Rack In The Car, Oscar in The Yard, Weather, and Pests on the Phone

Having a picture that just refused to be cropped correctly for a month, I settled in to work on it.

It just wasn’t going to be an easy one.  Most people would shrug and say try again.  I am too stubborn.

The first problem was it looked like something from the criminal’s lair in the campy old TV show from the 1960s, Batman.  Tilted to the one side, it was a picture taken behind my back.  I was trying to be slick.  I didn’t want my dog to be distracted.

One day we had piled into the big blue beast and drove down to the office.  This was one of Rack’s all time favorite things to do.  We would head down A1A and he’d stick his head up just high enough to watch the endless summer parade by with accents of tourists and palm trees.  For a dog that I see shut down way too often, the joy in his canine brown eyes was a pleasure to see.

So I stuck the camera under my left arm, between the seats and tapped the trigger a couple times to fire off a couple shots.  It wasn’t like I expected much.  But I did like the picture if I could “Do Anything With It”.

I settled in this morning to play with the software.  I could eventually paste it into Photoshop, but let’s see what happens in Irfan View with a judicious crop.  Try to find the rotation tool…

The weather alert fires off for the first time in weeks.  I’m actually happy it “still works”.  Listening to Sneezy The Weather Robot, I try to get a little further.

Try 15 degrees…

Marine Warning?  I’m on dry land.  Ignore.

14 Degrees…

Phone rings.   “No, Dave’s not here, man!”.  Yes, seriously.  Cheech and Chong when the phone rings before 9AM is about the best I intend to do.

Man.

13 Degrees… Yes! Close Enough!

Oscar flaps around a bit, and I start to crop.  Like a Barber – A little off the sides, a little off the top.  Maybe a Mani-pedi and a little off the bottom.

Suddenly, Monsoon.

I set the computer back on the table.  Grab Oscar’s cage.  A picture of Rack’s Favorite Thing will wait, I have Oscar’s Favorite Thing for the first time in over a week.  Rain.

I take the top of the cage, bird and all, out to the back yard.  It’s raining buckets, but the water hasn’t even gotten off the roof yet to soak the back of my shirt as I walk him out to the pool deck.

That gives me 15 minutes to work on things.  A pass through the Spanish Tutor.  I could eat apples and drink milk with the best of them but only while I’m on the toilet apparently.  Learning Spanish On The Loo it should be called.

I head back out to the chair to work with the picture more and play Photo-barber.  It’s a square format, it will have to do.

The rain stops as suddenly as it started.  Better go after the parrot before the Opossums or the Raccoons do.  The “scale” on the outside of the cage had washed away in the torrent.

I bring Oscar back in and set the top of the cage on the base.  Phone rings.

“Dave’s not here, Man!”.

Tommy Chong, I am not.  I am however getting tired of the wrong numbers.  There’s a car website somewhere that people sign up to opt in for phone calls from people to help them find cars.

Opt in.
To Find Cars.

Why on earth would you ever want to hear from a shouty car salesman?  I have heard from all the high pressure car dealers in South Florida over the last week.  Most of them are blocked.  I have heard from Honda, Hyundai, Kia, and Subaru.  Most of them are insistent that this is Dave’s number.

“No, dude, you’ve been scammed, remove the number he gave out mine”.  I usually can’t even get the sentence out before I’m talking to a dead line and a bloop from my phone.

I start getting texts from someone who insists I need to look at a video on my phone.  No, I won’t bother, the idea that I have to watch a commercial in order to watch a video that lasts less time than the commercial is insane.  All that is blocked on the computer.  Adblock Edge to the rescue.

Phone rings.  More “Dave”.  http://www.truecar.com has my ire.  I will never be able to block all of these things.

Look at the watch.  A 10 minute crop and edit has taken an hour and a half already.

Oh well, by the end of this I will have every single car dealer in South Florida Blocked.  Thankfully I have a modern Android phone that lets me do that sort of thing?

One last burp.  The music in the house.  It stutters, I think nothing of.  I’m almost done here..

The internet goes down.  Damn Comcast!  I walk into the laundry and reset the cable modem.  That doesn’t help.

Comcast is down until 2pm.

(Sigh) One Of Those Days.  I’ll have to use the bluetooth keyboard and finish the post on the phone.

Outlook.com – How To Block Messenger

Microsoft, please don’t annoy me before 6AM.

I had gotten in after the dog walk, settled in for some iced tea, and wanted to check my email once the computer got started.

Using www.outlook.com has never been a pleasure for me.  I want an email service that stays out of my way with extra “features” that I don’t want.   Having a chat service tied into an email program that is a bloated mess was not my choice.  Even Hotmail.com was better than the steaming pile of garbage that Outlook.com has been bloated into.

At the lower left of the browser screen was a helpful “Messaging” area with little icons of people who I have written in the past.  I found myself immediately looking for a way to turn it off.  After wasting a half hour in the “Byzantine” settings menu in Outlook, I went to do a search for how to do it.  I found this page suggesting that I add an entry into a low level file and restart my computer.   The low level file is a text file called “Hosts” that your computer reads in when it starts.  What Hosts does is to override networking.  

In Windows it is at C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc and Linux keeps it at /etc/hosts which would be where I would expect to find it on Mac OSX.

Some very basic and oversimplified networking concepts.

If you type in http://www.ramblingmoose.com your computer doesn’t know what that does. It consults your network stack, finds the gateway, and then talks to your internet service provider.  In this case it looks at a giant phone book called your DNS and gets the IP Address of the site.  Since my blog points to a blogger site, that number changes, and it’s hosted by Google anyway. 

But I can change that.

If I bring up Hosts in notepad or any other TEXT editor, I can add in a line saying that a specific IP address is to be used when you go to a specific web address or URL.

For example, if I want to block Google, I add a line to the file:

127.0.0.1  http://www.google.com

Save the file and restart the computer.

This works for some sites that are advertising providers and other nuisance sites.  My own Hosts file is pretty large having gotten one that has most of those malware and advertising sites that were known at the time.

But all this is annoying to maintain.  Fortunately, there is an easier way to do it.

Adblock Edge or Adblock Plus in Firefox and whichever other browsers it supports.  Adblock Edge is always the first thing I add when I install Firefox.  It allows me to block ads, hide pictures, and even block whole websites (domains) if I choose to from a semi-friendly interface.

Simply add a custom “rule” to adblock to block the following URL:

geo.gateway.messenger.live.com

It would be a whole lot simpler if Microsoft had decided that it would give you a way to block that Messaging app within Outlook.com settings, but they chose not to.  Luckily I can turn it off and get some things done.

How to add a custom rule:

  • Ctrl+Shift+F will open a window called “Adblock Edge Filter Preferences”.
  • Click on the “Add Filter” button in the upper right of the window.
  • In the blue box, enter geo.gateway.messenger.live.com and Enter.
  • Close the window by clicking the Close Box.
  • When you refresh Outlook.com in your browser, it will be blocked in that browser only.

The Tyrrany of the Logical Place

Living in a small house means you have to make allowances.

We have a little shed in the backyard.  Without having measured it, my best guess is that it’s about 10 feet square, but it could be smaller.  Maybe 3 meters on a side.   I can stand in it comfortably.

That is when I empty it.
Or when I can actually go into it.

There’s a ritual involved.

First, think clearly of what you need.  No, Not what you are looking for, but what you actually NEED.  That is to say, you have a lot of projects “pending” so clear your mind and go through that mental list thinking about what you need to complete them.

Dremel tool.

Wiper blades for the Jeep.  You have no idea how difficult it is to find 13 inch wiper blades even in an Auto Parts store these days.

Lights for the little Charlie Brown Holiday Tree.  Ok, so that’s a little early, but it is best to start in August when you’re looking for that sort of thing.

Second, remember why you went out there.  In this case, I’m trying to get together a Care Package for a good friend up North.  I do that sort of thing periodically, as he sends me random things periodically.  That means that I keep packing material on hand as a rule.

You know, Bubble Wrap.  For crying out loud stop popping that, I need it!

Third, find the bug spray.  This is Florida.  South Freaking Florida.   While that shed gets hot during the day with the tin roof partially exposed to the sun under the spreading Sea Grape Tree, it doesn’t really get hot enough to keep it clear of wildlife. 

Not those entertaining little lizards, they use it as an incubation chamber and leave little gumdrop sized eggs in the corner.

I am worried about those other family pets.   My Flock of Mosquitoes and my herd of Spiders.

Die, just die.

I open the door gingerly.  Spray the spray of death into the small chamber.   The two moths that I flushed into the open flutter to the ground.  I did say I am not a practitioner of Jainism where every life is sacred.  If that moth was one of my reincarnated relatives, you shall find another place in your next life.  Let me suggest something a little more charismatic like a parrot or gecko.

I close the door with flourish.  The metal plate behind it thrums.  Drop the padlock into the latch and walk back to the house.   I need to let the poison gas do its thing. 

Try to convince Rack that he really does not need to hide behind the chair.   It’s sunny, we only have a 50 percent chance of rain.  Come on boy, Backyard!

Nothing.  Ok, I’ll do this alone.

Reopen the shed.  The sweet smell of bug death leeches out into the yard.   I step back to allow it to “fall out” while rolling the lawn mower out into the yard.

Stepping back into the shed I immediately get knocked in the head.  Mango Pole for Mango Season and the Pole Saw are hanging from the rafters.  They need to be secured.

I start to dig.   Everything was placed out there for a reason.  Sure.  I’ll need that.   The old radio for my Jeep sits waiting in a bag.  Do people still listen to Cassettes?  How about AM Stereo?

Yeah that ship has sailed.

My motorcycle license plate from New Jersey, still with the sticker on it from 1991.   I miss that bike.  Honda Goldwing Interstate.  *Sigh* Can’t ride one down here, these people think driving is a contact sport.

Ooh there’s that wiper blade!  The holiday lights!  The Bubble Wrap!  That’s why I came out in the first place.  Bubble wrap! 

Not all of it.  Somewhere we have a big roll of the stuff.  Better find that by mid September, I’ll see if I can make do.

Any chance I can find that Dremel?  I have a couple beer bottles to cut down to make “Votive Candle Holders”.

Yeah I know, kitchy.

But no luck on that Dremel.

Whacking my head on the Mango Pole I look at the bikes hanging forgotten in the back.  I never liked riding them anyway.

One more pass for the Dremel.  Nope.  Set the wiper blades in clear view and back out.   The Mosquitoes are heading back in the void.  I dared to breathe too long.  The Carbon Dioxide is collecting in the enclosed space.

Everything was put out there for a reason.  It’s the Logical Place.   The problem with putting things in a Logical Place is that it makes too much sense.  Out of sight and out of mind, you forget about it completely.  Add to it that it is in a place you try not to go to because of the logistics and you end up wasting another hour on another day looking for something that you need, serendipitously hoping you will find it.

Not a chance, but you may find the other plate for the Motorcycle some day.   The Pennsylvania plates always looked more cool anyway.  Shaped like the state with that silly notch for where Erie County is.

You know they actually bought that from New York?  Erie Pennsylvania?  They wanted that?  Must have been for the harbor.  Made Pennsylvania the forgotten Great Lakes state and a great trivia question.

Two states border the Great Lakes and touch the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean – which are they?

New York and Pennsylvania.   The salt line goes up as far as Philadelphia on a dry month.

So? Are They Friendly? If I have to ask…

Have you ever been out and saw someone dumbwalking?

I did at 5:40 in the morning on this particular day.

More importantly they were “on my planet”, which is to say they were so involved in texting or playing some game that the guy didn’t realize that he was about to have a Dog Incident.

Not to worry, I had read Rack’s reaction to the two Schnauzers or Scotties and nothing happened.

Hey, Buddy, Pay Attention, you Bonehead!

Actually I defused the situation a lot more politely.   Having seen this person before, I knew his dogs were out of control.  While Mr X was standing there engrossed in what he was doing on the small screen instead of building a relationship with these two living and breathing creatures, those same creatures had spotted us.

His dogs had went into an aggressive stance.  They crossed to his rear and formed an X across his back with the leashes.  Rack at this time had walked to the far side of me and had stretched out my arm to get as far away as possible.

I used The Voice.  This is the Command Voice that I can use well.  Lots of booming sound, designed to wake someone up and draw attention.

“Are They Friendly?”

I knew better, having seen these dogs before, I had seen them lunging and growling both at me, my dog, and others in the same situation.  Clearly this is someone who should not have a dog, let alone two.

“Oh Sure, they’re friendly!”  Then he noticed it was me and looked away as far as possible.  As he was gathering his dogs together, I passed.

Of course my thumb had just flicked the safety switch on my Taser Flashlight that was in my pocket, and I had it out at my opposite side.  I pretended to look at an object with the light thereby proving that everything was energized in case I needed protection.  It either is a Flashlight or a Taser but not both.  I generally need to watch, and that flashlight gets taken out of the pocket other than to light my path a startling amount of times, roughly every fourth or fifth walk.

Having gone through a dog bite incident, I simply wasn’t going to walk blindly into that situation again.  There are just too many bad dog owners out there.  The dogs can be trained.  The people are questionable.

I see this far too often.   Living in a resort town, Wilton Manors, people come here literally from all over the world.  They take a lot of time and effort to get here.   So what do they do when they get here?  Pull out the smartphone, sit in front of a coffee shop, and ignore the world.

I could have saved you vacationers a lot of time, if you really wanted to use that phone, you could have done that on your own couch.

As for the locals who have the little yappers?  A dog is a dog is a dog.  They all can be trained, even the dinky little Frou Frou dogs that city dwellers have a preference for and some people feel it is appropriate to stuff into a purse.  That is to say that somewhere deep down there is that spirit of a Wolf.  If you don’t take control of your dog, your dog will take control of you.

You have been “owned”.  Or “Pwned” as Them Thar Kids say now a days.  And it is never appropriate to stuff a dog into a purse.  A dog is not an object, it is an intelligent and sentient being.

Your dog will take control of the situation.  Since dogs are territorial beasts, they will growl, show teeth, and go to protect what they think their territory is.  That is to say, you.

On the other hand, a well trained dog is welcomed just about anywhere.  Many restaurants and shops will allow a well trained dog in.  If your dog is lunging and growling and barking, it is not well trained and simply does not belong in public.

Some people don’t need a dog, a plush toy would do, or even a picture of a plush toy may be more appropriate.

So every time you go out and see a dog in a shop or a restaurant, watch the interaction.  It really isn’t that hard to tell if the person is over their head and needs training.   The dog has trained them to be in the back seat and is now in charge anyway.

As for the rest of our walk?  I got well away from that dumbwalker and dropped Rack’s leash.  When there

are no dogs around, he’s being trained to be a “Good Citizen”.  For now, this is only at the early walk.  The other walks are a bit too intense.  I intend to get him to the point where he can walk off leash anywhere, whether there are other dogs there or not.  The minute I drop Rack’s leash, he circles back and glues himself to my leg.  Then he looks up at me for suggestions.

Where’re we gonna go, Dad?  Huh?  Walkies?  GREAT!

Reimagining the Desk – A Journey With A Stiff Neck

One of the earliest things that I had written about was my living room.   Specifically, I took a picture of my chair, my laptop, and the rest, and I then told the story of the Poang and how I tend to sit in my chair and write.   I also do more than that, all sorts of software development for fun and profit, as well as pretty much treat the thing as an office.

There’s a problem.

I originally thought that it was a Tall Guy Problem.  It’s not.  It’s simply a problem.

After reading Reddit and the Tall Subreddit where people take random selfies looking uncomfortable because the world was not engineered for someone over 6 feet tall, I came to the conclusion that Mom was Right.

My posture had become awful and my coveted chair was contributing to it all.  Back pain, stiff neck, and general achy self were some of the things I had noticed.

Yeah I know, Hey, Bill, Take Control.  Grab the Reins.

Ok, Smart Alec that lives inside my head, what do I do?

The house I live in has my desk.  The desk is in the Florida Room.  That room needs insulation and since the exposed beams warm the place to another five degrees F warmer than the rest of the house as soon as the sun starts to bake it, I had abandoned my desk almost immediately after I settled into it.

Don’t ask, it’s too warm to use.

The Ikea Poang in the middle of the living room is under a vent and a ceiling fan redirects the air conditioning so it’s comfortable.  I used to say that it was the coolest seat in the house, but I’m not so certain.

What I did was to relocate to the dining room.

I have an old 1950s or earlier solid maple table in there with matching solid wood chairs.  When Mom got this set, I took a liking to it.  I saw an opportunity when she started complaining that it didn’t do well in her kitchen in Barclay Farms, Cherry Hill, good ol’ New Jersey.  So I “helped her out” of it and it’s been with me ever since I moved into my first Philly apartment.

After waking up with a proper stiff neck that never went away and some other disturbing creaks and cracks that were getting more insistent, I tried some minor changes.  It convinced me that while this isn’t perfect, I’m onto something.

Ergonomically speaking, your eyes will track to the center of the device that you are using.  In my case it is a 16 inch wide laptop.  If I put that on my lap, it will create some problems.

The worst problem is that since I slightly recline in the Poang, the view to the laptop means that I am looking down.  In the more than 10 hours a day I am sitting there using the laptop, my head ends up with chin literally glued to my chest.  That is not a good position.  Not at all.

The laptop had to be raised off my lap and placed onto Mom’s Maple table.

Good first step.  Now, slide back… great!  But those chairs are stiff.  Nobody wants to sit on an un-padded wood Captain’s Chair for hours no matter how nice it looks.   Plus the angle is still “down”.

I slid the chair aside, moved the Poang in.

It’s much better.  My eyes are dead center on the monitor.  The picture I took from my right shoulder, while it is out of focus, is perfect for showing the view I get from the bouncy chair.

One problem.  I am an excellent touch typist.  Mrs Momarella and my good friend Donna W. from High School taught me well.

The laptop is just below shoulder height.  That doesn’t make for comfort.  In fact, I tried typing that way for all of five minutes.  My hands nearly came off at the wrist.

Seeing that I can type with my eyes closed almost as well as I can with them open, I needed something else to happen.

I pulled the captain’s chair out again and used it for a platform to set the track ball.   It’s a big clunky thing that uses up my USB port and won’t sit on the arm of the chair.  Since this is “work hour use only” no worries there, I’ll just “own” using my dining room as my office.

One more thing.  Keyboard.

My old school IBM Model M Keyboard with the clicky keys!  Lets try that first. 

Nope.  It drains too much power to use on the USB converter thing.

Digging through the Parts Cabinet, I found an old Microsoft wireless keyboard.  That is on my knees right now just inside the picture.  It works “well enough” but I still want my PS/2 Keyboard.   Once I find my powered USB hub, I know that it will drive the keyboard I really want to use. 

Too bad you can’t get those clicky keyboards with bluetooth though.   It’s 1980s technology that will work because it’s just that good.  Too well designed to toss with real mechanical switches on each key.  They weigh almost as much as the laptop does.  I have about 4 of them in the house buried under the bed because when people tossed their old PCs, the keyboards would end up at the computer shows being sold for a mint.

If 5 dollars could be considered a mint.  Now they go for between 80 and 200 US Dollars more on auction and reseller sites.

No, I won’t share.  Get your own.  Besides, I may figure something else out with my coveted clicky IBM Keyboard Model M.

Yes, I have Ideas.

For now, I have my Tall Guy Adaptation.  It really isn’t about being tall though, it’s more about looking at how you are working and making sure you are sitting at the right place to put your head when you work.  When I touch type… I can set my head back and close my eyes, like this paragraph was typed.  If your are smaller and have a shorter torso, like about 95% of humankind, you can vary the height of everything so that you can work with it at ease.  That is why most “office chairs” have those adjustments to make things more comfortable.

But Laptops?  I’m beginning to realize that they just aren’t meant to live on your lap for 10 hours at a stretch.

Besides, if you do, these days, you will end up toasting your legs.  I’ll leave Mom’s Table to handle that for me.  I’m nice and cool listening to music on headphones, typing on my lap, and resting my head back with my eyes closed.

Yes, I can do this with my eyes closed.

Really.

Writing can be an effortless experience.   If I could only have told my 12 year old self who was bored hearing about all that in English Class in Mr Custer’s Sixth Grade Class in Stafford School on Berlin Road in Cherry Hill.

Boring as hell but useful.  Not everything can be an adventure novel after all.   Some come with a beige cover and will bore you to tears but you will use it every day of your life.

Just like that table and laptop combo.

Now oddly enough, before I wrote this up and headed on my little obsessive journey for desk nirvana, the Washington Post had written an infographic on this same subject.  I’ll make it a point to get out of my desk and chair more often, or I’ll at least try.

Since the poster is at this PDF link, it won’t fully display here.   On the other hand, I see that picture below and think… Is THIS what I put my body through?  YUCK!!!!

Now I Know Why People Store Passwords On Post-its Under The Keyboard

I have a video.  In retrospect it isn’t all that much.  About a minute of my dog romping in the back yard.

I got it off the video camera, reformatted it to the correct size.  HD Video used to be a special thing, but now… even a cheap phone will do better video than we used to get back in the square box days of TV.

Not too long ago, and yeah, get off my lawn.

I grabbed a picture of my dog, and my neighbor’s dog Ellie.

Both were a lead-in.  I have done this sort of thing before, professionally.   I may be a bit rusty, but editing video is something I have done since the mid 1990s both professionally and as a hobby. 

I have taken video that I have shot, as well as video created from broadcast sources, and I even made a giant Powerpoint project that I converted to video.  Yeah, you know the one that runs behind the stage to annoy, er advertise companies at a street party?  I did that.

I managed to get the short video, three transitions, four titles, a comment frame, and more, put together and in the right format for the web.

Time to log into youtube.  Oops.  Where’s that password?

Wait, the washer was beeping.  It needs to go on another spin cycle anyway.

Back to … where was I?

Postman arrived… I can ignore that for a little bit.   Let me tweak the titles again, I’m not too happy how things show up in motion.  I’m getting a blur.

Time to render the video again.  Crash.

Windows is demanding a reboot, I can postpone that.

Bring the project back up again.  I think I need to find a better piece of software to do that task, I’m running something from 2003 still.  At least it’s not like writing a novel in an extinct word processor and on DOS.

Once I get this render done and uploaded, I’ll look into Cinelerra and Ubuntu Studio again.  I have enough Linux machines around me that that shouldn’t be a problem.

More distractions, this time the fifth recruiter in the last hour.  Sure, you’re from New Jersey.  Right, and I’m living on the Moon…

Ahh, render is done, now back to that old youtube account I have… Ramblingmoose.   What was that password again? 

Fail.  No such luck.  Should have written that thing on the bottom of a Post-it and stuck it on my desk somewhere.  It’s not in the emergency file either.

Oh well.   Time to drop back five and kick.   Write about the experience, curse at Google with my best might, and put up the original video of Rack licking peanut butter out of the Kong.  

*sigh*

Wow, that was only a month after I got him? Long time ago…

How to Stop Facebook From Auto-Playing Videos

Believe it or not, I don’t have an April Fool’s Joke.  I don’t believe in them.  It’s for the amateurs around us.

So while today is Amateur Day, I’ll give you a little helpful hint.

I enjoy videos.  I watch an awful lot of them, probably more than I should.

When I launch a web page and it has a video on it, that video should not automatically play.  If it does, I am searching for a way to close that web page as fast as humanly possible.

I usually do it while at least growling at the laptop, and most likely with a few “invectives”.

You know, four letter words.

So if you are looking at Facebook, and I do this far too much to support the groups around here that I support, here is a way to make your life a bit easier.

  • Log into Facebook.
  • Click the “Settings” gear in the right side of the blue stripe at the top of your Facebook webpage.  Lately that gear has been changed to a little subtle blue triangle, point down.   The link is here to put you directly on the page.
  • The resulting “General Settings” page has a list of  settings you can work with in the left pane of the web page.
  • Click on the Video Settings link on the left at the bottom of the list or just click on this link.
  • Video Settings has only one thing you can set here, the Auto-Play setting.  Click on the “On” or “Off” button to set it the way you like.

Enjoy!