The stars at night are big and bright...

The stars at night are big and bright...
The stars at night are big and bright...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Calgon, Take Me Away!!!

As previously mentioned on The South 40, I have some issues with the one and only game I play, Aces High. My faithfull old Dell died last year and I decided to replace it with a gaming computer just so I could play AH better than I could with the old generic Dell.

Fate is a fickle beast.

I bought an iBuypower 501 Gamer from Newegg with twice the power, RAM and video than I had before. It wouldn't run the game. It made me warp (jump from position to position) and had the other players accusing me of trying to cheat. The latter really pissed me off because I had just dropped a considerable amount of money to upgrade what was a system that ran the sim just fine.

After several months of working with the game's Tech Support and chasing software and configuration dead ends I finally decided to throw even more money at the problem and upgraded my system's memory and video. Mind you they were already a huge upgrade from my original system that ran the game smoothly to begin with.

Anyhoo, I buy $100 worth of new RAM and a new $120 video card ( + shipping)from a major online retailer that I've done lots of business with before. Other retailers has the card I wanted (Radeon 4770) for much less, but they were out of stock. This retailer had them in stock, but for $30 more than all their competetion. Probably the reason they had them in stock. So I bite the bullett and order the card. I even pony up the extra bucks for overnight delivery. I made the order last Thursday at 11am. It arrived Tuesday at 3pm.

Overnight my ass!

To add insult to injury, after installing the new video card, it will not work without an external power cable. A little fact left out of all the online documentation and the installation manual in the box. The cable does not come with the card, I learned after spending 2 hours on hold with their technical support.

Good news is they are sending me the required cable free of charge. Bad news is it will take 8 - 10 business days. Now they didn't say if it was 8-10 days shipping or 8-10 days to fill the order then ship.

When it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight.

Meanwhile, while waiting for all this stuff to arrive after I've ordered it, I finally find a tweaked driver for my original card that gets the game to run almost as smooth as it did with my old system.

That's $250 that could have been spent on whiskey, women or other vices. Guess that's why I stay out of trouble these days.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Little Sister

I have the Alvord Fire Department on standby for when they light the candles!

I Can Fix That in 30 Minutes 1 Hour 4 & 1/2 Hours!

I'm sort of know of as the "go to guy" when something's broken at work. Hey, I grew up on a farm. You learn how to fix stuff because you have to!

So, tonight one of my employee's pickup broke down. The power steering pump on his '99 Dodge Ram broke. It was literally in 2 pieces. The drive shaft came loose and and the truck was not drivable. He was debating calling a wrecker or just driving it as is. He's a sweet old man and he has some challenges. I felt I had to help him out.

"I can fix that for you no problem. Take me about half an hour."
Yeah, riiiiight...

Normally, it would have been a 30 minute job. The definition of "normally" is in a proper shop with all the proper tools. I was in a parking lot with a half assed tool kit and trying to run a store.

Removing proper facilities changes the time ratio by + 47% . Removing proper tools, add 63% difficulty. Doing this while trying to work, all these factors increase exponentially.

Actually, most everything came apart very easily. (It usually does.) Putting it back together, completely different story. The real sticking point was removing the pulley from the old driveshaft and putting it on the new pump. Autozone apparently does not carry pulley pullers. They do have gear pullers, but those are NOT designed to remove a power steering pulley. I don't care how much you sweat and cuss. It ain't happening. Capice?

So I go to my emergency backup in these situations, Brotherinlaw. He has a massive set of tools and is a good mechanic. But, he's also 30 minutes away from Bridgeport. I make the call, he tells me not to worry, he's working in the garden with Littlesister but will be on the way with the tool I need, asap.

I tell my employee everything's under control, it will just take a little more time than I expected. His wife is calling him every 10 minutes wanting to know when he will be home. 30 minutes goes by and no Brotherinlaw. I reassure my employee, sometimes things take time. Just be patient.

An hour goes by and still no Brotherinlaw. My employee's wife is now calling him every 5 minutes wanting to know how much longer. I can't give him a time, but it won't be long as soon as I get the tool.

Finally, Brotherinlaw arrives with the tool. One small problem. The tool has SAE threads and the pumpshaft has Metric. Tool no worky.

Uh, How much longer is it going to be?

Luckily, Brotherinlaw has a vast network of mechanics on standby... OK, we got lucky and he knew a guy in town. Fortunately he did have the proper shop and tools needed to remove the pulley and reinstall it on the new pump. Now all I had to do was install the pump. In a dark parking lot. With my halfassed tool set.

Aaah, good times! Tell her 30 minutes!

It only took a total of 4 & 1/2 hours, a few busted knuckles, 3 trips to Autozone and help from Brotherinlaw and Randy, but I got him safely back on the road and saved him a buttload of money to boot.

Many thanks to Brotherinlaw (again), Randy (BIL's friend) and everyone that pitched in.

Now if you'll pardon me I have directed my attention towards a several well deserved cold beers.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

PJTP Vol.5

  • My yard went from dead to jungle virtually overnight.
  • I haven't been to CiCi's in Decatur. I'm still trying to repress the memory of the last one I went to in Grande Prarie. Worst, pizza, ever.
  • I met another faithful reader last week. That's always awkward. They're telling me they like my writing and all I can think is Mrs. Read would give me about a C+ and tell me I'm not applying myself.
  • I don't apply myself.
  • 2 weeks until racing returns to TMS. I've never seen an Indy Car race before. I'm more hyped about the NASCAR Truck race.
  • I've got a head cold but I tell everyone it's the Swine Flu. A couple people freaked out until I told them I was kidding. They were not laughing.
  • I bought a brand new computer designed for gaming 6 months ago and I already need to upgrade my video card and RAM to play Aces High. I have all kinds of issues with that game, but I'm badly addicted to it.
  • The new Sam Raimi movie "Drag Me to Hell" looks scary as all get out. He is a great director.
  • American Idol picked a winner last night and there is quite a bit of controversy. I could care less.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why I'm Single

Text: I Heard what you said. Don't understand. Guess I should have expected it, but didn't.

Me: What the **** are you talking about?

Text: [No reply for the last 2 days.]

Ya know, you'd think I would have a clue as to how the fairer sex operates after all this time. But, I don't.

I need some clues like what did I say? Who did I say it to? What was the context? Who told you what?

I got out of High School over 29 years ago. You'd think this kinda stuff would have stopped by now.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Oops, Craig Did It Again!

You gotta love YouTube. This was up within 10 minutes of airing.

Once again proving he's the most talented host since Carson.

The Highlander of Drum Battles

Somebody once said they never posted videos on here. I have no idea who that was. (cough)

Stumbled upon a discussion at Flamewarriors about drummers. I don't think you will ever beat this matchup.

There can only be one...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Icky Twerp

The greatness that was Icky Twerp and Slam Bang Theater.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm Not a Pilot, But I Play One In a Video Game

This post isn't going where you thought it was, so the fasten seatbelt sign has been lit. Brace yourself for some harsh facts. It's going to be a bumpy flight.

As the title says, I'm not a pilot. But, I do hang out with a group of pilots thru a World War II fighter sim. The message boards these pilots hang out on really let you get to know the flight community, older professional pilots with military experience and the new wannabes or "squeakers" with only civilian experience working their way up thru the ranks. After hanging out with these guys for 10 years I've learned a few things.

The general impression the public has of a commercial airline pilot is the ad agency profile shot of the smiling professional in their freshly pressed uniform and a twinkle in their eye. They think pilots ride the gravy train with biscuit wheels working a few hours a month and living a luxurious lifestyle.

The truth is like an alternate universe. Many commercial passenger pilots actually earn less than your average rock hauler (to put it into a Wise County format). Unless you are a senior pilot with a major airline, the wages, benefits and working conditions are less than that of an entry level OTR truck driver or bus driver. But driving an 18-wheeler, driving a Greyhound and being PIC are very different things.

The job market is flooded with pilots.

That leads to what happened to Rebecca Shaw — who co-piloted Continental Flight 3407, which crashed in February near Buffalo, N.Y., killing 50 people. As Co-Pilot she earned an annual salary of just $16,200 at regional carrier Colgan Air.

The co-pilot in an airline crash that killed 50 people in upstate New York was paid a salary so low that she lived with her parents near Seattle and commuted across the country to her job, a combination of long travel and little money that a safety official called a "recipe for an accident."

Shaw, 24, had worked for Colgan Air of Manassas, Va., which operated the flight for Continental, for 13 months, flying 774 hours in her first year. Colgan pays its beginning first officers $21 an hour, which means she would have earned $16,254 that year, although she could have earned more if she worked more hours, said Roger Cox, an NTSB aviation safety expert.

In questioning Colgan officials, Cox suggested that Shaw was commuting from her home near Seattle because she couldn't afford to live in the New York metropolitan area on her salary. She had a second job in a coffee shop when first hired.

Colgan spokesman Joe Williams initially declined to disclose Shaw's salary, but he said the airline's starting first officers typically earn around $24,000. Late Wednesday he said Shaw's salary was $23,900.

The night before the accident, Shaw flew overnight as a passenger from Seattle, changing planes in Memphis, to report to work at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. She also complained about congestion and may have been suffering from a cold.

Renslow, 47, commuted to Newark from his home near Tampa, Fla. It is unclear where Renslow, who was in the middle of a two-day assignment, slept the night before the trip, but he logged into a computer from Colgan's crew room in Newark at 3 a.m. on the day of the flight, according to NTSB documents.

Daniel Morgan, Colgan's vice president for flight safety, said the airline industry has a long history of flight crews commuting long distances to report for work.

Morgan said it is appropriate that the airline sometimes schedule pilots to be on duty up to 16 hours at a stretch with a maximum of eight hours of flight time.

"It's not an ideal way to work, but neither is working overnight in the post office," Morgan said.

Paul Rice, vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association, said airlines — especially regional airlines, where salaries for less senior pilots are lower — have "defaulted to a position that pilots will commute."

"People can't go live in these major cities, or even in the suburbs of these major cities, at $16,000 to $17,000 a year," Rice said.

This is not an isolated incident. There are thousands of low hour, overworked, underpaid pilots out there looking for that shot at the big leagues and big money. In the meantime they slave away as your life is in their hands and we are letters going thru the post office at 3am.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pardon me while I climb on my soapbox for a moment.

I don't really have a problem with income tax. I don't like paying it, but at least I'm not alone in the boat. Everybody has to row. Some row harder than others but there are few free riders.

Property taxes are something completely different. Only property owners pay based on the appraised value. Those that rent or lease pay nothing. You could argue that the cost of the tax gets passed along to the renter, but it's not really the same. You don't like the rent, you move. You don't like the tax, you must sell the property. And good luck getting the appraised value.

Appraisal statements are arriving this month from the Wise County Appraisal District. These fine folks are a quazi governmental entity that works as a collection agency for local school districts. I call them quazi governmental because they are not held accountable to the voters. This is not the Wise County Tax Collector who you can vote out of office. The WCAD is like the Supreme Court.

Each school district used to collect their own taxes. WCAD now collects for all districts in the county, they also set the appraised value.

I've never agreed with their opinion of that value. The amount they value minerals is far above the amount you receive. They get around that by saying they tax amount in reserve (in the ground) not the amount that gets pumped out. Odd the amount valued never decreases equal to the amount pumped out. Good luck getting that changed without a battery of lawyers and accountants. I also have to pay income tax on the amount pumped. They literally have me by both ends.

Real property is much the same. They set a value according to their opinion, not market value. You do have a better chance at getting that changed, but it's not a simple or convenient thing. There is no Easy Button. You must gather evidence supporting your estimate of the value, appeal the WCAD board and hope they rule in your favor. Back to that Supreme Court thing again.

Last week I got my appraisal notice. Guess what? The South 40 has gone up in value about 10%. Meanwhile the real estate market has dropped about 14%. Mineral values also went up while revenue has fallen dramatically.

You do the math.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bring it on down to Plasticville!

If you asked me a year ago who my favorite SNL host was, I probably would have said Steve Martin, Buck Henry or Alec Baldwin. Now, without a doubt it's Justin Timberlake.


Yeah, I'm having a hard time with it myself. I'm not a JT fanboi by any strech of the imagination. I can only name 1 song he sings and it's "Dick in a Box" from SNL. But I have to admit he has talent as an actor.

Whenever Justin is on SNL, things just seem to come together. The writing is better, the skits are funnier and you actually laugh out loud instead of wondering why SNL is still on the air. Whether it's a cameo or hosting they bring the funny when Justin's around.

The writer's have managed to put together a running skit with Justin as a singing shill in a costume. It's greatness.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts: $2.99. 500-pack of Q-Tips Cotton Swabs: $3.99. Gunfire on the streets of Azle: Priceless!

A simple shoplifting of life's basic necessities goes terribly wrong.
This is not the first time something like this has happened in Azle. In 1999 a liquor store owner ALLEGEDLY opened fire on a hispanic male as he dove into the back of a Chevy pickup with a Liter of Jose Cuervo and a suitcase of Coors Light.

I He had no further shoplifters.

Hard Times

I heard this on 95.9 The Ranch morning show. It's from Will Ferrell's website Funny or DIE.

I immediately labeled this Classic.

Footnote: Anytime you add "or DIE" to the title of something, you are setting the bar pretty freakin' high.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

PJTP Vol.4

Not much on random thoughts posts, but here we go...

The weather lately reminds me of my time in Seattle in the late '70's.

Seattle is a depressing city.

Went fishing last night with Littlesister and Brotherinlaw. The lake was as smooth and calm as I have ever seen it.

Fishfinders will see a sunken boat on the bottom of the lake. They will not see a sunken fishing pole.
(You had to be there.)

I love my Motorola Q 9-h. It is an awesome pda.

I bought a new Bissell bagless vacuum cleaner last week. I never realised how much my old Dirt Devil sucked (or failed to).

The new Star Trek movie looks very good. I may actually go see it in a theater. The last movie I saw in a theater was Charlie Wilson's War.

Things sound very bad for Farrah Fawcett. She was the first pinup poster I had in my room.

EDIT: The big bang was a sonic boom from a Lockheed F-16 on a test run. Startlegram story.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Musical Interlude

It's a Texas thing. You wouldn't understand.

Or maybe you do!

50 lashes upon me for missing Bob Wills Day yet again. I hang my head in shame, it's been far too long since I last attended. I was at the very first and met Bob Wills himself. I have the faded Polaroids to prove it!

Everyone needs to go to Turkey, Texas and experience Bob Wills Day at least once. It's a pilgrimage for us South 40 types.

It's grown from a small gathering of diehard fans into a giant festival full of music, parades, camping, music, dancing, food, carnivals, museums and more music. Great fun for the whole family in Bob's tiny West Texas hometown. Last weekend in April annually.

Friday, May 1, 2009

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet, That Is The Question

This burning question has been on my mind. I got a request to sign up a few days ago from a faithful reader. I had to assess the necessity of updating the daily happenings of my life, so I played it out in my mind.

It went a little something like this...

10:00am- Just woke up. Searching for a Dr. Pepper

11:15am- I understand why LasVegas got cancelled. I can't understand why TNT keeps rerunning it.

1:00pm- Getting ready for work.

2:00pm- Clocking in.

3:30pm- Work, work, work.

7:00pm- Lunch

7:30pm- Back to work!

10:30pm-Time to go home. YAY!!

11:00pm- Multi-tasking. Cold beer, internet AND DirecTv.

12:30am- Suppertime. Microwave, work your magic!

3:00am- Say good night, Gracie.

Now imagine that repeated 5 days a week and pretty much the same thing sans work, work, work repeated over and over for the other 2. After taking all this into careful consideration, I just really can't see the purpose or need for me to broadcast my movements for all the world to follow.

Do you really want to be bored to death? If that's the case you'd be better off using Hypnotoad.