Thursday, August 18, 2011

Goodbye, Connecticut; Hello, Virginia

Tech-media-tainment is moving its operations from Connecticut to Virginia.
TMT has been in Fairfield County, Conn., for two years, after relocating from Illinois.
Connecticut is a beautiful state with a lot to offer. It has many parks and nature preserves and even residential properties are surrounded by trees and lush vegetation.
Our home in New Canaan is regularly visited by a red-tailed hawk, turkeys, deer and even coyote.
Connecticut has its quirks – no alcoholic beverage sales on Sunday, tags sales instead of yard sales, and recycling deposits on beverage cans and bottles. Road signs only identify the crossroads but not the road you’re on, which is annoying when you’re lost.
New Canaan is a big village with a lot of famous residents. Among those who live here are NBC News anchor Brian Williams; NBC Today Show host Ann Curry; singer Paul Simon and his wife, singer Edie Brickell; actor-singer Harry Connick Jr. and his wife, model Jill Goodacre; and General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt.
My favorite places here include New Canaan’s Mead Park, Norwalk’s Maritime Aquarium and Devil’s Den Preserve in Weston.
Adios, Constitution State.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The mystery of the lost pets

It seems like there are a lot of missing dogs and cats in Norwalk and New Canaan, Conn., and surrounding villages.
Driving near my home you can see lots of missing pet posters stapled to utility poles or on signs staked in the ground. It may be that people around here are more likely to put up signs for their lost pets than other places I’ve lived.
Or something more sinister is afoot.
Maybe the pets are being kidnapped by dog-fighting rings or sold to labs for medical experiments.
More likely, they’ve fallen victim to Connecticut’s significant coyote population.
I heard a pack of coyotes howling around midnight in my neighborhood earlier this week. If you’ve never heard coyotes howl, I can tell you it’s pretty creepy. Their unworldly yelps and cries can send a chill up your spine.
Residents are warned to keep their pets indoors at night and to keep an eye on them during the day. Coyotes looking for a snack can strike at any time.
Coyote sightings have increased recently, according to New Canaan Patch.
But whether they’re responsible for the missing pets on the signs around town is still a mystery.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

At wit’s end with computer problems

Off and on for the last couple of months, I’ve been plagued with computer problems.
Problems with my work computer have hampered my productivity. Problems with a home computer have just added to my frustration.
All I want is a PC that works. Is that too much to ask?
First, my work computer, a Dell PC running Windows XP, became crippled by browser hijacks, hostage-ware, Trojans and other malware. Cleaning out all that malware damaged my user preferences and some applications, so I decided to save all my files and reinstall Windows.
Reinstalling Windows is a time-consuming process. After installing Windows, it had to download multiple software updates from Microsoft’s update page, each one requiring a restart. Then I had to install drivers for my video and audio hardware and printer. Then I had to install about two dozen software applications I use, everything from Microsoft Office to browser toolbars.
After all that, I started getting blue screens of death for bad drivers. I tried everything my company’s IT guru could suggest and a few things on my own, but no luck. The blue screens kept coming, regularly and without warning.
After some consideration, I decided to reinstall Windows again, along with all my software apps.
Things went fine for a few days, then I started getting blue screens of death for “Page_Fault_In_Nonpaged_Area.” That’s usually a sign of a bad memory component or motherboard. So I’ll have to get a replacement PC.
I’d like to upgrade from the decade-old Windows XP to the new Windows 7, but I can’t. Some of my work applications don’t run on Win 7 yet.
While all of this is going on, my relatively new Hewlett-Packard home PC running Windows 7 has an issue with the monitor going into sleep mode while you’re using it. The first service technician I brought it to couldn’t replicate the problem so I brought it home. And it happened again and again.
For now, it sits in a corner. I don’t have the time or patience to figure out what to do with it. And while it gathers dust, I’m using an older Dell PC running Windows XP.
Fingers crossed that I don’t get the blue screen of death on that machine too.

Photo: Blue screen of death message from my work PC.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cloud computing not reliable at times

Cloud computing has been the subject of a lot of hype in the technology industry.
Companies like and VMware have risen to prominence because of the shift to Internet-based, or cloud, computing. And even stodgy old tech giants like Dell and Microsoft have been trying to refashion themselves as cloud computing companies.
But high-profile outages have raised concerns about the reliability and security of cloud computing.
On Monday,’s EC2 web-hosting service went down, taking Twitter, Netflix, Reddit and other services with it for a short period, according to TechCrunch. This follows a much worse outage in April, when the Amazon service was offline for hours – in some cases, days – and data was lost, according to Business Insider and the Register.
In March, Google’s Gmail service failed for thousands of users for several days, according to the Los Angeles Times and the Register. And in May, Google’s Blogger service was unavailable for an extended period, All Things D reported.
In addition to service failures, online networks have been victimized by hackers. Sony’s PlayStation Network, Citigroup and government agencies and others have suffered severe cyberattacks this year, according to the Huffington Post.
These sorts of incidents are upsetting to people who are storing more of their data and even business applications in the cloud.

Photo: Scene from "The Simpsons."

Monday, August 8, 2011

Good news, bad news for women’s pro sports

The number of women’s professional sports leagues is on the rise. However, you have to be attractive and wear lingerie or bikinis to play.
The success of the Lingerie Football League has spawned the Lingerie Basketball League and the Bikini Basketball League in the U.S. Mostly recently Bikini Basketball Entertainment was announced in Canada.
These leagues are overtly sexist. But as Fox News pointed out “the over-sexualization of female athletes is hardly a new concept.”
Female sports organizations from badminton to beach volleyball have tried to sex up their player’s uniforms.
And the media give inordinate attention to the most attractive female athletes, from tennis player Anna Kournikova to skier Lindsey Vonn.
Bikini Basketball Entertainment is described as a female basketball tour group that combines live events with online pay-per-view. The games “will be NBA style with 4 quarters, and a half time. The basketball nets are will be lowered so that our tall players can dunk the ball, and make it a more action packed game,” the firm’s website says.
BBE hopes to model itself after WWE wrestling and produce a reality television show about the tour games, behind-the-scenes interaction and storylines, organizers say.

Photos: BBE promotional artwork (top), BBE tryout photo (bottom).

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Stop printing phone books!

AT&T continued its wasteful practice of stuffing mailboxes in New Canaan, Conn., and elsewhere with unwanted phone books this week.
I received two new AT&T phone books.
Nearly three years ago, I wrote about how baffling it was that companies still printed phone directories when the Internet makes searching for phone numbers and businesses much easier. The fact that phone books still exist is one of the failed promises of the digital era.
Left on their own, phone book publishers would continue this practice for years to come. So it’s time for governments to get involved.
Governments often overstep their bounds in regulating business practices, but I think this is one area where they could make a positive difference.
San Francisco has taken the right approach. It passed an ordinance that allows Yellow Pages phone books to be distributed only to people who request them. It’s billed as the first opt-in program for phone books in the U.S.
Elsewhere in the U.S., people can opt out of getting phone books by visiting, which is run by the Local Search Association, formerly called the Yellow Pages Association.
For my zip code in Connecticut, six commercial phone books are offered.
The Local Search Association says directory paper is made from recycled newspapers and residual chips from sawmills, not from freshly cut trees. It also says it uses vegetable-based inks and eco-friendly adhesives that pose little threat to the environment.
But not printing phone books to begin with would be even better for the environment.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Concrete Blonde: One of the great, underappreciated rock bands of our time

L.A.-based rock band Concrete Blonde released its first album 25 years ago and, as such, became eligible this year for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They deserve a place in the hall for their amazing catalog of music, but sadly they probably won’t make it, because the rock hall is mostly a popularity contest.
The group is fronted by lead singer and bass guitarist Johnette Napolitano, who has an unforgettable voice. Her singing is by turns lovely, poignant, angry and rough.
She is backed by the great guitarist James Mankey, whose haunting style is as instantly recognizable.
Last night, I watched a live streaming-only concert Concrete Blonde performed in Joshua Tree, Calif., where Napolitano lives. The concert was streamed by StageIt.
The event, which wasn’t very well publicized, was an opportunity for die-hard fans to see an exclusive 30-minute set for $20. About 60 or so of us fans attended the event and participated in a live chat where we suggested songs to play and upcoming tour stops to make.
The audio was excellent, but the video was just OK.
It was a pleasure to see my favorite band play for a small group of us.
They stuck mostly to their hits for the set, which included “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song),” “Joey,” “God Is a Bullet,” “Caroline” and “Heal It Up.” A nice bonus was their cover of Midnight Oil’s “Beds Are Burning.”
I hope they do another one of these online shows and play some of their deep cuts. I’d like to hear some of their songs that they don’t usually play in concert.
Keep up the great work, guys.

Other references:

Concrete Blonde entry on Wikipedia

Johnette Napolitano entry on Wikipedia