Interesting Reading

A few articles I’ve come across in the past week, or so, that I thought I’d share:

  1. 5 Myths We Need to Can About Soda TaxesLike bears to honey or zombies to brains, politicians find something irresistible about soda taxes … From the Washington Post.
  2. On Duct Tape –  Response to an ongoing conversation about Coders at Work and an article from Joel Spolsky. This response from Tim Bray. … Via Tim’s blog.
  3. Ants vs. worms – Not a new video game, though that would be sweet! Since ants are pretty good at finding and combating enemies in the natural world, a team of researchers decided to try reproducing an ant-type model on computer networks. … From H-Online.
  4. Journalists have OpinionsSeriously. If anyone things that all journalists are non-biased, they have to be crazy. As a side note, good article by John Stossel about having an opinion. … Via Reason Online.
  5. When is a Tax not a Tax?When the President wants to claim its not! President Obama campaigned on a promise not to raise taxes on Americans who earn less than $250,000 per year, yet he has endorsed policies that look a lot like taxes on those people. … Via Donald Marron’s blog

If you’re interested in more articles that I’ve shared recently, check out the Recommended Reading tab at the top.

Learning to Play the Guitar

A few months ago, I decided that it was time to learn to play the guitar. Its something I’ve wanted to learn for a long time, but I’ve never taken the time to apply myself to it. To kick things off, I went over to Guitar Center and worked with a very helpful salesman, Steve, that really knew guitars.

Steve asked a number of questions about what I’d like to learn to play, which bands I really enjoy, what sort of music I listen to. To be honest, I wasn’t sure of most of the answers. Those that know me, would probably describe my music collection as eclectic. I run the gamut in my collection, from classical, to blues, to grunge, to classic rock to alternative.

I told Steve that I’d really like to learn to play some Carbon Leaf, John Mellencamp and maybe some Foo Fighters. After a few more questions and a bit of conversations, we decided that an acoustic would be the way to go.

Seal from inside the body
Seal from inside the body

We proceeded into the guitar room where about 80 guitars were hanging on the walls. It was a great room, with guitars in all price ranges, shapes and sizes. There were even a couple of special rooms – though I didn’t really venture in those. The price tags in there were all $800 plus. Way out of my range.

Steve took the time to play a number of the guitars, explaining why each sounded different. Different materials, strings, shapes, etc., would all produce a different sound. Steve gave me a chance to look around, and I tried strumming a few that I thought sounded pretty sweet. Once I had the choices narrowed down, Steve came back to play each one – man, they all sounded so much better when someone that knew how to play was doing so.

I finally decided on a Takamine GS330S.

The Takamine GS330S is their most affordable solid-top dreadnought acoustic. The GS330S features a solid cedar top, a departure from the familiar spruce, and delivers a distinctive tone all its own. If you want a high-quality acoustic that stands apart from the crowd, this is a great way to go. Other features include nato back & sides, and chrome tuners. The GS330S is made to Takamine’s strict specifications, and represents exceptionally good value.

While I was there, I picked up a case, an electric tuner and some picks. All in all, it was an easy, enjoyable process to pick out and purchase the guitar.

GS330S Bridge
GS330S Bridge

The next part of the process is learning to play the guitar. There’s a small music shop, C & G Music, in downtown Baldwinsville that is always advertising about guitar lessons. Seeing how they were local, I thought I’d give them a shot.

I’m glad that I called… They setup a lesson for me right away, with a very flexible schedule and reasonable rates. I met with Chris (the “C” of C&G) for the first time, about two months ago. First thing we did, was to talk again about the music I’d like to learn to play. At least I was prepared for it this time. We spent the first couple of lessons talking about the parts of the guitar, how to hold a pick, how to hold the guitar properly, that sort of thing.

In the past month, we’ve been working on barre chords, muting, rythyms, strumming patterns, and a number of different riffs. I spend about 30 minutes a night playing and practicing and while I’m not going to be performing in public any time soon, I’m definitely improving.

Fixing a Fridge

A couple years ago, I bought a very inexpensive wine cooling refrigerator by Haier (OW0912H6H). Turns out, it is a fairly simple device made by Oster. It will hold 12 bottles of wine and gives you the option to set the inside temperature you’d like. For the first couple of months, it worked like a charm, then for whatever reason, it stopped working.

Front view of a similar model
Front view of a similar model

I noticed one day that the digital gauge showed the ambient room temperature. I tried unplugging it, letting it rest – I would have rebooted it, but there wasn’t any way to do so. So it sat. No longer cooling, no longer keeping my wine just the way I like it.

The other day, I received a couple of bottles of wine for my birthday, nice enough that I wanted to make sure they would keep until I had a chance to enjoy them. This got me thinking about my non-working wine refrigerator again. I decided I’d do a search on the internet (yay interwebs!) to see if anyone else was having a similar problem.

Turns out, a number of people have had the same problem – the fans just stopped working and nothing would make them come back on.

I found a whole lot of people complaining about the product, and how it didn’t work, but not a lot of help. Finally, after a number of pages, thank you Google, I was able to find someone that solved the problem so many people were suffering with.

The root cause of the problem was pretty simple. The manufacturer used a very small fuse, 5 amp, when the design really required a 7 amp fuse. You wouldn’t think that two amps would make such a difference, but there you have it.

If you happen to have one of the fancy, cheap wine refrigerators that’s not working here’s how you can fix it. I’ve added some pictures, in case you’re not sure what’s going on.

Note: I am not an electrician. I’m just someone that likes to tinker. While I don’t think this is difficult to do, you’re really on your own here. These steps that I’ve followed worked for me, though your mileage may vary. Please proceed at your own risk.

You’ll need a few supplies:

  1. Soldering iron, with solder
  2. 7amp fuse (#270-1029)*
  3. Inline fuse holder (#270-1281)*

* Radio Shack part numbers. I already had a soldering iron, so the fuses and fuse holder cost me about $6.

Unplug the refrigerator. Seriously. Unplug it. Before you open the back, unplug it.

Open up the back of the refrigerator that you just unplugged. You’ll need to remove a number of small Phillip head screws. You can take the entire metal cover off, but you probably don’t have to. I removed the top set of screws, so that I could easily access the circuit board behind it.

Circuit Board w/o Fuse
Circuit Board w/o Fuse

There are three more screws holding in the white / cream colored circuit board mounting bracket. Remove those screws too, so that you can easily get to the circuit board. Unplug the power line that runs to the circuit board. You can leave the other wires, on the left side attached, if you’d like.

Find the four really small screws that hold the circuit board to the mounting bracket. You’ll need to get all of those out, as you’ll have to get to the back of the circuit board to remove the inline fuse.

I left the small wires on the left attached, so the circuit board was hanging from the back of the unit. I set it on a small box to keep it steady while I got everything else ready.

Find the U-shaped fuse in the upper left hand corner of the circuit board. I forgot to take a picture of this step, sorry about that. It’s pretty easy to find though. Look for the black heat shrink wrapped fuse. It’s soldered to the board in a U shape.

Fuse - already removed
Fuse - already removed

Next, you’ll need to figure out which posts need to be de-soldered. It is not as difficult as it sounds, really. On mine, there was an empty space next to one of the posts, so it was easy to find. Once you’ve identified the posts, use the hot soldering iron to re-heat the existing solder and pull out the fuse.

The new fuse holder will have a number of strands of wire under the protective sleeve. You’ll need to cut it down a bit, I took off about an inch and a half from each end. Then just peel back the casing to expose the wires. I exposed about 3/4 of an inch of the wires. Given that you’ll be putting the wires into a very small hole, you’ll need to prepare the fuse holder wires a bit.

I separated about a third of the wires and twisted them together to get a tight point. The other two thirds, I carefully wrapped around the base of the tightly wound strand. (I really should have taken a picture of this, to make it more clear.) Once you have that done, slide one part of the fuse holder wire into the one of the original holes on the circuit board. I bent the wires that were sticking through so they would stay in place.

Next, just use the hot soldering iron and solder to connect the wire to the board. This part is really that simple.

You’ll need to repeat the process with the other half of the fuse holder. Once that’s done, you will have an open fuse holder that is well connected to the circuit board.

Next step is to insert the 7 amp fuse into the holder and close it up. That’s pretty easy, in that you just have to push the ends together and twist until they lock.

Now just mount the circuit board back on the plastic holding frame, being careful not to touch the solder points, as that might still be a bit warm. Mount the board holder to the back of the refrigerator unit using the same three screws you removed earlier.

Make sure that you plug the power wire back into the circuit board and then close up the protective cover on the back. That’s it… It really was that simple.

Plug the refrigerator back into the wall, and you’re good to go. You should now have a functional front panel and you should hear the fans running.

I’ve included some pictures, to help explain the process some… Enjoy and good luck!

Are you ready for some SU football?

Syracuse University Logo
Syracuse University Logo

The 2009 season kicks off the Doug Marrone Era at Syracuse. I think everyone is really looking forward to this season and hoping for a good showing. There’s a lot of hope, and expectations, riding on Marrone already. If you’re wondering why, let’s take a look back…

I think we can all agree that the past few years, the Robinson Era, have been terrible. In case you’ve somehow managed to purge the past 4 seasons from your memory, let me remind you.

  • 2005: 1 – 10 – 0
  • 2006: 4 – 8 – 0
  • 2007: 2 – 10 – 0
  • 2008: 3 – 9 – 0
  • Total: 10 – 37 – 0

Ugh. That’s bad. The un-official motto for the football team under Robinson:

You can’t spell sucks without SU!

Keep in mind, we ran Paul Pasqualoni out of town for going 6 – 6 two years in a row and for being co-winners of the Big East. Granted, going six and six is not acceptable at SU. There was a time, when winning was expected and demanded. Though during the Robinson Era, no one seemed to remember that.

Otto, SU's Mascott
Otto, SU's Mascot

Instead, we were treated to poor play, and excuses from people that should know better. Robinson constantly made excuses for the poor play. He blamed himself, the coaching staff, the play calling, sunspots, the weather, the turf, and anything else he could find. Darrel Gross, the Athletic Director, made numerous speeches saying that he had faith in Robinson, that he deserved the opportunity to make a change.

After a dismal 2008 season, Robinson was finally sacked. A move that earned Gross a standing ovation, even if it was two years late.

So now, we’re on to bigger and better. At least we all hope so. The Saturday Football Crew I go to games with is excited about the prospects for this year. Though mostly, we’re interested in tailgating. That’s where the real fun has been for the past couple of years.

Here’s the home game schedule (full schedule):

  1. Saturday, September 5 vs. Minnesota
  2. Saturday, September 19 vs. Northwestern
  3. Saturday, September 26 vs. Maine
  4. Saturday, October 3 vs. South Florida
  5. Saturday, October10 vs. West Virginia
  6. Saturday, October24 vs. Akron
  7. Saturday, October31 vs. Cincinnati
  8. Saturday, November 21 vs. Rutgers

If you’re in the area, feel free to stop on by. You can bet that we’ll have a cold one waiting for you. If you prefer a fruity, chick drink, I’m sure we’ll have those too. We’ll have to try live-blogging from the tailgate parties this season, complete with pictures on Twitter!

Finally, SU Athletics is looking for an official blogger for the 2009 season. I wonder if this will get me noticed!

Government Run Health Care

What is this all About?

Many people believe that a government run health care system will provide medical care to millions of people. Unfortunately, that is not what this is all about. The bills that are being discussed are about providing health insurance. Insurance does not equal health care.

Medicare Drug Benefits
Research by the Heritage Foundation

I’m sure that you’ve heard of Medicare. Medicare is a federally run program that provides health insurance to a large number of people that wouldn’t otherwise have insurance. Medicare pays hospitals, doctors, etc., a portion of the costs for medical treatment for covered individuals. In most cases, the payment from the government is in no way related to costs associated with providing those services.

You will also hear people talking about the government run system ensuring that people who need emergency treatment will be able to get it. That’s partially true. Anyone that is need of emergency medical assistance will already receive treatment if they go to an emergency room. There are already laws on the books that require hospitals to provide treatment, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. So the new government run plan would have the same benefits, because the benefit already exists.

What Else do I Need to Know?

The U.S. spends over $2.4 trillion on health care (nearly 17% of GDP), and the government accounts for almost one-half of all health care spending. Premiums continue to rise for private insurance. Costs for health care continue to spiral out of control. A large percentage of employers only offer one type of insurance, usually with considerable costs for the employer and the employee.

The various plans and bills that are being circulated around the halls in Washington are not good. The choices you will no longer have, will be far worse then your health coverage today. Many employers will stop offering the health insurance you’re used to having if a government option was available.

You’ll still be paying for your insurance, which again, is not related to health care. You simply won’t have the options you had before. Add in the fact you will no longer be the primary decision maker regarding your health care, and it seems obvious that this is a Bad Idea(TM).

Understand that the cost projections coming from Congress and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) involve a lot of smoke, mirrors, tricks, and gimmicks. You can’t count on the group that wants to take your money to give you an accurate accounting of what it will cost.

What Other Options do we Have?

Lead the Way
Lead the Way

Instead of a new program that is even larger than Medicare, our Representatives should:

  • Create legislation to give families more control over their insurance and care.
  • Make health insurance portable, so you don’t lose your coverage when you change jobs.
  • Reform the tax system to provide the same tax benefits and incentives for all insurance purchasers – Employers and self employed should be able to deduct their costs.
  • Reduce / Reform the legal system to decrease malpractice and liability claims in all medical professions and industry.
  • Allow the customers of health care determine what they will spend for a procedure. Put the control back in the hands of the end consumer. Let the market work to drive competition and prices.

How can I be Heard?

The Tea Party Patriots have put together an impressive list of things you can do to be heard and get the word out. You can use this form to record your answers and the number of calls you made.

House Energy and Commerce Committee

Call the House Energy and Commerce Committee members [List (pdf)].  Let the committee members know how you feel about the bill and the prospect of government run health care. Tell them not to pass the government run health care bill out of committee.

According to Tea Party Patriots sources, all of the Republicans will be voting against the legislation already so you may choose to focus on the Democrats. However, you may wan to remember how a number of Republicans voted on Cap and Trade – let them know you’re out there too.

Blue Dog Democrats

Blue Dog CoalitionThe Democratic Blue Dog Coalition is a group of currently 52 moderate and conservative Democratic Party members of the United States House of Representatives. The Blue Dogs promote, among other things, fiscal conservatism and accountability. The Blue Dog Coalition is often involved in finding a compromise between liberal and conservative positions. Blue Dogs are an important swing vote on spending bills and as a result have gained influence in Congress out of proportion to their numbers.

You can find the Blue Dog Democrats on this list (pdf). Call each of them and let them know how you feel about the tremendous, irresponsible spending that will be required to fund government run health care.

Senate Finance Committee

Call the Senate Finance Committee [List (pdf)] tell them our economy cannot afford another massive government spending bill. We’ve spent enough already and we can not afford the taxes required to “pay” for this new spending bill.

Senators & Representatives

Call your Senators and your Representatives! Tell them as a constituent you are asking them to vote NO on the government take over of Health Care.

Resources

The Saros Cycle and a Solar Eclipse

Animated image of the solar eclipse of July 22, 2009
Animated image of the solar eclipse of July 22, 2009

The Saros cycle is an eclipse cycle with a period of about 18 years 11 days 8 hours that can be used to predict eclipses of the Sun and Moon.

The eclipse is part of series 136 in the Saros cycle, like the record setting Solar eclipse of July 11, 1991.

The exceptional duration is a result of the moon being near perigee, with the diameter of the moon 8% larger than the sun (magnitude 1.080). This is second in the series of three eclipses in a month. There was a lunar eclipse on July 7 and now a solar eclipse on July 22 and then a lunar eclipse on August 6.

This solar eclipse will last for up to 6 minutes and 39 seconds, in the maximum visibility area.

For more information, check out the Wikipedia page, Solar Eclipse of July 22, 2009.

If you’re interested in ways to view the event online, NASA has some great resources. You can also get some great information about the eclipse and how to watch it at Techdreams.

So its been twenty years …

cbeeI graduated from C.W. Baker High School in June of 1989. Last night, I gathered with a considerable number of my classmates for the first, of many, celebrations to commemorate that occasion.

While talking with so many people that I haven’t seen in a very long time, I got to wondering… What else has happened in the last twenty years.

Since we all graduated in 1989:

  • An earthquake strikes the San Francisco Bay area on Oct. 19 just before a World Series game.
  • Michael Milken pleads guilty to junk bond fraud-related charges.
  • The U.S. and its allies defeat Iraq in the Persian Gulf War I.
  • South Central Los Angeles is racked by riots after a jury acquits four white policemen in the beating of black motorist Rodney King.
  • Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton is elected president.
  • The Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas was raided and destroyed.
  • Whitewater, re-election, Monica, impeachment, hilarity, etc.
  • Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing.
  • The gloves did not fit – they did acquit.
  • Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta disrupted by a bombing.
  • Columbine
  • Gore vs. Bush vs. Hanging Chads
  • 9.11.2001
  • Enron
  • Persian Gulf War II
  • Sniper shootings in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
  • The space shuttle Columbia disaster.
  • Martha Stewart is convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
  • Martha Stewart redecorates her prison cell.
  • Indian Ocean tsunami
  • The devastation of the Gulf Coast
  • The iPod
  • Obama

I’m sure there are more… in fact, I’m certain that I’ve left out a number of crucial events. If you have any that you think should be in the list, please speak up in the comments.

On a personal note, I’d like to add:

  • Found a wonderful woman
  • Convinced that woman to marry me
  • Had a son
  • Moved back to New York
  • Had a son
  • Celebrated ten wonderful years of marriage

Thanks again to everyone at the reunion event last night. It really was great to see all of you. It was more than a little strange to see so many faces, and not be able to remember the names.

A Cracked Take on World of Warcraft

For the Horde
For the Horde

You know the story…

Hello. My name is Steve and I’m a World of Warcraft player. It’s been 68 days since my last log on. I’ve managed to cancel my accounts and I’m doing okay. I still read about it some times, but I’m getting better.

Sound familiar? If it does, you’ll enjoy this article on Cracked.com. The article tries to use Super Mario Brothers as a way to explain the game play and community in World of Warcraft.

Warcraft is a lot like sex in that you can’t really get anything done unless you have at least five people.

Make to check out the text on the images… the author is obviously a WoW player. The chat text is right on.

Go check it out: http://www.cracked.com/blog/understanding-the-world-of-warcraft-using-super-mario-brothers/

Going Old School

Old school typewriter
Old school typewriter

With all of the technology issues I’ve been fighting with lately, I’ve been thinking about going old school for my web site. Forget all of this fancy Web 2.0 crap, forget WordPress. Hell, forget about the interwebs all together.

I’m thinking that a paper based, aged news, product is the way to go. I think its time to get a fancy typewriter and start a weekly newsletter… Something like The Lone Gunman.

Think about the possibilities! I could get a duplicator and a paper folder and have a fancy folded newsletter.

Distribution would be a snap too. Just make a few hundred copies and drop them off at the library, coffee shops, bars, and what-not. What could be easier?

Once I hit it big, I could invest in a printing press, I’m sure there are a number of those available right now, with all the news organizations going out of business. I could probably even find some people to run the printing press for me.

Yeah… now we’re talkin’.

Just think about it. No more backups, web sites, tweets, links, comments, pings, track backs – sounds like simplicity to me!

Central New York Cactus

Close-up of a huge cactus that grows in my side yard.
Close-up of a huge cactus that grows in my side yard.

Thought I’d share a picture of the enormous cactus that grows along the side of the house. I would add full-size picture, but there are weeds growing in amongst all of those thorns… Tiny, hair like, thorns that stay in your skin for days. So that’s why it doesn’t get weeded. At least until the weeds are really tall and I can grab them without having to touch the prickly leaves.

Right now, there are a couple hundred blossoms, just like the ones in the picture. This cactus really is huge. I think it’s about 5 feet wide, all spread out. It amazes me that this thing can grow so well through the spring and summer and still live through the winters.