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January 30, 2005

Powerbook 5300c

As I mentioned in my ice storm entry, my Powerbook 520c died and I figured out the problem with the Powerbook 5300c adapter. I went to Radio Shack and bought a pack of butt connectors (despite what it sounds like they are plastic-coated metal tubes that you crimp on to wires) and was able to connect the wires to a standard power adapter tip that came with my Recoton Universal Car Adapter power supply. It is surprising that Apple would settle for a standard power adapter tip for one of their pieces of hardware. I got the adapter crimped on, tested the polarity twice, and hooked it up. The laptop, which probably hasn't started in five years or more, made some awful beeping noises, and started right up. And the clock was only a little over a year off, stating that it was 1/1/04.

It seems to work okay. I have everything from my old Mac backed up on zip disks and the zip drive seems to work fine with the 5300c. Now what I want to do is take all my archives of files, most of which are in ClarisWorks and put bring them over to ClarisWorks on the PC. Then I can convert them to Word or Excel or whatever. I never did get around to doing that with the 520.

The only thing missing from it is the 520 had an internal modem. The 5300 doesn't. Instead it has PC card slots, but I don't have a PC Card modem. I wonder if Jeb has an old one lying around?

January 29, 2005

Ice Storm

Yesterday it got very cold with the high in the 30's. Then last night it started raining and sleeting. By this morning there was a layer of ice on everything and it continued to rain and sleet off and on all day. My car is covered in icy armor with icicles hanging down off the bumper and over the license plate. Katie and Clio do no like the ice. It crunches under their feet and covers up the grass. They don't seem real sure about where they can go to the bathroom.

I didn't go anywhere today, just sat around the house and watched TV and played on the computer. I pulled out the Powerbook 5300 Jeb gave me and figured out why the power adapter isn't working: there's nothing wrong with the adapter itself but the tip appears to be broken. So I cut it off and I get voltage through the wires, but will now need a tip. Meanwhile my Powerbook 520 seems to have died completely. I'm not sure why it won't work anymore, but I think it is a fuse in the Powerbook itself (or the keyboard won't work and that's where the power button is).

I couldn't even walk up the slight hill of my driveway without going into the grass where I could get footing. The street is mostly ice, but people have been driving enough that there are two tire tracks that are clear. I haven't lost power, but I charged up all my batteries just in case. I've heard a couple of big branches snap and fall, but nothing major yet. Tomorrow it is supposed to go into the 40's so all of this should melt.

January 20, 2005

Dad's Mix

I saw a commercial for Time Life Romantic Classics. It's an 8-disc set of oldies (plus 2 discs free if you buy now) for $120. It's a long commercial and they have a lot of great old songs featured. Rather than spend that much money I got on their web site to see the complete list of songs, figuring I could buy what I liked off of iTunes and wind up getting maybe 30 songs or so.

I wound up spending a lot of time last weekend going through it, then going to www.allmusic.com, to iTunes, back to allmusic, and so on. I wrote down about 50 songs I thought would be pretty good to have. Then I pared that down to a shortlist of 25 or so and tried to buy them. iTunes doesn't have everything (it turns out their selection of Engelbert Humperdinck is pretty pathetic, actually) but they had a good bit of stuff plus it gets you thinking of other stuff you might want.

Some of the songs are from the 50's, but some are newer. One that I wound up getting is Love Will Keep Us Together by Captain and Tennille (allmusic says the Captain (whose real name is Daryl Dragon, why change that?) insists the group was never called *The* Captain and Tennille, though their variety show, which I remember watching during its one and only season, was called The Captain and Tennille Show). That's just a great fun song and it sounds fantastic on the Tivoli Model Two that I use as my computer speakers. It was written by Neil Sedaka who started selling records when he was still in high school and had continuous success pretty much until the Beatles showed up. Even after that Sedaka would release albums and within months a number of acts, including Captain and Tennille, would release versions of his songs with success.

Also I got Judy Collins' version of Send in the Clowns. It's a very pretty song and she does a great job with it, but after listening to it I got to thinking What is this about, anyway? It's part of a musical written by Stephen Sondheim called A Little Night Music. It's one of the last songs in the play and is about an actress who has made poor choices about which parts to take in plays.

I also got Danke Schoen sung by Wayne Newton when he was 21 years old (though he sounds even younger). That's the song that Ferris Bueller sings on the float in downtown Chicago (before singing Twist and Shout) and I love the song just for that.

Another song is Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin. This is the opening song in L.A. Story with Steve Martin but sung by someone else and in French. It's a great song, but listening to the words made me think it would be a great song for a funeral (a really fun one!). Bobby Darin also sang Mack the Knife and Splish Splash I Was Taking a Bath. That's a pretty good range, right there. He also let Wayne Newton have the song Danke Schoen. That makes me want to see the Kevin Spacey movie that's out about him .

I got Blue Velvet by Bobby Vinton too. It's been a while since I saw David Lynch's movie of the same name, but I always thought that was such a cool song (weird movie).

On the commercial they had The Girl from Ipanema with a girl singing (which is kind of odd if you think about it). I got on iTunes and their snippet of the song had a man singing in another language. So I decided it was the wrong version. But more research made me believe that it was the same version. Stan Getz, a jazz saxophonist, found the song on a trip to Brazil and wanted to make a recording of it with the writer, Joao Gilberto. They came back to New York to record it and someone decided that as great a song as it was, it still needed to be in English. But Joao didn't speak English, so he had his wife, Astrud, sing part of the song, even though Joao still did the first verse in Portugese. That was the first time she had ever been recorded (and I can't say I've heard much from her since). That album pretty much introduced the Bossa Nova to the United States and the song was a huge hit and still sounds great despite many lesser remakes since. But it was all just to give Stan Getz a chance to play saxophone.

I started putting a playlist of the songs together and added a couple of songs I already had like Bing Crosby singing Don't Fence Me In with the Andrews Sisters, At Last by Etta James (and in a couple of movies, including Pleasantville), and Dusty Springfield's Son of a Preacher Man (in Pulp Fiction). I thought it would be a great mix for Mom and Dad because that was the music they used to listen to way back when. But some of the songs just didn't fit. Most of the music was from the 50's and 60's (Bing from the 40's) and it didn't make much sense to have stuff from the late 60's and 70's (for Captain and Tennille). Plus Mom and Dad wouldn't have probably listened to Dusty Springfield anyway. So I decided not to put that on a CD which put me well below the 70 minutes I was allowed. I decided to augment it with some Frank Sinatra. I had bought I've Got You Under My Skin from an album he did in 1956 (he did a *lot* of albums, my All Music book which leaves out a lot of albums and even artists has six entries for Sinatra in 1961 alone and on three different labels), but added The Way You Look Tonight from Jeb's collection. I also felt like I should add some Louis Armstrong so I picked 3 songs from one of my favorite compilations he did.

At first I started out with a random list but I put Unforgettable by Nat King Cole first because I know Dad likes him. But you can't start an album with such a slow song. So Bobby Darin opens it up now. Then it was really hard to get Patsy Cline who is pretty much country to get along with Louis Armstrong, say. But I thought Bobby Vinton had that same kind of beat and those two go together pretty well somehow. I put Unforgettable towards the end, but wanted something lively to close on. I picked Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash, probably one of his best songs. All Music said that Rossalyn Cash helped write it and it wasn't too long after Johnny had been convicted of setting a forest fire.

It's an interesting mix, but also great listening. With a few exceptions the songs were recorded between 1955 and 1964. I avoided doo-wop sounding 50's music, but there are elements of country, jazz, and blues represented. It's hard to imagine that Day-O was recorded in 1957, but there it is. It's also music that is pretty much removed from anything like rock (Ray Charles is getting there, I guess) and I think that's one thing I really like about it. People like Frank Sinatra were still doing really well and selling huge numbers of records in 1964. And then, as luck would have it, The Beatles showed up and it was all over. Just like that.

Here's the list:

  1. Bobby Darin - Beyond the Sea (1960)
  2. Harry Connick, Jr. It Had to Be You (1989)
  3. Bobby Vinton - Blue Velvet (1963)
  4. Patsy Cline - I Fall to Pieces (1960)
  5. Andy Williams - Moon River (1962)
  6. Louis Armstrong - Honeysucke Rose (1955)
  7. Etta James - At Last (1961)
  8. Frank Sinatra - I've Got You Under My Skin (1956)
  9. Stan Getz - The Girl from Ipanema (1963)
  10. Louis Armstrong - Mack the Knife (1955)
  11. Harry Belafonte - Day-O (1957)
  12. Bing Crosby - Don't Fence Me In (1944)
  13. Patsy Cline - Walkin' After Midnight (1961)
  14. Wayne Newton - Danke Schoen (1963)
  15. Ray Charles (Night Time Is) The Right Time (1961)
  16. Johnny Mathis - Chances Are (1957)
  17. Louis Armstrong - Keeping Out of Mischief Now (1955)
  18. Nat King Cole - Unforgettable (1951)
  19. Frank Sinatra - Just the Way You Look Tonight (1964)
  20. Johnny Cash - Ring Of Fire (1964)

January 14, 2005

Tax Act

Since 2001 I've been using Tax Act software to do my taxes. They let you download free software that will do all of your forms and then charge you $7.95 to e-file, but you can always print everything out and mail in your forms at no charge. For the first two years I took advantage of the free software and paid for the e-file. The last couple of years I've sprung for the deluxe version for $12.95 that includes a free e-file. The free version of the software constantly bugs you about upgrading to the deluxe version. Also it doesn't pull your information from W-2's, 1098's, and 1099's from the previous year. So for $5 more I get a better product plus I feel like they deserve something for the efforts anyway, though why the IRS doesn't write their own software and give it away I have no idea.

It's nice because I can download the software and file my taxes without going to the store, without rebates, and without having books and CD's to keep up with afterward. They also have an online version that is a couple of dollars cheaper and still includes the e-file, but I would rather have the software on my computer (not that I've ever used it again; I print my forms to Adobe Acrobat files when I'm done). You can pay another $10 and get the state version, but I do the state forms by hand since they just use the federal adjusted income and deductions anyway and are very easy.

I just downloaded it tonight and did a rough draft of my taxes. Looks like I owe a little bit this year.

January 6, 2005

AW Stats

I've been checking in to Mac5's recently installed stats. Web statistics are always informative. I like that Eric is getting a lot of hits for not knowing how to spell "renege" in Euchre and people search for it the same way he spelled it.

Also I wondered about why the site was getting referrals from sites that were obviously junk ad sites (web4u). It seems a lot of people with blogs will show a list of the most recent referring websites on their page (I guess because they can). So these companies have web bots that do referrals so that they will in turn become listed as one of your referrers. They don't really expect people to click on the links as much as they hope that Google will see how many websites link to their website and increase their rankings.

However in a recent attempt to find out why Google has forsaken me lately, I found that Google has turned the tables by using the number of sites that link to yours *against you* in the rankings. Apparently Google has to make constant changes to their search algorithms to keep ahead of junk ad sites and in an effort to provide better search results. It's Spy vs. Spy all the time. They must have made a big change at the end of November when I noticed the drop off on my site. Now people are complaining because Google is sending fewer people to their websites and they aren't making as much money. So they complain that Google has no right to destroy their business like that. Amazing.

Georgia 316 Toll Proposal

Anytime I have a promotion hanging in the balance I like to do something that will guarantee I don't get it (and it worked). This year I decided to weigh in on the current "public-private initiative" for a private company to finance and build improvements to SR 316 to Athens. They would pay for this by charging tolls and it would cost something like $8 to drive from Atlanta to Athens using SR 316. If you want, you can still comment on this proposal (for two more weeks), but only if you agree with me. I wrote, not as a DOT employee, but a guy whose brother and family live in Athens. I sent it to the Commissioner of the DOT but found out later that it was supposed to go to paul.mullins@dot.state.ga.us who is the Chief Engineer (and my boss' boss' boss' boss). They sent me a nice form letter a few days later. I also cc'd the e-mail to my State Representative. I sent the e-mail on a Saturday (not at work) and within a few hours she had responded by e-mail and said she would bring it up when she met with the DOT board the following week. She also asked if I supported a higher gas tax and I replied "Of course!"

Dear Commissioner Linnenkohl,

I am writing as a tax-paying voter in Georgia to express my opposition to any private-public partnership that takes away roads that are currently free and replaces them with toll roads. In particular, I am opposed to the proposal to convert SR 316 into a toll road even though the current roadway was built using (a lot of) taxpayer money and is currently free today.

If a private group would like to add lanes and charge for those and there are no state funds available for such improvements, then I might feel differently (though if there is a pressing need for any route in Georgia I would have to seriously wonder why the DOT can not provide it). But it is just wrong to take away lanes so that a private group can start charging a toll to use a facility that the taxpayers already paid for.

Thank you for your consideration on this matter.

January 4, 2005

Memoparser (cont.)

It's been one year since I wrote Memoparser and I get an occasional hit on its web page and 187 have downloaded it at Palm Gear. I did a search for "memoparser" and found one guy's blog entry that said "Memoparser 1.0 sounds interesting". That's pretty good, I think. The guy that wrote Palm2iPod still hasn't come up with a new version that exports memos so I'm glad I wrote the program.

However, I have to admit that I don't generally use the notes on the iPod since I usually carry my Palm with me.

I still think the perfect MP3 player would be a Palm with a 20 GB hard drive. And it would need some kind of open source community to keep it constantly updated and configurable, unlike the iPod.

Unfortunately, I think Palms and other non-wireless (wireful? it still has no wires) PDA's are dinosaurs. I was at Best Buy and they had maybe 3' of shelf space for PDA's and accessories. I think cell phones are doing more and more but I don't really want a cell phone. I think eventually people will make fun of me for using an antiquated wireful Palm, like it's a slide rule or something.