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February 24, 2008

It's Run Forrest Run For The Win!

Yesterday was a busy one. I finally caught up with Karlos for some Halo 3 in the morning, and managed to get my Team Slayer ranking up to 12. He’s been putting some serious hours in lately, cranking his Team Slayer rank up to 22. We played for a couple of hours before I want to the local pub to help the Lions Club with a raffle draw. We didn’t have much luck; since the pub converted most of its lounge area into a restaurant, there’s little room for people to sit and relax, so midday custom has dropped drastically.

After that, Deena, Chooks and I went out for the grand final of our soccer league. Our team won 13 to 10, and we each got a trophy for it! I’m pretty sure it’s the first ever trophy I’ve earned for a sporting event! Ater that, it was straight out to Barlow Park to help out on the Lions Club food van for a couple of hours, raising money for the club through sales of chips, hot dogs and steak burgers to the crowd who'd arrived to spectate the Cowboys vs. Titans charity match.

Line Trouble

After months of the both of us complaining about our dodgy phone line and Internet connection – the phone crackles regularly and our Internet is prone to intermittent dropouts – Vickie finally gave up on waiting for me to call Telstra and gave them a ring herself a week and a bit ago. The contractor came over on Friday to check our connections, and after crawling under the house, replacing some joins and checking as much as he could, he narrowed the problem down to the ADSL filter / splitter attached to our phone line. He didn’t have one himself, so he couldn’t test it, but he was positive he’d eliminated all the other possibilities; nothing else could be causing the fault.

Vickie called me at work and told me the part number of the replacement filter, which I should be able to pick up from the Telstra Shop closest to work. I hiked down at lunchtime, only to have the salesperson tell me that they didn’t stock any in-line filters and that I ought to try the Tandy opposite. Tandy were very helpful, and I parted with $24 on a new filter – only to discover, when I got home, that the new filter doesn’t stop the crackling.

Needless to say, Vickie’s going to be ringing Telstra back soon. I was thinking of maybe hopping onto Xbox Live and playing some Halo 3 with Karlos on Friday night, but the modem was very up-and-down that evening (probably due to the aforementioned crackly line). The contractor did give us one ray of hope, though. Apparently the firm he works for got outbid when the contract came up for renewal, but he reckons that they might bid for an upcoming Optus contract. My step-grandson Rhys told us about an Optus combined landline and broadband plan called “Fusion” a couple of months ago, and if, as the contractor’s comments suggest, Optus are going to start rolling their fibreoptic network out in Gordonvale soon, we’re definitely going to be switching phone and broadband providers; the Fusion plan would save us around $80 a month.

February 14, 2008

Spider on the Web

Those of you who know Vickie and I pretty well know that we’re both fans of a science fiction author called Spider Robinson, mainly because his works are almost always (a) fun and (b) filled with honest to god hope for the future of our species. We’re not sure whether we’ve managed to successfully hip others to his work, but I’m hoping that those we’ve not managed to snare the interest of so far will get hooked on his weekly podcast called “Spider on the Web”. It’s a combination of readings from his books – Spider has a great, mellow speaking voice, and he even puts up several chapters of his professional audio recording of his latest book, Variable Star, a posthumous collaboration with Robert A. Heinlein – and some excellent music; he’s already hipped me to New Orleans sax player Breeze Cayolle, given me my first taste of John Coltrane and introduced his in-laws, who are bloody great musos too.

The main reason why I’m posting about Spider on the Web is because, in the closing of his February 2nd podcast, Spider makes an appeal to his audience. The Spider on the Web podcast is technically free, but as any Heinlein fan will tell you, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Making a podcast, especially one with a regular schedule, takes time, and hosting it takes money, which he’s set up a PayPal donation system in the hopes of covering. Once the overheads come out, though, Spider's getting at the moment amount to $2 per hour of work he puts into the podcasts. Even though they're a labour of love, Spider has to carefully manage his free vs. earnings time – in the writing industry, you’re either in the leagues of Stephen King, Tom Clancy and James Paterson or you’re broke, and $2 per hour means that he's going to start winding Spider on the Web down after his Feb 16th podcast (yes, I know that’s effectively tomorrow - I only just heard all of his Feb 2 podcast today).

I'm not asking you to do something I wouldn't myself: A few days before I heard Spider's appeal I started up a $2 per month contribution via PayPal. It's pretty much all Vickie and I can squeeze out of our budgets at the moment, and I know a lot of people on the board are in similar or worse circumstances, but if you can spare a few, could you chuck 'em Spider's way, please? If you have any question as to why, just download a couple of his podcasts, sit yourself somewhere comfy and listen; I heartily recommend #28, with its extract from Mindkiller, or #19, where he reads a couple of his articles from his newspaper column The Crazy Years, or #21, which features an eye-opening, up-waking, foot-tapping, joy-making number called “The Blackbird Special” by the New Orleans Jazz Ramblers (with Breeze Cayolle on sax). If our tastes are anything alike – and yes, yes, I know I have tastes that even my pack of friends considers odd, but trust me here – you’ll realise that Spider on the Web is worth your money.

February 13, 2008

It Was Very Nearly Murder

A close thing indeed. Over a week ago, I was enthusing about the then-upcoming premiere of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Then I leafed through the week’s TV guide and discovered it was premiering in the exact same timeslot as Women’s Murder Club, a new crime show based on the novels by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. As you can probably guess, this was a show Vickie was not about to watch on the TV in the bedroom, let alone miss. It could have been war, I tell you. A struggle for the remote control the like of which would never before have been witnessed.

The situation was resolved, by all things, indoor soccer. The first round of the finals was scheduled for 8:15 last night, so by the time I got home The Sarah Connor Chronicles would have been all over. Besides which, as Vickie reminded me, I hog the big screen enough when playing Halo 3.

The fates have been kind, though; I won’t be stuck with a grainy, analogue-transmitted videotape of the show. Channel Nine, in its wisdom, has decided to run an encore screening of the first episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles at ten thirty tonight, right after the premiere of another crime drama, the gritty Australian based-on-real-events show Underbelly.

See, folks? Everyone’s problems really do get solved by sports.

February 05, 2008

Some Good News for February

The rebuild went okay. My system is, I think, quite a bit more streamlined. I’ve installed almost everything I want to put on it, save Transformers: The Game and Guild Wars, the former because I want to find the USB receiver which allows me to connect my wireless Xbox 360 controller to my PC and the latter because we’re at three quarters of our monthly bandwidth limit and updating the client might take a gig or two. Spyware Doctor is working again, thankfully, and I’m browsing the web with little trouble.

There’s one hitch; it’s not bothersome at the moment but it’s something I’d like to fix when the next rebuild comes around. For some odd reason, Windows XP is now insistent that my Seagate Barracuda 320GB SATA hard disk drive possesses only 130GB. The BIOS disagrees with Windows, of course, reporting the full size on its settings screen. But, apparently, the BIOS is a pitiful moron compared to XP’s all-knowing wisdom, even though the last build recognised the drive’s full size. I have the feeling it has something to do with the SATA drivers I used and that I perhaps plugged the drive into the SATA ports controlled by the Intel controller instead of the Gigabyte controller like last time.

Some good news: Last Saturday was my third and so far best outing with my second mentee, Josh. You might remember that my last mentor pairing through CYMS ended a month early when young Alex moved south to be with his dad. So far, things have been going good, and on Saturday the usually quiet Josh talked about a some stuff that was important to him right now. We had a very good afternoon out at the Lagoon, and we’re planning to head to the Library next time so we can figure out exactly what we’re going to do for our end-of-pairing presentation.

More good news: Remember how back in 2005, I was volunteering for Cairns Community Radio? Well, after chatting with the Cazman and Linda while they were here, I decided to ask work for an hour early every week so that I could get back into doing it again! Tonight’s the first night, and then it’s every Thursday from next week on. It’s about time I got back into radio stuff; one of my colleagues has been calling me “Radio Rob” for months!

And speaking of things I’m looking forward to: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles will be hitting our screens this coming Tuesday, February 12th! I was a little “blah” about the idea when it was first announced, especially at the prospect of casting someone else to fill Linda Hamilton’s very big army boots. But if reports coming out of the States on the first few episodes are any indication, it seems they’ve done a great job on all fronts, with the casting of 300’s Lena Headey in the title role being universally praised (not that I’ve seen 300). And to add icing to the cake, yet another Firefly cast member is getting a regular gig again: Summer Glau is playing no less than the latest flesh-clothed robot protector of John Connor, a Terminator named Cameron. I’m curious to she what she does with it; while I have no doubt she can play unusual characters after the crazed, vulnerable, creepy River Tam, I think the best thing I’ve seen her in was The Unit, where her guest role was a regular, flawed fiancee of a young Army ranger. From what I’ve read, Cameron will be an interesting cross between the two.