Wednesday, 22 August 2007

UPDATED: As "Digger Dog" points out in the comments below, there is now a national hotline you can access by calling 811 from any phone, which will connect you to the proper utility marking service for your area. Funny thing is I heard a radio spot describing it yesterday, just a day after writing the original post, heh. Here's the description of the national service from the Call 811 web site:

image "One easy phone call to 811 starts the process to get your underground utility lines marked for free. When you call 811 from anywhere in the country, your call will be routed to your local One Call Center. Local One Call Center operators will ask you for the location of your digging job and route your call to affected utility companies. Your utility companies will then send a professional locator to your location to mark your lines within a few days. Once your underground lines have been marked, you will know the approximate location of your utility lines and can dig safely, because knowing what's below protects you and your family."

YouTube has the 811 video PSA spots online, as well. Here's the shorter of the two:

People are also arriving here searching for campaign materials and signage for the Call 811 program. Bumper sticker, bus signs, workplace signs, ad slicks and a whole lot more -- you name it -- get that stuff here.

Thanks, Digger Dog!

My original post:

Driveway at Home This weekend someone is going to be helping me to solve my long gravel driveway woes. After five years, it's time to take that lumpy surface out here in the middle-o-nowhere and fix 'er up, pot holes, bumps, ruts and huge puddles of water be damned. No more roller coasters for me. We'll have to sink some tractor teeth into the ground a foot or two, maybe deeper in some spots, so I needed to get the utilities marked ahead of time for safety and all that, of course.

Turns out there's a centralized service for a few states (specifically Oregon, Washington, Montana and Hawaii - weird but true) lets you make one call (or file a request online) and all the utility companies in your area will be notified and sent out to mark the spot. No need to call each one individually. In fact, when I called my electric company they directed me to the one-call service. You speak to an operator for a few short minutes and within 48 hours they'll have everyone out and the place all marked up. is the web site where you can file your request online, and 800-332-2344 is the phone number if you're lonely or something and you want to speak to a human being. Again, it's available for people in Oregon, Washington, (most of ) Montana and Hawaii.

Enjoy, and don't dig without calling. It's not worth the hurt.

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Random Stuff
Wednesday, 22 August 2007 08:56:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 17 August 2007

I recently acquired a boat. A smaller jet boat, made by Sea-Doo. Yeah, I know, go ahead and bring it on... Mid-life crisis comments welcome, whatever. Heh.

ScreamingTurtle It's amazingly fun. I've been out with friends a bunch of times and it drives like crazy. the jet drive means you can turn literally on a dime, it slides an skids and turns and flies fast. We've pulled kneeboards and a big tube and it's a blast. No wakeboard yet, mostly because they're so much more expensive and we already have the tube and kneeboard.

The boat is a Sea-Doo 150 Speedster, and it's a 215-horsepower little water demon that seats four. It has a name (people seem to ask me that question a lot), which is Screaming Turtle. Long story behind that, so let's just say it's a random name that one of the kids in youth group and I came up with well before I bought the boat. Kind of pre-planned.

So, I had it out on the upper Willamette River (the clean part that is well upstream from the Portland sewage mess) Wednesday evening this week with a couple friends, and we were pulling the water tube. I was careful each time to make sure the tow rope, which floats on top of the water, was not under the boat. This boat has a water intake opening on the underside toward the back, into which water is sucked to feed the impeller in the boat - the "jet" drive. After several runs of carefulness I got lazy and started the boat without looking for the rope closely enough, so it was pulled into the intake, wrapped around the drive shaft and into the seal, and slightly into the impeller. Ugh. The result of that was a dead-in-the-water boat two miles from the boat ramp where my truck was. Not fun.

Anyhow, lesson there is *always* check to see if the rope is clear, without exception. It's a lot easier to get home that way, and it will save you a couple hundred bucks in labor.

On a side note, there was a very nice man who was out with his church youth group on the river who finished up for the day and towed us with our boat all the way back to the Boone's Ferry ramp, which was awesome. He was a true saint, and although I offered to buy a tank of gas in return for the favor, he declined and said he'd been there before as a new boat owner. Something about a sand bar and a destroyed prop. Heh. Nice guy. It's sure good to know there are people like him out there. Would have been really bad to be stuck in the dark.

Here's some video from Wednesday evening before the whole line-intake-suck-up thing. It was a really nice out. The sun was low in the sky so depending on which way we were heading it was really darned bright. Dave, Lisa and I had a blast.

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Friday, 17 August 2007 22:00:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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UPDATED: On December 19, 2007 Blockbuster notified its customers that it is once again increasing rates for the Total Access service. Click here for more information.

Nothing like BS marketing diversionary explanations for what amounts to a profiteering move. Come on, Blockbuster - we're not stupid... Tell it like it is.

It looks like the great Blockbuster Total Access Premium plan I've been on was a little too good to be true, and Blockbuster is reeling in some line to cut back on the likely massive number of free in-store rentals they've been handing out for free when customers return their online rentals to the brick-and-mortar stores. I know I have enjoyed that service, but I'm not especially enjoying the news I just got in email this evening telling me my account is changing.

In a nutshell, for the price I have been paying all along I will get less. I can still get 3 DVDs at a time, but will only be able to exchange five of the online movies for in-store rentals each month, where before there was no limit. To get what I'm used to, I'll have to pay another $7.00 a month. Looks like I have some decisions to make.

Here's the plan I have today, at least the next week or two...

Your Current Plan: BLOCKBUSTER Total Access Premium 

  • $17.99 / month (plus taxes)
  • 3 at-a-time, unlimited mailings
  • unlimited in-store free movie/discounted game exchanges
  • +2 FREE bonus Movie or Game Rental E-Coupon / Month

And below is the chart from their web site with the new plans. Ouch...


The other thing that really gets me is the lame explanation (my opinion) they provided for why they're pre-determining and limiting the number of in-store rental exchanges they're allowing each month. This is taken from their online FAQ (emphasis mine):

QUESTION: Why is BLOCKBUSTER offering plans with a pre-determined number of monthly in-store movie exchanges?

ANSWER: We are now offering a full range of subscription options so that our customers can more easily find a plan that meets their specific needs, whether that means a basic online-only service without any in-store exchange privileges or a premium plan that includes unlimited in-store exchanges. Our new line-up of plans allow subscribers to get the right number of movies for their needs. Current subscribers are welcome to change their plan at any time by going to My Account.

What?? I already had a plan that met my needs, the very same plan that now costs $24.99, and which used to cost $17.99. Gah.

Why can't they just say it: They want/need to make more money and this makes it possible. Seriously, open and honest explanations about the obvious reasons would be much easier to swallow. In fact, if they told us the reason for the increase is because they didn't anticipate lower margins associated with lots of unlimited exchanges in the store, I might even consider paying the higher price to keep the same level of service. But putting forth what looks like a veiled, lame excuse for a reason doesn't exactly motivate me to do even more business with the company. Hey Blockbuster, just tell us what's really up -- please.

Oh and another thing - If you have one of the accounts with the limited in-store exchanges, apparently the counter for tracking your the in-store exchanges is based on how many you do in a calendar month, not per billing period.

Because I have been with the Total Access program for some time, I have also been getting two e-coupons a month for free in-store movie or game rentals. But I can't tell whether I will still get those after this change takes place. I might have to contact their customer support to find out. I hope they're keeping those in place for their longer-term customers.

Am I just whining here, or do you feel my pain? Are you affected by this change? What do you think?

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Movies | Random Stuff
Friday, 17 August 2007 20:33:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Minutes ago and well in time for the Tuesday release goal on the West Coast, Omar released dasBlog v2.0 on Sourceforge, which as Scott mentioned a few days ago runs under the .NET framework v2 and supports medium trust deployment.

dasBlogv2.0releas.0andmediumtrustsupport_1387E/dasblogbannerimage_2.png" width="500" border="0">

Downloads can be found dasBlogv2.0releas.0andmediumtrustsupport_1387E/dasblogbannerimage.png" target="_blank">here for source and compiled web files.

I'll upgrade soon (when I can find enough free minutes, probably later in the week). The dasBlog dev team is also pushing ahead with a version that will take advantage of the .NET 3.5 framework and should be very, very cool as well. So, lots there now and lots more to come!

I'll update here with details (or more likely a link to someone else's details list) soon.

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Blogging | Tech
Tuesday, 14 August 2007 21:27:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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imageI just ran across's strong password checker, which is a little web-based app that lets you type a password or passphrase in and it tells you the relative strength. It's pretty nice and worth bookmarking.

Why are strong passwords important? Simple - because the simpler it is, the easier it is for someone to "brute-force" attack. That's a term that means they take a program that uses common terms, words and phrases to try to figure out your password by trying it over and over until it works. Strong passwords are complex in the variety of character types, are longer in size and don't use dictionary or other predictable, common terms.


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IT Security | Safe Computing | Tech
Tuesday, 14 August 2007 21:02:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 01 August 2007

Well, be praised... My new projector is here - The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 projector, along with a fresh-off-the-press copy of 300 in HD-DVD, a home theater HD-DVD calibration disc, The Matrix Ultimate Collection in HD-DVD (sense a theme yet? heh...) and a VGA cable for my Xbox 360 (which the the one that will let the HD-DVD player get output in true 1080p format - we will see how that goes).


Gonna be a fun evening at home. I'll post a review with details once I get my hands dirty. This projector is replacing my old Infocus X1, so I am upgrading from a 800x600 native image to a full 1080p (1920x1080) image and a much newer set of technologies behind it. Should be pretty amazing.

More to come. Time to go geek out for a while.

Quick Update: A-MA-ZING. Like as in wow. Watching the movie "300" in full 1080P at 130 or so inches projected size (I'll have to measure to be sure) is visually amazing. It doesn't even look like a video projection - you can clearly see the film grain and the screen door effect is non-existent. More later, I can't stop looking right now. And after a quick try, Xbox 360 games and HD TV both look amazing, too.

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Wednesday, 01 August 2007 13:43:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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