Saturday, March 31, 2007

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This is starting to turn into Not In The News Saturday...sigh. Anyway, today's is another personal story but I found it rather amusing. Last night, after I got home from work, we were watching the digital video recorder (DVR) together. Me, being "Chief Star Trek Geek" of the family and probably most of North Austin, we were watching a recorded episode of Voyager and then an episode of Enterprise.

During the Enterprise episode, one of the characters was visiting family and friends on another spaceship and one of his female childhood friends comes to visit him in his temporary guest quarters on the ship. My wife kind of rolled her eyes and said "Of course...the love've always got to have the love interest." And then my oldest son says, in the same tone of voice: "Always white and skinny" and then he walked off to do something else.

Did I mention he's 11 years old? My wife and tried really hard to contain our laughter. What better indictment of Hollywood than a pre-teen noticing the entertainment industry's standard of beauty and being irritated enough with it to walk out of the room?

I didn't see it as racist or reverse-sizist -- he just found the whole scenario predictable and, based on his expression, boring.

Poetic justice or an indication of the future? You be the judge.

Best Wishes,

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week, first of all, is a little late, but also it's about the story that wasn't. Let me explain. I was seriously considering putting a YouTube video of a sneak peak at an upcoming independent film about a Blasian (Black and Asian) couple and what they go through to have a relationship...but I thought better of it because (A) it was a little too er, steamy in one scene and (B) something just didn't feel right. So, when I discussed it with my wife, she had an insight that I hadn't considered, which is what I want to write about this week.

There have been, for better or worse, a string of IR-themed movies and shows over the last 20 years or so: Jungle Fever, Mississipi Masala, Guess Who (the mediocre remake of the 1962 classic "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner"), Monster's Ball, Hitch and several others I'm sure I'm not remembering at the moment. Each has covered different aspects of interracial relationships. Some have been biased (Jungle Fever, anyone?), many have been what I'll call defeatist -- the writers clearly want interracial relationships to work but they ultimately don't think they will (Mississippi Masala), and it's reflected in their story, and some have been pretty positive (Hitch).

Ultimately, though, it's 2007 now. Haven't we moved beyond the viewing interracial relationships under a microscope, like they're such an anomaly that we can't possibly understand? Fortunately, I think some moviemakers "get it" and we've had a lot of interracial relationships as part of recent movies that don't make any mention of race and there's no tension/struggle caused because of it ("Hitch" was that way). I think that's truly the way to go, because that's the way it's becoming in reality.

I mentioned to my wife that the movie I was going to use the clip from had some stereotypical bigots and she reminded me, there really are people who still feel that way and act that it's not that far a stretch to see it in a film. But we (the viewing public) don't need our hands held and to be told how interracial relationships are good and racism is bad. We know these things and have our own opinions, whether we agree or disagree. It's time to just move on and have interracial relationships be shown relative to our (growing) number in the population (currently somewhere between 5% and 15% in the U.S., I believe, depending on what source you use -- it may be more, I don't know).

I wish I could say we've moved beyond that in terms of race representations in movies but Hollywood is still a bit mired in the quota system. Even so, at least actors don't really have to act stereotypical just to make it into a film like they did in the 1960s through the 1980s. For example, I loved "Sixteen Candles" (1984) but Gedde Watanabe was the epitome of the Asian stereotype -- an to make it worse, he was in an interracial romance with the "awkward tall, buxom white chick". And there was the whole "blaxploitation" era of the 1970s, etc.

There's obviously room for progress in film concerning interracial relationships but at least it's no longer being treated as a taboo like it once was. Little by little, things are improving and IRs are becoming more mainstream. It's very welcome and long overdue.

Best Wishes,

Friday, March 16, 2007

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week, I'm going to tell you another story. You see, this weekend is Angel's and my 12th wedding anniversary. I've been in charge of planning things this year. Angel is the master planner of the last 2 or 3 years. She's done an excellent job but it was time for me to take a shot at it. So, budgeting with what we have, I decided on doing something more local this year but still fun.

I made plans for the kids to stay with relatives and for me and Angel to have a nice hotel somewhere near or around town. I went online looking for deals this week and I was actually disappointed with a couple of online services I'd used before but lo and behold, William Shatner did NOT disappoint!

I found had the best selection and deals for the price -- and that was even without using their "Name Your Own Price" roulette wheel! It took a little while but I found something perfectly appropriate in a nice area just north of Austin and within our budget. I secured the deal online and printed out the itinerary.

I work a half-day tomorrow and then we take the kids to the relatives, check into our hotel and have a nice dinner and relaxing evening. Sunday (March 18th) will actually be our wedding anniversary and we will pick up the kids in the evening.

I keep hearing more and more how staying married for 12 years is considered an unbelievable accomplishment in and of itself, nevermind being an interracial marriage, too! We've been through a lot over these years but we're still each other's best friend. We've learned to lean and depend on one another and we deeply, deeply love and respect one another. Although we don't know what tomorrow might bring, we want to spend the rest of our lives with each other, growing old together and we thank the Lord for each day we have.

Best Wishes,

Saturday, March 10, 2007

No NITNF This Week, But There Are Things Worth Blogging About...


My apologies. I just couldn't think up anything interesting this week for Not In The News Friday (NITNF). Yes, I could scour for some trivia or something but I like for NITNF to be inspired. If it's interesting to me, I can hope that it's interesting to you. By the same logic, if it's not interesting to me, how can I expect it to be interesting to you?

A lot has been going on in Real LifeTM. The van was in the shop from last Thursday through this Wednesday. And yet, we didn't miss one day of work and the kids never missed school. That's not to say it was a piece of cake, and I did way more walking than I should have (ended up with a low fever and leg cramps by Wednesday, my "overkill" day). The transmission place ended up having to replace the torque converter, some seals and the filters...and it still has a leak, just nowhere near the Niagara Falls it was last Thursday! I plan on taking it back on Wednesday, assuming it can hold out till then. It also seems to have sprung an oil leak (no fun). I blame the extreme cold weather we had last month but one way or the other, it will need to be fixed.

In the meantime, I've been working on my little laptop that I got for Christmas. It had been running very, very slow with Windows 2000. I eventually got frustrated and decided to just downgrade it to Windows 98SE (Second Edition), so I wiped the hard drive, only to find out my CDROM was not working well enough to install Windows (or any other operating system). This left me with a mini-dilemma...

Warning: your eyes may glaze over for a moment while technical details are explained. Do not worry, the effect is only temporary. Do not adjust your monitor. My laptop is a Dell Latitude CPi. It is truly a wonder of its time (1997), a lightweight, compact workhorse designed for business users. The laptop has a robust 266 Mhz processor, 64 MB of EDO RAM, a 3 GB hard drive and modular bay that supports floppy and cdrom modules (just not at the same time).

In the midst of my frustration over not having a working CDROM for the laptop, I looked at other options, including Linux distributions...except that most of those are installed via CD. I actually found some decent versions that I downloaded to my PC and created boot floppies for. The best was Blue Flops, a stable two-floppy distribution that includes the graphical web browser called Links. Once I connected my laptop to its port replicator (which has an ethernet port) and booted up this distribution and configured it for DHCP, I was able to cruise the web using Links (I had to take some time configuring the video driver settings in Blueflops then it worked beautifully). But that was the only thing I could get to work well, so I knew I needed a better solution.

I went to the local computer antique shops (Austin's "Goodwill Computer Works" and "Discount Electronics") but they didn't have what I needed, in terms of a CDROM or other upgrades (but man, if you need a Dell Latitude floppy drive, you'll have no problem getting a replacement!). Finally, my brother-in-law was able to give me a replacement CDROM for the laptop and it works brilliantly.

I spent all Thursday trying to make a dual-boot system (Windows 98SE and Linux). I went through over half a dozen distributions but they would all hang on the video driver (a 2 MB NeoMagic video card) and/or the ISA Soundblaster-compatible Crystal 4237B soundcard. By evening, I gave up on putting Linux on the laptop, reformatted the whole drive and put a clean install of Windows 2000 back on. I know...ironic, huh? But I'd like to think I set this version up pretty well.

Now, in all fairness to Linux distributions, I know there are real and working solutions for every single issue I faced. I know I could Google my way out of that box and make it all work...I simply have the patience of a Windows user and I admit it.

Putting on a clean install of the OS (Operating System) instead of just an upgrade helps. Then, I only put on the Windows service packs (and not the infinite Windows/MS Updates), run Firefox for the browser (instead of Internet Explorer) and put AVG Free on for security (antivirus). I have a wireless PCMCIA card and Windows 2000 (Win2K) found that no problem after I installed the Netgear software and drivers and I was able to connect to the internet wirelessly. I also picked up a 1GB flash drive to essentially add a Gig of space to my laptop's hard drive storage.

I did get one thing from Discount Electronics, a Dell laptop backpack. Now that I have the laptop the way I want it again, I may actually take it places (Whooooaa!) that have a wifi connection. The backpack looks brand new, is nicely cushioned, has plenty of space, pockets, etc. (I even tested it by fitting both the port replicator and the laptop inside it without any problems, although I won't be keeping the port replicator in it now that the wireless works) and I couldn't beat the price: $29!

I've imported all my bookmarks from Google bookmarks (I love that feature!) and customized my profile, browser theme and extensions. All I still need is word processing software and to upgrade my Windows Media Player (version 9 is the highest I can put on Win2K).

I already use Google Docs but there will be occasions when I need to write offline and I'd like the capability (sure, I could use Notepad but, please!) I like AbiWord for a standalone word processor. It essentially has all the features of MS Word and it's free! I really like Open Office but it's too bulky and memory intensive for my old laptop and really, all I'd really use is word processing anyway.

I do all of my chat in Firefox on and most of my email on Gmail, so those don't require any memory-intensive software.

As you can see, with the CDROM replaced and an actual OS on my "vintage laptop," I've been having a lot of fun with it!

And for those of you who have glazed -- SNAP OUT OF IT! THE BLOG ENTRY'S OVER!!

Best Wishes,

Friday, March 02, 2007

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

Now, sometimes it is true that real life is stranger than fiction! The following is a true story. Yesterday was one of my days off, and as I was driving my wife to work, our van started having trouble changing gears (it's an automatic transmission). This was especially troubling since we'd had the transmission replaced last year.

After I dropped off my wife, I called the transmission shop and asked if they could look at it. The owner said he could see it later in the morning. I had a doctor's appointment and a couple of errands to run anyway, so that was fine. By the time I was done with my appointment and errands, the van was almost undriveable, but I did get it to the shop. While I was waiting for it to be seen, I noticed it was leaking red transmission fluid. I let the owner know and when he took it around the the back, where the bays were, the van was leaking like a water hose! We both agreed it was definitely undriveable at that point.

I asked the owner what it would cost to get it fixed. He quoted me $350 -- then he thought for a second, and he asked me if I did computer graphics. I said I worked with computers, yes. He told me he had a laptop that was giving him error messages and wouldn't let him install an external hard drive. He asked if I could maybe fix it for him. I said I probably could, then he showed me what he had. The laptop was 4 or 5 years old and was running Windows Millennium Edition (ME). It also had a Windows XP Home Edition upgrade CD. He also had a Buffalo 320 GB USB 2 external hard drive.

So we cut a deal: I would upgrade his laptop and get his external hard drive installed and he would fix the transmission. The only catch was that he needed the laptop ready by afternoon (it was about 10:00 am by this point). No problem. He even dropped me and the laptop off at home, where I wired it into my router and went to work.

It was easy enough to upgrade it to XP as a clean install, it just took a little while (the laptop had a 1 Ghz Intel processor and 128mb of RAM with a 15 GB hard drive). Once I got XP installed, I just hooked in the external hard drive through its included USB 2 cable to one of the USB ports on the laptop and XP recognized it and installed drivers immediately. I went ahead and installed the backup software from its CD.

The final steps were a pain, though. I had to defragment the hard drive because with all the upgrades, it was running very slow. Then I had to download and install Windows XP Service Pack 2. That seemed to take forever! But I was able to finish up, repack everything into their boxes and cases and get it to the owner when he arrived. He was happy (he needs it for this weekend) and said the van would be ready on Monday, no charge.

That was just the coolest feeling! And I couldn't help but feel like that was an opportunity that just dropped out of heaven -- so I had to thank the Lord for that. And then, one of my wife's female coworkers offered to pick her up and drop her off over the few days we are van-less -- and since they both work for the same temp agency, she'll take Angel to get her check and cash it today! And as for me, I rode the bus today, and I can do it tomorrow and Monday, if need be. The bus drops me off a couple of blocks from work -- and I have a friend at work who can drop me off in the evenings. And my kids' school is within one block of our apartment...

Really and truly, I feel blessed.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Best Wishes,