Wednesday, August 31, 2005

36 Hours . . .

And counting.

That is how long I've been without power in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Growing up out in the country in south Alabama, I was quite used to a storm of any magnitude knocking out the power for hours or sometimes even days.  After Hurricane Opal we didn't have power for a full week.  But we were equipped for it.  We had lots of camping supplies, and a deep freezer that we could load up with ice.  It was an inconvenience, to be sure, but not that bad.

Now I live 350 miles inland, downtown in a decent sized city.  You just don't expect a hurricane to knock power out for several days.  Ivan was a monster last fall, but all that was around here was a little wind and rain.  But Katrina was still a category one storm even this far in.  I know that there are trees down all over the county and utilities workers have been working non-stop since Monday night, and one residential block (I don't think the people across the road from me ever lost power) isn't high on the priority list, but still, it's been almost two days.

I hate to sound like I'm whining about a little inconvenience with what's going on in Louisiana and Mississippi, but right now I am concerned about getting my life back in order before thinking about any of that.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Not to sound like a racist or anything . . .

Another school year began yesterday.  I went to my first class, Artificial Intelligence.  (As an aside, this is actually the third time I've taken a class by that name, yet this one is completely different from the other two, which were nothing alike themselves.  That is one of the reasons that I find the field so interesting.)  I walked into the room and took my usual seat (back corner).  I gazed around the room at my fellow classmates, and noticed an interesting phenomenon.

Everyone is white.

In the year and a half that I've been in Graduate School at UAH, I've never taken a class in which I was not a minority.  Normally, about half the class is Indian, with a handful of Koreans and a couple of African Americans.  That leaves about a quarter of the class to the national majority.  Now, this is not something I have a problem with, it's just the way things are.  Except, apparently with AI.

Eventually, one Indian student came in, but he's a guy that I've had classes with before who is very well spoken and Americanized.  Even the two instructors are both Americans.

So what does all this mean?  Nothing.  I just found it interesting.

Friday, August 12, 2005

'splain me this

For the past several years, I've done nothing but blast LCD monitors for low refresh rates, blurred motion, poor black levels, and less bang for your buck vs. CRT monitors. This is mostly BS. These things were certainly true as recently as five years ago, but, truthfully, LCD monitors are probably better now than their CRT equivalents. So, I've giving up my diatribe and am looking to purchase one as part of my previously mentioned computer upgrade. I have decided that I want a 20 inch, Widescreen monitor. This will be plenty big enough to fit on my desk without being overwhelming, and I heart widescreen.

After doing a little research it seems to me that the top manufacturers of such a product are Dell and Apple. You can look at Dell's here, and Apple's here. Now this is what I need explained to me. I can buy Dell's monitor for $550. Or I can buy Apple's for $800. Now, certainly Apple's is a much better looking device, plus it is a Firewire/USB hub (the dell just has USB). But other than that, please look at the technical specs and explain why Apple's is $250 more. Even though I would like to, I'm not sure that I can warrant spending an extra two fifty on 'pretty'.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

It's Official

I need a new computer.  I downloaded the demo for F.E.A.R., which is supposed to be really good, but I couldn't play it.  It would run, but at about 6 fps, even at 800x600 with all the options turned off.  (I didn't try 640x480, I'm not a heathen, you know).  I had hoped that my patch job last summer of more RAM and a new video card would last me until I finished at UAH, but no such luck.  So now comes the long and involved process of learning about SATA, SLI, and a whole bunch of other new acronyms that have popped up since I last built a new system.

More on this as the story develops . . .

Friday, August 05, 2005

An Interesting Experiment

Today, as I arrived at work, I said hello to the secretary, as normal.  But, instead of responding in kind, she asked me a strange question.  "Do you use the Internet?".  "Um. . . yes", was my reply.  "Well not today!".  That's right boys and girls, no wasting time by pre-ranking my Fantasy Football draft list, reading 8-Bit Theater, or checking my e-mail a few dozen times.  The system . . . is down. (dum, dum, dum, dum, dodadoodaloo, dodadoodaloo, the system . . . is down).

I expected one of two things to happen.  Either I would be really bored all day, or I would get about twice as much work done as normal.  But, to tell the truth, neither happened.  Or maybe a little bit of both.  I don't think I got very much more done, but I didn't sit around playing solitaire either.  Maybe I just went a little bit slower and stared off into space a little more.  Maybe I took a little longer on my 10 a.m. Mountain Dew break or chatting with my boss.  But, it is nice to know that a little bit of net surfing isn't a big hit in my daily productivity.  Or maybe it's just a sign that my laziness will find a way to manifest itself no matter what the obstacle.