Yet Another Journal

Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.

 Contact me at theyoungfamily (at) earthlink (dot) net

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» Thursday, October 31, 2002
Gee, Daniel, I didn't have a Weather Pixie. :-) I do now.

I hope she has a coat. She's making me cold.


» Tuesday, October 29, 2002
When Last We Met in the Computer Saga...

,,,we’d gotten the USB card to work on my computer. Later James did get the network card working on my computer--ironically it makes my dial-up connection log on faster (???)--but hadn’t gotten the fool thing to work on his.

And now back to our story:

Thanks to some advice (you know who you are; thanks!), James went surfing on a site called and not only found a Slot A processor chip for the computer he’s building, but found an AMD K6 450MHz processor for my computer. They shipped over the weekend and he installed my processor last night.

It was understood that the processor was not going to run at 450MHz. The chip runs at that rate only on a 100MHz bus, and I have only a 75MHz bus. That meant any processor speed I had would be decreased by one quarter. A couple of jumper changes and voilá, it was done. And sure enough, the system now clocked at 333MHz, 3/4 of 450.

Recall that one of the reasons this upgrade was done was to make the DVD player work. Hmmm. Sound and picture still stutter. Other advice we got was to load the latest version of DirectX from Microslop’s site and then enable DMA.

Note to Readers: Do not start downloading DirectX at 10:45 at night if you wanted to be in bed by 11:30. It takes almost an hour to download. I did all my little chores, put Bandit to bed, brushed my teeth and took my nightly meds, and finally sat down for 10 minutes as the download drew to a close.

James said, “You might as well install it. It only takes 5 minutes, if that.” I did. Tried the DVD player again. Every time we make some improvement to the system, the DVD plays a little bit better. You can almost watch it now. But it’s not smooth.

“Let’s try the DMA thing.” The advice had been to enable DMA in the BIOS. But we saw a DMA checkbox in Device Manager and clicked it. After all, if it didn't work we could always unclick it.

Big Note to Readers: Do not click the DMA box in Device Manager (at least not without enabling DMA in BIOS). It causes nothing but a world of trouble. The computer got to a certain spot after Win98 started to boot--and froze, again and again. Naturally, there’s an easy solution: boot in safe mode and unclick the DMA checkbox, right?

When you boot in safe mode there is no DMA box to unclick. Egad.

James eventually found a minimal boot sequence that would give us the Device Manager panel that did have a DMA checkbox to unclick and got the poor computer back to normal. (In retrospect, this makes sense. DMA was not enabled in BIOS. When Win98 tried to boot with DMA specifications it was like sending someone downstairs before the party to get the cartons of soda chilling in the spare fridge--and then remembering you forgot to put them in there in the first place. They won’t be able to find the soda, and neither will Windows be able to do anything with something that’s not enabled.) We’ll have to try it the other way around.


» Monday, October 28, 2002
“Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot...” Part 2

On our way to the computer show yesterday, we saw the rubble before we even passed to the left of the site. All that was left was the right side of the facade, from the front doors to the restaurant, and the rooms off to the right. And even this was not complete, for, in passing, we could see the structure gaping open at the rear.

The old Castlegate Hotel is no more.

It didn’t really look like a castle, but had a vaguely Tudor style with occasional “turrets,” enough to give it a quasi-medieval feel even if the big glass enclosure at the front ruined the effect.

It had been vacant for several years now, its windows gradually being broken, graffiti splotching its sides. One unsuccessful reopening under the aegis of a chain hotel had finally left it bereft. It was probably now overrun with rats and roaches.

It had been in pretty bad shape the last time we were there, for one of the last of the Fantasy Fairs or Dixie Treks, whatever. Claudia Christian from Babylon 5 was to stay there, apparently took one look at her room, and walked out, demanding a room at another hotel. This could have been taken as an attack of prima-donna-ism had not anyone with eyes observed the rest of the hotel. The stairs heading down to the convention rooms were dirty, scattered with scraps of paper, dust, and dead bugs. Apparently no one had vacuumed in a long time. The claustrophobic elevator smelled stale. The area where a thriving restaurant had been was now a dusty hangout for con-goers between panels, and the connecting rest rooms were grimy, with dead palmetto bugs lying feet up in the middle of the floor. Had the sleeping rooms had been treated with equal “care,” I would have walked out myself.

Yet the old place was a source of great memories as well. We’d met old friends in the lobby for chats, cruised dealers’ rooms clotted with collectors’ pieces and comic books, enjoyed speakers young and old. On that stage James played “Perry White” in a reinactment skit starring Noel Neill, Lois Lane in the 1950s Superman series. Christopher Reeve appeared, months before his debilitating accident, chatting and taking pictures with the crowd. The aforementioned Ms. Christian and Deep Space 9's Nana Visitor, two of the most energetic actresses we’d ever seen, became perpetual motion machines on the main stage. We’d met new friends, collected autographs, laughed and occasionally cried, but in general had a great time.

The Castlegate, as it used to be, will be missed.

“ bring on the ball, if you will,
and after the ball is through
I’ll stay at home, the same as you,
Starin’ at the old TV,
Thinkin’ how it”

          ...”Hots Michael at the Piano”


“Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot...” Part 1

When I went back to school for a year in 1981-1982, one of the classes I wanted to take at Johnson & Wales College was one of those newfangled “word processing” courses. It was typing on a computer, which seemed a novelty: when I graduated high school in ‘74, computers were still complicated machines that ran solely on numbers and punch cards.

Dad wanted me to have the course, too. Even with only an eighth grade education, he saw that this was the “upcoming thing.”

However, J&W determined that my lack of typing speed (only 55 words per minute) meant that I didn't have what it took to learn word processing. (For various reasons, including that one, I’m not one of the people who worships on J&W’s altar. Frankly, I hate their guts.) It was left to some friends with a Commodore 64 to expose me to the wonders of word processing via EasyScript. Later at work I used something called “Spellbinder,” then various Wang systems, and at home used Paperclip for our own Commodore.

Then CDC converted to WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS.

I fell head over heels in love with it in less than two weeks. It was everything anyone could want in a word processor. Somewhat later, when we traded up from a Commodore to a PC, I amazingly obtained, free, a fully, legitimate copy of WP5.1 (from a person who shall remain nameless, but let’s say I will love him for the rest of my life).

And as good as 5.1 was, it became a marvel when matched with the magic of WordPerfect Magazine. I hounded the local computer store for each new issue, finally got tired of waiting, and subscribed. Each month--along with some of the oddest abstract graphics ever published--there were glorious new macros that would automate tables, pop up characters on demand, run unusual queries, etc. I got to the point where I could tweak the macros myself (a macro that popped up various ASCII symbols, for instance, I converted into a letter-writing template). WordPerfect could do everything but sit up and bark.

WP6.0 looked great, but I found it less than a marvel and it remained unused while I happily typed away in 5.1. The evil Windows interface arrived in the form of WP5.2 (probably the clunkiest version of WP ever made). The folks at WordPerfect Magazine changed the name to WordPerfect for DOS and started publishing WordPerfect for Windows.

The Microsoft machine bulldozed on. One day WordPerfect for DOS magazine was gone. I continued to type in DOS, but the magazines were relegated to a box. And once WPWin6 came, a distinct improvement over quirky 5.2, I was converted as well.

Flash forward to today. Both James and I are consummate pack rats (the instinct seems to be inherited: he got it from his dad, I got it from my grandfather). Lately we, but mostly I, have been attempting to get out from under the various things that have been stored up, in and around which are now useless. One of the big jobs to tackle is the closet in the spare room, which aside being filled with what it should be storing, has become an enless repository of old things, including SCA feast gear, hospital papers from 1990, Commodore 64 software, curtains my mom sent that I don’t intend to use--and that box full of WordPerfect Magazines.

It’s silly to say, but it will hurt me to throw them out, even though they are of no earthly use any longer. In an odd way they were friends that made me happy once upon a time.


» Sunday, October 27, 2002
Image from the Past

Like most people, no matter how many pictures I see from the past, I remember my grandparents simply as old. A natural thing, as I only knew them in their elder years. (My paternal grandmother passed away before I could even remember her.) My mother's parents were both bent and silver by the time I remember them, and Grandpa was blind. My Dad's father, Papà, was the only grandparent who lived long enough that I really "knew" him.

He wasn't your warm and fuzzy type grandparent. He was a hard worker all his life and even in retirement, spent his days planting not only his own vegetable garden, but one for two of my aunts. He had provided a home and sustenance for his family, but I also knew he'd been abusive to his wife and kids (it was an unfortunate Old Country cultural habit; if your wife said something you didn't like, you had the "right" to physically hurt them). So my feelings were always a bit ambivent toward him.

And, despite the formal wedding portraits in the dining room of the old house, I always pictured him as grey, balding, and stoop-shouldered.

While wandering around Barnes & Noble today I passed a big coffee table book called Italians in America. Naturally I couldn't resist taking a look at the pictures.

One I found gave me pause. It was labeled something like "Street characters of Chicago," then below "a worker for the gas company."

My grandfather worked his entire life digging ditches for the Providence Gas Company.

The Italian man in the picture was not yet stoop shouldered. He might have been in his forties. He wore a soft slouch hat to protect himself from the sun, and had the luxuriant full moustache as was in fashion around the turn of the century. He was wearing those old-fashioned 19th-century trousers that came up past your waist when held up by the ubiquitous suspenders, and a white work shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. He was frozen in time, lifting a shovelful of earth in preparation for another gas line.

Had the picture been taken in Providence, it might have been my Papà, developing those stooped shoulders...


» Monday, October 21, 2002
Reruns Everywhere

Saturday we partook of whatever newspapers were lying around while we were waiting for our meal at Waffle House. There was most of a Friday and some of a Thursday edition, including the feature sections. I was stopped dead by two articles, one about saving change and another about pumpkins. They looked familiar.

Darn right they were. They'd been in the Sunday paper.

James shrugged. They were "only feature articles."

??? We only get the Sunday paper now, but when I was living at home we got the Providence Journal and its sister night edition The Evening Bulletin every day, every week. Not once did I ever see any article from a previous paper repeated.

So what goes? Are newspapers now too cheap to spring for new news, even of the feature variety? God knows we need something to read between the endless Rich's and Macy's ads...


I've no illusions about "the good old days." Yes, maybe people were more polite, the clothes were nicer looking, there were neighborhoods and neighborhood stores, etc.--there were also incurable diseases that are curable (or at least managable) now, bad sanitation, and glacial communication.

And, unfortunately, a more pervasive bigotry.

I collect and read old books, both in print and now in e-books, and in most cases I can get through the prejudices of "the bad old days" with a sigh and thankfulness it's not like that now. Sometimes it's a hard gulp.

But heavens, it's no wonder your average white kid grew up with so many prejudices after reading some of the old children's fiction out there (chiefly the "syndicate" material). Morrison's Adventures of a Boy Reporter was bad enough, with its patronizing description of Filipinos, but nearly every other page of The Pony Rider Boys in New Mexico is fraught with stereotypes about Native Americans and Mexicans. As much as I tend to loathe extreme political correctness, I'm not certain I want to even see how it comes out.


» Thursday, October 17, 2002
Slow and Steady Doesn't Always Win the Race...

Our friend Jerry over at Milblog (see link at left) recommended a small, free computer program called the Belarc Advisor, which tells you all about your personal computer's system. James loaded it and was impressed, so when he finished online I got on and among the various things I did was download and install this little "gadget."

A few months ago MicroCenter had a wonderful sale, and I bought, for the heck of it, a DVD player for the computer. At the time, I had only an 8Mb video card, which James advised me was too slow to keep up with a DVD player. If you've read the earlier epic of the new hard disks, you might have noted I now have a 32Mb video card.

The DVD, when installed, worked fine as far as it can work...but the picture and sound are jerky and don't synch to each other. James figured my processor, at 200MHz, was just too darn slow.

After running Belarc, it's evident why the DVD player doesn't work. The processor isn't even 200MHz, it's 150!

Yeah, this means I'm on the lookout for a new processor, if I can find a nice speedy Socket 7...


» Wednesday, October 16, 2002
"Dude, You're On the Way Out"

Steven, the Dell kid, is being "rested" by the Dell folks, according to the news.

Steven's kinda an acquired taste. He used to make me think of Leave It to Beaver's Eddie Haskell without much of the acid, and I still hate most of the commercials, except for my favorite "Steven, isn't this your dad's car?" "Uhh, noooo." (In other words, "Don't embarrass me in front of the girl, okay?")

However, if Steven's replacements are to be "the interns," I think I'll take "Dude, you're getting a Dell" any day.


Yeah, I'm still here...

My, my, what a surprise this headline is: "Saddam wins 100 percent of vote." [Snort]


» Monday, October 07, 2002
If You Can't Beat Them...

After all the publicity about Paramount trying to close down Star Trek related fan websites, followed by the WB's Buffy flap (although the WB's problem was more legitimate, against fans who were posting entire episodes and scripts rather than just pictures and episode guides), it's refreshing to see USA's attitude toward Monk fans: actually encouraging fans to make websites and even offering some pictures.


» Friday, October 04, 2002

When Earthlink expanded our service sometime back, giving us more than three mailboxes, I reserved one for the "travel computer," originally the laptop I purchased when my mom was first diagnosed with cancer, in case I had to make frequent trips to help her. Unfortunately the laptop's on its last legs and the PDA is a lot easier to carry, even with its little keyboard, modem attachment, and power cords. So the e-mail address was now reserved for use there.

Since I never use the address for anything else, I've never checked the e-mail box. Today, after cleaning a bunch of spam out of the main e-mail box, I wondered if I should check on this "never used" address.

Maybe I never used it, but someone sure knows it's there. I found 976 messages in the box!