The Lorax

Each night I read books to the kids before they go to sleep. The Dr. Seuss books are my favorites to read. If you haven't read any Seuss in a while, you might enjoy heading to the library or bookstore and leafing through a copy of the Lorax. This tale of industry vs. the environment has a lesson for everyone, and it is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories.

Humor from the Presidential Candidates

These two clips are some nice comedy relief from our two presidential candidates.

Where have all the good games gone?

I'm a gamer.  I love to play video games.  For as long as I remember I've looked forward to browsing through the latest game offerings and wishing I could play everything.  Lately, though, I feel like I've been in a slump.  Where are all the great games?  Store shelves are stocked with variations on a theme:  Generic First-Person-Shooter 7, Generic 3D Platformer 9, Nostalgia Retro Mashup 4, SPORT!  I take a look through the list of games coming soon and I don't get the least bit excited.  I was considering a PS3, but after looking through the paltry list of titles worth playing, that's out.  An Xbox 360 has a better selection, but nothing incredibly interesting.  We have a Wii in the house, but the most excitement we've gotten out of that lately are LEGO games.  I'm not looking for a ultra-violent blood soaked adventure.  I'm not looking for an exercise / brain training game.  I'm looking for something fun and innovative.  Something that makes you smile when you play it.  Something that doesn't require an immense investment.  Where are you fun games?

The best game I've played recently is BioShock.  That was a very interesting variation on the FPS theme, but at its core was still just a FPS.  Games that fall into the category that I'm looking for are games like Katamari Damacy and Elite Beat Agents.  There are a couple of games like that out now (Loco Roco, Patapon) but two interesting games is not worth the price of admission ($200 for a PSP plus the cost of the game).  A quick look at upcoming games with a lot of hype doesn't really offer me anything.  Gears of War 2 is a console based FPS.  Strike one - I can't stand console based FPS games.  The control is vastly inferior to what you get on a PC.  Strike 2 - Nothing interesting in this game to make it stand out from, well, Doom really.  And that game is how old now?  15 years old!  Call of Duty : World at War.  Again, another FPS, and this the fourth in the COD series.  Even the developers are getting tired of this and have said this will be their last WWII based FPS.  How about the Wrath of the Lich King expansion to World of Warcraft?  As tempting as that sounds, I've been off the WarCrack for some time and don't really want to relapse.  Fall0ut 3 and Resident-Evil 5 are coming up.  Both are third person shooter adventures.  I know, third person, what a revolutionary take on the first person genre right?

So what games are coming out that don't involve first or third person shooting?  LittleBigPlanet is one.  I'll admit, this one is an interesting variation on the 3D platformer theme.  Unfortunately this media darling title is only available on the PS3, and is about the only really interesting title for the system.  With a PS3 system running around $400 and the game another $60 or so on top of that, it better be one helluva game.  Fable 2 is out for the Xbox 360.  I really enjoyed the first one, but again is it worth purchasing a whole new system to play one game?  Admittedly, the 360 has a pretty rich library of games, so it wouldn't be an entirely bad move.  However, $250 for a new system plus the cost of the game is pretty steep.  Guitar Hero might be fun, and I do like rhythm based games.  Unfortunately most of the content for Guitar Hero is 80's and 90's pop rock, which I was never a big fan of.  

The one ray of hope for interesting new games are the downloadable content on each system.  The WiiWare titles on the Wii have been unique games, like World of Goo, that don't conform to the typical releases from major vendors.  The Wii Virtual Console doesn't get me all that excited because the nostalgia of the old games wears off too fast.  The WiiWare titles, on the other hand, are new content.  The DS also seems to have the occassional divergent game, but these have so far been few and far between.  The Wii has been a lot of fun so far, but lately Nintendo has seemed to avoid releasing true games.  Between the Wii Fit, Wii Sports, and the myriad of franchise rehashes, there hasn't been much of interest to a jaded gamer looking for something new to play.  Exer-gaming is fun, and I'm glad that Nintendo is getting non-traditional gamers into the mix, but I want to play a fun video game.

Have I missed something?  Is there something out there right now that is new, different, and fun that I've just overlooked?  I'm looking for suggestions here, so if there is something you've discovered and enjoyed, drop me a line in the comments.

Drive Space Recovery

If you are like me, when you bought your computer it had an enormous amount of hard drive space that you thought you would never fill.  As time passed and you continued to use the machine, you saw that seemingly impossibly large drive accumulate more and more cruft until one day you get the dreaded "Insufficient Disk Space" message.  Then you make a mad scramble to see just what you can delete safely and not regret later.

The article at 

is a really useful guide for folks using the Vista operating system on how to get some of that missing drive space back.  This works for Windows XP users too, although to a somewhat lesser degree.  Right click on the drive you want to cleanup, then choose properties.  The General Tab will have a button for Disk Cleanup right next to the pie showing you how little space you have left.  If you make use of all of the options in this tool, you can get a suprising amount of drive space back.  Even better, check-out the advanced cleaning options and eliminate all but your last restore point.  Restore points consume a ridiculous amount of space on your drive.

After taking advantage of the advice from that article, I managed to recover 22.3GB of hard drive space.  That's a little more than 10% of the drive!  Even better, I didn't have to make any difficult decisions about backing up or deleting music, pictures, videos, documents, or projects that I had worked on over time.


I mentioned in an earlier post that I was getting irritated with GoogleTalk.  I decided to go back to my old friend GAIM to give it another try.  GAIM was the name of an open source instant messaging application that allowed you to communicate on a variety of messaging networks at once.  GAIM has since changed it's name to Pidgin.  The concept is still the same though.  If you find yourself running multiple instant messaging clients (such as GoogleTalk, AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ, etc.) this single client can eliminate a lot of clutter for you.  

Pidgin doesn't expose the full feature set of all of the IM clients.  Instead, it focuses on the messaging portion.  So while you can't play games, share a white board, voice chat, or use any of the other sophisticated features that each individual client might supply, you can write text back and forth.  And really, this is 99% of what I'm looking for out of an instant messenger.

Pidgin is not the easiest software to use.  It does attempt to simplify the process of setting up accounts and getting connected, but if you are behind a firewall you'll need to do some experimenting to get each client setup.  If this doesn't frighten you, Pidgin is a pretty useful app for condensing all of those IM clients into a single interface.  Pidgin isn't the only player in this space.  Another popular app is Trillian is also quite popular.  Just like Pidgin, it permits you to communicate to folks on your buddy list from a variety of IM networks.  Trillian has a free client, and pay-for Pro client as well.  I used Trillian a few years back, and it was a good tool.  I may give it another try to see how it compares with Pidgin.

For you typing social butterflies, Pidgin can be a pretty useful tool.


My Aunt referenced me to the site GENi.  GENi is a free genealogy website where you can create your family tree and invite your family to continue to fill in the details.  The interface is very easy to use, which is good for when the family historean and the family computer wiz are not the same person.  You can enter dates for any special events for your family, including births, deaths, weddings, and any other occassion.  You can upload photos and videos and tag them to members of your family.  

As far as privacy goes, GENi describes who can see your profile based on degrees of seperation.  Anyone who is fifth cousin or closer is one security level.  Beyond that is a second security level.  People you mark as friends are in a third security level, and then there is a fourth, final security level that applies to everyone.  In this way, you can keep your family tree private from the entire web world, and expose different levels of information based on how closely you are related.

GENi is particpatory, so the results of your family tree are going to vary based on how much of your family history you know, and how willing your other family members are to enter additional details.  GENi does not perform any research for you.  Our tree is pretty interesting because my grandmother, aunts, and uncles have already posted a number of photos and entered details for my ancestors that I never knew.  I've augmented the tree with additional people not already listed.  In doing so, whenever I attach an e-mail address to a new family member on the tree, that person is invited to add new details.

I spent entirely too many hours the first night browsing the tree and expanding on family members.  If you enjoy genealogy you will probably like this site. (

Discovering Fishers

One of my co-workers is finishing up his graduate project, and the results are looking good.  He has created a mapping plug-in for WordPress that allows you to associate a location on a Google Map with the blog post.  You can check it out here: Discovering Fishers.  The site is just a reference implementation for the mapping plug-in, but it is pretty interesting to see all of the green resources that are available in our area.

Donor Point

If you are a current blood donor or have considered donating blood, now there is an extra incentive.  The Indiana Blood Center is offering rewards for donations through the Donor Point program.  Each time you donate, you get 100 points, and you can use those points towards rewards on the Donor Point site.  If you set your appointment through the Donor Point site and keep it, you get an additional 100 points.  If you make a habit of donating every two months, those points can add up fast.

Another benefit is that the site will keep track of your cholesterol level from each donation.  The result is a nice graph of your cholesterol level over time.  It is cheaper than a trip to the doctor, and it gives me the feedback I need to know if my diet and exercise are having the positive effect that I was hoping for.

Even if the rewards and cholesterol information don't appeal to you, please consider donating blood.  If a blood mobile is at your work or in your neighborhood, it only takes 15 minutes to donate.  The Indiana Blood Center supplies over 550 units of blood every day to 60 hospitals throughout the state, and equivalent blood centers throughout the rest of the country are under similar demands.

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide

Being a geek, there is a certain canon of literature you are expected to have read. Hitchhiker's Guide is one of the books on that shelf. I saw the movie some time ago and really enjoyed it. It was wacky and fun, and didn't take itself seriously. I bought the collected works of the series so I could fully immerse myself, not just dabble. After finishing the collection reading straight through, I think this was a mistake.

It's not that the books aren't enjoyable, because they are. It's that the style is sledgehammering consistent throughout. The wackiness of the storyline just starts to wear. I think I would have enjoyed the collection much more if I had simply read one book, then carried on about my life for some time before trying the next. As it stands, I don't think I fully appreciated each component of the collection. The first book "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe" I enjoyed very much. Life, the Universe, and Everything kept me turning pages as well.

I think part of the problem is that there is simply no plot. The stories follow the life of one Arther Dent. A wholly unremarkable fellow who is forced through an incredibly remarkable life. Reading over 800 pages in succession without any form of plot to pull you along can get a bit tedious. Which is why I heartily recommend that if you want to truly enjoy this series, read one book, then go away and do something else for a while. Do read it, though, as Douglas Adams use of the English language and storytelling are very enjoyable. As to this edition of the book (The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide - Deluxe Edition), I can only recommend it in so much as it will be mistaken for a Bible when you are reading it on a plane, and people will treat you nicely for it.

Total Home Digital Video Recorder from AT&T U-Verse

The Total Home Digital Video Recorder (THDVR) is here! When we first signed-up for AT&T U-Verse service, the tech mentioned that two big features were scheduled to arrive this year. As I reported back in March, one of the few things we didn't care for about U-Verse service was the limitation of a single High Definition stream. We could watch or record one channel in HD, but the rest had to be standard definition (SD). The second issue was that each home was limited to a single DVR. With Comcast we had two DVRs. The tech said that both of our irritations would be addressed with future software rollouts planned for this year. Two months ago we noticed that AT&T had switched on the 2HD/2SD service, which allows us to watch two high definition streams and two standard definition streams simultaneously in the house. Last week I noticed that the non-DVR equipped sets had the option to view recorded programs. Yeah, the THDVR has arrived!

For folks who use DirectTV, this is nothing new, but I'll explain for those who don't quite know what I mean. In our house, we have one TV that is connected to a DVR, and three TVs that are connected to standard set top boxes (STB). The TV with the DVR can schedule recordings and play them back. The other TVs cannot. Now that the DVR and STBs have been upgraded we can schedule a recording from any TV in the house, and watch it from any TV in the house. So if I'm sitting in the living room and I see that Battlestar Galactica is going to be on later, I can schedule it to record. The next day, when I'm on the treadmill in the basement, I can watch that recording. Not only that, the kids could be in the family room watching a recorded episode of Dora, while my wife is in the living room watching the latest episode of Pushing Daisies in HD.

It's nice to see our service provider keeping a promise and rolling out new features without increasing our costs. This just affirms for us that switching from Comcast was the right decision.

Good Reads

Earlier this year when I was on a business trip, one of my colleagues and I got to talking about the books we read. Turns out, we have a lot of common interests. I have a wide range of interests, but the majority of what I read for fun are science fiction books. He also enjoyed science fiction books, and had recommendations on authors I might be interested in. Before I left, he referenced me to his Good Reads account, which lists all of the books he has read, as well as any thoughts he might have on them.

I played with the site ( for a bit and signed up for an account. It's a neat service. You can list all of the books you have read, are currently reading, or plan to read in the future. You can view what other people are reading, and their opinion on books they have read in the past. You can setup a friends list, which acts as a sort of MySpace style linking between accounts. It's a nice way to share your book reading interests and to get tips from friends.

I do have a couple of beefs with the site though. First, the friend invite feature is a bit confusing. I intended to send an invite to a handful of folks that the site found were already in my yahoo address book and were also on the site. One click too many led to me inviting everyone on my yahoo address book (182 addresses!) to the site. Not what I intended to do, and I apologize for the spam if you got one of those invites. In addition, getting general recommendations based on what you've read in the past is not very intuitive. I can view one of the books I've read and see a list of comments from other readers. I can then see what those other readers have read, but there is no aggregation to say something like "80% of people who rated this book the way you did also rated another book highly". So you either have to find someone else with very similar interests, or do a lot of digging on your own.

Overall, I do like the site, and from time to time as I remember I keep my account up to date. I've added a link to my link-roll on the right so you can get to it easily and see what I'm reading. I also like that I can make notes on books I would like to read in the future, as I often hear of a good recommendation, and then forget about it later. If you are a book reader, you might find this site useful.


I work for a company that makes security equipment: video surveillance cameras, video recording equipment, access control equipment, etc. Our business is to protect life and property for the folks that purchase our equipment. I am also a part owner in a business that offers global asset tracking. Both are successful businesses, especially during this era of fear and uncertainty in the world.

Over the summer I had a college intern working for me, and we had several good discussions on the issues surrounding surveillance and monitoring. My intern was of the opinion that businesses and property owners must have restrictions on how much monitoring they can do. My opinion is that if you own the property, you can do with it what you want. I hold this opinion because I believe in the free market system's ability to correct for bad behavior. As a homeowner, I believe I should have full authority to plant as many cameras, microphones, RFID tags, or anything else on my property that I want, and without asking permission from anyone else. I extend this same mentality to private businesses, who should have authority to install cameras, microphones, and track their assets however they like. If the business does this in a way that customers or employees don't like, they are free to go buy / work somewhere else. My intern was worried that really big companies or really wealthy people might be able to do really bad things, and while I agree that in the short term a corrupt, powerful business could do harmful things, in the long run the market will win out.

I think I really threw my intern for a loop when I said the same rules should not apply to our government. We afford our government special privileges which mean that our free market doesn't really have any influence on the government. Although we do vote for our representatives, we do not get to "buy" a new government when our existing government no longer suits us (I hear some snickering...cynics :-p ). Since we afford our government special privileges, we also need to have oversight. One specific example is in the case of wire taps. Before we allow our government to "install a microphone" aka wiretap a phone line, we require that the government submit a very good reason to a judge so that a warrant can be issued for the wiretap. This is a check and balance to prevent our government from wiretapping at will, which could be utilized as a mechanism to wrest control of the government away from the people of the country and to put that control in the hands of the few already in power.

Are these contradictory positions? I don't think so. As I said, we afford the government special privileges that are not afforded to private businesses and individuals. For that reason, the rules that apply to an individual or private business are not the same rules that apply to our government.

Super Chicken

I was talking to someone at work about cartoons we watched growing up. I brought up Super Chicken and he had never heard of it! Is this the first time you've heard this theme song?

Plucky Duck - Potty Years

Tiny Toons was one of my favorite cartoons growing up. I found this clip on YouTube and showed it to our kids, and now they are hooked on it too!

Some time ago I started hearing chatter about a service called I wasn't really clear on what it was...something to do with bookmarks. I've never really been in the habit of using bookmarks. Most of the sites I visit I just type the address in for, and everything else I Google. On a lark I visited the site and signed up for an account, and now I get it.

There are two things that make Delicious really useful. First, if you store your bookmarks on Delicious you can get to them from anywhere that has access to the Delicious website. This is a pretty nice feature when you move from PC to PC each day, or if you have ever upgraded PC's and lost your bookmarks. The second great feature is that you can choose to share your bookmarks. Now that may not sound all that fantastic at first, but here's the benefit. Let's say that you bookmarked something you are interested in, like this video of a Tonkinese cat playing fetch. When you visit your bookmarks on Delicious you see your bookmark to the video, as well as the count of the other folks who bookmarked the same link. You can then click on that number and get a list of the people with that link, and then click their account to see what other bookmarks they are sharing. In addition, you can supply tags for your links. So you might tag that bookmark with cats or tonkinese. You could then click on those tags to see what other bookmarks have been tagged with the same label. Of course, if there are any links you would prefer to keep private (such as to your bank or something else sensitive) you can mark those bookmarks as private. The bookmarks will show up for you when you are logged in, but will not appear in your shared list of bookmarks.

This makes bookmarking a lot more appealing for me. There are a lot of times at work that I'll be in the middle of a particularly gnarly problem, and I'll go googling around and finally find some obscure article on the web with a nicely written solution. In the past, I would use the page to solve my problem, then promptly forget it. Now I'm tempted to add it to my Delicious bookmarks and see who else bookmarked the page. If someone else bookmarked the page, they probably have the same interests as I do, so they may have some interesting links I would like to read. In addition, if I'm doing research on a particular subject, it makes sense to search the Delicious database of bookmarks to see what the most popular bookmarks are on my particular subject.

I've included a link to my Delicious bookmarks on the side bar. If you've got a Delicious account and don't mind sharing, post it in the comments.

The Nations of the World, by Yakko Warner

I used to have this completely memorized...and not afraid to admit that I still know most of it.

Google Talk

I'm a big fan of most of the apps that Google has put forth. When Google Talk was first introduced, I immediately tried to get as many people as I could to switch over. It was such an improvement over my existing IM tools (Yahoo and MSN). The biggest thing for me was that it didn't pollute the interface with ads, gadgets, tools, and other crap. It let you instant message, and that was it. There were no ads. The built-in voice chat was actually easy to use out of the box. It was great!

But that was almost four years ago. Google has since released three additional versions of the chat client, while not making any significant improvements to the original Google Talk desktop app. Your choices now are:

The Google Talk Desktop App
The Google Talk Desktop App, Labs Edition
The Google Talk Gadget (Web Version)
Google Talk in GMail

As well as customized versions for the iPhone and BlackBerry. To further confuse the issue, the various versions to do not have complementary features. The original desktop version does not have group chat, but does have voice chat. The new Labs version has group chat, but no voice chat. The GMail version permits communicating with your AOL IM contacts, but not in the original desktop App. The web gadget and the Labs addition appear identical to me so far, but I haven't dug that deeply. And they are all labeled "beta". So which am I supposed to use?

For a while I used Pidgin, which allowed me to run one application and connect to all of my instant messaging services. I stopped because it was not very reliable at staying connected. I haven't used it for over a year now, and several new releases have been issued. If you use a lot of different clients, I highly recommend it.

Getting back to my point, the Google Talk situation is a mess. Google really needs to have a sit down with the product manager for Google Talk and get his mind right. There are too many versions with too many variations of features.

Jade Mason