Monthly Archives: March 2007

Personal Stories – Selling the Dell Beast on Craigslist

The Dell Beast is gone. My nearly obsolete noise maker has been sold on the open market. Last Saturday I posted an add for the Beast on Craigslist. The ad stated as follows:

Pentium 4 computer with 256mb Ram – $100
This is a Dell Dimension 8100 tower computer. It has a 1.4Ghz Pentium 4 processor, 256mb of 800mhz Rdram and a 2 year old 80Gb hard drive. It includes an ethernet port, 4 USB ports, an internal modem, and surround sound. The tower has the original CD drive in addition to a third party CDRW drive. The video card is an AGP card with 32mb of on board Ram. The hard drive has been wiped, but I will include the system CD (with Windows ME), the driver CDs, and Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business Edition."

Six years ago, I paid $1300 for that same machine. Depreciation bites! I thought it was a pretty good deal, but I received only low offers. Someone went as low as $30 because some research showed that the Beast was an old computer. No duh.

Ragging on my Beast's age is bad enough, but this response to my ad creeped me out a little:

"Hello,thank you for the prompt response to my enquiry am very much
satisfied with the condition and price of the item and i would like to
make an outright purchase immediately so i will advice that you
withdraw the advert from the web.Pls i will like to now how you
intend to procedure on this  okay but i would prefer that i issue a
certified check  in us dollars to you  after which my shipper will be
coming over for the pick up
once you have gotten that.I read through
the advert and am okay with it so please i will like you to provide
the following info so that i can ask my secretary to issue the payment
1…..Full name to write on the check
2…..Full Physical address to post the check to
3…..Home & Cell Phone to contact you
kindly get back to me asap. regards"

I had offered the guy the Beast for $80 in cash only. The part that bothered me most was the "shipper will be coming over". Why the heck would you send someone else to pick up an $80 computer? There was no way I was taking that dude's check.

For some reason, Friday was the day that elicited the highest number of responses. This surprised me because my ad was almost a week old. My wife had a great explanation, nobody does any work on Friday. Apparently people spend all day looking up classified ads and effectively stealing time from their employers.

After all my hard work in answering ads, the Dell Beast sold for $75. Some guy gets a great deal on perfectly usable, although frustratingly antiquated, computer. Since I am still using my wife's old Mac Beast, I know how he feels.

Huzaa to Craigslist.

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Untimely Reviews – “A History of Violence”

My wife sums "A History of Violence" up best, "there was a lot of bad assery". What looks like a family drama/suspense film is actually much, much more. It is also a movie where Viggo Mortensen kicks ass and takes names. This combination makes for the perfect guy date movie.

Of course, many great movies have no ass kicking. I enjoy a good romantic comedy for the cuddling and chuckling. Dramas are also a great reminder of how better my life is without divorce, incurable disease, death, and other sorts of major bummers. But I still have a need to watch bad guys get a serious ass whooping. In that area, "A History of Violence" seriously delivers.

The movie innocently starts with a guy who is married to a beautiful lawyer, raising loving children, an owner of his own business, and a friend to all in small rural town. It could actually be a quite large rural town, considering the average size of rural towns. But that is besides the point. Life is sweet for Viggo. Then some wiseguy mobsters come to town and all terror ensues. By the end of the movie, the mobsters are history (sorry, puns are a movie review staple) but Viggo's life will be similar to what it was before, but probably not the same. (We don't get a long term prospective.)

One of the best lines from the completely unrelated movie "Sin City" is "I love hitmen. No matter what you do to them, you don't feel bad." Those words ring true for us spectators as well. I have never felt bad about watching the gruesome death of a movie hitman. In fact, the death of a movie hitman is often amusing and uplifting. Just watch any James Bond film. It is this joy of watching the death of a hitman or any "bad guy" that makes "A History of Violence" somewhat uplifting. Heck, it worked for "The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag".

In sum, "A History of Violence" was a win-win for my wife and I. The movie gave me the satisfaction of watching bad guys killed in painfully bloody detail. My wife got to see Viggo's naked butt. Fair trade.

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Personal Stories – Sidegrading my computer

My personal computer, a.k.a. the Dell Beast, went kerput for the last time. Like the manufacturer, Dell, and the software provider, Microsoft, I have stopped supporting it. My brother had graciously offered to send me his old (but still new to me) laptop. He had recently built himself an enviable new computer and quickly e-mailed me the specifications in order to elicit jealously. It totally worked. The problem with my brother's offer to send me his laptop is that it was made a month ago. In the meantime, I needed some computer a little less personal than just my PDA. My wife came to the rescue.

Seven years ago, before I had bought the Dell Beast or met my wife, she bought a brand spankin' new Power Mac (technically a Power Mac G4/450DP). And now it is mine (to use with her permission under certain restrictions). Basically, I have upgraded to an older computer. To be fair to the Power Mac, it is a "nicer" computer. It has way more things on it than the Dell Beast. I'm so stoked to be able to play DVDs. Plus, the Power Mac comes in an eye pleasing case. Look how shiny it is!

But the nearly 7 year old Power Mac is not exactly better for my purposes. It is loud. It may even be louder than the Dell Beast. The Power Mac also grinds through web pages. (The hard drive literally makes a grinding noise.) My whole life is now web pages, and the Dell Beast was probably a little quicker in loading up Engadget. In fact, the Power Mac is somewhat of a beast of its own, a "Mac Beast" perhaps?

Interesting trivia on the Mac Beast, er . . . Power Mac, it introduced dual processors with an incredible 1mb level 2 cache for each processor. My wife must have seen a huge boost in performance when running Photoshop. Apple also apparently pioneered firewire. Also flabbergasted was I to find out that the Apple OS X has been pretty awesome for many years now. It certainly beats the tar out of the old Windows Millenium Edition that I was using.

So it may not be cutting edge anymore, but the Mac Beast works great (no more blue screens). Huzaa to my wife!

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Personal Stories – baby has glasses

I hate glasses. When I was in junior high my vision started turning nearsighted. At first I wore glasses begrudgingly. I refused to wear them outside of the house. Then I refused to wear them at school. Eventually I had to admit that I needed them. If you think that glasses are something that I would get used to, you would be wrong. I have hated wearing glasses every day for the last 20 years.

Hence, it was sad to see my little boy saddled with the burden of spectacles. Although, I have to admit he does look cuter, smarter, and generally more precocious when wearing glasses. Plus, I note that glasses are in vogue ever since that Harry Potter character became popular. Perhaps glasses are so cool that my little man will forgo taunting from the 20/20 crowd. I can only hope.

Surely technology will advance to the point where little man will no longer need glasses. I am already eager to explore laser eye surgery for infants. As for me, I'll stick with glasses for a while. Indeed, I could get lasered up myself, but then little man might feel left out in his ocular challenge. Oculus vas solidarity!

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Personal Stories – Permanent Replacement Tooth

The saga of my bad tooth has come to an end. With little fanfare my wonderful dentist has glued on my fabulous new tooth. No more dentures. No more temporary teeth. No more color matching (three times, in fact). I finally feel whole again.

All in all, losing a tooth is a pretty sucky experience. I maxed out my dental insurance last year and for all the money it cost for the implant, I could have bought a trip to Europe or a sweet flat panel TV. I also did not appreciate the many months of slurred speech and removing my denture while I ate. The moral of the story is this: take care of the teeth you have. You can get more, but it ain't fun.

Peace out.  

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Personal Stories – Lactation boosting cookies

When I was in graduate school, I tried to save money by making my own snacks. Accustomed to lab work, I figured that working in the kitchen would be easy. Recipes for cookies tend to be a bit simpler than cloning DNA, or so I thought. Lessons learned include not substituting baking powder for baking soda, not "softening" butter in the microwave, and identifying the  difference between "golden brown" and charcoal. I have no qualms with eating negative results, so baking tends be a fun hobby regardless of its success.

For the past year, I have mostly made the same recipe, Housepoet's Famous Lactation Boosting Cookies. My wife sent me the recipe via e-mail last year when our little guy was nursing about once ever hour. We are both committed to breast feeding our baby as long as we can and, since I can't lactate, baking cookies is the least I can do. Does it help? Maybe. I can say for sure that the cookies have no affect on those not already lactating; after eating about a thousand cookies I haven't mustered as much as a drop. The important thing is this: the cookies taste great and have a lot of nutritional value for moms and their nursing babies.

Thank goodness copyright laws do not extend to recipes. The ingredients are as follows:

  • 1 cup butter (softened)

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons brewer's yeast
  • 3 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

The oven should be set at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In the lab everything was set at Celsius and 375 degrees Celsius would be hot enough to melt my oven. Fortunately, my oven has a digital temperature guage, so there is no room for cross temperature scale screw ups.

The 4 tbsp water and 2 tbsp flaxseed meal should be pre-mixed to let the flax seed soak up the water for at least a few minutes. The butter should be  softened before use. Do not microwave it. Just let it sit on the counter for a few hours. The butter and sugar should all be mixed together until creamy. I use a stand mixer on about level 5 (of a 10 level scale). A stand mixer is the supreme mixing machine, and something I wish I had a long long time ago.

After a minute or two, toss in the eggs, watered down flaxseed, and vanilla. It is usually a good idea to have mixed the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, and brewer's yeast) beforehand, but I just set my mixer to "stir" and let it do its thing while I do my thing. Brewers yeast is surprisingly easy to find and definitely looks nutritious. Because most butter is pre-salted, I have stopped adding salt. But if you happen to have unsalted butter, adding a teaspoon of salt is O.K.

I slowly add the flower mixture while the mixer is set at about level 3 and then I hit into overdrive at about level 8. I add the oats and then the chocolate chips at the "stir" level. I scoop the cookies into balls with a tablespoon measuring spoon and dole out about 12 cookies per cookie sheet (4 rows of 3). My dream is to put a whole batch (about 4 cookie sheets worth) in my oven at once, but it never seems to work out. Bake the cookies 8 to 12 minutes, dependent, of course, on your oven.

To prevent black-bottomed charcoal bricks, I recommend using silicone baking sheets. In order to boost the cookies' hardiness, I use half white flour and half wheat flour. Eggs high in omega-3 fatty acids are also primo for boosting a baby's brain development. Out of necessity, I learned that the eggs can be substituted with an extra tablespoon of flax meal, 1/4 cup applesauce and 1/2 teaspon baking powder. Steel cut oats can be substituted for rolled oats, but the cookies become really dense. Also, I try to use all organic ingredients in my kitchen whenever I can: the good and bad stuff from these cookies eventually end up in my baby boy.

I generally abstain from eating the raw ingredients during preparation. Nevertheless, eating the batter left in the bowl and on the beater is one of the great treats of being the chef. About 1 in 10,000 eggs has Salmonella, but those odds never stop me from licking the spatula. My poor "lets not kill the baby" wife has had to forgo raw dough for about 2 years now.

My wife and I can devour a whole batch of cookies within 24 hours. For those with no self control, I recommend freezing most of the batch and then taking them out a little bit at a time. Still, the best cookies come right out of the oven and nothing perks up a tired new mom like the smell of warm cookies.

Huzaa to cookies!

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