On Urban Fantasy…

If anyone actually knows me IRL, I’m a definite bookaholic.  I love reading.  Always have.  From the first time I read “Seven Chinese Brothers” in my Granny’s biiig storybook when I was six or seven, to the horror and sci-fi books of adolescence, I’ve always read.  I haven’t completely catalogued my current collection, but I am up to 603 books.  That’s only the ones in print.  I have hundreds more in ebook format.  Heck, I even have a few comics stashed somewhere.

Thing is, I don’t stay with one genre.  I’ll go from high fantasy, to horror, to military sci-fi.  Currently, I’m on an Urban Fantasy kick.  Urban Fantasy, if you’re not aware, is a fairly recent genre that puts supernatural, magical, or mythical characters, powers, or situations into modern (not necessarily “urban”) settings.  A good example are the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.  Wizard in Chicago?

I’ve recently started reading several new (to me) authors.  Among them Kim Harrison, author of the “The Hollows” series.  I’ve also started reading Rachel Caine, author of the “Weather Wardens” and the new “Outcast” series.  Also Patricia Briggs, Devon Monk, and Stephenie Meyer.  Now, all of these authors have something in common that I’m curious about.  No, it’s not that they’re all women.  I have many authors of both the male and female persuasion that I love.  It’s close to that, though.  All of these authors have their main protagonist as women.  Usually strong, kick-ass women.  All of these series are worth reading.  They’re all well written stories, with excellent character development.  Looking on the bookshelves right now is almost like going to a Buffy the Vampire Slayer convention.

I’m just a little curious why the genre seems to be skewing that way.  Just a kind of offhand observation.  I really am into the “Alpha and Omega” series by Patricia Briggs, and I’m going to get her “Mercy Thompson” series as well, since the two are set in the same world.  Also, the new “Outcast” series by Rachel Caine is turning out to be pretty interesting.  I haven’t even finished the first book yet, and I’m already feeling good about the series.  Very emotionally charged so far.

Ok, I suppose I didn’t really have a point to this post, except for this:  Don’t read the Gormenghast trilogy unless you WANT to gouge your eyes out with a grimy spoon.

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Automotive Harassment Task Force

I loved George Carlin. The old Late-80’s to Mid-90’s Carlin. He had this skit where he’s talking about the “Automotive Harassment Squad”. “Here’s a woman pulling out of a bush”, and such. Hilarious stuff…until you actually meet them.

I swear, there actually IS an Automotive Harassment Task Force, who’s only job is to drive YOU crazy on the highway. I mean, what POSSIBLE reason could someone have to cut right in front of your bumper, slow down to ZERO mph, then turn off into a side street, when you have TWO BLOCKS of empty street behind you? Or sit completely through a green light, only to take off while it’s yellow, leaving you at a red light? The only rational reason I can think of is that they’re out to get me. That’s right, every driver out there…INCLUDING YOU…is out to stop me from getting to my destination.

Well, watch out, world! Cause I found an application to the AHTF. As soon as I’m admitted, it’ll be ME harassing YOU!

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Boss, or replacement?

I hate this part. As most of you know by now, the bank I work for has been bought. Now, if I was a teller or in customer service, I wouldn’t be worried. But I’m not. I’m in IT. I’m currently in limbo, in that I don’t now if I’m going to have a job or not. It really sucks not knowing one way or the other.

Add to the fact that I have three kids all under the age of five, and you start to see my worry.

I got to meet the Network Administrator of the company who will take over our bank’s IT.  Nice guy, knew his stuff.  Though he made me feel old.  He was in his twenties.  He went to the same university I did, but I was out in the world for several years before he got there.  He’s pretty knowledgeable, but he doesn’t have “the bug”.  I work on computers all day, then go home and want to play on them at night, too.  Not so for my new acquaintance.  Still, it’s always much better to work with someone who knows what they’re talking about, despite not knowing how long a Star Destroyer is.

Well, I will meet the CEO of the same company this week.  I think he’s the guy who’ll actually decide my fate.  Or at least be one of the main players.  Here’s hoping he likes me.

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Jury-Rigged USB host dongle

One of the new features of the Nokia N810 is it’s micro-USB OTG A/B connector.  If you’re not familiar with USB OTG, it stands for “On The Go”.  It’s a new USB standard which is supposed to do away with all of the proprietary mini-USB connectors out there.  Essentially, it’s a way for USB connectors to determine whether they are in host or slave mode by the type of connector that’s plugged in.  However, as with all new tech, there’s not a lot of penetration as of yet.  That means there are a few OTG B connectors (slave connectors), but very few A’s, which allow the n810 to function as a host.  So I built this little dongle myself.

I bought a USB OTG cable from Amazon.  This one right here, in fact:  USB micro-A cable.  However, as you can see, it has one problem…a male A connector.  Now, I’m not sure why this cable is being produced.  According to the OTG specs, the micro-A connector is for host-mode operation.  Since usually the male A connector is ALSO used for host-mode operation, the effort really seems futile.

Anyway, so I took a USB extension (a Male-A to Female-A cable), and cut the female end off, then spliced it onto the micro-A end of the OTG cable.  Voila!  Instant OTG host-mode goodness.  In fact, I’m writing this using a standard USB keyboard, with my n810.  Works awesomely…if I could stop misspelling things.

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RE: We Want A Dead Simple Web Tablet For $200. Help Us Build It.

Original Article: We Want A Dead Simple Web Tablet For $200. Help Us Build It.

Michael Arrington wants a web tablet for $200.  Looks like he wants a Nokia n800 or a n810.  The n800 is now LESS than $200, and though the n810 is $400, it adds built-in GPS, free turn-by-turn directions using Maemo Mapper, sunlight-readable screen, and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.  Why does he want to re-invent the wheel?

I’ve been using a n810 for a couple months now, and I absolutely LOVE it.  The ablility to tether to a bluetooth phone and use it for internet access is awesome.  It gives me cellular provider independence.  Change providers, change phones, but don’t have to change the Nokia Internet Tablet.  And the super-sharp screen is amazing.  The only problem I’ve had is finding someone to test the video calling with.  No one I know personally uses Skype or Gizmo.  So I’m stuck testing the VoIP audio alone.

Here is a picture of Gizmo5 running on my n810:

Gizmo5 on Nokia n810

I had to take it with my phone, then transfer it via bluetooth to the tablet, then email it to my desktop, because I get NO cell phone signal down here in the dungeon.  Still, it only took a few seconds to do.  I like Gizmo5 because it is a nice multi-protocol chat client, PLUS does the VoIP thing like Skype.  Video calls, callout to landlines, etc.

The tablet actually belongs to my employer.  I use it to VPN to the company network for administrative purposes.  I can remote desktop servers, workstations, unlock user accounts, etc.  The screen’s too small for complex stuff, but is fine for the majority of simple operations that I do on a nearly daily basis.  Throw in the fact that it’s an excellent ebook reader, email client, web surfer, and GPS, and you have the device that I have a hard time doing without.

It’s not without it’s flaws.  The user interface needs work.  It’s clunky in places.  The buttons in most programs (including the home screen and control panel) are too small for fingers.  And the built-in apps are spare to say the least.  Still, there’s a great developer community, and each iteration of the Nokia Internet Tablet (NIT) continues to improve.

So stop trying to re-invent an already incredible product.  Just go buy one!

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First mobile post

My first post using a mobile device.  Just a brag post.

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Macaroni & Cheese

The Blue Box of HappinessGrowing up, one of the staples around our house was Mac&Cheese. Not just any M&C, but the blue box kind. You know what I’m talking about. The kind that starts with “K”, and ends with “T”. Ok, ok, I’ll say it…Kraft. There, now they’ll probably sue me. But anyway, I ate so much of this beautiful blue box of goodness, my grandpa would say, “Boy, you’re going to turn into a big noodle one day.” And oddly enough, that didn’t bother me.

So I went off to college, and low-and-behold, I realized that the blue box would save my life! Cheap food = good. Between M&C and ramen, I made it through college not too undernourished. In fact, I still eat it quite often, and seem to have passed the blue box syndrome on to at least one of my boys.

As good as it is, though, it could be better. So, today, I’m going to share my “recipe” to make the blue box even better. It adds no more than a few cents to the price, too. I put that in because I’ve seen how some people leave the cheese powder out, and put Velveeta, or even stinky-foot-cheese (no accounting for taste in some people) in their M&C. To me, that’s going a little overboard. If you’re going to do something that fancy, just make the stuff from scratch. My way, though, is quick and easy.

First, you put some water onto boil as you normally would. I like to add a little Kosher or table salt to the water (about 1 TBL or so), but it’s not strictly necessary. When the water’s boiling good, open your box, and pour in the macaroni. I know it sounds stupid, but remember to pull the cheese pouch out first. You don’t know how many times in college I heard someone scream from another room because they dumped their cheese pouch into the pot of boiling water, and reached in to grab it. Of course, we’re talking about college guys, here, not the top of the brain game. Watch the macaroni to prevent boil-over and remember to stir it occasionally.

Anyway, while the macaroni is boiling get out a medium sized bowl and into it put 2 TBL butter or margarine, and one slice of American cheese. That’s right, a slice of cheese. I definitely prefer American, but you can substitute any favorite cheese, as long as it melts easy, and creamy. Sharp cheddar doesn’t work well for this. Too many lumps. Cut up the butter and cheese into pieces. This makes it warm up faster and melt easier. As an alternative, you can leave them out for about 20-30 minutes before you start cooking to get them up to room temperature, but I’m too impatient for that crap.

Once the macaroni is done (you’ll know by fishing a noodle out of the water and eating it), take the pot off the burner, put the pot’s lid on, and drain the macaroni as much as possible. DON’T BURN YOURSELF !!! If you do, don’t bother suing me, since we don’t have anything but Mac&Cheese. Once the water has dripped to nothing, pour the macaroni into the bowl over the butter and cheese.

Now, stir the macaroni, butter, and cheese until the butter and cheese are completely melted, and blended well.

Next, pour in about half a can of Carnation Evaporated Milk. I love this stuff for cooking. Since it’s in a can, it keeps forever. I don’t have to worry about it spoiling, spontaneously gaining sentience, and bolting away when I try to cook it. Umm, not that it’s ever happened before, of course. So anyway, use the small 5 oz. cans. Any evaporated milk will do, I just like Carnation. Since it’s basically concentrated milk, it makes the M&C richer and creamier.

Once you’ve poured about half the can in there, open up that wonderful cheesy happy powder pouch, and pour it into the bowl. Stir it in slowly, making sure to get the cheese distributed evenly. Depending on how much water you left in the macaroni, you may need to add a little more evaporated milk to get it just right. What’s ‘just right’, you say? Well, how should I know? What do you like? If you like lots of cheese sauce going all over the place, put the whole can in. I usually end up using about 3/4 of the can. You can refrigerate the rest, throw it out, drink it, throw it at neighborhood kids, or whatever.

Now for the best part. If you did it right, there should be a little bit of gooey cheese powder on the spoon. Lick it off. Oh my. Good, isn’t it?

There! A big, steaming bowl of cheesy goodness guaranteed to lighten your day. Eat it all. Don’t save any for anyone else. You made it, you eat it!

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Bacon Salt!

OK, I was listening to the Otaku Generation podcast this morning, and the first 15 minutes or so was devoted to Bacon Salt.  Now, I’ve heard these guys talk about Bacon Salt before, but this was the be-all-end-all Bacon Salt discussion.  They went on and on about the stuff. 

In short, Bacon Salt is bacon-flavored salt.  That’s right, you can make anything taste like bacon.  Actually, they made me quite hungry just talking about it.  The possibilities are nearly endless.  And after all, bacon DOES make anything taste better. Heh.  Imagine, bacon-flavored bacon.  It’s enough to make your blood pressure skyrocket just thinking about it.  It seems that the guys that make the stuff heard that the OG crew had talked about them in the show, and sent them a sampler pack.   They went crazy, apparently.  Still, it’s an interesting concept.  I might just order some, if wifey will let me.  🙂

 Don’t know why I had to post this, but dang-it, I was calling out “Bacon Salt!” all day.  It actually made my day a happier one.  Go figure.

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Happy 2008, everyone!

Wishing everyone a happy new year.  I hope 2008 is as good as 2007 was.

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!  Hope you were blessed this holiday season. 

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