Sports Day

world_series_2016Yesterday was an all-sports day in our household.  I don’t think that has ever happened before.  First was the Packer game, around 3pm.  Watching this game after having watched the first four World Series Games of this year, that the Cubs are in, was pretty interesting.  I never really noticed how fast-paced a NFL game is until now!  Wow, I was missing great plays all the time, as I got up for quick breaks and did other things during the game.

Prior to yesterday, NFL games always seemed slow and drawn-out most of the time with just a little action and good plays sprinkled in-between.  But after watching 4 MLB Word Series games it now seems so much faster, it’s amazing.  I can do all sorts of things–even run a few short errands–during MLB games and still miss very little worthy of me rewinding the DVR.  I’m not complaining, that’s just the pace of the game I guess, I’m just comparing the two.

It seems kind of weird just to be doing that though–watching baseball and football at the same time… It just seems wrong for some reason.  Certainly watching sports all day, from 3pm to 11pm, can’t be a good thing, but I guess it’s a rarity, so it makes sense.  The only reason I’m watching the World Series anyway is because the Cubs are in it.  With my mom and I having been big Cubs fans “way back when”, I’m sure she’s watching now, just as I am.  The Cubs haven’t been in a World Series in 108 years though, which is also a mind-blower, and shows you just how rare it is for them!

Both games were pretty entertaining, nonetheless.  The Packers ended up losing by one very frustrating point, but the effort was certainly there, especially with an unusually long list of great players out with injuries.  The Cubs did great with yesterday being Game 5 of the Series.  If they had lost, the Cleveland Indians would have won the series 4-1.  Since they won, making it 3-2, we now go to a Game 6, which they play tomorrow evening.  If they win that, it’ll be 3-3, and there will be a final Game 7 to determine the final winner of the Series.  If they lose tomorrow, Cleveland wins the series.  I’m excited to see what happens.

Thriller

My favorite Michael Jackson song (and video) is “Thriller”.  I memorized the Vincent Price lyrics years ago, for some reason, and recite them occasionally during haunting seasons.  Here they are.  See if they jog your memory.

Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y’alls neighborhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse’s shell

The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller
The evil laugh that Vincent Price does at the end of the poem & song is great.
Happy Halloween!

All Hallow’s Eve

It’s coming up fast.  Trick-or-Treating…haunting season is upon us.  I’ve watched a few scary movies–including Stephen King’s IT–to get in the mood, and remind me of what all the creepy clown crap is about.  Silliness is all.  At least it’s a distraction from this presidential election mess… now THAT is scary!

Kevin stopped trick-or-treating a couple years ago, so we have no more kids to walk through the neighborhood begging for candy.  Kinda sad, actually.  I really enjoy seeing everyone in costumes, out walking around, having a good time.  Especially Christmas Lane in Kenosha.

These days, with no more kids to take out trick-or-treating 🙁 I like to take Socks out, in-costume, and walk through Christmas Lane during trick-or-treating, just to enjoy seeing the costumes and decorations all around.  Since we live only a few blocks from there now, it’s an easy walk for us.  So that’s what Socks and I will be doing this year, on Halloween, 5pm-6pm.  Trick-or-treating is 4-6, but I get off work at 4, so I can’t get there until 5pm.  It’s sad it’s only 2 hours now.  I remember it being a much longer period of time most other years, going well into the night.  But with all of the safety concerns with kids out in the dark, they probably feel it’s much safer this way.  But I just don’t see why they can’t have it start a few hours earlier, so it’s longer, and still have it end at 6pm, when it starts getting dark… Maybe there’s not enough people home from work to hand out candy if it was earlier…?

Professional Sports

As you might know from reading my blog, I’m not much into sports.  I never learned the rules of football or had any interest in playing it, and you can tell by my blog’s “Categories” list that there’s nothing “sports” anywhere in it.  But I used to be a big baseball (Cubs) fan when I was a kid.  My mom was a huge Cubs fan and we’d often watched their games together.

Since my mom passed away, I hadn’t given the Cubs a second glance, but Sandy and her family got me a little interested in football though–particularly the Packers.  Her brother Dennis (aka “Bear”) was a huge Bears fan along with her brother Mike, which she, her dad, and her brother Rick are all Packers fans, so there’s some healthy football team rivalry right there within the family.  After watching a few games and learning some of the tech involved, I found it someone more interesting than I remember it being.

These days they project the yellow first-down line onto the field… On TV it looks like a painted line on the field, but the players can’t see it in real life.  With moving and switching cameras, this still works so great, it amazes me.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg though.  There’s a lot of new gear used all over the field, but you have to look closely and catch those moments to get a glimpse at it.  The on-screen details are another huge piece of tech, showing all the details of the game and/or play in progress, player stats, and just about anything else you’d want to know.

I now wear a Packers jersey on their game days, kind of a ritual thing… If I don’t wear it, they’ll probably lose their game and I’ll feel guilty for not supporting them, and Sandy will blame me.  It’s all in fun, but sometimes I just have to wonder, just a little…

This season, with the Cubs in the Word Series, I’ve been watching those games as well, and I’m finding the same fascinating tech improvements throughout, just like pro football.  You can see the speed of every pitch in the game on-screen as well as the status of men on base (or not), the balls and strikes on the current batter, etc., etc., etc.  I even learned that some players are playing with a “new style” of uniform.  I remember all of the players having their pants tucked into their socks and all having long socks almost to their knees.  The “new style”, however, seems goofy.  They wear their pants long, not tucked in at all, and even past their heels!  As they play, some of them are walking on the bottoms of their pants!  To me (and to one announcer who pointed it out) it seems like that could cause a problem with gameplay, but there it is, even in the World Series, and everyone treats it like anything else.

So far in the series, the Indians and Cubs are 1-1, both having won one game.  We’ll see what happens Friday night in game 3.  I’ll be watching.

Password Anxiety

Raise you hand if you suffer from P.A.D. – Password Anxiety Disorder.  Ok, put you’re hand down, you look silly.  Seriously, this could easily be a thing.  A lot of us have it.  And security everywhere is constantly getting strengthened and the rules always changing to adapt to the ever-increasing rate of hacks and security issues.

This puts more demand on the end user (you), forcing you to have to change your password to comply with the new rules, and and often requiring you to change your password much more frequently, making it even MORE difficult.  Having so many logins and passwords on so many different systems then presents another problem:  No one can remember all of their logins and passwords – there are simply too many!

So what to do?  You’re not supposed to write them down, but people do, having no other options.  Keeping them all in a digital document is bad because, if that document ends up in the wrong hands it opens the possibility of attack to every single system you had access to.  If you make all your passwords the same, so you can easily remember, that also puts a risk on every system you have access to, should that one “master password” somehow get into the wrong hands.

Today’s society is very complicated this way, and it’s only getting worse.  To help with this problem, there are several “Password Manager” applications available that can manage all of your logins for you.  This, again, can present another risk, since all of these applications require their own login, and if THAT gets into the wrong hands, it again opens up possible exposure of all of your logins to all of your systems to the attacker.

But, in my opinion, using a secure password manager is a much better option then writing them down or storing them in a simple document.  Preferably you’ll want to use a password manager designed and actively maintained by a reputable company that hasn’t already been attacked, and one that uses very good encryption to protect your private information.

And, of course, this top-notch security doesn’t come without a price.  All good password managers cost money–either by subscription or a flat fee.  They offer a free trial period, so test out a few if you want to, then choose what works or seems to be the best for you.  But there are some that offer a decent feature set in a “free” version, so you’d have to try them out to see if what you need would require a fee, or if you can get by just fine using a free version.  Here’s a good comparison of all of the current password managers available.

Many of them try to make it as easy as possible by offering add-ons for popular browsers, which–when you’re logged into them–can automatically populate username & password fields on any web page for you.  This can make things pretty painless in most cases, but requires the cooperation of whomever designed the website to as well, in order for things to work smoothly.  Some sites, for example, do odd things with logins, including having your username on a separate page that your password, or displaying the login boxes in a non-standard way, which might throw off the “auto-fill” function your browser add-on uses, resulting in the form field being left blank.  Usually, if this happens, there’s still options available to you to manually either force it to fill a field on the screen or for you to view your login information and either type it in yourself or copy and paste it in.  Either way, it is definitely better than having a printed or digital list and doing things manually.  If you’re willing to pay a little to have another service store your information and keep it secure.

There are plenty of good features in many of the services listed in that comparison, so I’ll refrain from recommending a specific one, but I will say that I do use one of those listed in that article, and their review of it appears to be quite accurate.

Just also keep in mind that using pretty much any of these password managers will add a bit more complexity to your logins by adding options for you.  Some will find this easy to adapt to, others will find it just more confusing.  But if nothing else, they’ll reliably store all of your login information for you in a pretty safe place.  Just don’t forget the username and password you use to access THAT service, however, or you’ll lose access to everything all at once!

PS3

Yeah, sure, the PS3 is pretty old now.  But I’d rather like to think of it as a “mature” console.  Not unlike myself, it is “aged”.  This also makes it–and its games and accessories–a lot more affordable, which is a huge plus, in my book.  It also has a long history, and has gone through 3 versions.  I look back at my purchase history and feel good remembering those classic old games and how much I enjoyed playing them.  All 800+ purchases.  Many of them, in fact, are console versions of even older “classic” arcade games, which bring back even more memories of my past.

One of my all-time favorite games was one of the first games I purchased for the PS3–Joust.  This was an arcade video game where you ride an ostrich and fly around jousting buzzards (and another ostrich if two people play it).  If you fly into a buzzard or the other player and your sword is higher than theirs, you win the joust and kill your opponent.  Kill all of the other players on the screen and you complete the level and advance to the next–harder–level.

I purchased this game in 2006–about 10 years ago, as a digital version.  This means there’s no physical disc or cartridge, you just download the game to your console, install, and play it.  It wasn’t until just recently that I became concerned about this method of game ownership.  First of all, Joust is no longer offered in the Playstation Store for purchase, so I can’t look it up there and re-download it, like I thought I could.  I imagine there are probably several classic games that I purchased back then that are no longer in the Playstation Store.

The reason for my concern is because I decided, earlier this week, to try to get back into playing some of my favorite games, just to relax a bit, and possibly play a little during my walks on my treadmill, but I quickly discovered that the hard drive on my PS3 (320GB) is completely full!  I had cleaned it up some time ago, removing all videos, music and photos, in order to free up enough space to install GTA 5, another great game I play occasionally.  When I say “play” referring to GTA 5, I mean just driving around freely throughout the city and county in the game, driving over people, destroying properly, jumping out and chasing down people to punch them out, and basically wreaking havoc  until the police come and try to stop me.  I don’t really play many missions, as you’re supposed to do in the game, I just goof around to see how much trouble I can get into.  But I digress.  Back to my full hard drive:  As I said, I cleaned up the drive recently, removing nearly everything I could that wouldn’t effect gameplay, and after installing GTA 5, it’s pretty much full to capacity again.

The PS3 has a backup feature, allowing you to back up all of your data and transfer it to another PS3 (or the same PS3 if you’re doing something like replacing the hard drive).  So I tried this, using a 64GB thumb drive I have.  So I started this process, and after several minutes of thinking, the PS3 told me it needed about a drive with about 200GB more storage space!  Agh!  I don’t have a flash drive or external hard drive available with that much space free.  I even tried one external drive that I store TV Shows on for use with my Plex media server, but that drive is formatted as NTFS, and the PS3 requires a FAT32-formatted drive in order to use it.  I know, that’s all Greek to the non-geeks reading this, so let’s just say “that drive won’t work on the PS3”.  My PS3 currently has a 300GB drive, which was pretty huge back in it’s time, but these days it’s hardly enough.

So there I was without a backup solution, and I had a brand new, 1.5TB drive (the largest hard drive the PS3 will allow) waiting to be installed in my PS3.  The way I saw it, at that point I didn’t have much to lose moving forward and installing the new drive.  I found out that I can access my entire purchase history and I can re-download everything I’ve purchased in the past, so I figured it would just require re-downloading everything I want to play.  I would lose my old game saves from way back when, but that’s no biggie for me.  Working through all of the levels in all the good ole games again just adds to the fun! I only had a 320GB drive before, so even if I install everything I had before, I should still have over 1 TB (1000 GB) of the new 1.5TB drive free when I’m done.

So I installed the drive, which was a pretty simple operation, and the PS3 simply prompted me for the latest PS3 update data, which I downloaded to a small flash drive and inserted, then it installed this and formatted the new drive.  All went well, and then I installed a few old games without issue.  They seem really tiny these days, especially on today’s huge-capacity drives!  Over time I’ll be installing a lot more of my old purchases, as I get around to more and more of my old games, and now there’s tons of space for some new ones, if I want them.  It’s nice to have some breathing room back, and it’s such a relief that Sony allows a simple method to re-download all of one’s old purchased content!  They’re earned back a little more of my trust, having lost a lot of it with their support of Cinavia–a copy-protection method that detects copied commerical media and prevents the PS3 from playing or streaming copied DVDs, Blu-Rays, and streamed movies that aren’t originals.  In today’s world, if you don’t keep a backup of something–especially something you purchased electronically, you’re always at risk of losing it due to everyday use, damage, or disaster, so backup copies are critical.  And Ciavia prevents users from being able to use those backups–basically resulting in the PS3 user being assumed to be a pirate!  This also results in the PS3 being rather crippled as a media center, in my opinion.  Whether Cinavia is still built into the PS3 these days, I’m not sure, but I think it’s still there.  I’ll find out soon, as I just installed the Plex app and will be connecting it to my Plex server soon.  Plex is a media server I use to stream all of our movies, tv shows and music to all of our devices.  If Cinavia effects Plex playback, I’ll have to uninstall it and just stick with using it through our Roku boxes as we always have.  That would be sad though, as using it through the PS3 controller or the PS3 Remote looks like it would be fun.

I also discovered, after accepting to two-week free trial of Playstation Plus, that they now offer online storage to Plus users for storing all of their game-save data!  I’m pretty sure that gives me a window of two weeks where I can swap back to my old, full drive, save all my game-save data to my online storage, and then swap back to the new drive and still access all of my game-save data (and hopefully save it back to my new drive easily) so I don’t have to keep paying for Playstation Plus after my two-week trial.  We’ll see how this goes.

Lastly, I’m really liking the fact that all of the PS3 games, accessories, and online content is, by far, a lot cheaper than just about everything for the PS4 and X-Box One!  And since I haven’t been involved with it for a few years, everything I’m seeing is new to me, even though all this stuff is probably old to everyone else.

Slideshow articles

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of “slideshow” articles everywhere these days.  Just trying to get through one you can see the benefits for the site owners–a 20-page slideshow allows them to show 20 times more ads on the page, giving them that much more ad revenue, even though the percentage of people actually stopping to read or click on an ad on those pages is probably very very small.  And if you’re not careful, some of those “ads” will only get you into yet another slideshow “article!”  Madness.  A recent South Park episode I watched explained it perfectly, though the episode was about something else entirely.

I dislike these slideshow articles so much now that I am more likely to immediately close my browser window than continue through each “slide” once it first opens.  And what if you want to PRINT an article? Not a chance.  They’ve basically become as annoying as the ads themselves!  In some cases, however, there may be something you can do.  Check out this article for the scoop.  I know I’m not alone.  Read on.

Bad Boys, Bad Boys

I typed this up back on 12/01/2016 when I was laid off from work, and often drove to the Job Center to look for work and to walk indoor laps when it’s cold out.  For some reason I never published it, I only saved it as a draft:

I got pulled over by the KPD this morning in Carol Beach, just after pulling away from the shoulder on 7th Avenue, on my way to the Job Center.  Right away I noticed it wasn’t just one, but two squads, so I pulled to the shoulder again, thinking they were going to fly by me on a call, but they didn’t, they were actually pulling me over.  I thought quickly about all the possible problems they could have noticed so quickly and nothing clicked.  My license is fine, the car is registered, it’s running fine, and even all the bulbs were checked during my last oil change.  The officer got out and stood behind my car at a distance, looking around inside my car through the rear window, right hand on the butt of his holstered gun.  He said something, but my windows were up, so I couldn’t hear him.  I rolled my window down and said “What was that??”  He asked me to place both hands on the top of the steering wheel, so I did.  Then he approached the driver’s side door and asked why I was parked on the shoulder back there (while still looking around inside me vehicle).  I told him I was using my cell phone.  He said “OK, that’s fine.  Did you happen to see a man walking around in the area, possibly carrying a gun?”  I said no, I hadn’t.  He said they had a report of a suspicious person in the area.  Then he said I was free to go, and thanked me for my cooperation.

I guess they probably thought that maybe I had picked up this suspicious person while I was pulled over, or had seen something.  It was a totally justified traffic stop, but it stood to remind me of just how dangerous their jobs really are.  I could have been carrying, or doing something illegal and been paranoid, or unstable.  You just never know.  I certainly don’t think I could ever do that job.  I’m glad there are others who can though, and are ready, trained, and willing to protect the rest of us.

Mysterious plastic doodad

goodwill-thingKevin recently found this plastic thingie on his bus.  We didn’t know what it was, but I knew how to find out.  So I took a picture of it with a solid background and used Google Image Search to find out what it is.  Google showed similar images found on the web, and we quickly learned that it’s a earbud cord hanger.  You wind your earbud wires around it to keep them from getting all tangled up in your pocket.  Kevin is using it now, and it works.

Election 2016

Everyone asks where I stand on the presidential election.  My answer is “as far away as possible.”  This year’s election is, by far, the worst I’ve seen.  It’s always been a mess, from what I’ve seen, and there’s always been mudslinging in both directions, but I don’t think it’s ever been this bad or this nasty.  And I believe that’s because Donald Trump never imagined he’d be in this position.  He’s clearly not cut out to be a politician.  At all.  So there’s all this ugly past history of his that keeps popping up, and in turn his campaign keeps digging for something worse on Hillary Clinton, resulting in the fiasco we have now.

Who am I voting for?  I’m not saying.  I feel this is a private decision everyone should make on their own.  Publicly announcing your “side” only alienates you from certain groups of people, and these days it can bring out the worst in some people.  I’ll vote, that’s for sure.  Everyone should.  And early–the polls on election day this year will most likely be pretty busy, and we just might have a record turnout, so I’m going to vote early to avoid as much of it as possible.

Either way, we all know one of the two major candidates will win no matter what happens, and that’s sad.  The options this time around are just too small, in my opinion.