Saturday, April 26, 2008

And... we're back

Don't know what ya got 'til it's gone...

We were supposed to be hooked up last week. On the great Friday move-in, Cox was supposed to come by and get us back online. They came by, but things didn't quite go as planned; namely that the technician said I needed to have my computer running for some reason. It was still packed away neatly. He offered to come back later and I got the computer running - sans speakers - just in case he did come back.

He did finally call - but we were at dinner, fully figuring that by 7:30, he'd called it a day.

So we made due netless for the next seven days. I kept myself busy with learning, kicking ass and finally getting frustrated at Tiger Woods 08; I later kept myself busy with learning, kicking ass and, at times, getting frustrated with a used copy of NCAA Football 08. (I am proud to say that Penn State knocked off unbeaten and fourth-ranked Michigan; were such an event to happen in reality, I would find myself in hysterics for days afterward. Sadly, even in the best of years, Penn State has proven no match for the Wolverines.)

We rescheduled for today, having largely resolved the logistical issues of internet in a three-level townhouse: We'd go with a wireless network, preferably one that had wired jacks in the rear. That limited the cost to just a router and a PC adapter; a wireless XBox receiver runs around $78 at Amazon; at Best Buy, it was just under $100.

So, in the midst of much running around today, I came home with this beauty from Linksys and the accompanying PC adapter.

The installation proved more difficult than first thought - though I was mostly hanging out while the technician did the hard work. Trying to merge cable internet and satellite TV isn't easy, apparently. Something about satellite TV needing one cable per television.

But he worked diligently and completed the task - hopefully not too late for a Friday happy hour.

With our good friend Donna on her way over, there was little time to worry about computers and networking. She became our first official dinner guest at the new place, so long as burgers on the deck qualify as a dinner party.

I knew at some point, Lindsay and Donna would have myriad things to discuss. So I bowed out a bit after dinner to get this thing running.

Setting up the router was easy: Hook it up to the computer, let it rework the settings and call it good. The PC adapter was much more troublesome, due in part to my own silliness.

I needed an open slot in the rear of the computer. It took me at least 15 minutes to realize that the slot holder would not simply disengaged, no matter how much I bent the metal. I had to go inside the PC to take care of that.

It took me another 15 minutes to figure out how to open the damn thing. Whaddya know, there's a tab that you push in one direction and the side cover slips off. That was about the fourth thing I tried.

With the computer open, I tried to slap the card in. It seemed secure enough, so I buttoned it up again, hooked up that funky antenna thing (which proved difficult for one with pudgy fingers) and went to try it out.

Except for one problem: Windows didn't load. After the initial startup screens, I saw only a black screen - no login or anything. Nothing in the manuals described any sort of problem.

So I thought I'd get some help from the tech support at Linksys. I waited until Donna left and Linds was ready for bed; I dialed them up and got no help whatsoever.

I had a simple problem, or so I thought. Yet the CSR wanted to know my phone number, my name, my e-mail, what kind of router I had, when I bought it, how I connected to the internet before, who my ISP was - all of these ridiculous questions that had nothing to do with the problem.

I tried twice to explain that the problem was NOT that I couldn't get online. The problem was that my computer wasn't working at all after installing the adapter.

So here was his solution: Let's check the configuration. I'll need to take the router, PC adapter and hook them up to the internet source - in this case, a cable modem downstairs. I explained that would not be possible; the internet source and the computer were on two different levels, which was why we decided to go wireless in the first place.

"But to solve the problem, we must check the configuration," I was told.

"Well, I guess I'm outta luck then," I replied. I hung up.

Linksys, you really need to do a better job with the tech support. Simply having people read prompts from a computer is not the way to help your consumers. Not once did I feel like the person I was speaking to had any knowledge of the product, nor did he in any way try to diagnose what was going wrong - which, to me, is the essence of tech support. My problem had nothing to do with the configuration; I don't even work in IT and I know that.

I tried looking at the card again. I opened up the computer and the adapter wasn't so secure after all. I tried moving to a different open port, got it snapped in snugly - I was sure this time - and tried again. I got some of the indications I was expecting, but not all. Linksys' own wireless viewer left only one option - exit. The router was on and pumping out airwaves, even if they didn't connect to anything.

I uninstalled the software and tried to do it again. This time, everything came up rosy. I saw a Yahoo page on this computer that I hadn't seen in some time - eight days, actually. But still.

So I'm back. Finally.

This is really starting to feel like home...

Friday, April 11, 2008


Four games and the Nats' shiny new field is broken...

Then again, they've lost seven straight.

Notice a parallel?

Lipozene, you suck

Been a long time since I ranted. One during the fall - trickeration is still not a freaking word - but precious little lately in the always-fun "You Suck" series. Don't worry, I got ya tonight.

My wife and I watch South Park most nights it's on - particularly for the older episodes that were actually predictably funny.

When we watch, however, we cannot escape the ludicrous ads for a weight-loss pill called Lipozene. My real problem with the ad will come a bit later. All you need to know is it's sham. It's not popular on the Internets (read the rest of the results after the first one on the Google search); it's produced by a dubious company, the Obesity Research Institute (mentioned in this settlement release from the FTC); and it makes ridiculous claims that shouldn't stand up to anyone's smell test. No, a pill is not going to make me thinner all by itself, no matter how many layers of mascara you put on that grubby snout.

Problems with the product? Yeah.

Problems with the ads? Hell yeah.

It's an innocuous, throw-away line that doesn't even make one of the ludicrous claims:

"Body fat is unattractive..."

Don't tell me what I should think. I could write all I want that your company should, you know, run its business ethically and without the need for governmental intervention. My guess is that it won't sway you.

And who are you to make such a claim? There are gorgeous, plus-sized women all around us. Caroline Rhea. Queen Latifah. Jilly from North Philly. Holly Rowe. And a thousand other women whose names you don't know, around us every day, beautiful in their own way.

Suck it, Lipozene. Here's hoping the feds drop by soon for another chat...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I don't want to say I told you so, but...

Read this first if you haven't already.

It's now just after 12:30 a.m.

Whaddya know, I'm still on the computer, still typing.

I never would have seen this one coming...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Deja vu

Remember this?

It's going to happen again, supposedly. Like in 26 minutes.

We've been notified by our wonderful friends at Hillwood that Dominion Virginia has to cut the power tonight.

From their letter:

"In an effort to improve service reliability in your area, Dominion Va. Power Company will be performing maintenance in our neighborhood. In order to perform this work it will be necessary to interrupt your electric service for approximately 4 hours (bold replaces the underline in the original document).

[Commentary: Bullshit. Unplanned service interruption hasn't been a problem in some time; my guess is perhaps since last summer, when thunderstorms happen and power outages happen. I understand. Copy editing gripe: The name of the company isn't Dominion Va. It's Dominion Virginia.]

"Your electric service will be interrupted on Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 12am until 5am.

[Commentary: Hmmm, I thought they said it would four hours; midnight to 5 a.m. is five hours. But whatever. Copy editing gripe: adding a space after "12" and "5" and inserting periods for correctness - a.m. - isn't hard.]

"We regret any inconvenience you may be caused by this interruption in service and will make every effort to keep the duration of the outage to a minimum."

[Commentary: If they really regretted it, they wouldn't be doing it.]

So we're down to 15 minutes now. Or so I'm led to believe.

We had one instance some time ago where a contractor was forced to turn off the hot water rather early in the morning - like 8 a.m. Emergency repairs or some other crap.

Except that by 7:45, the water was cold as ice. I know. I was in the shower. My wife didn't even make it into the shower that day.

I called for an explanation.

"The repairmen arrived early and decided to start work," I was told. Though I don't really remember her being sorry for any sort of real inconvenience.

And then there's that time I linked above. Power was supposed to be cut. The time came, went and passed with nary a hitch.

So which will it be this time? I've got my flashlight at the ready, just in case they surprise us all and follow through as planned.

Only 10 more days of this.

I can't wait to get out.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Holy crap, we own a house!

It became official for us today. Apartment living will soon be just a memory.

It's weird to think that in two weeks - when the movers arrive - all of this stuff that's sitting around me will be carted off, arriving a few miles to the southwest. The desk, the computer, all these books, the trinkets just above the computer... well, maybe the old Sawtooth wine bottle will find itself in the recycling bin. It's only sitting here to remind me that I mischaracterized the varietal, a problem long since fixed.

We got lucky on a number of fronts.

The market is unbelievably soft, as I'm sure you've seen, read or know first-hand. The choices were almost overwhelming; our real estate agent sent us like 20 new listings every few days.

And when we did find the one we wanted, we got a damn good price on it. In a stronger market, we'd still be looking.

Our house - and it's still weird to write that in any instance but the middling 80s hit by Madness - was on the market for three months with nary a nibble. When we went to closing today, the listing agent said she had two inquiries about the house in recent days - stroke of luck No. 2.

Stroke of luck No. 3: We almost didn't visit the place. The original listing price was near the upper reaches of our limit, but we were out and about one Sunday and figured what the hell. So we went and had a great time with a fill-in for the listing agent. She said she'd been in real estate enough years that when people find the right house, it's immediately apparent.

We walked out of the house that day. I asked Linds, "So, what did you think?"

"I'd move in tomorrow," she said.

"Yeah... me too," I replied.

Lastly, and most importantly, we had a bunch of really wonderful people in our corner.

Katharine was our real estate agent. (Go give her your business, slackers!) She was our age, a joy to go house shopping with and just someone very fun to be around. Above all, she got it - increasingly I find that's about the best compliment I can give someone (though, sadly, I seem to use it rarely anymore). She's a Redskins fan and her favorite player is Santana Moss, but surely you can look past that.

Marianne was our lender. She too was awesome; she's been at her job for several decades and knows it cold. No question was made to feel silly. And, like Katharine, she's a joy to be around.

We both have letters of recommendation pending to them. Both will be glowing.

We hit the jackpot in a lot of areas. Any sort of snag along the way - or even dealing with people we didn't hit it off with - would have made the process less smooth and more of a challenge.

Because, really, it was a breeze. From discovery to offer to negotiation to agreement to settlement, it all seemed like it was just too easy.

Luck played some part in that, but a secondary one to the great people we had the pleasure of dealing with.

Thanks, guys.

(A final note: We have a gallery of photos from the place, one way too big to post here. If you haven't gotten the e-mail and would like it, shoot me an e-mail.)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

How could you let me forget the tally?

It occurred to me the other day that I never followed through on a promise. I never bothered to add up the numbers from the weekly college football report.

OK, so it's not timely in any possible way. But maybe you just have a hankering for thinking about college football - a sort of hot stove, if you will.

And if not, just play along anyway.

This was only taken from six weekends; therefore it represents about half of the games I actually watched this season. Bowl games didn't count.

So long as I saw one scrimmage play, that qualified as having "watched" a game.

On with it, already...

I saw every team in each of the following conferences at least once: ACC, Big 12, Big East and the SEC. (Remember, this is just based on the weekends I recorded. I know for a fact that I saw every team in the Pac 10; the one team that didn't show up on the list - Oregon State - I saw play against Washington. I remember the game because they carted UW's stud quarterback, Jake Locker, off in an ambulance. Thankfully, the injury turned out to be nothing serious.)

The team I saw the most - and this surprised me - was Penn State, a total of six times. That's unusual, since we're not in Penn State's market. Or a Big 10 market for that matter.

I saw the following teams five times: Florida, Iowa, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

Of all the I-AA teams, I saw Richmond the most: four times.

Some conferences were woefully lacking. In Conference USA's West Division, I saw only one game from half of the schools (Houston, Tulsa, UTEP) and none from the other half (Rice, SMU, Tulane).

(A quick aside: the last one hurts considerably. Back when good buddy Keith and I battled on NCAA Football on PS2, we built our respective schools into powerhouses. Keith turned Rutgers around - back when turning around Rutgers was laughable - and I did likewise with Tulane. We particularly enjoyed Lee Corso's pronunciation: TOO-lane!)

A similar situation occurred with the MAC West. I saw one game from half the teams (Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan) and none from the other half (Northern Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan).

But no conference fared worse than the Mountain West. Were it not for a Utah-TCU game I stumbled upon, I would have seen exactly zero contests from the entire conference. For heaven's sake, I saw more Idaho games than I saw MWC games!

A breakdown by conference:

ACC: Most frequent viewings: 4 (Clemson, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami-Fla., North Carolina, Virginia Tech); least frequent viewings: 1 (North Carolina State)

Big 10: Most frequent viewings: 6 (Penn State); least frequent viewings: 0 (Minnesota)

Big 12: Most frequent viewings: 4 (Colorado, Texas); least frequent viewings: 1 (Baylor, Oklahoma State)

Big East: Most frequent viewings: 5 (Rutgers); least frequent viewings: 1 (Louisville)

Conference USA: Most frequent viewings: 2 (East Carolina, Southern Miss); least frequent viewings: 0 (Memphis, Rice, SMU, Tulane)

MAC: Most frequent viewings: 4 (Miami-Ohio); least frequent viewings: 0 (Northern Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan)

Mountain West: Most frequent viewings: 1 (TCU, Utah); least frequent viewings: 0 (Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Wyoming)

Pac 10: Most frequent viewings: 4 (Cal, USC); least frequent viewings: 0 (Oregon State)

SEC: Most frequent viewings: 5 (Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt); least frequent viewings: 2 (Arkansas)

WAC: Most frequent viewings: 4 (Fresno State); least frequent viewings: 0 (Hawaii, New Mexico State)

Independents: Most frequent viewings: 4 (Notre Dame); least frequent viewings: 0 (Western Kentucky)


Now, next year we'll have to do it from the start of the season...