Showing posts from October, 2007

What's on my PC? (My favorite productivity tools & freeware)

When it comes to computers - some of the best things in life are free. These are some of the most useful software I keep installed on my PC and use frequently. You may have heard of them - if not, give them a try.

My favorite apps:
  • Open Office - Gotta love these guys for trying to make the world a better place... less dependent upon $99 software. However, their timing is worse than a 1989 glamrock band since Google Docs is looking to be the next best thing (or best thing even) to replace expensive MS Office.
  • Winamp + Streamripper - Winamp has always done everything I needed to play music (which isn't much, except dock somewhere tidy & stay outta my way). The visualizations are kinda neat since I use my PC through my TV & sometimes just want background noise. Personally, I don't even bother with CD's or even MP3s anymore. I am on the streaming internet radio kick. That's where Streamripper comes in. It lets you burn MP3's straight from streaming audio. When I took a week long roadtrip... this came in quite handy. I just burned a few CDs of ripped MP3s (have MP3 car stereo)...and I didn't have to listen to the same song once for 20 hours of driving. Nice!
  • Firefox + Google Toolbar - I am not anti-Microsoft... I am pro-best-product. I switched to Firefox because it just works better. I think MS released IE7 a bit prematurely before they worked out the kinks, so they could catch-up to the 'tabbed-browser' bandwagon. Google Toolbar is a necessity. Google is becoming so much more than a search engine with their innovative applications... they are becoming the web's OS. Their toolbar is customizable & plays very nicely with Firefox.
  • Editpad Lite - Just as Firefox did tabs for browsers... Editpad did tabs for 'Notepad'. I find this simple app one of the most handy & convenient for switching between multiple files at once & search/replace. The search/replace handles linebreaks... sounds simple enough, but that feature is actually vital & hard to come by. Very lightweight & simple, yet feature rich.
  • IrfanView - Despite the weird name... this is another essential tool. This is a simple, lightweight image viewer. You can do all the most common image tasks... like browsing, converting, resizing, cropping, etc., etc. A must have - download & associate all your image filetypes with this.
  • Picasa Desktop - Photo management. This is the neat desktop counterpart to Google's Picasa web albums. Some prefer Flickr... but this client is something Flickr doesn't have. It makes it easy to download friends albums & quickly rotate, organize & label your albums.
  • GIMP - This ain't Photoshop... but it's darn near close & does most everything just as well. Best yet - it's totally free... even if it takes a bit to re-learn the menus & toolsets since they are a bit different than Photoshop.
  • BitComet & eMule - Products like these were born from the ghost of Napster - allowing millions to "fileshare" (aka pirate software & music). I don't use them much... but they can come in handy when looking for that hard to find file.
  • KaraFun - I discovered this after seeing $300+ karaoke machines for sale. This free software turns your computer into a karaoke machine... for free! It's a great fun app. If one were so inclined... they could find those .KAR or CDG+MP3 files on BitComet & eMule discussed above.
  • WallpaperFlickr - I find static desktop backgrounds boring... such poor PC feng shui. This is a neat utility to rotate your wallpaper straight from Flickr (the largest photo sharing site online). Just try it... right now my keyword for it is set to 'halloween'. Last week it was 'superheroes'.
For programmers, hackers, & technophiles:
  • 2BrightSparks SyncBack - Click a button & this app syncs files between folders or an FTP site. You can completely configure it... with schedules, filters, etc. I found it very useful for deploying changes to a website. (The newer versions are trial based, but the older versions are still great & freeware)
  • AutoHotKey - This nifty tool saved me from getting carpal tunnel syndrome when I had to manually click & delete 90 items from a website once. Yes - it's a mouse+keyboard 'macro' recorder & player. Not used often... but it's a lifesaver when it's needed.
  • Visual Studio .NET Express (w/ SQL Server Express) - Fortunately for developer/programers... Microsoft understands that it's .NET platform will only be as prolific as the number of developers who master it. That's why they provide this robust IDE for free (lightweight version... they still have the upsell) - to compete with competitors like Eclipse for Java. Let the poor college kids geek out!
..and on my Treo/Palm OS (since I'm sharing):
(even though these will probably be antiquated with the next generation of mobile devices. The Treo has had a great run though!)
  • DiddleBug (or BugMe+) - The simple note taker... let's your phone be your scratchpad. I use it more than anything for those reminders that I'm too lazy to formalize in my To Do list. (BugMe isn't free... but I had to get it because DiddleBug wouldn't work on my new Treo)
  • Keyring - Now I can just remember one master password & put all my private info inside this app under that password. Create profiles like 'bank accounts', 'websites', 'locks' and store your PINs, combinations, & passwords all in one place.
  • Kinoma - Ok, this one isn't free... but I couldn't resist now that I have EV-DO on my phone. It allows you to view streaming video & audio
  • Google Maps - Reason #327 why I love Google. This is the most useful app on my phone. For travelling someplace new, or just finding the nearest Walgreens - screw expensive GPS systems, this is all you need.
  • Cell Plan -Counts your minutes. Those sneaky wireless companies probably don't like this app. Come to think... why don't they provide this on their phones? Oh yeah... because then you wouldn't accidentally go over your minute limit to get that $200 bill. (I think this app is free, except you can't track SMS or some other feature until you pay for it. Nevertheless, it's handy even without extra features).

This guy is a hero.

This guy is a true fan of superheros. The image was on Flickr tagged 'superhero'... and it's definitely the kind of photoshopping I would have done when I was a kid (or maybe still). I especially like the Spiderman constume & Wolverine shaped fro.

7 Windows Wallpaper Tricks That Don’t Disappoint

Cool... pointless, but cool.

7 Windows Wallpaper Tricks That Don’t Disappoint

My personal choice is #4, the Flickr Wallpaper Rotater. I configure it with tags "crazy, sexy, cool" and use Flickrs 'interestingness' rating to pick the best. Now I never know what I'll see next on my desktop.

Shooping: An observed phenomenon regarding shopping and calls of nature.

I have coined a new term, 'shooping', to describe an odd phenomenon involving human digestion and psychology. I've observed the phenomenon in myself for years, but only recently have discussed it with other people to realize it is a common experience.

Why does nature call when it does? You would think it's simple. Fluids + time will fill the bladder and create the need to urinate. Solids would do the same for 'number two'. However, I've noticed that certain situations can trigger a sudden need to poop. One of these triggers is shopping - hence the term 'shooping'.

Personally, I've noticed the strongest 'shooping' triggers when I've been in stores which have a huge variety of products. Often, I do not know exactly what I am looking for and am just 'browsing' some items I'm interested in when I get a shoop-attack. Likely places are Walgreens, Target, the library, or anyplace where I am overwhelmed by decisions on where to look. This could be different for everyone; e.g. an acquaintance of mine confirmed shoop-attacks in Ross, Old Navy, a cat store, and a halloween store (interestingly, this person loves both cats & halloween). Now you may be thinking 'hey, I've experienced shooping myself - what can I do to prevent it?'. It's very simple, a preemptive bowel movement before heading out to the store seems to stave off shoop-attacks in my experience.

Firefox 2.0 is superior to Internet Explorer 7 (IE 7)

I have given IE 7 every last chance, but after freezing up on me & breaking one too many sites... I've given up.

Firefox seems to load faster, be more customizable, handle tabs better, and even lets me place every button & box exactly where I want it.

Thanks to Google Bookmarks & the toolbar letting me keep my favorites in one place - switching browsers was never easier.

Neighbors of Southside Park

My neighborhood is Southside Park. In the early years of Sacramento, this neighborhood filled in as industry drove growth along the riverfront and north of the R st railroad. A natural inlet of water followed the lower elevation along 7th St, where Southside Pond exists today. Many immigrants settled in the area as industry flourished in the downtown area (and because minorities could buy land in Southside). In the 60s and 70s, prostitution was prevalent until neighbors cooperated to drive it away. Today, Southside Park is a diverse and historic neighborhood with a beautiful park, nestled along a 5-block strip between the freeways and State Government concrete jungle.

I've lived in this neighborhood a few years now. Living in downtown is a must for anyone with the means who is active, single, and craving culture. I used to live in 'the burbs' when single... and what a plague on my social life that was. However, for the 'married with children' crowd... I can see how life downtown is too seedy and unsafe. Homeless people and hooligans just come with the territory on any street. Tighter living quarters and parking difficulties are also drawbacks.

Unique, it is. Perfect, it is not. A handful of low-rent apartments bring undesireable elements to any neighborhood, as they do here (vandalism, loitering, crime). I have consistently been amazed at how suburban sprawl continues unabatedly, while downtown residents/developers seem to have so much trouble getting any construction approved. There are empty lots & condemned homes that sit waiting for city appointed committees to review, nit-pick, and approve any attempt at redevelopment. Also, I wish there were more dining options than Vallejo's, Waffle Square, and Fox & Goose (albeit the best breakfast in Sac). You can thank the State Goverment's eminent domain on downtown for that, as they have made downtown a bustling city mon-fri 8-5... yet left few residences to keep the town alive outside of the work week.

Still, the future is bright for Southside Park. Not just because it is bleak for the overgrown suburbs strained by gas prices, crowded freeways, and adjustable mortgages. Redevelopment and revitalization of the urban centers is inevitable. I'm very excited about the projects being planned, such as: the Riverfront Master Plan, the R Street Corridor redevelopment, and revitalizing Broadway with a bridge to West Sac. Unfortunately, NIMBYs are always slowing progress in one way or another (link & link). If you're interested in more about development downtown, check out

If you're one of my neighbors here in Southside Park, think about joining the Southside Park Neighborhood Association & get involved with the issues... or check out the SPNA calendar to see what they are involved with.

Funny Sayings & Phrases

Have you ever known one of those people that always has a funny saying or phrase for situations? A childhood friend's dad actuallly would use 'It's colder than a witches tit in a brass bra'.

Where do people learn this stuff? I think it's hilarious. Maybe if you read enough funny sayings and learn old proverbs and euphemisms, then you can whip 'em out next time colorful language is required.

Tasty Data Goodies - Swivel

Fun with charts!

I've always been a visual learner. I know graphs & charts are one of the easiest ways to misconstrue facts.... just take any page from USA Today (aka 'McNews'). Still, a picture is worth a thousand words as they say - and this site provides a lot of easily digestible useless or partially useful knowledge!

Tasty Data Goodies - Swivel

Instaboat - my foldable dinghy

So as mentioned in the 'Fishing with Steve' post... I've been looking at different options for portable boats. As an urbanite, I don't have space to park a boat/trailer. I live very close to the river & have wanted something portable to take on fishing/camping trips or just when I get the itch.

Inflatables looked like the best option for me - but still somewhat of a pain to inflate/deflate every time you take them out. A guy at work told me about 'folding boats' - and after some googling they seemed like a good choice. They seemed to perform well, assemble/fold easy, and weigh about the same as inflatables (~70lbs).

The two companies I found were Porta-bote & Instaboat. Both products were hard to find a dealer for. Porta-bote (based in Mountain View, CA) had kind of a cheesy website without easily available info on how to buy it. Instaboat's (based in french Canada) website led me to Camping World in Rocklin, CA... so off I went to pick it up. It was kind of expensive ($999), but worth it for what I needed & Instaboat also accepts a small outboard engine for when I get one.

I strapped the folded boat on top of my car-rack with two nylon kayak straps from REI, and it seemed to ride pretty snug on the freeway drive home. I stopped by the river to try it out. The first time putting it together was a little slow as I figured it out... but overall pretty easy. It would have been easier with two people to help load/unload it onto the car rack. The main quirk putting it together was that the metal latches used to lock down the pieces didn't fit perfectly without some finagling... and one of them bent a bit trying to get the latch in. Overall, I'm not too worried about the thing holding together in the water. I took it in the water & it worked just fine (no leaks!) - like any fishing boat I imagine. However, it is kind of lightweight, so seemed to shift to & fro a bit.

Next installment of 'Fishing with Steve' may have a motor involved!

Eric Thomas Wilkerson, of Washington

So I went to SF on Saturday for Fleet Week.

A friend Christine has a place with rooftop access right in North Beach... what a show! The Blue Angels blasting right over your head in formation... with BBQ & a spectacular view to boot.
There were quite a lot of other rooftop suares happening simulataneously, which made it quite fun.

Now for the title of my post...

Needless to say, North Beach + Fleet Week = Insane Parking.
I was fortunate enough to land a corner spot around the block, so Brandie & I were walking there to grab some forgotten sunglasses when I saw some young guys trying to squeeze into the tight parking spot in front of me. I paused & kept a close watch... until a minute later they gave up. As they pulled away, a black KIA Sportage swiftly parallel-parks in and I hear a distinct crackle of plastic as their spare tire munches into the front grill of my new car! I announce 'DUDE, you just hit my car!'... and as the guy gets out I immediately ask for his drivers license & write down his information. I look over the grill & even though there is no apparent damage - I heard the crack!

So, Eric Thomas Wilkerson, of Washington State...
I suggest you be more careful driving & parking in the future. Sure, you may have that spare tire to protect your car from damage... but you never know when the owner of the car is standing right there.
Consider this a little dose of internet karma - Mr. Careless Driver, and may this post enter the annals of Google's Search Index upon your name as penance for your recklessness.

And oh yes, if my grill falls off anytime soon - you'll be hearing from me.

The Big Bang is Big Baloney

So we all know that 'the universe' was created from a singularity, as an instantaneous expansion of all matter. Or do we?

It's human nature we explain the world in the simplest way we can. In earlier times, people thought the world was flat.... seemed to make sense at the time. Now, in the age of Hubble deep field telescopes, quantum physics, and general relativity... our observations are more advanced, even if our human reasoning isn't.

So, why is the Big Bang theory widely accepted? Here are the main observations:

  1. The universe appears to be expanding.
  2. 'Cosmic microwave background radiation' was predicted by the Big Bang, and is in fact observed.
  3. An abundance of light elements in the universe (called nucleosynthesis) is predicted by the Big Bang & observed.

Now for a few challenges posing scientists regarding the Big Bang theory:

  • The expansion of the universe seems to be accelerating.
  • The universe is expanding uniformally around us, so either: the universe is expanding uniformally from everywhere(then where's the center?), or we are at the center of the universe (sounds like pre-Copernicus thinking to me)

If there's one conceptual/philisophical problem I have with the Big Bang... it's that it implies a finite universe & a creation, which forces one to ask more questions. I'm sure the Pope would have an answer for you... in fact the Big Bang theory was proposed by a preacher. However, I see no reason to mix religion & science. Considering Occam's' Razor (the most important rule of thumb for science in my opinion), a finite universe over-complicates everything by forcing one to ask questions like: "where did the matter come from? why was it the amount of matter it is? why was it located where it was?". An infinite universe is pure & simple (albeit mind boggling, but just look at the night sky for a minute & you'll understand infinite).

From what I can tell... Einstein did everything possible to explain away the Big Bang (cosmological constants & what-not). I feel ok not agreeing with the scientific majority, if I'm in that sort of company. Everyone knows Einstein was genius... but it wasn't just a genius of logic & math, it was a creative 'think outside the box' genius. Hell, he invented "Space-Time" & realized that matter bends space-time to cause gravity. It took me a while to even comprehend that!

When you get to this area of theoretical physics/science... you have to bring in philosophy to some degree. Why do we have the laws of physics that we do (gravity, weak/strong nuclear, electromagnetic)? Why does the speed of light = 299 792 458 m/s instead of 57? As for the observation that the universe is expanding.... Quantum mechanics shows that laws of the universe break down at the subatomic level, so who's to say the laws of the universe don't also break down at the multi-galaxy level? (the earth appeared flat, but duh -it wasn't from the macro-view).

String theory (and attempts at a 'grand unified theory') propose ideas about how & why the rules of our universe exist. In my opinion, Occam's Razor would prescribe that 'infinite' is the answer at all levels. In fact, there is an alternative to the Big Bang theory which accepts the infinite AND explains all the observations... I've seen it referred to as the Brane Collision theory. It basically implies that in an infinite mesh of alternate universe's membranes (each with their own properties)... a collision between membranes could cause a 'reset' of matter much like the Big Bang, but without the finite expansion from a singularity.

My Stock Portfolio Google Gadget

This is something I built for my own use... as I like to keep track of my investments by earnings.

It's amusing how many people grabbed it for their own page & many apparently weren't happy with it. To those gripers, I'd suggest they pick up some javascript skills & fix it themself (it's very easy).

Notably, (despite the gripes) my gadget has nearly 60,000 users... which is more than many of the Yahoo & Google created gadgets.

Fishing with Steve

So I may be on hiatus from my cooking hobby... I bought me a fishin' pole & decided to give it an honest try. I like the outdoors, low impact activities, and water.. what more could I ask for? If I get hooked, maybe I'll get myself an inflateable outboard dinghy & have some fun with that...

I fished as a kid with my uncle - but apparently forgot entirely how. Last week on my first day with my new rod, I went out to Paradise Beach & managed to tangle about 20 feet of lure without casting anything. So I figured I need to learn a few things... such as:

How to fish:
Angling - Wikipedia, the free
How To Fish
Fishing Knots

When to fish:
Fishing/Hunting -
Fish Sniffer Online

Where to fish:
California DFG, California Fishing Passport
Sacramento River Access Sites
American River Parkway

... and thanks to Google Maps (satellite view), I may have found a few good spots to try out

View Larger Map

Job Searching

I'm not looking for a job right now... in fact, I'm pretty content where things are right now. These are the sites I would use if I were looking: (I need to put them someplace since I'm cleaning out old bookmarks). Some of them, like Monster & Dice, are old tried & true job marketplaces. Other newer sites like indeed & simplyhired are pretty sweet mashups collecting dozens of job databases into one search...

America's Job Bank
CalPers (Heck, I'm PERS already ... and it's right down the street. ) Jobs
craigslist: sacramento ,
My Monster: Monster

How does my car work?

I guess I'm kinda weak because I don't really have a clue how my car works. If I have to go to a mechanic... I'd just have to put on a poker face & pretend I know my stuff... hoping I don't get ripped off because the 'pistulator has come decombobbed from the torque hose' or something.

That's why I bookmarked this one a while back - still need to read it:
How does my car work?

Popular tags on

I am a huge Googlephile. I get excited about their new tools, gadgets, and features - partly because I own GOOG, but also... I own GOOG because I love what they produce.

That being said - I wish Google Bookmarks would do something like does. It's a brilliant that they pioneered social bookmarking. Bookmarks are the best measure of sites that people value... and tagging makes it all link together.

So Google, you're halfway there with the nifty Google Toolbar bookmarks that I can take with me to any PC.... but you haven't come through yet with the social/sharing aspect. So, I still go to when I want to browse what other people are bookmarking on the web.
Popular tags on

Cooking with Steve

Earlier in the year, I took it upon myself to learn how to cook. I set my DVR for plenty of Food Network shows, like Good Eats, Iron Chef, and Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Rachel Ray just annoys me. I sifted the web for tutorials like: Cooking 101: 20 Lessons to kick start your cooking skill and (so I could understand what they were talking about on Iron Chef). I tried learning some simple things.

Most of those recipes I found on (which allows you to search by ingredient). This is a great way to look for recipes when you are cooking for yourself... as you can just sift through the cupboard/fridge & search for recipes with what you have on hand. Oh yeah, and a measure converter might come in handy for amateurs like me that don't feel ready to stray from a recipe.

Maybe one day I'll sign myself up for one of these fun cooking classes at the Sac Food Co-op.

Here is a collection of delectible recipes I clipped & fancy to try sometime:

Burmese Chicken Curry (Gaeng Gai Bama) - Tender chicken in a creamy, spicy tomato and coconut milk sauce! Serve over jasmine rice.

Chinese Five Spice Chicken -

Creamy Chow Mein Chicken -

Vanilla Crepes - - Recipe - Curried,162,140178-252193,00.html - Recipe - Sweet And Sour,1845,148173-254196,00.htm... - Recipe - Tuna Noodle,178,141187-243199,00.html

My Lunch Can Beat Up Your Lunch! Recipe: Okonomiyaki: tastier than it

Recipe for Okonomiyaki Sauce - Low Carb Recipes

Sausage Cabbage Bake -

Shrimp Fried Noodles-Thai style -

Soft Baked Custard -
Spam Musubi -

Stuffed Cabbage -

Sweet and Spicy Meatloaf -

Thai Pineapple Chicken Curry -

Vanilla Crepes -

Sacramento History Online

This is a neat place to browse if you're from Sacramento... and would like to go back in time. Check out & the California State Library collection.

Other neat info sources:
PBS has a show on sometimes call Viewfinder that tells interesting local stories. There's also a local guy who's publishing photo history books of local neighborhoods. I'm waiting for the Southside Park book to be released next month so I can buy it.

Ratings and Reviews on

There's probably a lot of sites like this... but I thought this one was pretty wide-open & interesting.

For those who like 'best of' lists... this could be some fun.

Ratings and Reviews on

Physics & astronomy with animations

I am a visual learner.

I always loved physics... but stuff like this would have been great in school.
lectures with animations

Lists of topics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I wish I had this when I was growing up. Education in't fun when it follows prescription. Encyclopedias were great... but de-shelving them & flipping pages to find an alphabetical topic was too tedious.

Now Wikipedia... point & click knowledge, that's fun.
Wikipedia is one of my top 5 favorite sites on the web. One can easily spend hours there clicking away on trivial subjects.

Lists of topics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

X10 - Technology from yesterday, creating homes of tomorrow, today!

This company has been around for a while... you've probably seen them.

They aren't afraid to use popup ads or photos of scantily clad ladies. Yes, you can tell the Las Vegas based company knows their market niche... the technophile male consumer who spends too much time on the internet (e'hem, no comment).

Still, the combinations of cameras, remotes, software, and buttons leads me to fantasize how I could pimp out my home automation like Steve Jobs on MTV Cribs!

Neave Planetarium

A night sky simulator.

I've always wanted to learn the major constellations... but you can't see the stars in an urban area.
This lets you set the time of year & lng/lat & mouse navigate...

Neave Planetarium

Worldmapper: The world as you've never seen it before

Very cool!

Worldmapper: The world as you've never seen it before