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If you had asked me last week, the only two reasons I could come up with for having a garage sale would be to get rid of some extra clutter and make a few extra bucks in the process. I had completely forgot about doing one as a fundraiser, which is what Susan (and by proxy, the rest of us) did last weekend.

One of the Girl Scout camps that Morgan goes to (and Susan went to — Camp Ekowah) does not have a tornado shelter. Several Girl Scouts banded together to raise the money needed to add a large safe room to the camp. The estimate was hundreds of thousands of dollars, so to cover the cost each Girl Scout pledged to raise (at least) $1,000 each.

Even before the garage sale, several of our friends and family donated toward the cause. That got Susan close to her goal, but not quite all the way there. To raise even more money, Susan decided to have a fundraising garage sale. Lots and lots of our friends donated items to Susan’s sale, which we were very grateful for. Susan took Friday off work and spent the day (along with a couple of her friends) sorting, organizing, and pricing the items. Friday afternoon, our driveway looked like this:


Saturday morning rolled around. I woke up at 5:45am to find Susan had already left the house and returned with coffee and doughnuts. After my sleepy butt was less sleepy I joined her outside to help move some more items from inside the garage to the driveway itself.

In the Craigslist Ad Susan mentioned “no early birds”. For the record, that means nothing to most garage sale shoppers. The sale was set to begin at 7am and by then we had already seen two or three shoppers. No early birds indeed.

As mostly a bystander, I found it interesting to to divide our customers into different categories. There were of course the traditional, almost stereotypical garage sale visitors — middle-to-older-age women who would walk slowly through the sale, picking up multiple items and checking them out. Then there were the obvious resellers. All of them drove pickups, some of them pulling trailers and almost all of them leaving their trucks running as they walked up, quickly surveyed the sale, and then split. Then there were what I called the hopefuls, who asked about things obviously not at the sale. “Got any tools back there? How about fishing poles?”

Of all the garage sales we’ve had, despite the Craigslist ads, Facebook posts and signs at both ends of the neighborhood, this one had the least amount of traffic. A few people suggested we should have put other signs further away pointing people toward the sale. We sold a lot of things but by lunch time it became very clear that we weren’t going to sell everything. Not even close. We did have several friends and family members stop by which was fun and made the time go by faster.

Susan had planned on running the sale until 3pm, but by 1:30pm it was evident the customers were drying up and so we called it at 2pm. With Susan exhausted from running the sale all day, Mason and I jumped in and began loading the leftovers into my truck. Even with filling the bed and the backseats of the truck, it took three trips to haul all the leftovers up to Goodwill.

After the sale was done, Susan counted all the money and ended up with $555. That puts her well over her $1,000 goal — by doing that, she gets the opportunity to rappel off of the top of the 244-foot-tall Leadership Square building downtown, and she’s pretty close to her ultimate goal of $1,500, which gets her Go Pro video of the event and a few other extras. Of course, the real reward will be putting in the tornado shelter for the Girl Scouts.

For me, the real reward was this baggie of Smurfs, which I found at the garage sale for 50 cents.

I spent the week before last in Washington DC for work. I “kind of” flew home on Thursday, attended a wedding on Friday, packed over the weekend and drove to Chicago, where I spent last week. It’s been a long two weeks.

The trip to DC began with a flight (yes, flight) to DC through Dallas. While trying to make my connecting flight in Dallas I got turned around and ended up in baggage claim, which forced me to go back through the TSA line a second time. The second time I had already filled my water bottle (and forgot about it), which led to a 15-20 minute diversion as I had my bag removed and searched and received the coveted “invasive pat down” from a genial fellow named Raul who, for all intents and purposes, is now my boyfriend.

I spent three days in DC. The first day was spent at an awards ceremony where my team was presented with an award by the FAA Administrator for our work on the e-mail migration project I’ve been working on for the past two years. The next two days were spent in a “lessons learned” meeting, where everyone shared what went wrong and what went right with the project in hopes of helping future projects.

My flight home on Thursday was scheduled (I thought) to leave Baltimore at 6am. To make sure I didn’t miss the flight, Super Shuttle picked me up in front of my hotel at 2:45am, and dropped me off in front of BWI at 3:45am. When I checked in at the gate around 4am I learned that my flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 8:40am. I found a place to sit and killed 4 hours waiting to board. After the plane was boarded, the pilot announced that due to storms in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, “we might be leaving in two hours, or not at all.” At that point we all exited the plane and awaited further updates. Around 10:30am we reboarded the plane and made it to DFW, only to find that all flights heading north from there (including Oklahoma) were either full or had been cancelled. Based on that knowledge I rented a car (it’s only a 3 1/2 hours drive from DFW to OKC), only to learn that I-35 (the interstate that connects those two cities) had received up to 14″ of rain in some areas and was closed. I upgraded my rental car to something big enough to sleep in and began working my way home. A couple of detours and roughly 6 hours later, I arrived in OKC only to discover that no one was home, my keys were in the house, and the garage door keypad no longer worked. Exhausted, I slept in the back of the rental from 6:30pm until 7:30pm, when Susan was able to get home and let me in.

On Friday Susan, the kids and I attended our good friend Jennifer Martin’s wedding. Susan and I served as unofficial photographers and documented the entire evening from beginning to end. Susan took almost 1,000 photos while I only took 400. Susan and I had a good time taking pictures and the kids had a good time eating cupcakes and dancing the night away!

Saturday morning, Susan, her sister, and the kids hopped into Susan’s car and headed out west to San Diego. That gave me the weekend to hang out and rest up for my own to trip to Chicago.

Monday morning Dad and I hopped into the Avalanche and drove north to Chicago. We had the traditional White Castles for lunch and some delicious Aurelio’s Pizza for dinner with my Aunt Linda and Grandma O’Hara. At 85, Grandma O is suffering from moderate dementia. From what I understand some days are better than others. I arrived on a bad day. I only see her a couple times a year and the change between the last time I saw her and this time was dramatic.

I spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Des Plaines, Illinois (near O’Hare Airport) loading servers. My small team loaded roughly 40 servers in two days. Each server weighed approximately 75 pounds and had to be moved several times. By the end of the week my hamstrings, arms, knees and back knew exactly how many servers we had moved. We ate lunch at Giordano’s Pizza one day and had dinner at Harry Carey’s Steakhouse another night, but for the most part we just worked and slept. And drank. A lot.

Friday morning at 5am I hopped in the truck and drove down to Springfield, IL to pick up Dad (who was visiting his cousin) before hitting the trail and finishing the drive. It wasn’t the fastest trip ever, but after slamming a few energy drinks and cups of coffee we rolled into my driveway just after 8pm. Susan and the kids got home from their trip around 10pm.

I slept in this morning and took two additional naps throughout the day. I’m almost caught up on rest now. Hopefully my back stops hurting before I head back to work on Monday.

My hotel this week in DC is so far away from work that I’ve been riding the Metro roughly 30 minutes each way. During that time each morning I’ve noticed that most Metro riders fall into one of the eight following categories.

01. SLEEPERS. These people get on and nod off. I’m not sure how they do it, but they do. I spend most of my time on the Metro worrying about (a) getting off at the right stop and (b) worrying about people stabbing me, and sleeping would seem to raise the odds of both. But lots of people do it (sleep, not stab me) every day. I’m really not sure how they manage to get off at the correct stop. I suppose I’m only assuming that they do.

02. HEADPHONES. Slightly better than the sleepers, the headphones-people are only depriving themselves of one sense. That being said, I depend on that sense on the Metro to let me know what stop we’re at and which one is coming up next.

03. PHONES. Lots of people spend their time with their noses buried in their phones — not talking on them but playing games on them. You can toss tablet owners in this category, too. I haven’t seen a lot of people actually talking on the phone and I’m not sure if you can even get a cell signal down there. I can’t, but I’m AT&T; I can’t get cell signal in my garage…

04. READERS. While the younger crowd seems to prefer electronics, the older riders like their paper. Newspapers, paperback books, and magazines.

05. STARERS. With nothing to read or listen to, these people just stare off into space. I can never tell what they’re looking at. They’re looking at … something. Or maybe nothing. I have no idea. They seem catatonic. They’re like Metro mannequins.

06. LOOKERS. Lookers are the opposite of starers. Lookers look at everything and everybody. Their heads and eyes are constantly moving around. Whenever two lookers lock eyes, things get awkward. (Spoiler: I’m a looker.)

07. TOURISTS. Tourists are easy to spot as they’re the only people having any fun. They laugh and talk loudly and almost fall over every time the Metro speeds up, slows down, or makes a turn. They also check the Matro map hanging on the wall. A lot. Like, sometimes after every stop.

08. CRAZIES. While I didn’t spot too many this time, occasionally I’ll spot someone talking to their shoe or licking one of the poles. I take back what I said about the tourists. These people seem to be having fun, too.

A few weeks ago, Susan mentioned that she was going to submit some photographs to ShutterStock. ShutterStock is a website where people can purchase stock photography to use for their websites. You, as the photographer, get 50% of the purchase price. Before being accepted, you must submit 10 photos to ShutterStock and 7 of them must be accepted. For fun this week I decided to dig through some of my old photos, submit them to ShutterStock, and see if I could get accepted. Let’s see how it went!

Shot at the Surrey Hills Park.

This picture was rejected for the following reasons:

– Image contains excessive noise, grain, artifacts, and/or is poorly rasterized.
– Subject is blurry, too soft, or out of focus when viewed at full resolution.
– Image is poorly composed and/or poorly cropped.

Yikes. Let’s try a different picture of fruit!

Shot at Pike’s Place in Seattle.

This picture was rejected for the following reasons:

– Image contains excessive noise, grain, artifacts, and/or is poorly rasterized.
– Image has exposure issues, unfavorable lighting conditions, and/or incorrect white balance.
– Subject is blurry, too soft, or out of focus when viewed at full resolution.
– Image is poorly composed and/or poorly cropped.

That’s worse than the first one! Maybe I’ll move on to boats!

Shot in Seattle.

This picture was rejected for the following reasons:

– Image contains excessive noise, grain, artifacts, and/or is poorly rasterized.
– Image has exposure issues, unfavorable lighting conditions, and/or incorrect white balance.
– Subject is blurry, too soft, or out of focus when viewed at full resolution.
– Image contains color fringing and/or inappropriate lens flares.

Maybe a bigger boat?

Shot in Alaska.

– Image contains excessive noise, grain, artifacts, and/or is poorly rasterized.
– Image has exposure issues, unfavorable lighting conditions, and/or incorrect white balance.
– Image contains color fringing and/or inappropriate lens flares.

No luck with water. Maybe concrete?

Shot in OKC.

– Image contains excessive noise, grain, artifacts, and/or is poorly rasterized.
– Image has exposure issues, unfavorable lighting conditions, and/or incorrect white balance.
– Subject is blurry, too soft, or out of focus when viewed at full resolution.
- Image potentially infringes on intellectual property rights.

Intellectual property rights? What the heck?

Shot in St. Louis.

– Image contains excessive noise, grain, artifacts, and/or is poorly rasterized.
– Image has exposure issues, unfavorable lighting conditions, and/or incorrect white balance.
– Subject is blurry, too soft, or out of focus when viewed at full resolution.
- Please provide a property release signed by the artist for any scanned/photographed artwork.

Yes, indeed. If anyone knows who the artist of this graffiti near the St. Louis Arch is, please have him contact me.

While you’re at it, I’m also going to need property release forms from every building in this picture.

Here are the final 3 pictures I submitted:

In all, all 10 were rejected:

– 10 for “noise”
– 9 for “poor lighting”
– 8 for “focus”
– 4 for “lighting problems” (which is different than poor lighting)
– 2 for “composition”
– 1 for “dust and scratches”
– 1 for “trademark”
– 1 for not including a property release signed by a graffiti artist.

I believe my dreams of becoming a member of ShutterStock just came to a crashing halt.

I’m very close to completely converting all of my old physical C64 disks into D64 disk images, a project I started roughly 10 years ago — not that it takes 10 years to convert ~600 floppies into D64 disk images (it only takes a minute or two to do a disk), but there have been a lot of stops and starts. Along the way I’ve used three of four different methods (x1541 cables, the FC5025, the Ultimate 1541, and my current method of choice, the ZoomFloppy) and experimented with several different tools and methods to ensure that I’m getting the most data possible from these old floppies.

Now, most of the floppies I’m capturing look like this:

In my digital collection, that’s “Disk 009,” and I’ll end up with two files (009A and 009B, one for each side). But occasionally, I run across old disks of mine that look like this:

Not all glue was created equal, and many of the labels I used for numbering disks have dried up and fallen off, never to be seen again. This bothers me to no end because now I don’t know what to call this disk image. Right know it’s called “Unknown-034.”

While rummaging through these old virtual warez I ran across a disk labelled “DCMR.” DCMR stands for “Disk Catalog Manager/Reporter.” I vaguely remember using it in the mid-80s. After converting the disk over to a D64 file I loaded it up in an emulator and found that not only did I apparently use it extensively, but that it contains a nearly complete list of every program from every disk. Hey, this could be useful!

The first thing I did was make backups of my old lists and put them on the same disk as DCMR using DirMaster by Style. (If you do anything with D64 disk images, you should download DirMaster immediately. It’s an invaluable tool that I rely on for cleaning up disk images and moving files from one image to another.)

With all the files on one disk, I loaded up DCMR…

…and was able to search for the first game on that mysterious disk. Apparently, this was originally disk 381!

Wahoo! One mystery solved, and I plan on using this newly discovered data to figure out what the rest of those disks with missing labels originally were. Man, this is awesome!

Our neighbors, quite selfishly, have placed padlocks on their gates that surround their pool. You cannot lock up water, my friends! You are depriving us, your neighbors, from our right to swim in that pool as we once did while your house was on the market!

Mason though, the crafty one that he is, figured out the combination to the padlock. While our neighbors are out of town for the week, Mason managed to get the padlock open. We have been kept dry by the man for too long now. YOUR REIGN OF TYRRANY HAS ENDED!

And, while the neighbors are away, a good time swimming was had by all. Happy Fourth of July!

(PS: We actually got permission to swim in the pool while our neighbors were out of town, but this version sounded a lot more exciting.)

I read last night that yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Tim Burton’s Batman, released in (obviously) the summer of 1989. I am not a “comic book guy,” but I do remember the movie’s premiere quite well.

Superman, the motion picture starring Christopher Reeve, hit theaters in 1978. Not longer after we had Superman battling General Zod in Superman II, Richard Pryor in Superman III, and Nuclear Man in Superman IV. Somewhere in the middle of all that Supergirl fought her way through a terrible film. The popularity of those movies didn’t spawn a ton of other films starring comic book characters.

In the late 80s, rumors began circulating of a new Batman film. I had never (and still haven’t) read a Batman comic in my life, so all I knew of the Caped Crusader came from the campy 60s television show starring Adam West. All I knew was that this new Batman film was being directed by Tim Burton, who I knew from Beetlejuice and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Based on those films, I had NO idea what to expect.

Batman fever was in full pitch. Jeff, Andy and I were all working down the street from Taco Bell at a baseball field concession stand. After work the three of us would often swing by Taco Bell for dinner. With the purchase of a large drink you could get a collectible plastic Batman cup (see above). All the employees wore black t-shirts with Batman logos on them. Batman was everywhere even before the movie came out.

I too wanted a Batman shirt, so I picked one up at the local flea market. It was a bootleg shirt so the logo looked “mostly” like the Batman insignia, but not exactly right. The t-shirt was white until I washed it with a red pair of shorts, which turned my white Batman shirt pink. All the girls I knew were jealous; none of the guys I knew were.

On opening night, Andy, Jeff and I all went to go see Batman at the Yukon movie theater. (And yes, I wrote that pink shirt.) The movie was a fantastic mix of fun, action, and drama. By the end of the night all of us had experienced the new Batmobile, a wonderfully sadistic Joker, and the following image:

Burton’s Batman film led to several sequels, and (in my opinion) the success of the franchise helped launch several other comic book based franchises and, in a bigger scope, helped mesh nerd culture with pop culture.

After listening to Zerbinator’s new 80-89 Podcast (which sounds like it was recorded on cassette — and I mean that in a good way!) I went out to the garage to dig out my own box of cassette tapes.

I already went through this box once a few years ago. The tapes that are left consist of (a) ones I recorded off the radio, or (b) albums released by local bands that never made it to CD.

After digging through the tapes for a few minutes, I went back back out to the garage to see if I had kept one of my old cassette decks. Of course I did. This Kenwood will do nicely!

Using a simple RCA cable/splitter, I hooked the old cassette deck directly into my computer. I’ll be using Audacity to record the cassettes and convert them to mp3, with a couple to plug-ins to do things like remove hiss.

The best part about this project is I can work on it while I’m working from home. All I have to do is toss in a cassette, press play (on the deck) and record (on the computer) and continue working. And, bonus, I get to listen to music all day long!

If you love the awesome 80s and would like to listen to the first cassette, click here!v

A few of my video game friends and a lot of my non-gaming friends have sent me links to this news story about Michael Thommason who just auctioned off “the largest video game collection” (per the Guiness Book of World Records) for $750,250.

News sites get excited when they hear the words “biggest” or “best” or “fastest”. Nobody wants to read about the thirteenth largest video game collection being sold. Of course thanks to the internet, our boundaries have grown larger. When I was in high school it was enough to have the fastest car in town. Today you have to have the fastest car on Facebook. Or at least say it’s the fastest.

I’m no expert when it comes to buying or selling bunches of things in a single lot, but I do know two things about it. The first is, when it comes to price, aim low. With a little rounding, 11,000 games selling for $750k comes to $68 per game (not including shipping and/or renting a box truck to go pick up your new collection).

According to the auction itself, the seller has several complete collections. The first one that caught my eye was the Atari 7800, mostly because I know it’s a fairly small collection (just over 80 games). I went to and checked their list of Atari 7800 games. Looking at the loose cartridge prices, there are only three games that sell for more than $68. Most5 of them sell for much less than that. In fact, over a dozen of the games can be picked up for less than $5. I’m not just picking on picking on the Atari 7800. Most disc-based systems have dozens if not hundreds of games that sell for a penny each on eBay. For every 9 games in that collection that are worth a penny each, there had better be a 10th one that sells for $671 to get that average price per game back up.

That brings me to my second point. Nobody yet has paid that price. Yes there was an auction, yes there were bidders and yes the auction ended with a bid of $750,250… but until somebody shows up with a dump truck full of money it hasn’t technically sold. I have dealt with “buyer’s remorse” from people on eBay who have bought things from me for a dollar. I’m not saying someone who would bid three-quarters of a million dollars for a bunch of video games might back out on the deal, but it’s likely possible.

Although nobody has identified the buyer yet, I hope he does end up paying for the auction and enjoys his new game collection. We’ll see if that happens.

Last night for Father’s Day, Susan, Mason and I were invited to attend dinner at “Morgan’s Restaurant,” which looked suspiciously like our dining room. Susan helped cook some of the food, but once that was done Morgan was the only person allowed in the kitchen.

The meal began by Morgan (owner, cook, and only waitress of this restaurant) brought out some chips, queso and salsa for us to snack on.

After taking our drink orders, Morgan handed us a menu…

…and returned a few minutes later to take our order.

I should point out that the menu had multiple pages: one for drinks, one for appetizers, one for the main courses, and one for desserts. While we waited for our food to arrive I found a contemporary Spanish music station on Pandora that sounded amazingly like the background music played in many of the Mexican restaurants we visit.

I ordered the nachos and a chicken soft taco, and before long this appeared in front of me!

Everyone else got their orders shortly after. I then noticed Morgan sitting at the table which I thought was pretty rude for a waitress to do but she then explained that now she was Morgan “our daughter” and not Morgan “the restaurant owner” so that made it okay.

After we were done eating it was time to order the dessert. Morgan (the waitress) brought the menu back out and I ordered the ice cream with a sugar cookie stuck in it. Surprisingly the dish arrived exactly as described.

Finally, Morgan brought us our check. She also conveniently brought Susan a credit card.

While Morgan ran our credit card, Mason donned his dinner jacket and informed us that he was, in reality, a well-dressed busboy. He began clearing the table.

My only real complaint about the restaurant was that at some point during dinner our busboy got shot.

Just kidding — that’s Kool-aid.

Thank you guys for the best Father’s Day dinner ever. The food and service were excellent. I will remember this meal for many years.