Wednesday, July 30, 2008

NJ Nightmare continues

Today was no better, in fact worse with all the extra running around we had to do int he AM; my dad owns a crypt where my mom is entombed and we still had to drive all the way down there to sign the paperwork to allow my dad's space to be opened. They would not take a fax.
After that we spent the rest of the day going through so much of my dad's things. We realized we learned even more that we did not know about him, we also threw away so much stuff he had accumulated over the years....some of the weirder items were a collection of little balls of string, bags and bags of rubber bands, and about 300 dead hearing aid batteries, just to name a few.
Tomorrow is the wake....which I am dreading. Danielle in particular is very fragile right now and even Christopher, age 19, is visibly shaken. Of all the kids he was closest to his grand father and spent so much time together with him when we were living in the mother/daughter house in Great Meadows with my dad.
Here's the text of the obituary in the Star Ledger today:
View/Sign Guest Book
Enrico M. Falco
FALCO Enrico M. Falco Tool-and-die maker, WWII vet, lived in Glen Ridge, 84 Enrico M. Falco, 84, of Hackettstown died on Sunday, July 27, 2008, at home, after a long illness. A Funeral Mass will be held at Sts. Peter and Paul R.C. Church, Great Meadows, on Friday, Aug. 1, at 10 a.m. Entombment will be at Hollywood Memorial Park, Union. Arrangements by the Scala Memorial Home, 124 High St., Hackettstown, (908) 852-2420. Friends may call on Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. Mr. Falco was born on Dec. 16, 1923, in Belleville to the late Joseph and Angelina Falco. He resided in Glen Ridge for many years before moving to the Hackettstown area 29 years ago. Mr. Falco retired as a tool-anddie maker after many years and last worked for Chatham Precision in Chatham. He was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, serving from 1943 to 1946. He was a member of Sts. Peter and Paul R.C. Church in Great Meadows and its Seniors Club; the Great Meadows Busy Seniors and the Sunshine Club of Blairstown. Mr. Falco is survived by his companion of many years, Julia Pirrello; sons, Rick Falco of Millington and Christopher Falco of Grand Rapids, Mich.; sister, Kay Testa of Parsippany; and three grandchildren, Chris, Scott and Danielle. Published in the Star-Ledger on 7/30/2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Nightmare in New Jersey

Frankly stated it's been hell thus far....A nightmarish 720 mile ride to New Jersey after no sleep the night before causing me to rely on energy drinks.....waiting until after the police finally finished their investigation today we were at last allowed access to my Dad's apartment and we could start the laborious task in front of us. My dad left no will, little assets and apparently has not discarded anything since the 1930's. Happily though I'm taking home stacks of old pictures to scan and preserve and I've been finding out things about my dad I had no idea of.

A few people have asked for details on the arrangements so I've pointed them here

Viewing is Thursday July 31 from 4PM - 8PM at
Scala Memorial Home
124 High Street
Hackettstown, NJ 07840

Mass is Friday August 1 at 10AM at
St Peter & Paul Church
360 US Route 46
Great Meadows, NJ

Funeral is Friday Augsut 1 at 12 noon at
Hollywood Memorial Park
1500 Stuyvesant Avenue
Union NJ 07083

In lieu of flowers please dontated in the memory of Enrico M. Falco to
The American Lung Association
61 Broadway
New York, NY 10006

Sunday, July 27, 2008

8:20 PM Update on my Dad

The latest word from New Jersey is the police have retained my dad's body so they can perform an autopsy. I won't hear anything further until sometime tomorrow.

Scott, Danielle, the X and her parents and I had lunch at Red Robin and then the X took me to the airport to rent a larger car for the trip. Chris is on his way home from College right now and will arrive later this evening. We'll be heading out between 6 and 7AM in the morning depending on when I wake up.

What a day it has been; I had just returned from business in Ohio Friday so it's been doing assorted loads of wash and repacking, getting the kids the stuff they need from their Mom's house, taking Tails over there. The X has been a big help and I really appreciate this.

With any luck I'll have the car loaded in an hour and I can sit down and hopefully unwind a bit before bed.

2:40 PM Update on my Dad

My brother called about an hour ago after arriving at my dad's place. There were police and detectives investigating because as they put it there were signs of 'foul play'. That's all my brother has been able to get from them.

The X, bless her heart, rented a larger car for me which we will pick up this evening so the kids won't have to take turns being cramped in the Mustang. We'll leave between 6 and 7 tomorrow morning which should put us in NJ by 7 PM tomorrow.

In Memoriam of my Dad
Enrico Micheal Falco
May he Rest In Peace

Me, my Dad, and my Brother at a family dinner at our Budd Lake NJ house in 1999

Sadly the kids and I will be heading back to New Jersey at dawn tomorrow. My dad passed away this morning.

I was just getting ready to go to the store to shop for the ingredients for lasagna when the phone range around 11:30. I had just showered after an intense exercise bike ride, trying to recoup for time last week while on my business trip I guess.

It was my brother's wife Camille, telling me my dad's girlfriend had called to tell her the news and that the police were at my dad's place treating it like a crime scene and they would not allow her inside.

My brother was in the shower so she was going to tell him and then they would rush up there and find out what was going on. I await his call now.

I told Danielle and we both cried hugging each other, then we headed over to her Mom's house so she could get more clothes. I told the X what happened and then I cried all over again. I cried when I imported the picture above. Obviously I won't have any trouble letting my grief out.

Anyway, I am making arrangements with work and such, the X will be watching Tails for us. Her mom (the X's, not Tails'!) just called to offer support and such which was greatly appreciated.

So, off to New Jersey for a most unexpected trip to put my dad to rest. I'll try and update this post with more details as they become available.

Monday, July 21, 2008

On the road again

Well, right now I am sitting in a hotel near Cincinnati after a 6 hour drive, tomorrow starts four days of meetings.

I'll have my IM on wherever I am in the hotel, gblandishment is my AOL IM if you want to help keep me sane!

Time to call room service and start working that expense account!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ho Hum what fun

Same old same no new posts lately but I am still here....not much new, Dad still doing poorly, Scott still going to Chiropractor and doing OK. I've been kind of blue so have not really felt like posting all that much.

Kids went back to their Mom's for her week yesterday, that always brings me down for a day or two.

Speaking of kids, I am doing a bunch of laundry in preparation for my departure tomorrow and the family room door next tot eh unfinished portion of my basement opens (adjacent to my home office) up and in walks Scott carrying Tails (that's right I forgot for a moment he was coming for lunch and to watch Psych with me and his Mom).

I call out "Uh, I have no pants!"; he stops short, backs up and exists to my cry of "Hey, I have underwear on!". I told him I'd be up in 10 minutes......

And thanks though to my friend John for checking in to see how I am doing which prompted me to post this little blurb here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fun with my iPod touch!

For those of you who have spent the last few months on another planet, or at the bottom of the ocean, etc. Friday was the release of the iPhone 3G, the newer faster model.

While I have no desire to own one because of the high costs of the service and two year plan requirement, I did decide to upgrade my iPod touch to the new 2.0 firmware which opens it up to use applications for Apple's Application store. As of this service's opening on Friday there were 532 applications and half of these are free with many prices at 99 cents.

SO! I backed up my settings and wiped the iPod touch on Friday only to have to wait until yesterday to be able to do the upgrade because apple had MAJOR problems with their authentication servers Friday.

To make along story short I then had to reload my songs, video, and pictures, but, I was pleasantly surprised, my picture collection easily takes up about 20-25% less space on the device which means more space fr songs, videos, applications, etc. I will post again on this subject after I have had some hands on with the applications I downloaded and the new firmware.

Weekend thus far

Not really much to post about the weekend thus far, I mean how many "I got, up, went to Forest Hills Foods to procure the fixings for today's steak dinner, came home, rode the e-bike" posts do you all have the stomach to read!!???!!!!

Anyway, "I got up around 9AM, went to Forest Hills Foods to procure the fixings for today's steak dinner, came home, and" did not ride the e-bike....yet! Will be doing that around 11AM so the kids get a chance to stay asleep as we wee up late, Danielle up until 11:45, and Scott and I until around 1AM.
The weather today is GORGEOUS, sunny, blue sky, breezy, around 70 right now with low humidity, which will prevail for the next couple of days; it was quite muggy Friday and Saturday. The day just begs for me to....Cook With Fire!

Last night the kids and I watched Cloverfield off of DVD that my friend Brian lent us. Speaking of Brian that reminded me I forgot on the Scott driving test post to mention that I headed over to the X's when she called to tell me Scott passed where I began preparations for dinner which she invited me to. I do enjoy when the five of us, as my son Chris was there, can eat dinner and simulate a family. That not withstanding, she sprung for steaks!

Anyway back to the movie. I must admit that the trailers on TV do not do this flick justice, and even with the jerky home movie style photography it is an excellent movie, with a decent plot and plenty of drama and action. Even the seemingly bore first 15 minutes of so, which at the time hardly seemed necessary, served to acquaint us with the main characters and understand the relationships between them. I highly recommend this movie! Now for a spoiler....the butler did it!

Christopher headed back to school yesterday; I hope he got settled he is not staying in the dorms in this, the beginning of his sophomore year, but with several others in a rented apartment close to the school. We don't even know if they readily have an Internet connection though the apartments are affiliated with the college. It will be an interesting time for Chris, more freedom and more responsibility; last year on campus he was paying for board so he got three square meals a day down in the school cafeteria, now it will be procure, create, and clean up after your own meals. I will really miss his by-weekly visits for out Sci-Fi watching!

Speaking of Sci-Fi last night heralded the start of the new season of Stargate Atlantis, plus repeats, starting with the premier episode, of a show I had never seen called Joan of Arcadia on the Sci-Fi channel which I have yet to watch, though I recorded it.

The Sci-Fi channel also began repeating a show called Jeremiah, a show starting (of all people!) Luke Perry and Theo from the Cosby show. A very gritty look at what happens after the end of the world, and, surprising good! After being type cast as Theo, Malcolm-Jamal Warner does a very good job portraying Jeremiah's (played by Luke Perry) street wise sidekick.

I just sent the X an e-mail inviting her for dinner later if she can make it; she had a rough weekend having to stay overnight because of the distance of her appointments from here. She unfolded a tale of horror film like proportions of being so far off the beaten path with dark, deserted foggy forests and a bizarre 'motel-hell' like motel stay in the middle of no figured she can use a nice dinner. We'll see if she is able to attend, if she does not we'll just cut the extra steak into threes!

Footnote: I think I broke my own record for number of labels on this post.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Weather

Well, I may not moan and groan about the weather other than during the winter, but, today is supposed to be the worst heat/humidity day of the year thus far, predicted as "temperatures in the 90's with steamy humidity levels".

Oh boy! Glad my car and house have AC, but, we have had a lot of humidity lately and I shudder at what the next power bill will bring cost-wise!

Approaching 500 Posts

Note on the 500th post I think I will snag an Amazon gift certificate and give it away to the poster of the best comment to that post as to why you should get the gift certificate!

Celebration time! Of course it will be a low value certificate, maybe $15-$20 bucks, but free is free!!!

While I can't tell you when that 500th post will be, I can tell you I am within 20 or so posts of it.

Note the winner will have to provide me with their e-mail address.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Upgrade from Hell

The Upgrade from Hell

Another title for this post might have been "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry"!

Because of all the trouble I had, for awhile there I truly believed my PC was Evil!!

To really appreciate and better understand this post, you must read the one from last week where I detail what I was planning on doing: You can click here to read it. Note it will open in a new window which you can close and then return here.

So! You read the previous post? Good!

The multi-media drive arrived Monday and I started the upgrade Tuesday as I was taking a personal day because I had a ton of phone calls to make on some personal matters.

Well, the drive installed easy enough, I simply took the rails off the old drive, installed them on the new one and slid it into the cage in the HP Z 565. I connected the power and then ran the SATA cable and then re-attached the face plate. I was doing this on the dining room table and since I am already loading another PC there I had an LCD Display setup which I attached and booted up to make sure I could see the new drive.

Tech Note: Windows XP users should take note when installing a drive like this if you do not have the UFS (Universal File System) drivers installed the drive will act like there is no DVD in it if you insert an HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc, but, the movie player software will recognize it. Vista users UFS is included int he system already so you would actually see the files on the Disc. Of course DVD's and CD's would show file systems under XP as they would in any DVD drive without the UFS driver.

Anyway, Windows saw the drive fine. Now it was time to put the rest of the case back together and button up the system. I then, to Tails' dismay, shooed her from her newest perch in the entertainment cabinet where the HTPC usually sites when it is not being serviced, and reconnected power, USB, and HDMI connections.

I was stoked! I loaded the HD (High Definition) Diagnostic software which checks all facets of your system and got Green lights across the board except for the lack of player software which I then loaded.

FYI the LG GGC-H20L drive comes with an excellent software suite including Power DVD Ultra, Power Producer, Power Backup, Label Print, Power 2 Go, Power Starter. Check out the Products section of the Cyberlink web page here for product info on these.

With the Player software loaded I played a standard DVD and it looked gorgeous. I loaded an HD-DVD and hit play, 1 second of glorious HD video was displayed, before the screen went black, and an error box stating "The repeater you are plugged into is NOT HDCP compliant. Playback of High Definition content is prohibited on this device"

For those of you unfamiliar with HDCP it is High-Bandwidth Digital Copy Protection. You can read about HDCP here if you wish to.

What this meant in layman's terms whas that the Power DVD software was errouneously detecting that my setup was not compliant with HDCP. Set Phasers on stun, since I was!

Some testing and cable swapping soon showed me the perceived problem was my Onkyo receiver. I have both my IP TV and HTPC connected via HDMI into my Onkyo AV receiver and it then outputs out to my Panasonic plasma display.

If I bypassed the Onkyo plugged directly into the PC it worked fine. This of course was unacceptable for a couple of reasons, first I need to go through the Onkyo for my 5.1 surround sound setup plus as I have more than one HDMI device I need the multi port inputs of the receiver to switch for me.

Not being fully up to speed technically on HDCP I decided ti try an HDMI switch. I connected that and it worked as well, so my next step was to try connecting the PC to the switch, and the output of the switch to the Onkyo.....but alas I was one HDMI cable short.

I sat down and thought some more and realized that I had two HD devices that were working fine connected to the Onkyo which told me HDC was being processed correctly!

I also found though that my current Onkyo unit was one of the first they made with HDMI but, it was still compliant to the original specification. it should be that word..... should.........

So, I fired off a problem report with Cyberlink and ordered an HDMI cable so I could still approach this on two fronts.

Over the next two days on and off I did a lot of research on HDCP, problems with Onkyo devices, and Power DVD issues. It seems many were having them and many had solved it by plunking down $99 for a piece of software called AnyDVD HD which installs as a driver and removes the HDCP protection. I downloaded the 21 day trial and it worked and I could play HD-DVD through the Onkyo.

HOWEVER I really dd not want to pay $99 so I decided to wait for the cable and to hear back from tech support. The reason I bought the new drive for the HTPC was for an economical alternative to buying a Blu-ray player and another HD-DVD as a backup device to preserve my investment of HD-DVD's and to allow me to pay at fire sale prices HD-DVD's remaining on the market at drastically reduced prices. Spending another $100 was not in my game plan!

I head back from Cyberlink this morning and they pointed me to a patch for the Power DVD software and downloaded it. I was in the middle of a work meeting via WebEx and since the software required a reboot I anxiously awaiting the chance to do the reboot.

Work meeting over I bounced the HTPC, reconnected to the work network, unloaded the AnyDVD HD trial and launched Power DVD. The HD-DVD in the drive played in glorious HD with no issues!

Case closed, and for $120 I now have a unit that plays all existing formats:

My current Toshiba HD-DVD player can be boxed up as a backup unit! I am most pleased with this very cost effective solution considering the costs of buying another HD-DVD player as a backup and a Blu-ray player as well. With current costs I easily came in at 20% or less of those projected costs and have a single unit and another free shelf in the entertainment system!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Bunch of Pictures

Below are seven assorted pictures running from early June onwards. All can be clicked to open larger versions in a new browser window.

My version of Sliders or "White Castle" style burgers made
with fresh baked rolls, 92% lean ground beef (with chopped
onions, a dash of sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper
mixed in), grilled and topped with Velveeta cheese & Pickles

The two packages of fireworks mentioned in the 4th of July Post

Fun with Lasers; Danielle by the light of the Green Laser

Tails in Flight! See her achieve dizzying heights as she
tries and fails yet again to catch the laser pointer!

Tails on my bed, after landing from repeated laser flights

Tails in one of her new perches, next to the TV on my bedroom dresser

Tails occupying the space usually taken up by my Home Theater PC.
Stay tuned for an upgrade gone horribly wrong post on that subject!


Because I was so worried last week about my Dad, I totally forgot to take Scott to his Thursday Chiropractor appointment. So, I did not get him there until Yesterday. He's been complaining of a headache and such and when they started his treatment the computer BEEPed alarmingly. His alignment had noticeably slipped with him not going for just over a week!

His session took about twice as long and on the way back we stopped at the Jungle Survivor driver training place so he could run the course in preparation for his behind the wheel test today.

He was worried he would not pass, I told him not to sweat it; worst case he fails and has to take it over, but, I told him he would do fine.

Well, WAY TO GO SCOTT, several weeks ago you were in a wheelchair and today you were behind the wheel of my Mustang, taking AND PASSING your road test!

I just think I may have to buy him something this weekend!

So in closing I must say CONGRATULATIONS to one of Michigan's newly licensed drivers!

Monday, July 07, 2008

July 4th, 2008

Friday morning I got up, rode the e-bike, and after cleaning up I awoke Scott. His mom arrived at 11:15 and the four of us headed out to see Hancock which turned out to be very good with much more of a plot than the trailers on TV would indicate.

For dinner I made burgers with chopped onion in the meat for myself, the X, and Danielle, a plain burger for Chris, and grilled chicken marinated in olive oil, garlic, and basil for Scott. Chris and I topped our burgers with Jalapeno cheddar while the X and Danielle had Velveeta. I also acquired some side dishes (macaroni and potato salads) and made corn on the cob plus a nice salad.

I picked up special beverages, a four pack of Stewart's Root Beer for the kids and the X, and for myself some Jone's Sugar Free Black Cherry soda. Both of these average out to about $1.50 a bottle but it was a special occasion so I figured what the hey!

It was a delicious dinner! The X, Scott, and Danielle headed back to her house, and Chris stayed to watch two episodes of Doctor Who with me. Friends called during so he bolted right afterwards, I was glad just to have his company.

Around 10 PM, green laser point, fireworks, and lights in hand I headed over to the X for the annual fireworks extravaganza. Scott was restless while we were waiting for it to get dark and the X was watching a god awful movie, so he road his bike over to 7-11 to get me a beverage and himself a candy bar. We set off a medium size collection we got, and everyone was mentioning how it would have been nice to have more, so I went and got the even bigger box I had been hiding in the trunk. Christopher, who originally had plans with friends, ended up stopping over with them for the majority of the fireworks second round and a car stopped by the house to watch along with some passers by. We really though the folks in the car should have parked down the road a bit....but hey! It was their car! It was nice that I brought my laser, everyone was suitably impressed that you could see the beam in the evening sky and even more so when they could see the dot at the far end of the development, a good half mile away.

We spent a full hour doing fireworks and I headed home shortly after that. As this was the start of the X's weekend I spent the majority of the weekend indoors doing some chores and playing way, way, way too much Xbox 360! I also enjoyed Tails' company and she enjoyed chasing the laser around the house.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Storm of the Century

We had the worst storms I can ever remember yesterday across Michigan. Approximately a quarter million people lost power and many of them won't see it restored until Saturday. Houses had their roofs blown off. In many area there were hailstones the size of golf balls, and one area reported ones the size of cue balls! There was major flooding, winds of 70 miles per hour, washed out roads and intersections, and roads with trees blown down across them. Power lines were down in many areas and there were reports of transformers exploding. Major highways had traffic backed up for miles. Lightning strikes were reported in many areas. One lake had reports that the winds were so severe that some docks and boats were blown off the lake onto the shore. From about 2:30 in the afternoon until bedtime at midnight, storms rolled through the area, with periods of intense activity,

Of course at the height of the most severe period of this, around 5PM, I had to pickup Danielle who was at a friends house! It was a nightmarish, surreal journey! With the wipers running at maximum I could barely see a few feet in front of me. The journey to drop here off around noon took 3 minutes, this trip took about 15. Water on one of the streets had risen above the curb level, and the winds were whipping the rain and debris all over the place. It was quite exhilarating being out in the storm and d enjoyed it as well, particularly the founts of water the car was throwing as we drove on the water filled streets.

There was one part where the water was at least a foot deep and we drove very slowly through that so as not to risk kicking up water into the engine and stalling out; that would have been ugly, I would have been afraid the car might not be visible enough until someone was almost upon it.

Last Sunday we awoke to no power for a few hours, though the weather had been fine. With all the people without power and all the severe weather we were fortunate not to lose it yesterday.

Dad Update

The news is not good; while the surgery may have improved my dad's chances of beating the pneumonia, it has done nothing to improve his breathing which was the second reason they had risked the procedure. I was talking to him yesterday and he can't go from his bed to the bathroom, using oxygen, without gasping and being totally out of breath. And this is only projected to get worse. I feel so bad for him, he is so upset, and has been through so much.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Minor Blog Changes

I've updated the top of the blog so now there's a link that will display all blog posts that contain videos. For those of you with short attention spans its right under the link to posts that contain recipes.

Speaking of video's I've also modified the source code for the embedded Music Video Of The Day videos that did not allow full screen. on the bottom right of each of these now is a full screen button which makes watching the videos all the more enjoyable!


Music Video of the Day
Another One Bites The Dust by Queen

Next upgrade of my Entertainment PC

My Z565 Entertainment system PC took another step today towards being a greater part of the whole home theater experience. Awhile back I had bought an HD-DVD player, and of course we all now know, unless you just came out of a cave where you've been for the past few months, that HD-DVD lost the format war to Blu-ray.

While this distressed me it had the benefit that the price of HD-DVD's plunged and I picked up some good ones at decent prices including dome good collections at 50-70% off!!

With the price of good Blu-ray players still over $300 I was in no hurry to get one though I realized with my passion for video I would need to at some point. I really did not want two DVD players in the entertainment system.

Ideally, a combination unit that played HD-DVD and Blu-ray would have been the best way to go but these are very costly and not 100% compatible with all features on both formats.

What to do going forward was the question which I have been pondering for three months or so.

For $120 with shipping, my HD-DVD and Blu-Ray DVD question has been answered. One of those sale of the moment sites had an LG GGC-H20L Blu-Ray/HD-DVD-ROM & 16x DVD Burner - Sata, Lightscribe drive on sale, and with shipping it came to $120. Newegg has the drive for $165 right now so that's a decent deal!

If you've read about the Z series of systems on my blog before you know what a nightmare it is upgrading these. Space inside the case is extremely tight!

I had to crack the entertainment system since the internal pics I had taken did not show any accessible SATA connectors, plus I had to totally remove the front panel so the old DVD drive could be removed and the length measured and compared to the new drive's dimensions. The new drive is about half an inch deeper which fits with maybe another half inch to spare and there are easily accessible SATA and power connectors for the new drive as well! The old DVD drive was an IDE interface so I knew I would not be able to use the current interface.

That video card upgrade I got is HD compatible so I should be all set; we shall see! I can then continue to stock up on discounted HD-DVD's and also procure any Blu-ray titles that catch my eye (Best Buy is having a 2 for $30 sale right now in fact with some decent titles.

The Entertainment PC waits anxiously, in pieces, on the dining room table for the arrival of the new drive. I could not see putting it all back together and back in the entertainment system cabinet just to do it all over again in a few days; the office PC will just have to suffice!

Tuesday Dad Update

Thank goodness my Dad made it through his surgical procedure, now we wait and see if he can beat the infection now that his lungs have been scraped and vacuumed out.