Oct 11

Anne Castellon is…

“a rebel with a trash bag”

“…donned a hazmat-type protective jumpsuit and gloves, inflated a small boat and rowed out into the [Petaluma’s Lucchesi Park] pond to begin collecting floating debris.

Within a few minutes, she was told by a city employee that she wasn’t allowed in the lake. When Castellon said she wasn’t coming out, the person said she’d call police.

Two officers arrived at Lucchesi about an hour later and left after about 15 minutes, never approaching Castellon. Lt. Tim Lyons said no city laws prevent floating on the algae-filled pond, or even swimming if one wanted to.

After a couple of hours, Castellon, her husband, Albert, and her brother, Walt Bagley, had amassed several large garbage bags filled with all manner of flotsam and jetsam…”

[via the press democrat]

Thank you Castellon family.

Apr 11

An obscure discovery about using the xbox 360 as a windows extender

Gentle FTTA reader, if the title of this post means notta thing to you, you probably did not arrive via a search engine. Hopefully though, you’ll find some enjoyment from my colorful commentary on the journey of one man on a quest to watch Star Trek The Next Generation episode rips on his living room TV.

For the rest of you, anonymous tip seekers scouring the internets for possible solutions to an utterly frustrating and overly generalized error message, this info may help you.

“Connection Failure: The Xbox 360 could not connect to the Windows Media Center PC. Turn your Xbox 360 off then on again, and try to connect again.”

I attempted a plethora of configuration tweaks, tips and “fixes” to the windows firewall and registry, as gleamed from search engines google and bing*. All were no help until I stumbled upon this question “do you by chance have a fingerprint reader on this PC?”

Had I not spent hours learning how exactly Windows Media Center (WMC) “Extends” itself to the xbox 360 I would have completely overlooked the question. But since I now knew the ins and outs, *BOOM*, it became perfectly clear.

In short, the extender is simply a remote desktop connection to the single WMC application. And the stupid fingerprint reader on my Windows 7 ultimate laptop was preventing the login. Wasn’t there any error logs reporting (or hinting at least) this simple authentication failure in the windows event viewer? Nay!!

So finally, the solution: uninstalling the AuthenTec fingerprint software/driver (mine was provided by Lenovo for my X200). I lose the ability for fingerprint logins – at this point, SO what.

WMC via xbox 360!

Many hours were “invested” in troubleshooting this issue which could have easily been avoided given some better error reporting on either the xbox or windows side.

The real kicker is that I pretty much did this to myself; I must be a masochist. There is free software out there, like tversity, that do essentially the same thing for free. FREE. But since I have all this paid Microsoft shtuff (regardless if whether & what I actually paid…) I ought to use it, right!?

Dec 10

Sad or fantastic? Congress targets TV ads

To keep advertisers at large from dominating the airwaves within the US homes of TV watchers, it has come to this:

“…the CALM (Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) Act will give the FCC a mandate to regulate and enforce volume limits on commercials, ensuring that their maximum loudness does not exceed the average maximum loudness of the program they’re accompanying.”

This one has got to have been easy to pass. Whatever it takes to attempt to kick the lame-duck congress wrap.

Not to say I’m totally displeased, some of these advertisers are outright audibly obscene. Then again, most of us who own a TV made in the last (two?) decade(s) know a secret that makes this Act of Congress utterly moot.

Can you guess what it is? I just gave you a hint! If not, you probably don’t use it and I probably don’t watch TV at your house. Hey, maybe this little act will change that. Lucky you!?

Mar 10

The Trouble with Couches

While I may not always like it, Sarah’s got it right.  What feels natural to her isn’t to me.  She rarely sits on the couch; her relaxing is more full body – laying on her side, extending her legs as straight as space permits.  That space is often shared by me, who over time, ends up sitting in a slumped and soggy way usually with her legs across my lap.

I guess I’d gotten use to feeling a little stiff after a long sitting session.  But now that we’ve started Chiropractic care, we’re thinking more about our habits.  Our Doc has alluded that couches are bad and “what are you going to do about it?”  It’s a bit of a sticky issue because we aren’t about to give up the time we spend together on the big purple couch.

Not Actually Our Couch but Close

We, like so many people around the world, watch TV.  Whether new shows new movies or reruns of either, we typically spend a few hours each day together on that cushy living room center piece.  Hell, I consider us less users than some of our couple-friends whose entire relationships are built upon watching the boob-toob together.

Continue reading →

Feb 10

Mom & Pop Shop vs Big Box

From neighborhood signs (and webpages) that read “Keep Petaluma Eggcentric” and the anti “Big-Box” sentiment it implies, Petalumans, on the whole, have fought to keep the town quaint.  Downtown shops are independent and run by locals (though there are a few chain-coffee shops).  Tourists flock to and gawk at our muddy river whilst tasting local Sonoma or Napa county wines.

A town that was once the hub of Telecom Valley, continues to primarily favor antique stores and boutique shops.  Alone, it struggles to maintain its economy out of the red.  Even with the project potentially helping to bring additional tax revenue to the city, fear of losing these little businesses is one reason why many citizens have vigorously fought against it.  In their minds, the onslaught of the Big-box commercialization from coming to town would further cripple Petaluma’s spirit.

Kenilworth Field, Target(ed)

This prized lot of land, some 400K square feet of prime real estate in the geographic center of town, was the former site of Kenilworth junior high school.  It was purchased in 2004 by Regency, a Florida development company for $22 million.  This capital went immediately to the school district which began construction of the new junior high at a different location. Shortly thereafter, Target signed on to be the headliner of the new shopping center, to be named East Washington Place (EWP). In the years since, squabbling over uncertainties and misinformation have created an atmosphere that has driven the town’s governing body (Mayor and City Council) to postpone project decisions again and again.

So much so that Regency Centers filed a lawsuit against the city and Target has threatened to pull out of the project altogether. The primary reasons for the City’s delays are, in actuality, few, but undeniable.

Continue reading →

Feb 10

Pondering Petaluma

Sim City view

Sim City view

Having lived in this town for the majority of my life, I’ve watched it grow and change as I have.  In those many years, I’ve gained an acute understanding of it.  I’ve acknowledged its good qualities and complained – often – about its shortcomings.  But only recently, have I come to genuinely care about the place I call home.

Petaluma’s unique qualities are what make it worth caring about.  With my knowledge of its history and my interest in its present and future, I have begun to critically analyze its faults.  What better way to shape and improve the future of the community, than to be a part of it.

Whether this be, to physically participate in local politics or become a more outspoken, thought provoking critic, I’m undecided.  No longer will I be subject to the “don’t bitch when you do nothing” mantra.  Now when I analyze, it will be first and foremost, thoroughly digested here on FTTA.   And now for the obligatory P-Town debrief to introduce the multi-post kick off surrounding the this-town topic.

Petaluma is one of Sonoma County’s eldest subsidiaries.  And its history is one of the key traits that make the culture of Petaluma far more interesting than many bedroom communities like it.   Incorporated in 1858, blah blah blah, and utilized as scenery for many movies, the city has a rich past present and future.  Can’t wait to help guide the way.

Jan 10

Hot water heaters

Our house’s hot water is generated by a 30+ year old gas water heater tank, strapped to a wall in the garage and wrapped with a layer of insulation.  It’s not very efficient, but it’s nearly as good as it is going to get.   A supreme pain in arse is the pilot lite to get relit.  And it takes a long time, about 2-4 gallons of water in 30-45 seconds time, to get the shower hot in the morning.  And while we do our best to reuse that water, it’s largely an unnecessary use of resources.

To shore up these inefficiencies, we’ve been considering retrofitting the old tank with a brand spankin’ new high tech tank-less water heater.  The concept of on-demand hot water is such a cool one.  But as our cost-benefits research/analysis has shown, it’s simply not worth it.

Primarily because the current installation cost somewhere in the $1000-$1500 range.  And that’s being generous – I’m assuming slick deals can be had on the device itself and on the install going smoothly.  And while I’d like to think I could install it myself, in reality, that’s a challenge I don’t have time to take on or one to experiment with.  Not having hot water is practically impossible to live with.

So, we’re stuck with the tank.  Likely even when this one dies, we’ll just buy a new tank-style water heater.  In doing so we’ll nearly eke out the same efficiency bang we’d get with a tank-less for a lot less buck.  And certainly spend a lot less in the short term.

The interweb consensus is that tank-less water heaters are best suited to new construction, not existing homes.  Tanks may be out of style, but they’re certainly not out of time.