The Johnson Smith company used to be THE place to go when you needed whoopie cushions, fart spray, trick gum, and all that good stuff. In recent years they've slowly gotten rid of anything worth buying and have since become just another Lilian Vernon clone. It's sad.
Luckily, another company has risen to fill the gap left by Johnson Smith, the former gag-industry heavyweight. Enter Archie McPhee. Their catalog is seriously impressive. They even have a store that you can visit up in Seattle - complete with frightening looking employees!
I was out of the office sick the past two days, but the good news is that I was home to accept delivery of our new grill.
We got the propane version of the Weber Genesis Gold B and it rocks. We made burgers, dogs, and zukes last night and they were all pretty good. I'm used to cooking with propane, but I've never actually gotten a propane tank refilled or connected, so I tried my best not to blow myself up during the process, and it worked! Propane is cheap too! It only cost me $15 at U-Haul to refill the tank which is good for 16-20 hours of cooking at full-blast.
The grill is grrreat. We would never be able to afford it on our own, but Tammy had a bunch of American Express Rewards points stocked up from her various purchases at work for the past year or so, so we cashed them in for some backyard grillin' action.
Also, we had a mouse or a rat climb into our dryer vent and it pooped in the exhaust hose. (That's that big silver tube that snakes out the back of your dryer and eventually shoots outside of your building.) I cleaned it out, but our laundry still smells like pee. The guy from Sears said we'll just have to wait it out and the smell will go away eventually. That's lovely. In the meantime, I got some metal screen at Home Depot, cut it to fit, and wedged it in that outside vent.
I also bought some rat poison, but I wound up throwing it away. I was afraid that just having it in our garage would attract rodents inside to get to it! Our neighbors have dogs also, so the mice could have vectored it over there, and that would not have been good. So now it's not a problem and a garbage dump somewhere will have a few less rats.
1:06 PM Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room opened to the public 40 years ago today. The Tiki Room was the first Disney attraction to ever use audio-animatronic figures, and over 200 of them at that!
It's not kept up very well nowadays, and the content may be a little dated, it still makes me happy. There's something about hearing that Hawaiian War Chant building up faster and faster before it ends in a crash of thunder and lightning.
Yesterday I replaced some more landscape lights, and we went to two garden centers scouting out possible replacements for a sweetgum tree with wandering roots in our front yard. I'm leaning towards a king palm, but Tammy's got her eyes set on a european white birch. We're still researching though!
Since we moved in, we were using an old end table to hold the TV, and all of our DVDs and video games were just stacked neatly on the floor. It was pretty ghetto and we were tired of staring at the mess of wires and crap, so yesterday we picked up an entertainment center for our living room at Target. Check it out.
It was only $100, and we had a $50 gift card that we'd been hanging on to since Christmas, so it was a pretty sweet deal. It was easy to put together, and only took a few hours, but by the time I started building it I was pretty wiped out from cleaning toilets and doing some gardening and driving all over the place to get various house stuff.
I think I went to bed around 1, and anyway I'm pooped today.
Tammy's a huge Harry Potter fan, so of course we did the midnight run to the bookstore just now.
I haven't been living in Anaheim Hills for very long, but I have never seen our Borders parking lot even half-full. Tonight it was out of control. Every space was taken, cars were double and triple parked, and there was mayhem all around.
Once you were through the doors, there was a line to get a number, and then another line that snaked back and forth through the aisles several times, finally ending at the cash registers where you would actually pick up the book. They had just called out number 23 when we got 322, so we could tell we were in for a bit of a wait.
Then Tammy remembered that the Ralph's supermarket up the street had also planned on selling the books at midnight. I called them to find out what the line was like, and they said it was only about 30 people. That was all we needed to hear. We left Borders right away and only had to wait behind three people in line to get the book...and our Ralphs club card saved us like five bucks off the cover price!
If it wasn't for Ralph's, we'd still be waiting in that line at Borders right now.
This just in! I now understand why Iridial Recordings gives away their recordings for free. They seem to specialize in Avant Garde 'music,' and man, you can't give that stuff away no matter how hard you try.
Have a listen. If you can force yourself to sit through to any of their albums all the way through, I will pay you twenty dollars. Particularly painful is the one album composed entirely in Mario Paint.
Big news. Radio Shack just sent their new digital trunking scanner to the FCC for approval. Photos and the manual are now online.
This is significant because right now Uniden manufactures the only two digital trunking scanners on the planet (BC250D, BC785D) and they charge the ripoff price of $375 for each. But wait - If you actually want to monitor digital systems with those scanners, you spend another $300 for a digital decoder expansion card. So in the end you're paying almost $700. Total ripoff.
The good news about this Radio Shack scanner is that it's got all the guts to decode digital signals built in! No extra expensive crap required! Pricing hasn't yet been announced, but I'm willing to guess it'll be a good deal less than $700.
I just figured out how to get the most out of this Mac keyboard under Windows XP.
I came up with a little registry hack that solves all my problems! Try it if you're feeling adventurous. It could screw up your whole key mapping if you're not careful, though! Again, this works on my Design Concepts keyboard, and the CompUSA SKU is 299283.
The registry hack below does the following:
Makes the left alt/option key the left Windows key.
Makes the left squigglebox key the left alt key.
Makes the right alt/option key the right Windows key.
Makes the right squigglebox key the right alt key.
Makes F13 act like PrintScreen.
Makes F14 act like ScrollLock.
Makes F15 pop up the ever-handy Calculator (tee-hee)
Go ahead and import that into your Windows 2000 or XP registry. The "ScanCode Map" line should be one long line, but I wrapped it here for clarity.
I couldn't figure out how to make the power/sleep button do anything, and I mapped it be Power, Sleep, and Wake, all of which did nothing. I'm not really sure why, but I've never actually used a button of that kind under Windows before, so I'm not sure how it's supposed to work anyway!
If you're not happy with my key mappings and want to make your own, you'll find everything you need to know in this article. To find out which hex codes YOUR keyboard uses for non-standard keys, (and there is some variation in USB keyboards) PassMark's KeyboardTest is invaluable.
The one holdout on the keyboard was the eject key. I can't seem to make that guy do anything. I think it's being blocked at the BIOS level because KeyboardTest responded in some way to every key that was pressed EXCEPT the eject key, so who knows what's up with that.
Here's a helpful PDF that gives you the low-down on keyboard scan codes. Unless you want to get really confused, you should just use it as a reference for what you want the keys to do. Stick to using KeyboardTest to find out what scan codes your keyboard uses. For the purposes of remapping keys in Windows, you'll want to refer to the column labeled "PS/2 Set 1 Make" in that PDF. Also, if you see anything in that column listed as, say, "E0 5E", you should enter it into the registry as "5E,E0".
It sounds harder than it is, but really you were never meant to remap keys in Windows, so this is kind of a hacky thing to get it working. And brother it works!
Saturday afternoon we left for our Walk in Walt's Footsteps tour. That was really cool. I heard lots of stories that I had heard before, but also plenty more that I hadn't. The maximum tour group size was 15, but there were only 6 of us registered for the 2:30 trip, so we had a nice intimate tour with two older couples and Mary, our tour guide. As Mary was going on and on about how exclusive Club 33 was and how the member list was kept down around 400, we felt like pretty hot shit when Tammy mentioned that we had been there before.
The trip ended with a sandwich lunch up on the patio of the Disney gallery and a tour-exclusive souvenir pin. All in all, it was definitely worth the money and I'd recommend it to anyone with more than just a passing interest in America's first theme park.
Sunday morning we met Tammy's family at i Cugini in Santa Monica for a Father's Day brunch. It was also her grandmother's 80th birthday, so it was really two events rolled into one. LA radio station, 94.7 was doing a live broadcast from inside the restaurant too!
Right after that we went straight to Pasadena to see one of Tammy's former co-workers get married. It was a nice quick ceremony - the best kind there is! The only problem was that we had about an hour to kill between the end of the ceremony and the start of the reception at the Hilton down the road in Monrovia. Soooo...We stopped at CompUSA and I picked up a new keyboard. It's a Mac keyboard, made by "Design Concepts" which is just a fancier way of saying "CompUSA Brand". It has those three Mac audio keys that I thought wouldn't do anything in Windows XP, but amazingly they actually work! The only key that doesn't appear to do anything is the eject key, and I'm pretty sure I'll be able to figure out a way to map that to another function eventually.
We went to the wedding reception and met some of the bride's co-workers. They and the bride are Anaheim police dispatchers and it sounds like they really have a great time together.
When the wedding was over we went to Glendora to visit with Tammy's parents for a little while before we finally drove back to Anaheim and collapsed on the bed.
I brought my new keyboard into work today to break it in, and things seem to be working well so far. The keys are definitely a little more spongy than the Dell QuietKey keyboard that I've been using up until now, but I kind of like it! I'd link to it at compusa.com if I could, but it doesn't appear on their website at all! It's basically a cheap clone of the Apple Pro Keyboard.
Spin a CD fast enough (with a Dremel tool) and all sorts of fun things can happen. The CD can jump off the tool and climb up walls, or it can shatter spontaneously. Dorm-room footage of these events is now available.
What would you say if I told you you could get satellite TV in your house without having to pay a monthly subscription fee? You'd say "That's great, but I don't want to go to jail." And I'd tell you not to worry, because there's a way to do it LEGALLY!
Granted, the channel selection is not so great and the equipment start-up costs are pretty high, but it's a good alternative to over-the-air antennas.
This type of television is called Free-To-Air and all it takes to receive it is a mini-dish and a receiver, just like a typical DirecTV or Dish Network installation.
I found this company selling a starter kit for $199. That includes a 30 inch dish, a single-output LNB, and a reciever.
Here's a list of the Free-to-Air channels currently available in North America.
Programming is spread across multiple satellites, so you need to also buy a $99 rotor to rotate the dish to tune in to some stations. And I don't think that tuning is entirely automatic, so I think you may also have to buy a mini-positioner to get the dish pointing where you need it to, if not forever than at least initially. I'm not sure though.
Google hasn't really been much help in locating more detailed information about Free-To-Air TV in North America, so I'm really not sure of the particulars.
Anyway. Seems like a cool technology if you've got the bucks to mess around with it!
The colossal mistake known as the "XGames XPerience" is coming to DCA on July 1st, and the schedule has just been posted. I'm not sure how long it's going to take Disney to realize that seasonal events don't draw people to a theme park - quality attractions do.
On a more positive note, one of the few reality TV shows that I actually like, Celebrity Mole, is coming back for a second season! Corbin Bernsen and Stephen Baldwin will be returning, but the rest of the cast is all new.
And finally, I'm not sure why, but I really want to eat a huge handful of black olives right now.
On my birthday last Saturday Tammy surprised me with an awesome home-made card that announced my gift:
This weekend we're taking the Walk in Walt's Footsteps tour, a fact-fest full of anecdotes and minutia about the construction of Disneyland for a historical maniac like myself. I've heard good things about it, so I'm pumped!
So there are these mysterious shortwave radio frequencies in use worldwide called "Numbers Stations." They usually broadcast a single voice reading off strings of numbers for just a few minutes each day, sometimes preceeded by a short clip of music. Let me tell ya dude, those broadcasts sound positively spooky if you don't know what they are.
Here's a RealAudio clip of just one recording. [more] I guarantee that if you tuned this in on your radio late one night, it would scare the holy hell out of you.
It is now generally understood that these broadcasts, heard now for more than 40 years, are actually one-way transmissions containing coded information meant for the ears of international spies.
I am not making this up.
There is a company that sells a four-CD set full of these recordings.
I've found that it's pretty hard to give feedback to any company that makes anything you might buy.
I think I've mentioned this before, but I'm still looking for a regular (non-split) USB keyboard with a built-in USB hub and no stupid 'multimedia' or 'productivity' buttons. Apparently they just don't exist.
I tried to let Microsoft know what I was looking for in a keyboard, and why all of their current keyboards just don't make the grade. I emailed them my thoughts, and I just couldn't get past the gatekeeper, no matter how many times I rephrased my comments. I was told that they don't accept ideas for new products, becuase I could sue them later if they used my suggestions.
Okay, that's fair. I would expect that of any company. But when you openly solicit feedback about your products, then say that you're not allowed to read that feedback...Well it just seems kind of strange!
But that's okay. You guys keep making your weirdo keyboards and I'll take my case to Logitech. I'm not a big fan of their cheap-quality 'boards, but they might actually listen.
It looks like Universal's spending the money that Disney is afraid to. Indiana Jones may soon lose its title as coolest theme park ride in southern California!
"Revenge Of The Mummy" will open simultaneously at Universal's Florida and California parks in 2004, and it sounds awesome:
Utilizing engineering techniques gleaned from the Mars robotic range vehicle, the attraction will include a skeleton warrior who, in the midst of defending the twilight world of his netherworld tomb, literally leaps into the rider's vehicle.