Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Lazy Wednesday evening: I have business cards for my hobby

Yesterday I figured out a cool, weird detail about a specific, troublesome, and boring work concern, and wrote a readable, informative, and short email to the department about it. Today, I got to soak up affirmation of my peers. A co-worker and I also finished a project that has been hounding us.

When I arrived at home, I found my free business cards from It's fairly common for me to meet up with cool people and mention the Houston Gamers, and the HG website's got what I perceive to be a good rate of converting site visitors into game day visitors. The cards are a welcome upgrade from my usual method of scrawling my email address and/or the website on a spare Daytimer page. I got 250 cards "for free," actually for about $5 shipping. I figure spending 2 cents per good impression is worth it.

The website is administrated by Ray Mulford, who is one of the core members of the group. The Houston Gamers don't charge a membership fee or dues, and Ray uses Funagain associate revenue to maintain the website.

Lazy Wednesday evening

Yesterday I figured out a cool trick, and wrote a readable, informative, and short email to the department about it. Today, I got to soak up affirmation of my A co-worker and I also finished a project that has been hounding us.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Staring Game

Tonight, Lee and I spent some time on the couch, playing with Cori, who is now 7 weeks old or so. Each of us independently realized the other was trying to stare into Cori's eyes.

Depending on their mood, most infants avoid this. Off the cuff, I'll guess that alpha apes don't like being stared at by baby apes, since survival manuals tell you not to stare directly at animals. Apparently, it's a challenge to their authority...

So Cori swung her gaze back and forth, trying not to look directly at us. If either of us blocked her escape in any given head position, she would swivel her head and try to avoid us that way.

We still caught her, of course. Then we laughed about it, and Lee said she had forgotten how Alex did that, until just now, and that I should write it somewhere.

Monday, November 21, 2005

My Christmas List: Stuff for Todd

One side of the family does Christmas wish lists, one side doesn't.

  • Donate Blood (just a card: Hey, Todd, I donated blood.)
  • Donation to Penny Arcade's "Child's Play" (gets games to sick kids in hospitals)

Video Games:
  • "Knights of the Old Republic"(Star Wars video game) - for PC
  • "Knights of the Old Republic II" (Star Wars video game) - for PC

Board Games:
  • Power Grid
  • Nobody But Us Chickens
  • Control Nut
  • Railroad Dice
  • Goa
  • Age of Steam
  • Acquire
  • St. Petersburg
  • Big Top
  • Arkham Horror
  • The Year Of Magical Thinking
  • The Time Traveler's Wife
  • The Poo Bomb
Magazine Subscriptions:
  • Make
  • McSweeney's
  • Atlantic Monthly
  • The New Yorker
Gift Certificates to:
  • Half Price Books
  • Game Stop

As always, Christmas is a holiday that celebrates the birth of a man who advised us to sell all we have and give the money to the poor. Give lovingly and responsibly.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The sucky side of Sears

This morning, I adjusted a picture order at Sears.

I did this by calling the studio, being put on hold so I could still hear all the store background noise, driving to the store and arriving at the counter after being on hold for 20 minutes , and saying, "Hi, you put me on hold 20 minutes ago and I'm still on hold!" Lee spent about 3 hours there yesterday with a trainee who screwed up her order, then screwed it up again when Lee called in to change it.

Technically, they were supposed to tell me to get bent at this point, because the incorrect pictures are already printed in the Sears central printing location in the depths of Erebus. There were 20 people, no exaggeration, inside the studio. I said the magic words, "Please fix it."

She gave me what I wanted, and that was it. So it only took 3 hours of Lee's time, and her correcting phone call, and my phone call and trip there to get the pictures we want.

ThenI went to Target and returned the toilet seat latches (didn't fit), which took 20 seconds and was no trouble. I also picked up whole-bean decaf coffee, which Cost Plus World Market has inexplicably stopped selling. I was impressed at the coffee selection at Target, which is better than my local Kroger signature. There were three generic coffees, including Folger's, and about 5 different name brand coffees. Lee believes the Starbucks coffee is over-roasted and burnt, so I eschewed that in favor of Archer Farms decaf.

As a side note, Cost Plus still carries ground decaf, but it's ground too coarsely, so it gets stale faster, and we still need to re-grind it. The worst of both worlds!

Mo kitties!

Lee was feeding Alex in the booster seat and I was holding Cori and reading up on a new boardgame called Ark, which features Frank Nessel art (of Frank's Zoo and Ursuppe fame).

Alexis wasn't eating her peas, so I said, "Hey, Alex, kitties!" and opened for her to see.

She made the hand sign for MORE and said, "Mo kitties!"

Every time a new kitten picture came up, she giggled. After she had eaten all the peas, Lee set her down and Alex ran over. "Up please!"

She sat on my lap and we looked at another 30 or so kittens before she got tired.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Words Alexis knows

It's supposed to drop down into the thirties tonight, which for Houston is frosty indeed. While I was in college (all mumble-mumble years), I saw it snow twice on the UH campus. On one of those two days, I saw signs all over the place, LOST 3-FOOT IGUANA. I hope he was bundled up in iguana footy-pajamas, or something.

Little Alex is in warm-footy pajamas and under a big blanket.

Even littler Cori is wearing socks, a onesie, a sleep sack, and a blanket.

I switched the thermostat from AC to HEAT, and set it to come on if it drops below 65. We'll see what happens.

After some bad news from an old friend, I need to smile about something. The funniest thing I know these days is toddler vocabulary.

At 18 months, Alexis now says these words/phrases:

  • one/two/three - for counting rocks with grandma on the patio. She doesn't really get the sequence very well
  • rock
  • five - as in gimme five.
  • tickle
  • foot
  • arm
  • toes - I have been telling Alex about toes since she was born, so this is probably her favorite word.
  • sock
  • shoes
  • head
  • hair
  • nose
  • eye
  • glasses
  • ear- She loves ears.
  • teeth
  • cheek
  • Mommy
  • Daddy
  • baby Cori - This comes out "bee-bee Coo-ee" and she looks happy when she says it.
  • baby- the adjective.
  • ball-
  • swing
  • shape - You know, from the classic Tupperware shape sorter.
  • book
  • doll-
  • kitty- She also knows they go meow-meow, but it comes out Muh-muh.
  • puppy- She knows they go woof-woof-woof.
  • Beep - the noise a button makes when pushed, including phone buttons, microwave buttons, remote control buttons, and belly buttons. Having your kid poke her own navel and announce "Bee!" is classic comedy. Having your kid poke YOUR navel as hard as she can and announce "Bee!" is classic irony.
  • up please/down please- Because, you know, we want a polite kid.
  • more - She also makes the hand sign for more.
  • peas-
  • carrot-
  • cracker
  • meat
  • cheese- she is all about cheese.
  • o's - the omnipresent Cheerios.
  • milk
  • medicine - also says "purple" for medicine.
  • poo poo/pee pee - Not really started formal potty training yet.
  • open/close - I haven't started her on Abierto/Cerrado, but rest assured, she WILL say it.
  • juice
  • water
  • teeth - we have been brushing her teeth, no paste yet.
  • help
  • hat- Much comedy here.
  • shirt
  • pants/shorts
  • on/off - I also taught her that shoes POP off, so she tries to take things off while announcing "pop pop pop pop".
  • Kuh-kuh - The Baby Einstein caterpillar. Also any DVD, since the Baby Einstein DVDs are in the player frequently. Also the stuffed Very Hungry Caterpillar.
  • Boppy - the delightful stuffed pillow.
  • car
  • light
Wow, what a kid. Can't wait to see what comes next.

The week so far

I started a productivity class at work on Monday. That should move back-burner projects forward. It meets for 6 weeks. How serious is it? The instructor took pictures of everyone's desks.

My dentist's office called to let me know my mouth guard has arrived. Not grinding my teeth into powder is going to be awesome! My jaw pops in the morning, and I have random head and jaw aches, all of which I am guessing will go away quickly.

We have a team event at Jillian's Wednesday night. If I remember correctly, that location has one or two classic videogames and some pinball machines. I don't indulge in coin-operated entertainment with my own cash; I'll spend other people's money, though.

I fixed my aunt and uncle's Internet Explorer problems via email diagnostics, thanks to Windows Annoyances. Internet Explorer was displaying really big fonts, but only on certain pages. Gigantic fonts, even. Adjusting the Accessibility settings got that under control. Yay me!

I also verified we still have a copy of the short story Lee and I read aloud every year at Christmas: William Browning Spencer's "A Child's Christmas In Florida". If you're interested, it appears in The Year's Best Science Fiction, 11th edition (the 1994 edition), which is available for under five dollars on Ebay, and in The Return of Count Electric And Other Stories, which is available for under three dollars at Random: Spencer is a Texan.

Also, the holiday season approaches. No comment.

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Spyaxe: How to remove Spyaxe malware

From some browsing, it seems that has had some trouble with their affiliates. One of them supposedly has set up this weird spyware change, to drive traffic to Spyaxe.

To their credit, they provided a cure (not to me, to some other guy who posted this in some forum somewhere. You can't find any of this on their website, which is remarkably poor customer service. It's at which is a zip file containing two tiny .exe files (!!) which, when unzipped and run, cured my problems instantly.

Instantly, minus the three hours of registry-rejiggering, virus-scanning, AdAware/Spybot Search And Destroy, et cetera.

Spyaxe is malware

Somehow*, I ended up with Spyaxe, an anti-spyware program that is actually spyware! It modified my homepage, it jacked up my system files, and added a pop-up warning in my System Tray with a quasi-Windows appearance.

It displays the following warning:

"Your computer is infected! Windows has detected spyware infection. It is recommended to use special antispyware tools to prevent data loss.

Windows will now download and install the most up-to-date antispyware for you.

Click here to protect your computer from spyware."

I tried to get a picture of this message with MWSnap, but no luck.

Clicking on the link sends me to

Spybot Search and Destroy didn't fix it. The "uninstaller" in the Spyaxe menu removed the program, sent me to their website, and the Spyaxe icons reappear on reboot.

I've spent three hours on this so far. What does this mean?

1. I'm as mad as three cats in a sack.
2. I have to think about what files aren't backed up (hint: most of them).
3. I'm going to pass on whatever I figure out.
4. I'm going to download Kanotix or Mepis, two Linux live-cds that support one-click installations. I have been trying to bump this project up. I don't want my main PC on Linux yet, but have at least one extra computer to spare for this project now.

(edited to remove doing anything to bring legal wrath down on SpyAxe. They're in New Zealand. Not worth it.)

* Drinking and computing don't mix.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Thursday Night Magic: Beaten Like A Rented Mule

Tim came over for our fairly-regular game of Magic. We played 4 games, of which I lost the first 3, and I won the last one. We also found a rules question that we shrugged off. Playing with reasonable, calm players is great.

Cori fell asleep early and thus we had an uneventful evening and night.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Saturday summary: quick trip to Houston Gamers meeting

Even if most of the hard-core gamers were in Dallas for the first annual convention, we still had a reasonable turnout.

When I got there sometime between 9 and 10 in the evening, there were 2 tables, one finishing some game on a map of Europe, the other finishing Settlers of Catan. One table shifted to Power Grid, and I talked with some of my buddies for a few minutes, before they bailed.

I still managed to get in a 2-player game of San Juan, which I won, and a 3-player game of San Juan, which I lost. I ended up as the last boardgamer in a host of Magic players deep into a tournament.

Some people show up with giant plastic tubs full of boardgames. Most times, I leave all my collection at home. This is for several reasons:

1. I'm lazy.
2. The hardcores have way cooler and rarer games than I do.
3. I also like most of the popular games and am not picky.
4. Sometimes, I don't want to have to explain rules. Sure, I'll teach games, but I don't have a well-thought-out plan of explanation for all the games in my collection.
5. Analysis-paralysis. What to pack, and what to leave?

My approach works great, overall. I love San Juan, and there was a copy at each table. When I walk in, I know I have to be flexible. It also encourages looking at other people's travel collections to see what they pack, and how they're arranging the boxes.

I do have several games I ought to bring to the next meeting, including Cheapass Games' Captain Treasure Boots and Secret Tijuana Deathmatch, which I haven't played, and Medici, one of my favorite auction games.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Robert Burns on Google Ads vs HOSTS file

Specifically, "oh would some power a giftie gie us/to see ourselves as others see us..."

I hung out with old college buddies on Wednesday night, and I had them look at my blog. "Hey, where the [bad word] are my [very bad word] ads?"

It develops that Ashlea and Wolf's good buddy Dave came over, possibly while intoxicated, and provided her with a HOSTS file that blocks Google ads. Because I'm not relying on ads to buy food for my babies, that's perfectly acceptable. The Manolo is probably weeping hysterically, though.

We also checked a few other blogs. The HOSTS file screws up Blogger calendar-view browsing! Over at my bud Larry's blog at, the little shaded areas over the dates on the calendar with posts are invisible, so there's no good way to navigate. If you blog, is your site navigable if/when images aren't working? Even if you're just blogging for family members, try to watch them read your site. What do they want? What are they doing? Are your readers suffering in ways invisible to you?

Obscure reference: How's Squidoo going to monetize lenses if their ads are invisible, thanks to Dave(s)? Answer: Amazon commisions still work, among other things. Ash, even if she's not seeing my ads, is an avid blog reader, and passes awesome links to her network. She also surfs on lots of computers, not all of which have been Dave-ized.

I also booted Ash's sweet laptop to Linux using a Knoppix CD. She uses a cooling fan underneath, and it was impressive how much the fan platform helped. Definitely something to consider if the promise of new laptops at work pans out. She says Dave is Redhat-certified, which has me curious. I'm vaguely looking for a non-obnoxious Linux mentor.

We also went to an awesome taqueria down on the main drag. I'm rarely in that area, and this is worth a separate trip. They have lowered the usability barrier to one of the sweet spots. Google Ads are iffy. Burritos down on Shepard are a sure thing.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Don't vote for Galvan

Recently, I got blogspam from some guy named Galvan. I read the Voters' Guide. He's as crazy as mittens for snakes. He keeps saying his website over and over in the voters guide, and says he is qualified to be a City Council member "...because I am Galvan." This argument, ultimately, fails:

He wants to legalize marijuana. Fine, many do.

He also wants to legalize prostitution.

Galvan tells us this will bring new tax revenues, and keeps repeating variants of his name. I must conclude one of two things:

1. Galvan doesn't know anything about economics or sociology.
2. This is all some sort of hoax to see how many votes he can get, since he's looney-tunes.

Go look at his website at No, really. Open a new Firefox tab and go look. I'll wait.

You did? I'm sorry. Now ask yourself: does this person deserve your votes? Or does Galvan deserve a beating? He can't even get his blogger page links to work right. He's got giant tiled graphics, multicolored scrolling text on black backgrounds, animated gifs, and so on.

How is going to his page convincing us to vote for him? It's not. What method does he propose of taxing prostitutes? I don't know, because his website doesn't tell me. Am I going to have to fill out a 1040-P, Form to Report Pimp-Related Earnings? Only hardcore libertarians, as a voting block, want prostitution legalized, and even then, they're against taxes. Who is Galvan's constituency? Not web designers, that's for sure.

I'm going to chalk this one up to Unskilled and Unaware of It, and move on.

If anyone wants to produce a credible 1040-P form, that'd be great.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Galvanized in the wrong direction

I am headed to work, but rest assured, Galvan doesn't have my vote. His website sucks, and he's crazy. More later.