My View On Things

All Contents Copyright 1996-2015 by Ivory Tower Group

Welcome to my view on things of this world. This is where I get to write what I want, when I want, about things that interest me. Expect me to ramble from topic to topic, because that's what I'm going to do. If you like what you see, feel free to bookmark this site. I'll try my best to keep it fresh and updated frequently.

National Novel Writing Month <--click for more

Ah, the frosty month of October. Time of witches, goblins, pumpkin pie, and harvest festivals. I've got this month to decide whether I'm going to enter that National Novel Writing Month competition. I'm still undecided, though I think my son Nick will enter. He likes to write fanfiction, which is fiction based on a pre-existing world that someone else has created. For example, the Tolkein world of hobbits and elves, or the science-fiction fantasy realm of Star Wars. I don't understand the appeal of doing something with someone else's world, but I suppose there is an appeal. After all, there have been some movies I've seen where I really didn't want them to end, and I would wonder what things happened to the main characters after the house lights went up. I suppose that's what fanfiction is about.

National Novel Writing Month

Peets Coffee <--click for more

My favorite coffee is Major Dickason's blend from Peet's Coffee and Teas. It's makes a really great cup of coffee if brewed properly. Unfortunately, it's really expensive at around $13 a pound, so I don't much partake of it. However, there is a blend that is almost as good and only costs around $3.50 a pound from Costco. It's the San Francisco Bay Coffee Company French Roast blend. You get a 3 pound bag for around $10, which is an incredible deal. If you grind the beans just before brewing, it makes a great pot of coffee. And don't believe anyone when they tell you to store your whole coffee beans in the freezer or refrigerator. That's the quickest way to ruin them. Instead, store them in an airtight container, preferably with all the air sucked out, somewhere dark and at room temperature. The beans will last nicely for at least a month. That's how long it takes me to go through 3 pounds of coffee, so I know of what I speak.


Low End Mac <--click for more

I have a low-end Mac that I do most of my work on. It's a PowerBook 3400c with a whopping 144mb of RAM and a 10 gigabyte hard drive. You can laugh if you want, but it does everything I need, except maybe browse some of the fancier web sites out there. It's hard to get new software for a low-end Mac, especially one that is running Mac OS 9.1. The latest and greatest Mac operating system is OS X. The X stands for "10". I can't run OS X on my PowerBook, so I'm stuck looking for programs that don't require OS X. One of the resources I use is a place called Low End Mac. You'll find information, places to buy stuff, and software you can download. If you have a low-end Mac, you should check out this web site. It's a really great resource and proves that just because you've got an outdated computer, it still has some life left in it.

Low End Mac

Audiobooks for free <--click for more

I'm cheap by nature. I don't like to pay for things if I don't have to. But I will not illegally use things I haven't paid for, which is why I do not condone file swapping of commercial music or movies. However, I do condone the use of free audio and video. One site that offers free audio you can download is is Audiobooks for Free. You can find hundreds of free audiobooks in mp3 format, ready for download from this site. There is one catch, though. The sound quality of the free downloads is rather poor. The audio sounds like it was recorded from the bottom of a 10 gallon aquarium. But you can listen for free. And if you would like higher quality versions of the files, you can get them for a nominal fee. One of the greatest deals is getting a 7-DVD collection of their entire collection of audiobooks for a little over $100. That's hundreds of books. We're talking less than a dollar a book. Compare that to what other sites charge for audiobooks and you'll see it's a great deal.

Audiobooks for free

MDI Air Car <--click for more

While I was searching for something the other day, I came across a web site for a product that I simply could not believe. It's a car that runs on air! The MDI Air Car is a completely clean no-emission vehicle. Imagine a car that can take you about 2000 kilometers on a tank of compressed air. Imagine being able to fill it up for less than 2 euros and it only taking about 3 minutes at an "air filling station". Science fiction or possible future? Depends on how much big business doesn't want you to get your hands on one of these. I've encountered electric vehicles, solar-powered vehicles, fuel-cell vehicles, hybrids, etc., even a car that supposedly ran on tap water, but nothing quite like a vehicle powered by air. Right now, the car is being developed in Europe but all it would take would be a heavily funded entrepreneur to bring it to the US. Any takers out there?

The Air Car

Nine Eleven <--click for more

Today marks the anniversary of 9/11. For anyone who has been sleeping under a rock for the last decaade, that's 11 September 2001. It's the day the World Trade Center buildings came down, the Pentagon was bombed, and another aircraft went down somewhere in the woods in Pennsylvania.

Now, I'm not your usual paranoid conspiracy nutcase, but I do think it's a rather odd set of circumstances. First, we get buildings supposedly based in super reinforced metal skeletons coming down because of the heat caused by jet fuel burning. That's not supposed to happen. The only way buildings like those are supposed to be able to come down is if there's an explosion (implosion?) on the inside - and they have to be well placed explosives.

What about those supposed cell phone calls from the plane that went down? Isn't it highly unlikely that cell phone calls can be made from that altitude and from inside a plane? I can't even make a cell phone call from an elevator in downtown Seattle...

And how about the bombing of the Pentagon with another civilian aircraft. Aren't we talking about the most guarded building on the planet? How in the world did an airplane get that close in the first place? Aren't alarms supposed to go off unless the plane has a military transponder? Aren't military aircraft supposed to escort the stray planes away or bomb them before they get that close? Seems really odd.

And now we've got the Patriot Act, the finest piece of legislation that your congresspeople have never read. I think only four congressmen actually read that huge mess of words, yet almost all of them voted yes on the thing. Imagine that. The congresspeople you voted for decided to pass something they didn't even read. What's wrong with this picture?

Monicaisms <--click for more

My daughter Monica will be turning 4 on the 19th of this month. Of all my children, she's the one who comes up with the wildest expressions. They are even more funny because they come out of the mouth of a 3 year old. Here are some examples.

One day near Christmas, I was sitting in the car with Monica and my other daughter Lily (who is a year and a half older). They were singing Christmas carols in the back while I was sitting in the front. Then, Monica started singing a song from "Aladdin: Return of Jafar", the one called "Arabian Nights". Lily looked at Monica with an expression of disgust and stated "that's not a Christmas song!" Monica, stopped long enough to answer her: "It's a Benee' song, and Benee' IS Christmas." Renee' is their 20-year old cousin, and for the longest time, they've mispronounced her name "Benee'."

One day, someone asked Monica if her brother Christopher was a boy or a girl. She replied: "He's like something like a pig."

One day, Monica was with her brother Joe and her aunt Elsa. They were at a lake having fun. Monica was urging Elsa to carry her into the water and Elsa asked her "what about Joe?" Monica replied, "he's not a human being."

My three older boys were taking judo last year, and when Monica saw them dressed up in their judo outfits, she exclaimed "I want to go to judo, too!" I explained to her that judo was for boys. She quickly quipped "how about pink judo?"

There are plenty more of these "Monica-isms". As I remember them, I'll post them to their own page and put the url here. I realized they may not be that funny to most people, but I get a kick out of them.

The plane, boss! <--click for more

How about this for an idea. My son Nick came up with the initial concept. Buy an airplane. A Cessna 170 series would do. Doesn't even have to work. As a matter of fact, it's probably best if it doesn't work. Then, charge people $1 to touch one particular part of it. Advertise it all over the place, and soon you'll have a line of people circling the plane waiting for their chance to contribute to its erosion. Then, you can sell t-shirts and other merchandise, something with the slogan "I rode the plane" with the word "rode" crossed out and the word "e-roded" put in its place. Then, you can set up a web site called or something like that and have people "e-erode" it. You could use some sort of pulley and armature setup connected to the site, so that when people pay their $1 in PayPal or e-gold, it will make a reasonable facsimile of a finger touch that circled part of the airplane. After only about a million touches, you should start seeing some noticeable erosion, maybe even sooner. After you grow weary of dealing with the multitudes coming to erode your plane, you can cut it up into little pieces and sell them on Ebay.

I think the only problem you'll have with this idea is going to be numerous copycats out there who will set up a similar situation. I can see it now. Somewhere in Canton, Ohio, someone will have a dead Piper Tomahawk set up for only 50 cents a touch and claim the lines are a lot shorter and maybe they'll even let you put your entire hand on the airplane or maybe let you pick the spot you want to erode. Who knows? This concept might even grow to include items other than airplanes, though I really don't know why it would.

SASE <--click for more

When I was about 12 or 13, I answered a classified advertisement in the local newspaper. The ad said I could make up to $300/week stuffing envelopes. All I had to do was send a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) for all the details. So, I got a couple of stamps together and sent in for the information. About a week later, I received a one-page flyer in my SASE. It described the program in no more detail than the classified ad, but it did ask for some information. Along with name, address, etc., I was asked how much I wanted to make per week. The choices were $100, $200, or $300. Not wanting to seem too greedy, I selected $200. I filled out the rest of the information and then pondered on the words "please enclose $20 cash or money order for processing." I had $20 in my wallet at the time, and I thought, this would certainly be a good investment. Give $20 and get $200 a week back. Not bad. So, I went ahead and stuck my $20 bill into an envelope with the filled out form and then I waited. I'm still waiting. I haven't received my course on making lots of money by stuffing envelopes, but I know it will show up one of these days. My only concern is, I've changed addresses about a dozen times since then, and I'm hoping the package will find me. I am hopeful.

Fixed Orbit <--click for more

Fixed Orbit is one of those sites on the Internet that you may not initially have a use for, especially if you're just a day-to-day browser. But sometimes, especially if you are encountering problems, you might want to know what's going on underneath all that flash and sizzle. Fixed Orbit touts itself as an atlas to the Internet, and that's probably as good a description as anyone can come up with. You can find out who's connected to who, how many peers each place has, who controls the most ip addresses, where all that traffic is being used, and much more. If only to get a look at how (or maybe even why) the Internet works at all, check this site out.

Fixed Orbit

The Manchurian Candidate <--click for more

I like to keep up with what's happening on the Internet, especially the problems which may arise due to people who have nothing else better to do attempting to make things difficult for the rest of us. These so-called hackers have made life miserable for a lot of us, and it's always been a game of catch-up to try and stay one step ahead of them and their nasty tendencies. One site I rely on to at least try to keep that step ahead is packet storm. Not only does it give you up-to-the-minute reports on the latest exploits and hacking attempts, it also give you information about past hacks so you can check out your machines and make sure they haven't already been compromised, waiting to be "awakened" at some later date to do something bad to lots of unsuspecting people all over the place.

Ever see that movie "The Manchurian Candidate" with Frank Sinatra? I know there's a remake, but I haven't seen it, so I don't know if it's even the same story. Anyway, without giving the plot away, someone hides a trojan horse or virus or worm inside an unsuspecting machine. The machine, oblivious to the infection, goes about its merry existence until one day, it gets a connection from another machine. That other machine gives the infected machine a special code that turns it from a nice home computer that you might play fantasy football on to a mean, nasty, killer that will attack financial systems all over the world. It's up to the men in white hats to rescue the day and assassinate that machine before it kills its first target. OK, so that's not really the plot, but it's about how it goes...

Eternal Life Device <--click for more

OK, I'm skeptical about many things, but sometimes I come across something that sounds like so much hype, I think it might actually be true. Case in point is Alex Chiu's Eternal Life Device. I'm all for being in good health, and this guy's eternal life rings seem to do the trick for a lot of people. I have absolutely no proof that these things actually work, but if they do half of what the testimonials say they do, then it's worth the $29 price of admission. I'm going to get a pair. Call me a sucker. Barnum said that one is born every minute. I figure it's no worse than buying a meal at Olive Garden. I'll sacrifice the dinner out next month and give myself better health instead. If it works, I'll let you know. If it doesn't, I'll let you know as well.

Alex Chiu

Those Pesty Ants <--click for more

Ants are a pest. There are no two ways about it. Over the past week, we have been dealing with an invasion unlike any other. If there is a way to get into the house, they will find it. Believe me, they will find it. I have been dealing with these pests several times a day, always finding them in new and creative places. First, it was the obvious places, like the kitchen and anywhere some food or drink might have spilled over the last 20 years. Then, they started going for the more unusual places, like the toy chest or the laundry room, looking for who knows what. How they got under the air-tight glass cake safe to pick at the cookie crumbs is beyond me, but they did.

Now, I don't usually get upset over little things, but put enough little things into a room, and watch me go to work with a spray can of Raid. I suppose it's the dry spell we're having that is bringing them into the house, or maybe it's just a seasonal thing. One thing for sure: I can't wait until I've seen the last of them.

And to think I once thought of putting up a web site devoted to those cute creatures ( I thought to myself, isn't that cute? Look at that little ant lifting that huge piece of leaf, working like there's no tomorrow, and in harmony with the collective, aligned with the planets, and living within the boundaries of all that is good and right with the world. Yeah, right. Kill 'em! Kill 'em all!

After browsing for a while on the Internet, I found a site called Fast Pest Control. They have a product that guarantees to get rid of the entire ant colony. I'm going to try it and will let you know what happens...

Google Ads <--click for more

Have you noticed how the google ads change based on the topic I write about? Kind of neat, isn't it? I thought I'd give an update on how the adsense ads are working for me, for anyone curious out there. So far, it's doing much better than I thought it would. My best day thus far has been Friday, August 19th ($6.98), and my worst day thus far was the day right before that, Thursday, August 18th ($0.12). Now, it probably had to do with the types of ads that popped up. On the 18th, I wrote about favico.ico files, and on the 19th, I wrote about free fax and voicemail. I imagine there was more money to be made hawking fax and voicemail than favico.ico editors, which probably accounts for the disparity between the two days. I'm going to keep my eyes open and see if it's a trend. Another good day was August 23rd, where I wrote about calendars. I wouldn't think that would be a high-ticket item, but who knows? I'll let you know if I spot any trends.

Colt 1911 <--click for more

One of my all-time favorite pistols is the Colt 1911 semi-automatic. It was created by a master gunsmith, John Moses Browning. Any gun collector would recognize the name "Browning" as part of a select group. Now, I don't have a 1911 in my possession, nor do I even have one of the many modern versions, but I do hope to have one some day. I've handled several varieties, and they are not an inexpensive gun, so you could pay anywhere from $500 to $5000 depending on the model, features, and age. What makes the 1911 unique in today's world of weapons is the .45" caliber cartridge. It's big and has lots of stopping power, unlike the 9mm or .38" caliber cartridges of today's modern handguns. It has been the mainstay of several US government organizations for many decades and has only recently been replaced by more complicated, more prone to failure weapons. As far as I know, the IRS doesn't use a 1911-A1 government model, so there's yet another reason to dislike them. For all the information and pictures and lore you would ever want about the 1911, visit The M-1911 Pistols Home Page. I find it simply amazing that a gun that was designed nearly 100 years ago is as popular today as it was when it was first created and still holds its own against anything put on the market since.

Visit The M-1911 Pistols Home Page

Urban Legends <--click for more

Once upon a time, my aunt told me something that happened to a friend of a friend of hers. At the time, I took it as the truth because I knew she would not lie about something that incredible. However, when I heard almost the exact same story from someone else a few years later, I knew something was amiss. That's when I found out about "urban legend". You've probably heard some of the stories yourself. The one my aunt told me had to do with a neighbor whose pet bunny had died. She had kept the bunny in a hutch in her backyard and when the bunny died, buried it near that same hutch. Another neighbor's dog jumped the fence that night and dug up the bunny, bringing it home. The dog's owner was horrified to see the dead bunny near her dog and decided to take matters into her own hands. She took the dead bunny, washed it, blow dried it, and then snuck it back into the hutch in the neighbor's backyard, hoping the neighbor would think the bunny died of natural causes. Naturally, when the neighbor saw her resurrected bunny back in its hutch, she fainted in disbelief! When I heard the story being told, it sounded so bizarre that it simply could not be made up, and I figured it must be true. Then, like I said earlier, I heard a similar story years later. If you've heard stories like this yourself, you should check out the Urban Legends Reference Pages to see how much veracity the story really holds. It might in fact be true but borrowed by people as their own. Usually, if the event happens to a "friend of a friend", it's probably urband legend. I was surprised myself to realize that when I told this resurrected bunny story, instead of claiming it happened to a friend of a friend of a friend, I would naturally just say it happened to a friend of a friend. If something like this happens, then who knows how far down the chain it's travelled before it comes to you?

Urban Legends Reference Pages

Time and Date <--click for more

For a long while, I was going through life without a calendar. The calendar I had on my wall expired December 2004, and I never bothered getting one to replace it. So, whenever I needed to look up a date, I fumbled around looking for either a pocket calendar or just guessed. That wasn't working very well, so I did a search and found a place that would allow me to print a yearly calendar. Using the scaling feature of my printer, I printed up a 2005 calendar small enough to tape onto my monitor. Now, I know exacty where I am in the year and what falls on what. All I need now is a pair of reading glasses to see the tiny digits of my new yearly calendar. To print your own calendar (they give you many options), visit time and

Visit Time and Date

Classical Guitar <--click for more

I'm a big fan of classical guitar. I try to play as often as I can, and although I never seem to get any better, I keep trying. Once upon a time, I had the idea to make a site of downloadable sheet music. The idea was a bit ahead of its time, and I didn't have the resources to make it happen, although Frederick Noad, noted guitar teacher, from whose books I first learned classical guitar, called me on the phone, and we chatted about the idea for quite some time. Back then, I was sure it was going to happen, so sure that I told him he should let people know about it in a new book he was writing. He passed away in 2001, and I never actually found out if he completed that new book of his.

For the last few weeks, I've been trying to learn a piece I first attempted about a decade ago. it's the Lagrima by Francisco Tarrega. Only problem was, I could not for the life of me find that piece of sheet music. After half a dozen moves, I had finally lost it, along with dozens of other pieces of music, including some of the last songs I ever wrote back in 1986. Oh, well. The songs weren't that good anyway. But I was upset over not being able to find the Lagrima piece. So, I ventured onto the handy dandy Internet, to see if I could find an electronic copy of it. After googling "lagrima", a pdf version of the music popped up. I was astonished. I ventured further into the web site home of the piece and was pleasantly surprised. In it were pdf versions of many dozens of pieces by various composers. What a find! If you play classical guitar, and you haven't already done so, check out

Visit Frederick Noad


R U Sitting Comfortably? <--click for more

Sometimes I forget what I write about. Sometimes, I forget that I should write about something. I suppose it's old age. I'm really not that old, but you know how you think you're going to last forever, be sharp as a tack into your 90s and keep running those marathons even with the extra oxygen tank strapped onto your back. Well, maybe I'm not old enough to remember back to the glory days of radio, when George Burns and Gracie Allen cracked jokes back and forth and commercials had a lot more charm and simplicity than they do now. Sometimes, I'll see an advertisement and wonder exactly what it is they're trying to sell. Not so in radio's golden age. If you're curious, you've got to check out R U Sitting Comfortably. They have a huge archive of radio programs that would take you forever to listen to, if you listened to all of them. It does cost money, but they take PayPal. Shell out a few bucks from the earnings on your last auction and give them a try. All the files are in MP3 format, so they're easy to play on your computer or burnable to CD. My personal favorite series right now is Lux Radio Theater. You'll get great entertainment, complete with the actual vintage commercials of the day. Are you sitting comfortably?

Visit R U Sitting Comfortably

Free Fax and Voicemail <--click for more

Want a completely free fax and voicemail service? You'll get your faxes and voicemails via email or through their web site. You'll get your own personal telephone number people can dial. The only downside is, the number is going to be in the 206 area code. That's Seattle, for anyone who doesn't live in the Pacific Northwest. But, still, that's not a very bad downside, and maybe it would be a little prestigious to have a 206 number.

I know there are plenty of companies out there offering fax and voicemail service, some even for free, including j2, but they don't let you customize your outgoing message, and there are a few other annoying restrictions, like getting a number from a random part of the United States. I suppose that would be considered a feature for some. Would the 206 area code be any better if you live in New York? I don't know.

Anyway, the company to check out is Go to their web site, and within minutes, you'll be able to start receiving faxes and voicemail to your very own Seattle phone number. Not bad for free.


Perfectionism <--click for more

Sometimes, I put on my perfectionist hat. It doesn't happen too often, but when it does, it really annoys everyone around me. The other day, I happened to go through my web server error logs to see how many people were requesting something that didn't exist. I noticed that it appeared that a lot of people were requesting something called "favicon.ico". Now, why would they do that? I did a bit of googling and realized that it wasn't people requesting this file, it was their web browser. Most modern web browsers allow people to customize the little icon that appears next to the URL in the navigation field of their web browsers. For example, if you visit Yahoo!, you'll notice what looks like a big red "Y!" to the left of the "". OK, you can put an icon there. Nice little touch. But how? I looked around some more and found a web site that lets you create your own by uploading a graphic. It then creates a favicon.ico file and gives you instructions for how to get it to show up on your site. For lack of a more creative title, the site is called FavInco from Pics. If you google favicon.ico, you'll see a bunch more places to go for information. It's worth taking a look at.

Visit FavIco from Pics

Planet Cabinet <--click for more

One day, I was trying to copy a file from one computer in my office to another computer. Unfortunately, one of the computers did not have a floppy drive, and I had ran out of CDRs. I have a USB memory stick that I use to move files back and forth, but one of the computers did not have a USB port. The only thing they had in common was a connection to the Internet. So, I figured, I'll just upload a file to an ftp site on the Internet and then download that same file on the other computer. Easier said than done. I got the file up, but when I went to the other computer, there was no ftp program, at least none that I could see. So, I had to download an ftp program, install it, reboot the machine, and then I was finally able to get the file from the ftp site. Talk about difficult! I longed for the days of "sneakernet" when you could just copy something onto a 3.5" floppy diskette and stick it into another machine. But those days are long gone. Many new computers don't even have a floppy drive. And even if they did, have you noticed how finicky they can be? I've had them refuse the read a floppy formatted on another machine.

The reason I am talking about all this is because of the post I made yesterday about Dropload. As much as I like the service, I wish I didn't have to register just to send one file, and I also wish I could send the link to more than just one person. Well, you know what they say about necessity being the mother of invention. I decided to take matters into my own hands and set up a service similar to Dropload but have it address my own needs. Then, I figured maybe it would address other people's needs as well. So, say hello to This was a domain name that I registered many moons ago when I had this hair-brained scheme to create a digital library and make it freely available to everyone on the Internet. Fortunately, other people have already done this, so I don't have to do it myself. So, now it's been reborn with a different purpose in life. Give it a try and see if it works for you. Send me some feedback if you notice any problems. I spent about 2 hours putting it together, so it's not as slick as I'd like, but it does work, and I'll continue to improve it, especially if there is interest.

Visit Planet Cabinet

Internet Archive <--click for more

Want to know a secret? Maybe it's one of the best kept secrets on the Internet. Maybe you already know about it, in which case you must be one of the secret keepers. I just found out about it recently. It's a site called Internet Archive. Forgive me if this is common knowledge, but I can't get over how much free media is available on this site. There are full-length motion pictures you can download, a lot of classics, including lots of early day cartoons. My favorite two sections of the archive are Feature Films and Film Chest Vintage Cartoons. If you don't have a fast connection to the Internet, don't bother trying to download anything here. We're talking hundreds of megabytes for a cartoon and several gig for a feature film. But if you do have a high-speed connection, start downloading a feature film now and you'll be able to watch it tonight. Better yet, burn it onto a DVD and watch it later.

Visit Internet Archive

For no apparent reason <--click for more

For no apparent reason, I just made over this web site. It wasn't doing anything useful, especially after I stopped selling Apprentice. A bit of history: For 10 years, I've informed, annoyed, and otherwise done my part in making the Internet a kinder, gentler place. Well, maybe in my own mind. From Macintosh modem cables to tutorials on how to use communications software, I've covered a lot of ground. Then there was the partially successful experiment called POCIA. I think my most successful product had to be Apprentice, which died back in 1996 or thereabouts. Now, I am on to better things, at least I think I am...

Last updated 20150303

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