Are you a geek? Here’s a simple test…

Is this cool?

I showed this video of a “singing Tesla coil” to Paula and she just kind of shrugged.  It’s a solid-state Tesla coil owned by an EE student at U of I which is able to create tones by sending out sparks in precise bursts.  Day-um.

I think this thing is wicked cool.  Then again… perhaps this just tests if you are a guy.


Medieval Helpdesk

My computer career started in IT support… I didn’t realize how long the role had been around.

Video: The first help desk ever

(Thanks for the video mom!)


Mashuptown – more mash-up music than you can shake a stick at


A couple years ago I got hooked on music mash-ups when a coworker pointed me to the work of Party Ben, a DJ who, until recently, had a mash-up show on San Francisco’s alternative station Live 105.  Since then I’ve been hooked.

What’s a mash-up?
Music mash-ups are the result of a DJ taking two different songs and mixing them together into a hybrid of the two, sometimes with fantastic results.  It’s a little like sampling (taking a riff from one song and making a new song around it).  Some of the results are total crap… but sometimes one can find some real gems.

Why do I enjoy mash-ups so much? 
Well… I listen to music a lot and find I get sick of what’s on the radio and what I have in my own collection.  Mash-ups are a fun way to listen to music I already like and make it fresh again.

Where can you find mash-ups?
A quick search will net you all sorts of stuff but you can save yourself a lot of legwork by simply going to Mashuptown, a mash-up review blog which picks out great tracks almost daily. Mashuptown will point you to the sites of some great DJs where you can find more great tracks on your own.  Another good place to start is on the mixes page of Party Ben’s site.  Party Ben has a collection of tracks all crammed into a single file, as if you were listening to a long set at a club.


The law of unintended consequences

Jason forwarded me this hilarious Bud Light commercial.  While it might be able to be shown on cable TV, I doubt any major network would play it during prime time… something to keep in mind before you crank up your speakers and play it in your cube.

Video: Bud Light Swear Jar commercial

Video Games

Xbox from UK, games from US – OK!

When our 360 went south Paula and I decided that the best course of action was to buy a replacement box instead of waiting for a really long, expensive repair (since it’s an American box it has to be shipped to the US for resurrection).  Since we use our Xbox to watch TV we also didn’t want to wait the couple months it would likely take.

The idea of a new box was all good and well… but I also have a library of games I like to play (including a copy of Lego Star Wars II we just bought but never got a chance to play).  Gears of War I can buy in the company store for €20… but Lego Star Wars and Ghost Recon were going to run me €60 each.  Crap.

After setting up the replace box I wondered: what happens if I stick the US (NTSC) game disc into my European (PAL) Xbox?

As luck would have it, I was pleasantly surprised.  Like DVDs, video games often have region encoding which prevents a game disc purchased in, for example,  Paris from working on a console purchased in Poughkeepsie.  In the case of the Xbox 360, however, the region lock-out isn’t a certainty.  Fortunately for me (and many other gamers) Microsoft adopted the policy of letting publishers decide if their game discs would be region-free.

Not all Xbox 360 titles will work in all regions… but luckily for me my two current faves, GOW and GRAW2, do.  No need to run out and buy replacement copies.  In my quest for an answer as to why my discs worked in my new console I came across a fairly detailed list of region compatibility on  It takes the guesswork out of any future purchases (especially cool since buying games in the US is much cheaper with the strength of the Euro).

Video Games

My badge holder broke and my Xbox died

Sounds kinda like a country song…


Well, it happened… my decision to not buy an extended warranty on a first revision of a gaming console bit me in the tookus.  You’d think I’d have learned from my experience with my first Xbox (I bought the 2 year warranty… and the box was replaced twice for free).  But, alas, no, I didn’t and I’m now left with a $300 doorstop.

After Dick and Trina lost a couple units I could smell the storm coming… but at over a year past purchase date I knew it was way too late.  It crashed a few times in the past month (video froze while using it as a Media Center Extender) and yesterday we got the red ring of death.  Since we’re in Ireland now it would cost a chunk of change for the round trip to the US and back for repairs… it’s only about $50 cheaper to buy a new box here (with warranty) and we can get it right away.  Oh well… off to buy a European Xbox 360… I wonder if it will have a sexy accent like Gérard Depardieu.

In case you were wondering… my badge holder isn’t under warranty either.


Ah… good times in California

When Paula and I were back in California for her graduation we had a really good time seeing the old, familiar sites and an especially good time hanging out with friends.

I’ve gotten pretty good at taking self portraits with just Paula and me… but I have yet to master taking self portraits with more people.  I do, actually, kind of like this goof when I tried to take a picture of Dick, Trina and myself and I could help but add a little something extra…

I suppose I really need to get the rest of the pictures up, don’t I? 


GTC – Grand Theft… Coke?

Paula and I were at the theatre last night and before the latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean they ran an ad for what looked like the latest installment of Grand Theft Auto…