|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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 www.erodeaplane.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Urban Legends <--click for more
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 date.com.
Classical Guitar <--click for more
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?
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.
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 "http://www.yahoo.com/". 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.
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.
Internet Archive <--click for more
For no apparent reason <--click for more
Last updated 20150303
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