This past Sunday I we got a really weird call in the morning. It was 7:30am, and Jenn and I were still in bed. The phone was ringing, and I just handed it to Jenn. She handed back to me. On the phone, the man said he was Scott Roddy with WGLD radio. He said that they were running a contest called the Summer Days Challenge. He said that I could win the car of my choice, plus taxes for a year, if I completed the challenge. The challenge was to go to a house in downtown indy and be tickled for ten minutes. I wasn't fully awake yet, but I remembered that we were supposed to be greeters at church at 11, so I said I couldn't participate. He thanked me and hung up.

Tonight the local NBC affiliate, WTHR Channel 13, ran a story about a man who was caught running a hoax radio contest. He attempted to lure people to his home. The hoax asked the people participating to come to a house in downtown Indy and get naked. The prize varied from $50,000, $5,000, or a free car. He was caught when several folks called a local DJ to see if the contest was real. The man was soon found out. You can read the story from the link.

I think this guy called our house!!!! I'm kind of freaking out right now about it. I called the state police, and they said I would need to contact the Fishers P.D. to report it. They won't open until 8:30am, and it's not an emergency so I'm not going to tie up the 911 system. In the morning, I'll give them a call and report what happened. I'm really glad that I didn't fall for the scam. I just wish I had been more awake so I could remember more of the details.


I'm a technology enthusiast. I like gadgets, electronics, and just about anything "high tech". As such, I've been exposed to several models of computers over the years. A recent slashdot poll asks what the most reliable computer you've ever had was. For me, it would have to be my original Gateway P100. Surprising answer, I know. After all, Gateway is infamous for making machines built to fail. They don't have quite the noteriety of the embarassingly poor PackardBell machines that disgraced so many desktops.

Growing up, we had an Atari 1040 ST. My dad and I would sing along with it as it would boot up. You would think this machine was stamping out license plates for as much noise as it made booting up. We had another PC prior to the Atari (Trash 80? I can't remember), but the first one I remember using extensively was the Atari. I even made a science fair project out of it. The color display on it was pretty high end for the time, and we could play a couple of games on it. I'm not really sure what my dad used it for, but it was a fun toy in the house.

When the Atari finally expired, our next PC was an Macintosh IIsi. This is definitely the hardiest machine I've ever seen, as it still works to this day. I remember playing Warlords on that machine for hours at a time. This was the first machine I was able to access the web on as well. We had a 9600 baud modem. We had AOL as our service provider, but there were also a series of BBS numbers we could dial. This was when the web was still an unfriendly, pioneering place where Gofer was the tool of choice for finding information. And forget anything as cushy as Netscape or Internet Explorer. This old PC is currently at my grandmother's place, collecting some dust. I'm sure it would still power on and run though.

The first PC I actually purchased on my own wa a Gateway P100. This was Gateway's first offering that included the new Intel Pentium 100 MHz processor. It was a blazing fast machine at the time. A lot of folks have had trouble with Gateway, but I must have received the one good one. This is the PC that got me through college, and I seriously abused it. It travelled with me back and forth to school in what could only be called "loose" packaging (aka, all of my clothes in a pile around it). It was ripped apart, put back together, tinkered with, and developed on. The old Intel chip has been replaced with an Evergreen AMD K6-II 400MHz upgrade chip. It has a bastardized assortment of RAM to total 96MB. It's run a variety of operating systems, both open and proprietary. Yet it lives on, currently tasked at running the arcade cabinet in my basement.

I got kind of cocky after my first year at school. I had a bit more knowledge on the major components of a PC. I had heard several of the folks in my dorm talk about building their own home-brew computers. I thought, no sweat! I can do this. I somehow talked my dad into letting me purchase all of the components and put it together. I sold him on the fact that I could build it for half the price he would pay buying one. It was a AMD K6 based machine. Unfortunately, I never really understood the intricacies of setting the voltage switches on the motherboard to match the processor. The machine worked well for a while, but I kept getting calls from my dad about strange noises coming from the machine. I assumed it was just the hard drive read head moving around as it swapped out memory pages. This wasn't the right diagnosis, and eventually all of the smoke was let out. I tried to do a frankenstein job on it later, but there was no reviving this boat anchor.

In college, I used Sun SPARCstation 5s. These were pretty much a staple for the labs in college. I got really familiar with these over my four years. They all seemed pretty bulletproof, but I never really did anything to stress it out. Still, surviving the abuse that only college students can apply is a pretty good testament to their reliability.

Since working at Flexware, I've used several Dell Inspiron laptops. The graphics are nice, but these are not great machines. Each has arrived with some form of paralysis: unable to access DVD-ROM, bad RAM, dead pixels on the screen, useless Wi-Fi card, etc. Dell is good about getting replacements in, but I'd rather have a machine that works out of the box.

Due to our issues with the Dells, we ordered a set of Toshiba Satellite laptops in bulk once. Big mistake. The machine shuts down when the internal temperature gets too hot. We could reliably cause shutdown by installing Oracle 9i client. It would get to 80% and take a nap. We'll never make that mistake again.

The latest machine I've used is a Fujitsu Lifebook, a laptop I received for my MBA program. I've been pleasantly surprised by this one. It has a nice hard metal shell, and it's taken some abuse in home. After a drop, the laptop is bent, but it still works fine. As far as reliability goes, it's been a great machine. I accidentally cut the power cable in our recliner one night, but I was able to patch that up. It has received a lot of abuse, but it keeps on ticking.

Based on my past experience, I'm still not married to any particular brand of PC vendor. Even though I got great mileage out of the Gateway, I'm not sure I could count on it happening again. I'm too much of a video game enthusiast to use a Mac (not a slight on macs, they are great machines, but they tend to be last in line for the games I play). I'm not sure where I'll go for my next PC purchase. Fortunately, that's a long way down the road. The Dell PC we purchased is running great, and will stick with us for some time. We may consider getting a laptop when we have to give the Fujitsu back to the university. The next thing I'm thinking about is a new video card for the Dell so I can get the most out of Half-Life 2!

99 Bottles of Beer

After the baptism party, we were left with quite a bit of beer in the fridge. It seems that I grossly over-estimated the amount consumption that was going to take place. Of course, when you have a situation like this, there is only one solution.....

Two Movies

Jenn and I were able to take in a couple of movies tonight. We saw The Butterfly Effect with Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart, and Along Came Polly with Ben Stiller and Jennifer Anniston (the other Ben & Jen).

We watched Along Came Polly first. It was about what I expected out of a Ben Stiller movie. He plays risk assessor for an insurance company. He thinks he has his entire life planned out, when his wife cheats on him on the first day of their honeymoon. From there, his world of order, planning, and minimal risk is turned upside down by a romance with Polly, a wild girl who can't make a commitment to anything. As with any other Stiller movie, various embarassing things happen to Stiller throughout the film. There's the staple bathroom accident scene, the side-kick pet jokes, and the usual hijinks. It follows the same successful format from There's Something About Mary. Although the movie doesn't stretch any boundaries, and it didn't leave us in stitches, it was cute, clean, and entertaining. Not something worth spending $20 to see in the theater, but good enough for quiet night at home.

The Butterfly Effect was a totally different story. I really liked it, and I think Jenn did too. I'm not a big fan of Ashton Kutcher, but I would definitely sit through this one again. The movie follows a troubled set of kids growing up poor. Evan (Ashton Kutcher) is living with his single mother and his father, who he hardly knows, is locked away in a mental institution. Evan is afflicted by blackouts. During high stress, he blacks out, and has no memory of what he does in the meantime. He and his friends are involved in some terrible events in their youth, from child molestation, animal cruelty, and worse. I was kind of uncomfortable watching the first hour of the movie. The things that were happening to these kids were frightening, but possibly more so because it all seemed like it just might happen to some kids.

Evan manages to make it out of his small town to college. He excels in his psychology classes, and is consumed with figuring out how memory works. He reasons that, if he can figure out how a worm's memory works, maybe he can figure out why he blacked out as a kid. He discovers that, if he re-reads his journals that he kept as a kid, he can flashback to any point in time in his memory and live through it again. This is where the plot of the movie kicks in, as Evan realizes that he can actually change the events of the past be revisiting these memories. The rest of the movie follows as Evan tries to fix all of the horrible things that happened to him and his friends in the past by reliving those memories.

I love thought provoking films, and this one is a real brain teaser. What if you could go back in time and change the past? Would you do it? What would you change? What would the outcome be. Sometimes, seemingly insignificant choices can lead to major changes in your life. The movies title comes from the idea that even the flapping of a butterfly's wings might some day lead to a hurricane. On paradox that is hard to get by is having a memory of your life prior to changing it. Let's say that you could go back in time, and change something that happened to you. Let's say event A happened to you, and you want to stop event A from happening. You take your happy trip back through time and prevent event A. Well, now you are in a quandary. You no longer have any memory of event A happening, so you have no reason to travel back in time to prevent it from happening. If you don't travel back in time, event A happens, and we are back where we started. Greater minds than I have pondered through the mysteries of time travel, temporal dissonance, and other such thought questions, and no one has come up with a definitive answer.

Anyway, where was I. Oh yeah, talking about these movies. I give a big thumbs up for Butterfly Effect. Along Came Polly gets a "feh". It wasn't hilarious or great, but it wasn't bad either. If you can't decide what to watch, it's a good solution for filling up the time.

Good Feeling

Driving home from class on Monday nights is a great feeling. I get out of class at 10pm, and it is a fifteen to twenty minute drive home. I usually open the sunroof, roll down the windows, and crank up the stereo. It is a really nice feeling, knowing that the hardest day I'm going to have all week is done. The night air is cool, and is relaxing as it swirls through the car. The roads are fairly empty at that time of night, so I have multiple lanes of free sailing all the way home. It feels like all the stress that has built up throughout the day just melts off on that drive home. When I get home, Corbin is usually asleep, and Jenn and I get to spend an hour together before she turns in for bed. Mondays are hard, but it is such a great feeling when they are done.

Getting Excited

One of my favorite video games of all time is Half-Life. I first played this game when I was in college. I was at the local supermarket, and I saw Half-Life, Game of the Year edition sitting on the bargain software rack. I'm not one to usually trust software from a grocery store, but I had read several articles that said Half-Life was THE first person shooter type game to play. So I picked it up and went home to play. I was blown away! My computer was barely able to play the game, as it required some heavy duty 3D graphics, but I lowered the resolution and played on.

What made Half-Life so unique was that, not only did it have fantastic graphics, but the story was really engaging. You play as Gordon Freeman, a scientist working in a government lab deep underground. You are performing an experiment on an unstable isotope when something terrible happens. There is a huge explosion, and the facility is plunged into chaos. Strange creatures are appearing out of nowhere, and you are forced to run for your life. You find that some of your fellow scientist have survived as well, and together you work to escape the facility and discover what is going on. As play continues, you learn that the "accident" might not have been an accident after all. Unfortunately, the government is bent on ensuring that you don't get a chance to tell that side of the story either.

I played this game for hours and hours and hours. When I started working at Flexware, I found that the rest of the guys here were huge fans of the game as well. We'd scarf down our lunches as fast as we could so we could get back to our machines and play for an hour. The laptop I had for work blew away our home computer, and I got to experience the game in its full resolution glory. We'd all hunker down and play a multiplayer frag-fest. It was a lot of fun.

As time went on, folks moved on to other projects, and our excitement for Half-Life waned. The game was originally released in October of 1998, and other games had come along in the past six years. Along with that, folks within the company were moving on to different locations, and we got more focused. Our current lunchtime game of choice is euchre. Still, I love Half-Life, and from time to time I'd pop the CD in and play through. It was a lot like watching one of your favorite movies, or re-reading a good book. It was still a lot of fun.

Lately, there has been a lot of hype surrounding the upcoming Half-Life 2. It was originally scheduled to be released in September of 2003, but the Valve network was hacked, and the source code was stolen. Repairs and recovery from this break-in have taken a lot of time, and now speculation is that the game will be released in September of this year. Valve won't commit to any date, but have said they hope for a summer release. I'm really looking forward to the release of the new game. I've got a top rate computer at home, and I'm thinking I just might put in a new graphics card so I can really enjoy all the game has to offer.

In the meantime to the release of HL2, Valve has introduced the Steam engine. Steam is a system for playing Half-Life and Half-Life mods on-line. The system tracks who is playing, what servers are available for multiplayer games, and provides updates and patches to the Half-Life games you own. When Half-Life 2 is released, you can use Steam to buy and download the game. I decided to give Steam a try, and installed it on my machine at home. After filling out the registration, it asked if I would like to configure any games I might already own. I entered the CD-KEY for my existing Half-Life game, and to my surprise, it qualified me for not only Half-Life, but the rest of the Half-Life mods as well. This includes Team Fortress Classic, Team Fortress 2, Opposing Force, Day of Defeat, Ricochet, and a couple of other half-life mods. I had always wanted to play Opposing Force, but I couldn't force myself to spend the $50 to buy the Half-Life collection. I already had the game, and I couldn't see buying it all over again just to get the new single player game. Now I have it for free!! I've been playing it at night, and it is just as good as the original. It seems that the enemy AI is a little tougher. Either that, or I'm out of practice!

So until HL2 comes out, I'm having a blast playing Opposing Force. If you are on the Steam network, feel free to look me up!

Busy Busy Busy

Has it really been over a week since I've written anything here? It's been a really busy couple of weeks. At work, I've been toiling away on a project to convert software for the OS/2 operating system to the Windows operating system. It really helps that Windows NT and on were based on the OS/2 code, so there are a lot of cases where I simply change the name of a function call, or switch the order of the operators and the software works fine. There are millions of lines of code in the project, though, and I've been keeping very busy getting them ported over. There are four of us in the office, working on the code as a team. We're hoping to be finished with the initial conversion in August so we can begin testing to verify that we got it right.

Outside of work, we're keeping pretty busy as well. After a week off, we had our third meeting for Statistics. We had a quiz that night, and I think I did pretty well. A number of the students in the class are unhappy with the instructor. He has a really thick accent, which can make him difficult to understand. Statistics is not an easy course either, so folks are frustrated to begin with. When the instructor gives an example, it often causes more confusion than it solves, and then he gets frustrated because we didn't understand his example. We had a sub on the second week, and my classmates seemed to like him a lot better. They were trying to convince him to take over! I've contacted the university to see if there is any way we can work out a resolution to the situation, but I'm not really sure what we can do.

Tuesday night volleyball is going well. We had a record turnout this week with 23 people in to play. That meant we were able to open up both sides of the gym and play on two courts. I'm hoping that we can keep the numbers up. It is always more fun when we have more people, and it is part of the Church's mission to bring in more folks.

I'm actually kind of glad that I have been so busy lately. It makes the weeks fly by, and it makes the weekends seem longer. I love spending the weekends with my family. This weekend will be a big weekend with Corbin's baptism coming up. It looks like we will have close to 50 folks dropping in to celebrate. I'm not sure where we are going to park everyone, but I'm excited that so many people are coming. This is gonna be fun!

In Memoriam : Jack Jones

I learned that my cousin Jack passed away this past week. Jack led an amazing life. He was the first son of my dad's sister Pat. He was born with a condition that left his heart and lungs too small for his body. He was unable to exert himself much without exhausting his body's oxygen supply. His organs just could not keep up. When he was eighteen, he had a heart and lung transplant. This was an amazing procedure that, if successful, would give Jack a new lease on life. Without the transplant, Jack would have had little chance of surviving. The 24-hour surgery was a success. Jack had to take anti-rejection medication religiously to ensure that his body would continue to accept the new organs. The operation gave him the opportunity to do some things that he previously couldn't dream of. Jack was able to take a hike up a mountain, ride a bike, and be about as active as a normal twenty-something.

Unfortunately, time caught up with Jack again. His health had been deteriorating over the past few months, and rather than spend his last moments wasting away in hospital, he decided to take one last trip. He had been living on the west coast near his parents. His older sister lived in Colorado, near where he was born. They made it as far as his sister's home before Jack passed away. From what I heard, it was a peaceful passing. I know that Jack is now in a better place. He was 31 years old, 13 years older than anyone would have suspected he might live.

Jack grew up in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington state. He and his family would often make trips back to Delphi to visit with the Jones clan. It helped, too, that several of the children attended Purdue University. I knew Jack only for a short while, but I have very fond memories of him. I remember that he had an easy going nature, a quick laugh, and a good spirit. He watched Travis and I a couple of times when we were younger, along with his sister Anna. I remember going on a trip to Union Station in Indianapolis with him. Jack was a terrific man, and I will cherish all of the memories that I have of him and of our time together.

Movie Review - K-19 : The Widowmaker

I must be on a movie watching spree. Last night, Jenn and I watched K-19 : The Widowmaker. Actually, I watched it, and Jenn slept through most of it. That isn't a comment on the movie, it was just a long day and Jenn passed out. Anyway, back to the movie review. I really didn't know anything about this movie. All I really knew was that it starred Liam Neeson and Harrison Ford trying their best to fake a Russian accent. I never heard anyone say anything about it either, so I really had no idea what to expect going in.

As I learned, the movie was based off of actual events that occurred back in 1961 with one of the soviet union's first nuclear attack submarines. It was at the height of the cold war nuclear arms race, and the soviets had developed a new class of nuclear attack sub to counter the american nuclear attack sub. The U.S. had already deployed subs that were capable of targeting Moscow with multiple nuclear warheads, and the USSR needed an answer to that threat. The K-19 was that answer. The movie details the events that surround the construction, testing, and deployment of that vessel. The sub was rushed through construction, and was not fully tested before leaving dry dock. Many of the crew felt that the ship was cursed. Harrison Ford plays the part of the ships captain, and runs the crew through some extraordinary drills in order to instill confidence in themselves and the boat. Following the successful test launch of a nuclear missile, the submarine is deployed to an attack zone that will target Washington D.C and New York. Just as they make way for their patrol waters, one of the coolant pumps for the onboard nuclear reactor power plant ruptures, and the men desperately try to repair the damage.

I felt this movie was very good. There are so many stories from the former soviet republic that have been kept silent for so long due to the cold war. This movie felt a lot like Apollo 13, in that a crew was faced with a sink or swim situation (no pun intended) where they were either going to repair the ship and live on, or drown trying. I would highly recommend this film, if not for the entertainment value, then for the different perspective it gives on the nuclear arms race.

Movie Review : Biker Boyz

I was flipping through the movies on our subscription list, looking for something to watch. I kind of chuckled when I saw BikerBoyz. I was pretty sure it was an awful, joke of a movie. I couldn't believe that Laurence Fishburne was in it. It seemed like such a bad flick to follow up his Matrix films with.

So, yes, I decided to watch it. As much as I wanted to hate this film, it really wasn't all that bad. I was all set to see a movie that was really mindless, and it was pretty mindless, just not to the degree I was expecting. In the movie, a young man is trying to break into the local motorcycle street racing scene. There are several clubs that get together to run illegal races. His father is the chief mechanic of the fastest bike on the streets, and the kid wants to join the group. Tragedy strikes when his father is killed by the very bike he services. The kid blames the rider (Fisherburne) for his death, and makes it his mission to take him down.

The movie wasn't great, but it wasn't horrible either. I'd say it was better than Underworld, which sucked worse than I expected. The nice thing about the subscription service on our cable TV is that I can watch these movies and it doesn't cost me anything but time. So if you are sitting around, trying to kill a couple of hours, and don't want to think to much, this might get you by.

Visual Studio Express

Free stuff is good! Microsoft is releasing a new variant of their Visual Studio development products. The "Express" line is a stripped down beta version of the upcoming Visual Studio 2005 products. I've been looking for a way to get a cheap copy of Visual Studio at home for a while, and this just fell in my lap. It is going to be a huge help in studying for my certification exams, and if I want to tinker around with something, I can!

Jade Mason