Jan 30, 2011

Out Sick

My apologies for the lack of posts of late. I came down with a wicked little upper respiratory and sinus bug, and I have had zero energy left after working.

As I get older I find that recovery time from even the most mundane illnesses increases significantly. Once there was a time when I bounced back from even the harshest influenza attacks quickly, but in my upper 40s I no longer seem to be able to muster that instant recuperation of my 20s.

I wish the rest of you well in avoiding the myriad seasonal viruses lurking about this year.

Jan 22, 2011

Crescent-Less Rolls

Pictured on your left is an example of the hazards of attempting to cook breakfast before drinking the first cup of coffee in the morning. I thought I would surprise my wife with breakfast this morning, but I neglected to actually shape the little crescent rolls I baked.

The particularly funny part was when I was peeking into the toaster oven and wondering why the rolls were not rising in the usual manner. Luckily it dawned on me what I had done, and at least I was able to avoid over-cooking the now-flattened flaky bread.

The end result was a thin-but-flavorful bread product with more of that crispy exterior, though less of the soft, fluffy interior bread. I also took my eye off the bacon, winding up with extra-crispy slices, though in my defense I think the Kroger-brand bacon I bought was a grade or two below ideal in quality.

At least the eggs were error-free.

Jan 20, 2011

Rapid Rhetoric: MAZEWAY

Raphael's depiction of Plato defining the difference between true and false rhetoric This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word or phrase I came across that I have never previously used.

mazeway (MAYS-weigh) n. a system of socially constructed and learned rules for human interaction.

I stumbled upon the term mazeway in an article entitled "The Delaware Prophet Neolin: A Reappraisal" by Dr. Alfred A. Cave, a history professor at the University of Toledo (an excellent article, by the way, if you have any interest in Pontiac's War or other topics related to British-colonist-Native American interactions after the Seven Year's War).

The term was coined by anthropologist Anthony F. C. Wallace in a theory known as the mazeway resynthesis to discuss some of the ways in which religious syncretism occurs. J.S. Price offered a succinct explanation of the theory:
Wallace (1956) applied the term "mazeway resynthesis" to the change in belief system which occurs in prophets, the mazeway being to the individual what culture is to society, so that the prophet awakes to a new reality which he or she then tries to impart to followers; if successful, the prophet becomes the leader of a new religious movement; otherwise, he or she is alienated from the parent group and is likely to be labelled as mentally ill.
So there you have it, all you would-be millennial prophets reading this post: navigate well your mazeway, or you face the likelihood of being tossed in an institution.

Jan 15, 2011

The Quote Shelf

Medieval text with Latin script A frequent feature on this site; feel free to comment on the quote or to supply a competing quote.

Work spares us from three evils: boredom, vice, and need.
-- Voltaire

Jan 12, 2011

On Ray Padula and Excellent Customer Service

Last September I penned a post about my purchase of a Ray Padula thumb control hose nozzle. I liked the operation of the innovative sprayer, but the device broke after a three-foot fall, and I was disappointed at what I thought might be poor workmanship.

I recently received an email from the Ray Padula customer service folks, and after reading my post they offered to send me a new nozzle. I thanked them, gave them my address, and promptly forgot about the exchange after I went on vacation.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Ray Padula people sent me not one but three replacement nozzles. The dedication to customer service exhibited by Ray Padula Incorporated was far above and beyond what most normal companies would do in this situation, as most corporations would simply ignore the comments of a blogger.

Thus, in fairness, I felt it appropriate to post about my positive experience with Ray Padula, Inc., and that the superior customer service has created a ton of goodwill in me as I make future decisions on gardening and landscaping products. Any company that will go this far out of the way to keep a customer happy is a company worth doing business with.

Thanks, Ray Padula!

Jan 8, 2011

On Nicolas Cage and His Pyramid Tomb


(New Orleans, LA) While sightseeing in New Orleans at some of the above-ground cemeteries, I stumbled onto a curious pyramid-shaped tomb with the Latin phrase OMNIA AB UNO ("everything from one") carved on it.

The tomb - which is as yet unfilled - is owned by noted actor Nicolas Cage. Folks around New Orleans have quite a few theories about the tomb and Mr. Cage, and I was unable to determine a consensus opinion about the tomb. Some New Orleans residents hate it, some love it, but nearly everyone agrees that Cage at least has one item that the IRS cannot touch in its quest to seize the wealth of Nicolas Cage for back taxes and penalties.

One conspiracy-theory aficionado I spoke with hinted that Cage is a closet Mason, though I suspect the Masonic imagery in the pyramid tomb owes more than a passing nod to the National Treasure series.

Jan 6, 2011

Treme Brass Band at Saint Louis Cemetery

(New Orleans, LA) My wife and I decided to walk from the French Quarter to the historic Saint Louis Cemetery this afternoon. While we were soaking up some of the history in the graveyard, a funeral procession entered the cemetery, complete with music provided by the Treme Brass Band.

I was familiar with the concept of a jazz funeral prior to my visit to Saint Louis, but of course I never witnessed such a sight in northern climes like Toledo and Detroit. The musicians and marchers snaked their way in between the above-ground tombs to their final destination, and I tried not to be the typical annoying tourist by interfering with the ceremony.

I was struck by the differences between the somber funeral processions to which I am accustomed and the celebratory joy of a jazz funeral. Certainly the late Drextal Brumfield's family grieved the loss of this young man, but I found the musical homage to be much more uplifting than the funerary dirges I am used to hearing.

While I hope to live many more decades, I hope that my own mourners would remember the happier times, and I would have no problem being serenaded by a jazz band on my way to the Pearly Gates.

Jan 5, 2011

Barge on the Foggy Mississippi

(Maurepas Swamp, LA) I came upon the pictured river barge in a rural area about 40 miles upstream from New Orleans today. I found the rising morning fog to be a bit eerie, and the fact that I could not see any human inhabitants on the vessel made the scene even more mystifying.

In fact, other than the tour bus I was on, there was almost no sign of human activity in and around this stretch of the river. The lack of bird sounds and traffic noises made the scene appear almost apocalyptic as I stared down from a 20-foot levee onto the mighty, mighty Mississippi below me.

Cue the theme from Deliverance.

Jan 3, 2011

System Tool 2011: Combatting An Especially Nasty Virus

System Tool 2011Left: pink screen of misery created by System Tool 2011

My laptop got nailed today by a particularly wicked virus/malware infection called System Tool 2011. The virus pretends to be an antivirus program, but it really operates for two purposes: 1) to try and dupe people into giving out their credit card number; and 2) to try and duper users into deleting important system files, turning their machines into slave drones.

Luckily, I had enough common sense not to fall for either ploy, but this virus was a royal pain the the arse to eliminate. If you get hit with this virus, DO NOT allow it to delete any files when it prompts you with scary messages.

One of the biggest problems with System Tool 2011 is that the virus hijacks useful programs like Task Manager, regedit, and msconfig. System Tool 2011 will also detect and shut down legitimate antivirus programs. The first thing to do is to restart your computer in safe mode with networking: as the computer is booting up, look for the prompt that asks you to hit F10 for boot manager and hit F8 for advanced boot options (the function keys might be different on different operating systems). This will allow you to operate your computer without System Tool 2011 taking over.

You can try to manually remove all the associated files and registry entries, but this can be both cumbersome and confusing, as System Tool 2011 generates random alphanumeric names for files and registries. Thus, my unwanted guest called itself gLagg00309, a name that did not jump out at me as a likely target for manual removal.

I recommend two programs to combat this deadly virus: Malwarebytes and RKill. RKill is a process-killing program that will allow you to temporarily shut down any components of system-hijacking viruses, while Malwarebytes was the only antivirus program I tried that could kill all traces of System Tool 2011.

Both programs, by the way, offer free versions available for download, and I am gratefully sending each group a cash donation via PayPal to reward them for their selfless efforts.

I suspect that this virus entered my computer via a Facebook application. I normally avoid all Facebook apps (mostly out of annoyance) but I think I accidentally clicked someone else's app and wound up with a backdoor trojan.

Jan 2, 2011

1966: Animated Incredible Hulk Episode

This may very well be the most poorest quality animation I have ever seen, but watching the first episode of the Marvel Comics cartoon The Incredible Hulk filled me with nostalgia:

I did glean a few interesting historical insights from this, like the presence of the evil Russian-sounding assistant Igor in a Cold War era cartoon. I also found interesting a conversation with Doctor Bruce Banner's girlfriend, who was told by her father to pipe down:

"Keep out of this Betty: it's man talk."

Also intriguing was the presence of a proto-hippie who wandered into the desert testing site for the gamma bomb. As Banner tried to rescue the hipster (an effort that ultimately exposed him to gamma radiation) the cool cat tried to dismiss Banner: "Cool man: it's a free country, right?"

Give it a quick watch: there are worse ways to spend six-and-a-half minutes, and you also get to hear the cheesy theme song: "That ever-lovin' Hulk.... Hulk, Hulk."