Tuesday, January 22, 2008

January Personals

Randomly Hittin' Witten
My old friend, former IPSC shooter and current Shotgunner, dog-trainer without peer and BBG Master Randy wrote today to say that he's looking for someone who will build him a "cutting edge website" for his business.

I put him in touch with another friend, Brian, who (among other accomplishments) is the webmaster for the Albany Rifle & Pistol Club.

Only trouble is, Brian lives in Albany and Randy lives in Portland. It's less than 100 miles, but Brian may not have the time nor the inclination to commute for the personal conferences which such enterprises inevitably require.

So if you're a web designer in the Portland, Oregon area, or you can recommend someone who is, please email at the addy on the pickup tailgate (bottom of this page).


New Hardware

SWMBO gifted me with some new computer hardware this Christmas, and tonite I finally plugged them into the Mighty Geek Puter.

First was an ACER 20" LCD Monitor.
I was concerned about installing this, because my computer table is a roll-top desk. I wasn't as much worried about the footprint (my old 19" DELL ViewSonic weighs a ton and takes up more depth than width) as I was about the ease of installation. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the new monitor sits far enough back that I could dig the keyboard out of the keyboard drawer, put it on the desktop (which is at a much more comfortable height) and still have bare desk left over.

Next was a Logitech MX1000 Laser Cordless Mouse.
I haven't actually installed this one yet. But I did all the 'advance work (opened the box, plugged the recharging dock into a power source, put the mouse in the dock to charge.) It has been an hour, and looking at the indicator lights on the mouse I see that it is 'fully charged'. But I don't want to switch to the new mouse quite yet, because as long as I'm using my MicroSoft corded laser mouse, I don't have to reboot.

SWMBO chose this particular mouse because she loves me like crazy. Either that, or I'm driving her crazy complaining about the cord. (As far as I'm concerned, either rationale is acceptable as long as I get rid of the *&@#$! cord, man!)

One of the problems with having a roll-top desk for a computer table is that the mousepad almost necessarily rests on a pull-out 'breadboard' on either side. That's convenient, sure. You can be either left-hand or right-hand dominant, and the mouse is equally close to hand.

But the stinkin' cord, when you push the mouse 'up', gets caught in the gap between the breadboard and the face of the desk. The result is a hang-up, as I try to tug the cord out of the space which I have cleverly named the 'mousetrap'. Actually, I usually call it the *&@#$! mousetrap.

This SHOULD solve the problem because there is [DUH!] not cord. Therefore, there is no *&@#$! mousetrap.

I'll let you know tomorrow how this works out. But I'm already in love with the new cordless laser mouse (don't let nobody sell you a mouse that isn't laser, 'cause that is the Jones, I'm tellin' you!)

The only drawbacks that I can see are:
  1. you have to get use to the feel of a new mouse, which totally screws your Minesweeper stats;
  2. you have to put the mouse in the charging dock at the end of every puter session;
  3. I have NO idea if the mouse can spend as much time on the puter without recharging as I can;
  4. since the recharging dock plugs into the same power bar as the puter, I can no longer turn off the master switch when I'm done working for the night. I can only turn off the power switch for the PC.
That last isn't such a big deal. I just have to learn new habits. Since the BlueBird of Happiness burned my last PC, I've become a Belt AND Suspenders guy about protecting my PC from power surges. Fortunately, I recognize that I am obsessive and I can probably convince myself that I can go to sleep at night with only ONE power switch protecting my PC from burnout.

And no, it isn't easy being me.

I'm not going t0 do THAT again!

For personal reasons, I chose to spend my 3-day MLK-day holiday weekend driving to Baker City, Oregon.

I was confident that I could [ahem] weather the weather, and it's not as if I'm unaccustomed to driving in snow. Also, I was confident that the I84 freeway would be relatively snow-free, as Oregon may not do a lot of 'good things' but they know how to keep the Interstate Freeways open.

How else are Californians going to import their beer here?

I drove the 385 miles to Baker City in 7 hours. Simple. Put the charge-o-meter (cruise control) on '70'm, drive until the gas-o-meter (fuel gauge) reads 1/4 tank left. Gas up. Drive the rest of the way.

I left at 11am, after prudently buying a set of tire chains from Les Schwab (if you don't use them, Les will buy them back next summer ... it's a policy of essentially free tire chains over the winter. Les made a fortune with this kind of policies.) The freeway was dry all the way. I pulled in to the Oregon Trail Motel at 6pm, got my room and dinner at the attached restaurant at 8pm ...and it was snowing.

When I got up the next morning, the landscape was filled with snow and my Damned Old Ford was black on the bottom, white on the top.

I took care of my business, waited until 11am to start my trip back. My hope was that the freeway traffic would have cleared the freeway of enough snow that the pavement would be clear of snow.

This was only partly true.

As I approached the first range of mountains, I saw a line of trucks pulled off to the shoulder of the freeway, chaining up.

The country to the side was beautiful in its snowy mantle, but I was having problems. The 19 degree weather had frozen my windshield wipers (not replaced since I bought the Damned Old Ford in July of 2006), and trucks passing me were kicking up muddy slush ... which I could not remove. The windshield washers, of course, were frozen up, the nozzles clogged. This did not change all day.

At the bottom of the other side of that small mountain range, there was another line of class-8 trucks, wearily removing their tire chains because there was too much bare pavement; that breaks tire chains, they had no choice.

After I passed La Grande (a major town in these here parts), I continued on I84 over the BGlue Mountains. There was a sign posted to the effect that "Chains Are Required For Vehicles Over 10,000 Pounds And For All Towing Vehicles". Yup, you guessed it. Another line of semis chaining up along the road.

The next 40 miles was Forty Miles of Bad Road. Part of the roadway was clear, due to previous traffic. That will break chains, as was evident by the occasional pile of broken tire chains on the roadway. It looked like like the trail of a dyspeptic chain monster, who shat chains every few miles. And of course, the 10 freeway miles past La Grande was crowded by truckers who had wearily pulled off the main road to chain up again.

The last 10 miles in the mountains, though, around the vicinity of Meacham, was Trucker Hell. There was no bare pavement, no visibility, and no forgiveness. Just mile after mile of 6 percent downgrade, weak guardrails to keep us from sliding off the road, and we all ... me, and the truckers ... understood why chains WERE required for traversing this Hell Ride.

It took me three hours to drive the 96 miles between Baker City and Pendleton. The last ten mile .. after the end of Killer Hill (nobody ever officially renamed 'Cabbage Hill", originaly named for the Skunk Cabbage plants which populate the roadside during the summer months) were clear of snow. But it's worth the moment to go back and review the road.

There's a place just before Cabbage Hill on this freeway, part of the original Oregon Trail, which is called "Dead Man's Pass". Much like the Donner Party, a wagon train in the 1860's was said to have been snowbound during an ill-timed winter crossing, with many members of the party freezing to death. This was only a historic site in my mind before today. I grew up in this country, and the place never seemed too daunting to me.

That day, though, I was ready to believe that people had died because of the weather. There were no (or few) bare patches on the freeway. Every inch was a slippery, snowy hell.

I quit taking pictures at this point. Too scary to drive, let alone use only one hand on the steering wheel.

After 3 hours, I completed the 96 miles to Pendleton ... where I bought new windshield wipers, and a squeegee to clean my windshield (since the windshield washers were frozen). I drove only another 90 miles to Biggs Junction where I forted up for the night and tried to get some sleep. I was completely burned out due to driving in adverse road conditions.

The next morning, after spending the night in the parking lot, my Damned Old Ford was still redolent in its coat of road grime, frozen muddy slush, and icicles from Hell.

I washed the car before I got home. No telling how much salt had been applied to the road surface; no sense in chancing rust on the car after my naturally sanguine nature had been so thoroughly erroded.

Hell ride, for sure.

The next time I drive to Baker City, it will be high summer and the temperature will be in the nineties. I don't need this slush crap!

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