Saturday, December 31, 2005


From Snowboard to Fuel Pump: Our Adventures in Wisconsin


Here's a picture of Justyna and I out on the slopes of Mt. LaCrosse.  

We spent a couple of days snowboarding in LaCrosse Wisconsin with Shea and Kathleen.

And got a little more than we bargained for.

Here's Justyna starting out on a run.

We chose Mt. LaCrosse because of its highly-rated downhill runs, but we ended up spending most of our slope time on the beginner hill.  This decision allowed us to have a lot of fun while avoiding serious injury.

This picture shows Shea performing what was for all of us our most common maneuver: falling on one's butt.  

We fell down a lot, myself, Justyna, and Shea.  Kathleen, on the other hand, was wise enough to stick to skiis, and thus only rarely fell down.

More stubborn than my three companions, I kept saying I was too darned good for the bunny hill and continued to dare myself to go down "Mileaway," the most challenging of the beginner courses, and the one which started all the way at the top of the mountain.  The view from up there at night was truly spectacular (by midwestern standards) but my snowboarding skills were anything but.

At best, my high-speed accidents were highly amusing.  Full of whiskey and false confidence the first night, I slid 100 feet down the mountainside on my ass because I was laughing too hard to get up again!  But usually I flipped over hard onto pack ice and that wasn't always too funny.  I eventually wised up and slowly worked on my technique on the bunny hill with my wiser friends.

There was a lot of falling down over our two days out on the slopes.

Fortunately for us there was plenty of cold Jagermeister back at the Chalet.

After two and a half days in this idylic town on the banks of the Mississippi it was time to say goodbye to Kathleen & Shea and head home.

We had a few hours drive ahead of us across southern Wisconsin before turning south to head for home.

We stopped a lot for cheese.

It was about 20 minutes past Madison when our car died.  No idea what happened.  We were just driving along, listening to tunes, when our Pontiac Vibe suddenly lost all life signs.

Roadside Assistance eventually sent a tow truck.

Our tow truck driver, Ben, towed us to Stoughton, a little town halfway between somewhere (Madison) and nowhere (Janesville).

Our destination was the local Pontiac dealer, whom we hoped could cure our sick automobile.

We would hear on our way out of town the next day that you had to be Norweigan to live in Stoughton, but that didn't account for the Mexicans, Sikhs, and numerous cool people we met during our unplanned night out in small-town Wisconsin, including one guy who will soon be starting a med school internship at a hospital just seven blocks from our house in Chicago!

We eventually had to leave our car at the service center because the dealership was having a tough time figuring out what was wrong with our fuel pump.  We heard they succeeded at one point at getting our car to run in two cylinders, which I guess is a good start.

At this point I would like to tip my hat to Jack in the Service Department at dealership in Stoughton.  He's good people.  To anyone considering a car purchase in south-central Wisconsin, I recommend Stark Pontiac in Stoughton Wisconsin.

When the limits of part availability and technology prevented him from repairing our car, Jack arranged with GM to get us a rental car and called Enterprise to come pick us up.  Our driver from Enterprise was a folksy old guy full of colorful and interesting knowledge about the area.  He took us on a tour of local attractions on the local roads between Stoughton and Janesville, including these scuptures.

Here we are in the waiting room at the Enterprise Rent-a-Car in Janesville.  At least we were able to get a rental with a CD player.

Unfortunately, I will be starting the new year with a drive back to Wisconsin to get our car back.

At least there is a good Mexican restaurant in Stoughton.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Flee the Fur Ho


Recently I reported in my Random Crapola blog on PETA's 2005 Worst Dressed List.

Thanks to PETA, I am now pleased to share with you for your gaming pleasure: “J. Lo: Fur Bully From the Block; Flee the Fur Ho.”  

This free and amusing online game has multiple levels of challenging play.  Players assume the role of an animal-rights activist.  You score points by freeing animals otherwise destined to be slaughtered for J. Lo's clothing line, and for educating workers, while avoiding capture by "the Fur Ho," who is actually the devil.

I haven't yet been able to advance beyond level 2, but I plan on continuing to try during my shift tonight.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Man Joins Weight Watchers (he's kidding, right?)

After six weeks of being an e-tools (online) member, I signed up and went to my first actual Weight Watchers meeting today.

Lots of women dieters envy male dieters because we tend to lose weight faster and face less societal pressure to do so.  Being a guy who is himself only just barely overweight, I don't often feel comfortable sharing my weight loss experiences with women who are dieting or men who should be.  Men and women friends of mine who have succeeded in their own diets have offered me encouragement, but everyone else thinks I'm nuts.

Walking into my first WW meeting this morning and facing a room full of overweight (and very recently overweight) women did make me wonder if I was making a mistake with my $15 registration fee.  Add to that the receptionist (the only guy in the room other than the meeting leader) didn't take me very seriously and all but told me directly he didn't think I'd be back very often.  Perhaps, I thought to myself, this was time better spent at the gym.

It was the meeting itself that changed my attitude.  By the time it was over I realized that everyone in the room was facing the same challenges I was.  Just one hour in that conference room on the 33rd floor of the Sears Tower was all it took for me to see what I need to do to keep my diet on track.

I've decided to buy the winter package and attend weekly meetings through at least April 29.  I plan on reaching my goal weight long before then, but I don't want to lose focus.

That's what happened to Oprah, and I wont let that happen to me.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Hacking the Motorola E815 (part 2)

Very few of my regular readers will be interested in hearing any more about my E815 hacking exploits, but since this is the most Googled topic on my blog, I will continue to post my progress for the benefit of the teeming millions of strangers who are currently struggling with their new Motorola phones from Verizon.

Josh's Adventures Hacking the E815

Chapter 2:  Setting your Home Page

Does Verizon really think we want to begin every mobile Internet session by looking at their crummy home page?  Apparently so, because they provide no menu option to set your own.

But fear not, oh intrepid nerds, there is a way.  Here is what you need:

**  Motorola USB data cable (available on e-Bay for like $0.75)
**  BitPIM (download here)
**  XVI32 (download here) or similar hex edit freeware
**  Modem driver for the e815 (you should have these already, you geek)
**  Prior experience performing basic hacks on your e815 or v710 Motorola phone.
(See my previous post on e815 hacking to get up to speed.)

Just follow these easy instructions:

1.  Put your phone into suspend mode (menu + 0 + 73887 + *)

2.  Configure BitPIM to communicate with your phone.  You will need to make sure your e815 modem driver is properly loaded and using a COM port that agrees with BitPIM.  Not working?  Experiment until you get it right.

3.  Use BitPIM to download file WebSession from your phone's root directory.

4.  Use XVI32 (or other hex editor) to write over "homepage" setting.

5.  Use BitPIM to overwrite WebSession file with the new local file you just edited.

6.  Exit suspend mode and disconnect the data cable.

Now when you start your phone's browser you should be taken directly to your home page of choice.

Au revoir, stupid Verizon home page.  Can you hear me now?  You suck.

Tip of the antenna to Nuclear Elephant, the most knowledgable pachyderm when it comes to hacking the v710 and e815.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


MCSE/MCDBA.... postponed but not forgotten

On New Year's Eve 2005 I made a resolution to finish my Microsoft certification this year.  I didn't think I'd pull it off this year, and there is also the lack of precedent for my *ever* having kept a New Year's resolution before.  Now I just have one test in front of me that I'm nowhere near ready for and should probably put off until at least February.  Yet, somehow, this one little test has taken on an inflated importance and it now consumes my every waking moment.  I am a man obsessed.

I had been planning on sitting for the test this Saturday, and that just isn't going to happen.  But I feel like I have to try and pull this off, my holiday miracle.  I know what I want for Christmas, but I'm going to have to stuff this one down the chimney myself.

My do-or-die will be at 11AM, Friday December 23 -- two days before both Christams and the first night of Hanukah.

Monday, December 12, 2005


a Case of "the Mondays"

For the first time ever in my current job, someone suggested that I had a case of the Mondays.  This happened at exactly 12:01AM Monday morning.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Four Geeks in a Bar


Myself, Manh, Jay, and Raymond at the Clark Street Ale House.  Four computer geeks in a bar??!  Uh, oh, here comes trouble!

This time I was a good boy and we didn't get thrown out.  The only problem I had tonight was staying awake, as I was exhausted from my super-intense workout this morning.

I got to try three different whiskeys tonight and I'm starting to develop some preferences.

Monday, December 05, 2005


November Photos

Here are some random odds and ends from my month of November.

Dane and baby Maya

Another charismatic Dave moment

Here is my grandma taking the written test for her drivers license renewal.  After three visits, an accident, and police and insurance company intervention, she eventually succeeded in her renewal.

Justyna and local guide at the "gumwall" in Seattle.  Famous grunge rock artists and other celebrities of the 1990's all stuck their used chewing gum to this alley wall near the Pike Place Market.

You wanted more photos of Holly.  Here you go.

Holly likes to snuggle in my armpit when I watch TV.

Mom preparing Thanksgiving dinner.

This is one of my favorite pictures that I have taken this year.  Perhaps Tina is looking at an angel (or devil) on her shoulder?

I took this photo of a newspaper ad for Erika and Justyna, who needed no evidence that trixies favor the Volkswagen Jetta.

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