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Stand by me

Just watch it… I really liked it.


Playing For Change | Song Around The World “Stand By Me” from Concord Music Group on Vimeo.

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Personal

Literate driver

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On Iris after the traffic light
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Weaving around the lane on diagonal

So I’m on my way from Boulder to Longmont for my weekly trivia fix. I pull up next to this minivan (Silver Voyager 655RHD), and the driver’s reading a book at the traffic light (on Iris). I figure, OK, she’s just reading the book, clearly a novel of some length, and she’ll put it down when the light turns green. Nope! She keeps reading the book, looking up every few seconds to the road, as she got onto the Diagonal between Boulder and Longmont. Much amused, I (carefully) took a couple of snaps of the car and driver (which, of course, she never saw me taking, as she was concentrating on her book). I finally honked at her when she drifted into my lane, so that I would have had to take evasive action. In a huff, she put down her book and started driving. She got off at Airport Road, so I figure she lives thereabouts. If anyone recognizes her, please let her know that reading while driving is, well, you know… (and I’m wondering if she does it with her 2.4 kids in the minivan too?).

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First Rally Cross in our car

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Cassie and I competed Saturday at our first rally cross using our new dedicated race car (we were renting, believe or not, from some of those companies you find at DIA). It was a riot, and everyone was really supportive, friendly, and helpful, as usual.

We ended up purchasing a Volkswagen Jetta 2002 GLS 1.8T for a number of reasons, after consulting with the Colorado Rally Cross e-mail list, where many helpful (and a few hilarious) suggestions were proffered:

  1. I have long legs, German cars work well for me.
  2. I used to own a Audi A4 1.8T quattro, so am familiar with the engine and the modifications possible on it.
  3. There’s a number of Volkswagen repair places in Boulder.
  4. The vehicle is a practical, decent car with plenty of oomph, that could easily be used as a primary car if needs be.
  5. The Jetta came with two sets of tires and rims (winter tires are the “most” you can use in stock category)
  6. It’s two wheel drive (front). Subarus dominate the AWD categories, and I wanted to perhaps start against less competitors in a category not overrun with overpowered WRXes. I’m hoping this choice allows Cassie and I to be a little more competitive in this class.

On our fifth run (of 12), the check engine light turned on. We were horrified, as we hadn’t even started abusing the car yet. Had we made a huge mistake buying a dedicated race car, with almost no automotive repair experience or skills?

Fortunately, within 5 minutes, the extremely helpful folks who attend Colorado Rally Cross events had a) diagnosed a loose mass-airflow sensor hose, and b) reset the check engine code. How cool is that? What a great crowd these people are!

I highly recommend rally cross to anyone who has a desire to race a car, in a safe, fun environment. Try it, you’ll thank me. It’s one of the cheapest of the automotive sports. There’s no danger of collision, as you race the clock (not other cars on the course at the same time). Speeds are relatively low, as the course is on the flat, in an open area, with sharp turns around traffic cones. Stock vehicles (i.e., unmodified) race in their own class(es). I have found the entire community very supportive and friendly, especially towards newbies such as myself. What’s not to like?

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Hearing of a teenager

Train Horns

Created by Train Horns

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Personal Technology & Gadgets

Making stuff work in Vista x64

I recently converted my Dell XPS 420 from Vista x32 Ultimate to Vista x64 Ultimate SP1 (Dell shipped me the correct DVD when I asked for the 4th time). Obviously, a lot of stuff doesn’t work out-of-the box, but a little research did wonders:

Alternatives:

  • Cisco VPN -> Shrew Soft VPN (64 bit optimized)
  • CanoScan Toolbox & Drivers -> VueScan

Optimized for 64 bit:

  • 7-Zip
  • Firefox (called Minefield)
  • Internet Explorer (installed with OS)
  • MediaCoder
  • Adobe Illustrator CS4, Acrobat 9, Photoshop CS4,
  • K-Lite CODEC Pack
  • NVIDIA drivers
  • iTunes
  • Paint.NET
  • Logitech SetPoint

Doesn’t work in 64 bit:

  • Flash on 64 bit browser (you need to use the 32 bit browser)
  • Plugins for 64 bit FireFox (IE Tab)
  • Cisco VPN
  • Dell drivers that make icons look like the flash drive they represent (i.e., they all appear as Removable Disk, versus SD-card, etc.)
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No-Tech hacking

From Defcon 15 (hackers conference), a great talk (~1 hour) about hacking techniques using no technology.

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Olde Stage Fire

This is a while coming (been busy at work) but I was privileged to have fought the very serious Olde Stage Fire in Boulder for BMFPD a few weeks ago. This fire burned over 3000 acres, and was started when wind blew down a power line. I was on the fire from around 3 PM to getting home around 6:30 AM the next day. Needless to say, the wind conditions were less than amenable to firefighting. Here’s my account of some of the more interesting work (one of the three assignments I was on) I did that night:


Looking back at Right Ranch


With the flames mostly out

I was paged and at the station late afternoon. Two other guys and I met up with another couple of crews and fought a fire at Right Ranch. Conditions were horrible! The wind tore the tarp off the top of the firetruck before we ever got to flames, and we had to rope the hoses onto the top of the truck. I looked like an idiot chasing down the tarp right in front of the news vans. I’m glad they didn’t catch this part on film, or at least didn’t air it. Going into the fire, the flames were large, in grass, and fanned by winds (100 MPH was measured near where we were fighting). Almost immediately, we were forced to do a strategic retreat when fire threatened to cut off our one road out. We looked at flames licking at the sides of three houses on the way out, and our collective wisdom said “they’re gone”. Getting out of the firetruck was interesting with the high winds, trying to make sure the doors didn’t get blown off. Once in safety, we looked again at the houses, and decided to go back and fight the fire. We went back and hit the fire hard. I was on one of the two hoses, and even with the engineer supplying more than adequate water pressure, I couldn’t hit the fire 10 feet away, as the wind threw all the water right back on me (I was soaked!). We eventually worked our way around the most threatened two houses, and put out all the flames. We left a sprinkler running on the front porch to prevent that wooden structure from going up less the unburned bushes underneath light the whole portion on fire. This also helped me get identified later!

So on Saturday, the 17th, the residents held a party to thank the firefighters. I ran into person after person, who immediately put me in touch with the residents in two of the three houses we were actively protecting. One lady commented that she was impressed with the backburning we had done (black right up to the house). When I told her that “no, that was no backburning operation, the fires did come right up to her house,” she gave me a big hug, and wouldn’t stop. All in all, it felt great to have actually saved some folks houses. Normally, you don’t get to meet the people you help, but I did.

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Personal

Nigerian Facebook scams

It was timely that I stumbled upon this post. A couple of weeks ago, an old classmate of mine chatted with me on Facebook. He said he had been “trapped in London”, and needed money to get home because he and his family had been “robbed at gunpoint”. Needless to say, this didn’t seem right at the time, although I was more than willing in the chat to offer local help (i.e., have friends in England contact him) and local aid (not money). There was a number of problems with the chat :

  1. This guy and I hadn’t talked in years. There were many other people this guy would have contacted before me.
  2. Robbed at gunpoint? In London? I don’t think so.

The person then changed his Facebook status to say he needed help urgently (to which his closer friends immediately replied “how can we help?”, etc.). I promptly commented on his status to say I thought the account may have been compromised (“Would the real first name lastname please stand up?”). I was promptly un-“friended” to remove the comment. I chatted with another classmate, who said he’d gotten the same chat from the same individual. I then tracked down the real guy, and indeed, he was desperately trying to get Facebook to shut down the account.

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Personal

Clever David Byrne music video (mildly NSFW)

This was all directed and produced by a video game addict named Keith Schofield, who incorporates video game themes into every video, it seems.

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Personal Technology & Gadgets

Gigapan imaging

Well, there seem to be a number of ways of creating gigapixel panoramas. Possibly the easiest to use is the GigaPan robotic mount ($379), which was used to create the tremendous image of the Barack Obama inauguration, along with a Canon G10 (it doesn’t fit larger cameras).

Another way is to hack up a Orion TeleTrack  Altazimuth ($249) astronomic mount with a serial port ($15), bluetooth ($35) and use Papywizard software (free) running on a Nokia N800 ($135). You’ll still need Autopano or similar stiching software to put the whole thing together.

I’m tempted to try both!