are spending the whole procedure screaming “We’re getting cut, dammit! Abort! Abort!” at your higher brain functions. You know, kind of like getting a cavity drilled.

So after the surgery I was supposed to be spending the day resting, which I did for the most part, but not entirely as around dinner time I got a call from a friend telling me they had found my two of my D&D books and my gaming supplies in a pile beneath his car. As it turns out someone coveted the backpack where I keep my gaming supplies and on the 29th of January had broken out the driver’s side rear vent window to get into my car and steal my red swiss gear backpack and then they decided to open it up and dump the contents of the main compartment beneath my friend’s car, allowing both books to be destroyed by the snow and making off with my pencils, dry erase markers, calculator, rubber bands, miniature box and miniatures, dice, dice cup, and the custom Horatio Harpell miniature which I took a picture of on the right. So instead of getting to take a nap after dinner I ended up having to call the police and file a police report about the whole event. While we’d noticed the window was broken on the 30th we had thought the cold had somehow caused the window the to break. After covering up the window we all returned inside, as it was still snowing, and no one realized anything was missing from the car until my books turned up at a friend’s house, alerting us to the fact that my possessions were missing. All in all the missing items totaled around $300+ at retail, $250 of which the thief is probably going to throw away because it’s all gaming supplies, and he already trashed the PHB and Forgotten Realms Players Guide right after stealing the bags. So yeah, all that damage just because some neighborhood kid wanted a book bag. According to the police officer handling the case, if you have to put bags like that in your car, put them in the trunk where thieves can’t see them, as they’re not likely to break into a car if they don’t know if anything worth taking will be inside.

Goodbye NBC and WAVY-TV

Well tonight is Conan O’Brien’s last night on the airwaves as host of the Tonight Show. And so I’ve decided that tonight will be the last night I watch NBC, and by extension my local NBC affiliate, WAVY-TV 10. As of now I’ve deleted all episodes of Heroes I had planned to watch, and yesterday’s Community is the last of that show I’ll be seeing. It’s unfortunate I have to stop supporting a good, new show that deserves the ratings, but there you have it. I can’t sit by and help fun the network that’s destroying what I consider to be the greatest thing on modern television. Uncharacteristically of me I actually took the time to send a professional snail mail letter to my local NBC affiliate’s, WAVY-TV, president and manager, explaining why I would be switching off his station forever, a station that I’ve watched since 1993. Here’s a copy.

January 22, 2010

Doug Davis of WAVY-TV 10
300 Wavy St.
Portsmouth, VA 23704

Dear Doug:

I’ve been a viewer of your station ever since moving to the area in 1993. My household has enjoyed your station and your newscast for years and has even contributed to your “10 on your side” segment in the past, as well as enjoying programming provided over the air for years by your network. However by the time you read this letter we will have turned off your station forever. In light of NBC’s deplorable treatment of Conan O’Brien I’ve decided it’s best to turn off NBC entirely, and by extension your station. I know this isn’t actually your station’s fault, but I refuse to support a network that has ruined one of the few remaining good things on television, and by extension that means I cannot support anyone affiliated with NBC either. I will also be posting this letter online for public viewing and encouraging everyone I know to switch off NBC and your station as well. Goodbye WAVY, it was nice knowing you.

Sincerely,
Don Scherig

Included with the letter was the image you see attached to this post, printed on an index card, in case the letter wasn’t clear enough.

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I’m With Coco

It begs to be made into a Half-Life 2 Spray

Conan O’Brien has been a treat for me to watch for years now. Stretching all the way back to the mid-90’s I’ve really enjoyed watching him on TV. I mean, I like Jay Leno too, but once his monologue is over and he starts actually talking to people, well, that’s it, he turns into a dry boring corporate-man who only serves as a vehicle for the person across from him to sell whatever it was they want me, the viewer, to buy into this time. I always loved watching Conan’s show because he spent more time on comedy sketches and because I thought he was much more lively and personable with his guests than other hosts. Guests on Conan’s show seemed to always be more relaxed, more lively, more willing to joke and have fun, you know, like an real conversation. A definite improvement to the common “I’ll just be a sounding board for you to make plugs… uh-huh.. ok.. let’s show that clip,” that I’m used to seeing everywhere else.

I remember clearly to last year when it sunk in that the schedule at NBC’s late night was going to be changing. I remember feeling a lot like I do now. A whole lot of rumors, few updates, and no way to really know what’s going to happen. I remember really being worried when there was talk even back then that NBC was going to bump off Conan after he’d packed up Late Nite and had prepared to move when their was talk of Jay Leno wanting to keep the Tonight Show spot after he had decided to retire in 2004 and all the contracts to pass the torch had been signed. However in that case, after lots of waiting and no updates, things turned out ok, and I got to see Conan on in the Tonight Show spot, and it was great. The Tonight Show since then has kept a constant place in my DVR (That’s how I watch /all/ my shows) and I watched religiously for the first month or two, setting aside that time to watch it with others in the household. It was a little awkward at first, and there wasn’t as much time as their used to be for sketches, and I could tell that someone had wielded the censorship truncheon in their somewhere as well, but hey, all was good and it could only get better from there.

So now it’s 7 months later and the turmoil of 2007 has come back again like nothing ever happened, another “gotcha” moment for the universe loves so much, and it’s looking like Conan’s going to be leaving NBC. Jay Leno’s 10 o’clock spot isn’t doing so well. I don’t know, maybe his viewing crowd is just those who still think watching the 11 o’clock news is the best way to get information. Either way it looks like they’re set to reverse a decision they made back in 2004 to pass the torch to keep Conan, spurred by Leno’s desire to retire, and to keep him from taking offers better than his Late Nite gig unless Conan agrees to make The Tonight Show “The Tomorrow Show” and push poor Fallon (Who is awesome) even farther, something Conan has stated he’s dead set against.

Some people are using the chance to make good humor out of a bad situation. Me, I’m just starting to wonder what I find in television anyway. Seriously the good old boob tube seems determined to cancel everything other than “reality TV” shows and the Simpsons. Reality TV is something I absolutely hate on TV. We’re just two changes of the seasons before Survivor is 10 years old, meaning the reality TV “fad” will have dominated Network TV for 10 long soul-crushing creativity-destroying years. And Simpsons, while not a bad show, is something I stopped being interested in once I grew out of adolescence and stopped caring about watching things because they were “edgy” and they upset my parents. Not that Simpsons is bad, far from it, I’ve seen a few episodes, they’re decent, but they say you can’t go home again, and I can’t go back to watching a show memories of which are tied to me being in 4th grade and snarkily telling my best friend he’s full of shit about this “Game Genie” thing he just heard about. (Whoops)

It seems like the “big three” are just determined to grind anything that might be worth watching into the dust? Kings was riveting, that got canceled. Better of Ted is hilarious, and that’s probably going to be canceled. Community got extended, but that seems to be on the chopping block too, and Heroes seems to only stay on the air so NBC can pointing to something they air as entertainment. And I do love watching House… ok, so that one’s not going anywhere. (For now) So out of my list I’ve got a bunch of shaky items and a sure bet. Compare that to Cable TV where I’m riveted to shows like Burn Notice, White Collar, Eureka, Mythbusters, Man v. Food, and I just feel a little let down by what are supposed to be “The Big Three”. I think I’ve spent more time watching Web Series from the Angry Video Game Nerd and That Guy With The Glasses this past year than I have “The Big Three”. How sad is that?

Why should I have to scrimp and scrounge through the three networks with the most funding, many of whom own the cable networks showing “the good stuff” to find something that isn’t reality TV, a law and order clone, or an ER clone?

(A version of the I’m with Coco image formatted for use as a spray in Half-Life 2 and any source games may be found here. Just goto options and click the import spray button to import it for use in multiplayer games.)

Update: This site has a nice update of the entire debacle. It’s a bit vitriolic toward Jay Leno, but it is also pretty accurate with the events as they occurred.

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Western Digital Green Power: Why No One Else Uses “Idle 3”

Some of you may think I don’t have anything to blog about. Not so, quite the opposite. I have so much that I would like to blog about that I can’t decide what to write about. Where to start? Global Warming? Netbooks? Gaming? Portable Apps? Books? The list just doesn’t seem to shrink. So instead of all that great controversial stuff that you’re probably all waiting for, here’s a tech article about a problem with a device that I’ve had for months now and have only been able to fix. All because some shmuck at Western Digital decided that “Green Power” was an effing sweet slogan.

The year was 2008 (AKA Year Awesome compared to 2009 AKA Year Epic Fail) and it was February, and WD had made their RE2-GP drives. I decided to pick up a 1TB edition of the line. Because that was their newest 1TB drive, and who doesn’t just love being able to say they can store a Terabyte of data. Even though it’s not really a Terabyte because  hard drive makers sing themselves to sleep at night by singing 1 kb = 1000 bytes in stark contrast to the reality that 1kb = 1024 bytes, SI be damned. Anyway to top this off the GP in RE2-GP stands for “Green Power” which was WD’s way of saying the drives turn themselves off. A lot. They like to call this state “idle 3”. And that’s not such a bad idea. That means less wear on the drive, and all the bench marks said things worked well and it got good reviews.

Problem is it seems those benchmarks were treating this thing like any other drive that doesn’t go into idle3 if it’s left alone over 30 seconds. Once the drive starts up, the drive works great. But when the drive is in idle 3 it takes it a second for it to wake up. How long you ask? Long enough for Windows to decide your new drive has a bad block, that’s how long. Forums and product review pages alike were littered with people RMAing these drives because of bad blocks, meanwhile those people were being shouted down by others who didn’t have any problems. The difference between these groups was just how the drive was used. Those with problems were using the drives in a way that the drive would go into idle 3 mode and then give them the errors when they tried to access them.

So when WD finally released a firmware update that keeps their drive from going into idle 3 mode every two seconds do they make an announcement? No, they quietly release an update, bury it on their site, and then include a readme which says things like the following

Some utilities, OS’s, and applications, such as some implementations of Linux, for example, are not optimized for low power storage devices and can cause our drives to wake up at a higher rate than normal.

The number of systems using such applications and utilities is limited and customers can resolve this symptom by optimizing their systems to not wake up the drives unnecessarily every 10-30 seconds or so, thereby gaining substantial power savings and eliminating superfluous activity.

Yeah I guess if you consider the Event Viewer a limited use application then sure, I suppose the issue did affect limited users, as everyone else was too dumb to realize those program errors they were getting were caused by Windows saying “@#$% it” every time it had to wait for the drive to come out of idle 3 and just spat out an error instead of waiting. Needless to say once I installed this firmware all of those bad block errors that occurred only when the drive first attempted to perform a task after being idle, like say when booting up, all magically went away after installing this firmware.  So much for “Green Power”, huh? Guess next time WD wants to unveil some new drive technology they should make sure it works with any operating system on the planet before trying to sell it.

Also, because of this I had to dredge out one of my floppy disks and make a boot disk just to upgrade this firmware. That just annoys me. Those floppy disks are for super-secret emergencies, darnit!

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Time Extended!

Anyone who’s ever played outrun or any of Sega’s other similar racers in an arcade can probably hear that over-excited digitized voice in their head now at the mere mention of these words. Imagine my surprise when browsing for some soda in Wal-mart I came upon these two packages of Mountain Dew Throwback and Pepsi Throwback. For those of you who don’t know, the superb Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback are back again for a limited time. According to Pepsi the production run for these is going to be 8 weeks long and it started on December 28th. These two sodas are identical to the previous run, though the packaging is much more in theme, I’m really glad to see the old Pepsi logo, and the Mountain Dew has orange juice concentrate and more caffeine in it like regular Mountain Dew.

I really like soda. A lot. And I like soda made with real sugar even better. Well, at least I think I do. Who knows, if I took a blind taste test, maybe I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. I’m not about to discount the fact that this whole, “Made with real sugar thing” could be a gigantic placebo effect on my taste buds. But if that’s the case, placebo tastes mighty good. It just seems to me the sodas made with real sugar “pop” a bit more and have a “brighter” taste to them. So I’m happy to see these products back on shelves. How happy am I to see them? I normally drink cherry coke. Yeah, that’s right, this whole real sugar thing is enough to get me to drink Pepsi instead of coke. I sure hope Pepsi gets smart and stops teasing us all with these limited runs, because I really want to keep on enjoying this stuff. Of course, without it I’ll just switch back over to Jones Soda and their excellent Pure Cane Cola, which is also excellent, and they have many other great flavors of cane cola as well. Berry Lemonade being a real favorite.
If you like soda too, check out www.sodapopstop.com for Galco’s. They’re in California and they were featured on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, Soda. (I did say I loved Soda, right?) They’re a veritable Mecca of soda. I mean they have nigh unto everything there, and their site is like an encyclopedia of Soda in the United States and nearby countries. Check it out.

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SecuROM is the Devil

Contrary to what some of my readers may be thinking, the above is not an opinion, but actually a fact. A fact that bears repeating. There is in fact a hell, and SecuROM, the prince of lies, lords over all of its many honeycombed layers.

Ok, perhaps that is just a teeny tiny bit of exaggeration, but it’s not too far off the mark. You see all of the various bits and pieces of undocumented software that things like SecuROM and Starforce and things such as Gameguard have installed into my various computers have caused more problems and crashed more software and caused me to format and reinstall my machines more than anything else. Think about that. That’s more than viruses, adware, and spyware. That’s a lot of problems for a “legitimate” business.

I’m just so sick and tired of having my expensive high-priced machine being dicked around with by a company that is scamming game companies by promising protection against piracy, a promise that is as much of a boondoggle as timeshares (Which they don’t call timeshares anymore because we’ve all learned it’s a scam.) How many studies have to come out that show it’s not piracy but bootlegging, something the copy protection cannot stop, that are the cause of loss of sales?

Brad Wardell from Stardock put the whole issue together better than I will here, so I’m not going to go into deep analysis here. What I am going to do is relate one of my recent experiences with SecuROM.

Blood Bowl is a game I enjoy. A lot. I bought it direct from Cyanide because I wanted them to get the most money they could from my purchase. Blood Bowl, I found out after purchasing, uses SecuROM. Makes me wish I waited for Steam’s version, but who knows maybe that has some similar DRM  on it too. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

So I installed it on my PC, and shortly after my PC crashes and I have to format and reinstall. Blood Bowl only allows 3 activations. But I’m not too worried because, hey, SecuROM says that I didn’t lose my activation because it is the same PC. I mean, yeah SecuROM is the devil, but devils are lawful evil right? So according to SecuROM I have two activations left. So then I install Blood Bowl on my laptop. No problems, and this means I should have one activation left. So I go to install it on my netbook and BAM!,  failed to activate. What? I only have two copies of the game installed! Where’s did my third activation go?

Well if you haven’t guessed what the problem is I’ll illuminate it for you. SecuROM’s support FAQ is a pack of lies. My first install, the one before the format and reinstall, devoured my first activation and sent it to the farthest reaches of time and space, never to be seen from again despite what the FAQ says. The software will gleefully steal your activations whenever it feels like it and give nothing back in return. The FAQ topic is there to fool consumers into thinking SecuROM isn’t going to bend them over a table and screw them, because if they did they’d avoid anything with SecuROM on it like the plague it is.

But should this be any sort of surprise from a piece of software whose slogan is “Get MAXIMUM Control”. I mean great fishes and little gods. Get MAXIMUM control? What kind of a slogan is that? Only sick people want MAXIMUM control over other people. Also, if this were my slogan, I wouldn’t put it on the internet. I mean if you’re going to go through all the trouble to lie to people about your software you shouldn’t undo the whole damn thing by leaving your fascist slogan out there for everyone to see.

It just all reminds me why I don’t buy things from Sony, the owners of SecuROM, in general. I own one Sony product in out of all the many electronics I own. And I don’t even like that. Every time I’ve bought from Sony I’ve found that LG, Samsung, Panasonic, and Altec Lansing have made superior products for less. Oh, and the DRM, lock you in, you use only our stuff philosophy bleeds over into everything they make. (IE: Don’t buy their ebook reader ever) And in the realm of DRM, all Sony and SecuROM have manged to do is make me a lifetime customer of Stardock, and a lesser extent Valve. Both great companies on their own, but SecuROM and Starforce have made what should be standard business practices of decency and customer service and selling a product that isn’t design to self-destruct into a major virtue.

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