Saturday, December 25, 2010

Picture Of The Day 12/25/10

My Christmas tree minutes before the kids attacked it! Happy Holidays to you and yours from me and mine!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where Are You Christmas

My Kids on Christmas Morning in 20o1

Having just found my Christmas Spirit after having it absent these past years, I can really identify with this song I just head playing....for me it was just so true to life I had to share it. I feel that the love and joy that Christmas brings can be found in your own heart, and it's something we should try and have every day of the year. It really is better to give than to receive!

"Where Are You Christmas"

Where are you Christmas
Why can't I find you
Why have you gone away
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me
Why can't I hear music play

My world is changing
I'm rearranging
Does that mean Christmas changes too

Where are you Christmas
Do you remember
The one you used to know
I'm not the same one
See what the time's done
Is that why you have let me go

Christmas is here
Everywhere, oh
Christmas is here
If you care, oh

If there is love in your heart and your mind
You will feel like Christmas all the time

I feel you Christmas
I know I've found you
You never fade away
The joy of Christmas
Stays here inside us
Fills each and every heart with love

Where are you Christmas
Fill your heart with love

Monday, December 20, 2010

Picture Of The Day 12/20/10

I love the reflections of the Christmas tree in my bedroom window off the window and TV.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Enrico M. Falco 1923-2008

Last time I saw my dad in 2007

Today would have been my Dad's 87th birthday. He passed away a few months shy of 85. He was not famous, so you'll never have heard of him, though had he been you'd know the following and probably every negative thing he ever did in his life that the press could dig up...but I digress.

At the bottom of my post is his obituary, and it's amazing how they can so easily reduce a mans entire life down to nothing but a few lines of text.

My Dad was so much more. Born of immigrant Italian parents with a dad who truly lived by the philosophy of "Spare the Rod, spoil the Child!" Sadly, I don't know too many details of his early life, other than some excellent war stories he told me from WWII. My mom would have been shocked to learn he 'adopted a couple of families overseas and lived with them, but according to him there was a lot of that in war torn Europe at the time. He flew in bomber aircraft a few times, but I don't recall which ones, he might have shot and killed an enemy soldier; he was one of a few that show at one by their camp and killed him. I have many pictures I got from his last apartment that show him on assorted army bases and places with people I don't know, only a precious few have any writing on the back to lend a clue.

As a father he too was tough but fair, and when my mom, who was schizophrenic, was in her good frame of mind I know she reined him in a lot of times and over the years taught him to be more open with his feelings.

I remember as a young boy going down to the freight yards in Newark with my Dad and his dad, and my uncle where we would by crates of grapes as they came off of the train. These would be packed in our station wagons and we would head by to grandfather's house where we would make wine. And no, we did not dance on it with our feet, they had an electric grinder and a press. I remember the occasional glass of wine but it was not until many years later that I developed a taste for the homemade version they made, which was far stronger than the wines you would buy on the shelf.

I remember going down to Ting-a-Ling's in Newark for Italian Ice, and I remember trips to Jimmy Buff's for Italian Hotdogs in Newark as well. I also remember the Short Stop diner by the Parkway overpass in Bloomfield. My dad would often bring home burgers and fries or their awesome bacon and egg sandwiches.

I remember something that appears to be totally alien to my kids, and that's doing REAL chores, particularly on weekends. There was no "Well I'm off to hang out with friends" Saturday morning. There was grass to be moved (with an old style push mower"), leaves to rakes, projects to be done, painting in the house, etc. on most weekends. plus, Dad's car needed to be washed. Sunday's there was church followed by classes. One memory of doing the chores comes to mind was my older brother was picking on me and I said "You'd never do that is Dad was looking!". he called over "Hey Dad!", my dad turned around and he slammed me! Ah! brotherly love!

I remember at Christmas time decorating the second floor front porch which has windows around the front and sides, where would would make holiday pictures on the glass using stencils and Glass Wax, and then put up lights around each window. We also decorated a little artificial tree and put it on a table int he center of the front window. The house looked pretty cool those years from the outside, plus you could the the full sized tree from one of the side windows if you walked a bit further down the street.

There are so many memories I have of my dad, and so much I just do not know about him. One of the most profound ones, which also shows his level of caring, was around the holidays. There were some years where he worked two jobs just so he could get us Christmas presents.

My parents had a very rocky marriage because of my mom problems, and let's just say mental health care 40 years or so ago was nightmarish compared to today. They finally got to a point where my dad was going to divorce her, and I only mention this to show his character. Those who know me my mom turned ill and wrestled with multiple sclerosis for over 10 years, and she had a very rare variant where she experienced constant pain which ranged from bad to very, very bad. She also had lung cancer her final years due no doubt to many years of smoking.

My dad, who was well along with his plans to divorce my mom, dropped those plans and for the next 10 years took care of my mom to the point of having to sell our big house in Glen Ridge because of the costs associated with her care ran down his insurance and caused her to spend a lot of time at home. My poor mom who was so bad we had a lift device to get her in and out of her bed and into her chair by the bedroom window where she spent so many days looking outside.

But my dad stayed, and took care of her. Down the road I moved back into his house and helped as well, and there was a period there where my brother was living there. I was so impressed how he never abandoned her, and I'll never forget the night she died, on my first wedding anniversary, how he cried. His raking sobs at her passing will be forever in my memory. There is no doubt in my mind that in spite of their problems he loved my mother deeply.

When I got married, we moved from his house in Glen Ridge to a mother/daughter house in the country, and he took the smaller side. I remember my son Chris and he were very close, with Chris often running over there to pop-pop's side every morning when he got up. Those were some good years with many memories such as Chris and Scott riding on the tractor with him when he cut the grass. No hand mower for the country place!

Then my dad hit a period that I call his third childhood, he asked my X and I to move out because he was going to sell his house, and get a small apartment as he needed more money, and it was going to sell fast. We sold so many of our possessions, including my truck, to do that and ended up in a small house behind Budd Lake where our daughter Danielle was born. It took me a few years to get over the hurt from that time, but, family is family!

Then I relocated for my job, and I saw my dad an average of once a year. His health had started declining somewhat before we moved but he was always as active as he could be. He never did make it out to visit us in the 8 years we were here before he passed. I know he would have loved the Kalamzoo Air Zoo and I had planned to take him there.

I could go on and on, I started this last night in fact....but suffice it to say there was so much more of my dad than what is said below:

Published: Friday, August 15, 2008, 8:35 AM Updated: Friday, August 15, 2008, 8:42 AM

Enrico M. Falco, 84, of Mansfield Township died July 27, 2008 at his home after a long illness. Born Dec. 16, 1923 in Belleville, he was a son of the late Joseph and Angelina Falco.

Mr. Falco lived in Glen Ridge before moving to Mansfield Township 29 years ago. He was retired after many years as a tool and die maker, most recently with Chatham Precision Tools.

He was a member of the Great Meadows Busy Seniors, the Sunshine Club of Blairstown and the seniors club at Ss. Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Church in Great Meadows. Mr. Falco was an Army veteran of World War II.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Pauline.

Surviving are his companion of many years, Julia Pirrello; two sons, Rick of Millington and Christopher of Grand Rapids, Mich.; a sister, Kay Testa of Parsippany; and three grandchildren.

A funeral Mass was held Aug. 1 at Ss. Peter & Paul Church. Entombment was at Hollywood Memorial Park, Union.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Picture Of The Day 12/13/10

The local grocery store, Forest Hills Foods, by my house the other morning.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Picture Of The Day 12/01/10

Mr. Mustang looks quite chilly before leaving for lunch today!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Picture Of The Day 11/26/10

My kitchen and dining room remarkably clean after thanksgiving dinner.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another Computer Tale Of Terror!

I can't remember the last time I posted anything of substance on the blog here. Basically my life is work, eat, sleep, and enjoy the alternate weeks I have with my daughter, and let's face it no one wants to read about that,, not a lot of material there for blogging. However, I do love computers and technology so here is another Computer Tale of Terror! Click on any picture below to open a larger version in a new window.

Front view of my Home Theater PC

For those who follow me on Facebook, you know for the past several weeks I've been having problems with my Home Theater PC (HTPC). It had been freezing up, hanging, and finally experiencing the dreaded Blue Screen Of Death. Running the event log on the system showed a non-descriptive atapi error, with the only info being that the system had detected an error on the controller. Running this through Microsoft's automated Event Log Online Help returned what it does for so many Windows errors. A generic statement to the effect of "Beats the hell out of me!" was the only thing the service provided.

The Cramped Confines of my HTPC

Once researching this further online I discovered there were so many reasons this could occur, and I won't bore you with them here. The main one of course would be a bad hard disk. Seeing as I had just replaced a bad hard disk with a brand new one, the odds for that were slim, but I did a thorough test of the hard disk, power supply, I added extra cooling in the form of the fan I usually use for extra cooling int he summer blowing right on the PC. That method helped alleviate the issue, but after a week or so it got worse and would often show the symptoms after a cold start.

I changed the drive cables and I put the drive on a different controller on the motherboard. I also removed the other SATA device, a DVD burner, just in case it was throwing the errors. No luck.

By a long process of elimination this appeared to be a bad SATA controller on the system motherboard. A two-fold sense of dread filled me. First is the cost, about $225 to replace the motherboard, and with money being tight after a year of unexpected expenses around my sons and some other areas, I really did not have the green for the replacement. Second, the inside of the HTPC case is so tight and cramped. Because the DVD drive and the power supply share the same bay, and because the many cables from the power supply go through a cutup in the wall between that part of the case and where the motherboard goes, it is virtually impossible to get the DVD and Power supply seated in their part of the case as the DVD drive goes in a cage that fits into rails on the case and you have to insert it at a 45 degree angle. If you could just drop that straight down, or drop the power supply straight down after the DVD drive is in it would be fine. But because the power supply cables go through that cutout you can't, because the cables are int he way. It was a nightmare last time getting them in, and I used enough force that could have conceivable damaged the DVD drive.

The cramped and cluttered cable hole by the Power Supply

So, what to do, what to do, what to do? I had often thought that instead of a hole to the left of the power supply for cables to go through, they should have just notched a cutout on top of that wall that the cables could lust be laid down on. With that thought in mind I figured I would get a dremel tool and modify the case to that effect!

Now I have to back up a bit.....this was Friday night. The weekend before I had come to the conclusion that I had to replace the motherboard, and because I really liked this board's features, and because Windows can be very unforgiving of motherboard changes without a reinstall, I wanted to get the same board.

SURPRISE! As it's over a year old it is not in production. I Googled the part number and fund three places that had it, two of which wanted about $80 more than I paid for the board 18 months ago. The third, and outfit called On The Fly Computer Guy, had it for about what I had paid for it. So, Saturday I ordered one, and paid via PayPal along with an extra $10 for airmail because I wanted it by Thursday since I had Veterans Day off.. When I had not gotten a conformation of my order pack from On The Fly Computer Guy by Tuesday I contacted them. They had not received the payment from PayPal so they canceled my order? Did they contact me and tell me this or contact me right after the order was placed to get payment info? No! I felt this was very poor customer service. So, I put the order in again and this time someone named Mike at On The Fly Computer Guy saw it go through, and he said he would send it out the next morning.

I was hopeful I might still see it by Friday since I had paid for airmail, but when I'd not seen a tracking number by Thursday I contacted Mike again, only to be told they did not have it in stock and it was a discontinued item. I told him that I knew it was discontinued, but why I wanted that particular number. He had provided three links (though they were sent as clear text) for three other boards on his site, but as their site only had the board model number and NO technical details I would have to Google the part number to get the particulars. I left Mike with the statement stating that it would have been nice to have better communications from them. I wonder what would have happened if I had not contacted him Thursday when he had said he was processing my order first thing Wednesday morning! DOUBLE SURPRISE! I just checked my bank account and PayPal and I have not yet received the credit back, so I just dropped Mike another email. I sense a very negative review for the place on Google shopping, perhaps with a copy to the folks at PayPal.

A Golden Memory!

Phew! This is a lot of typing! I took a break, had a light lunch, watched an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and I'm back. (Note I took a second break halfway through rescaling the pictures to use for this post and watched an episode of Food Wars).

So, since I was not willing to pony up another $80 on top of the base cost of my old motherboard I entered into research mode to find a suitable new motherboard. As the form factor for this is Micro-ATX, my choices were more limited (MicroATX is a smaller form factor designed to fix into things like Home Theater PCs. One thing I like about my HTPC is it looks like a stereo receiver, not a PC.

I found an excellent motherboard for about the same cost as the one I was replacing; an ASUS Rampage III Gene. It had all the features the board had and more, such as USB 3.0 and 6 GB SATA. It also has the advantage of being able to run my memory faster than the old board. I was going to order from (often my first choice for new technology purchases) but to get expedited shipping to have the board out early the next week (this was Thursday night remember) was more than the airmail fee the first place wanted. As I have Amazon Prime which gives me free two days shipping and overnight shipping for $3.99, I decided to check there though Amazon often charges a bit more than newegg. I was pleasantly surprised to find the board was in stock and a few dollars cheaper. The system said if I ordered within the NEXT MINUTE I could have overnight delivery! I blazed through checkout and mistyped my password and missed the overnight deadline! I was most ticked at myself! I would have to settle for Saturday delivery, now considered overnight because we were into Friday's delivery window. So, at least I could get the PC back up on Saturday, plus I figured I could do the tear down after work Friday.

ASUS Rampage III Gene

Note Friday afternoon at work I checked the tracking status and noted with delight that it was already out for delivery! I would be able to begin after work.

Friday evening I arrived home, and managed to coax a boot out of the dying system. I went into device manager and deleted all devices except the video card and hard disk. This would make Windows more accepting of the motherboard model swap. That done I removed the HTPC from the entertainment system cabinet where it usually resides and was just starting the tear down when my son Chris called, asking if I wanted him to come over and visit. Since I've not had the pleasure of his company for many weeks, I said sure, and I feverishly worked to at least get the majority of the tear down done. Chris arrived and we spent several hours watching TV (multiple episodes of Man Vs. Food, and an episode of Food Wars wile enjoying sandwiches from Jimmy Johns) and then he departed.

I finished the tear down and then HTPC case in hand I headed to the garage to make the case modification shown in the two pictures below. The sparks were literally flying as I used my handy Dremel tool to cut out the wall where supply cables go and turn it into a notch out. It took longer than I thought because once I started cutting and got through the first layer of metal, I discovered they had double-rolled it underneath to give the top edge more support. The stench of tortured hot metal filled the garage while I worked and I had to open both bay doors. I also went through 5 cheap grinding disks because of the angle I had to hold the tool in the cramped confines of the HTPC case's interior.

I then blew the case out, vacuumed the case out, and damp widened the case out several times to remove all the metal and grit particles from within the case's interior. Note the picture below shows the case before the mod on the left, and after the mod on the right. All the cut edges have been sanded to make sure they are smooth and can't cut into the cables that will go there.

Before and after the case wall modification

I then started the reassembly of the system, first installing the motherboard. the hard drive cage, and the CPU and memory. Then I installed the DVD drive and power supply which went together so easily thanks to my case modification. I installed the video card and then connected a monitor and very briefly powered the system to see if it would POST (Power On Self Test). It POSTed fine, so I then added the CPU fan and screwed everything into place.

Oh No! The system would turn on using the front panel power button! I had used the power switch on the motherboard (Yes, this motherboard has a power switch and a reset switch right on the motherboard) to test the system earlier.

I soon realized that there were two leads coming from the case marked Power Switch, one was not used in my current configuration, so I just had to swap them. Unfortunately to get at this jumper block on the motherboard I had to take the video card out. Once that was done and the correct Power On lead used, I finished the assembly, put the cover on, and pressed the power button on the case's front. The system booted right into windows, and several reboots got it through discovering the majority of the motherboard devices. Others would have to be loaded later once I had the system back on the internet.

New Mobo powered up with CPU FAN spinning

I reinstalled the HTPC back into the cabinet, and at 2 AM called it a day, feeding Tails who had been at my side for the majority of the time I was working, and then heading off to bed.

Saturday I reactivated windows which worked on-line without the dreaded phone call to Microsoft since I had only changed one component, and I loaded the missing drivers via downloads from ASUS. It was nice to be able to play games and have the system back!

Tails staring at me around 1:30 AM; nice!

I also noted via monitoring of the systems internals, that with the better cable placement I was able to do thanks to the case mod that the system is running cooler and quieter. I surmise the motherboard might have started degrading over the long hot summer. I feel confident now that even when warm weather returns that the system will run cooler! I'm also thinking that the hard drive that I replaced in October could have failed because of the degraded motherboard.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Picture Of The Day 11/13/10

From the local Meijer earlier this week. Halloween barely over and the
freaking Christmas decorations are out already.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Picture Of The Day 11/07/10

Five years of my kids done with my first attempt using a scrapbook application on my iPad. 1999 is a shot I used for making a Father's Day card for my dad. 2000 was a halloween hayride while picking up a pumpkin our first fall in Michigan. 2001 is Chris opening birthday presents while 2002 is Chris before we went flying with his Uncle Kevin on a trip back to New Jersey. You should see the after shot! 2003 is Scott eating ice cream downtown in Grand Rapids during festival, and 2004 is danielle on our last vacation as a family up in Canada. She drew mommy and daddy on her placemat.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Picture Of The Day 10/27/10

Could a Dad be any more bursting with pride? My son Scott, the
artist, had one of his designs be accepted by Ript Apparel. So, get
over there NOW and order one. Make that two!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

911 - Let Us Never Forget

In the weeks after the tragedy of 911 I created a 911 Memorial Screen Saver. It should run on any version of Windows from 2000 through W7. As it did then, my heart goes out to those brave and heroic souls who gave their lives, and their families!

Let us never forget!

Download 911 Memorial Screen Saver

Visit the 911 Digital Archive

Picture Of The Day 09/10/10

Me and my Mustang

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Reflections on Turning 54

So, yesterday was my birthday and I turned 54. Yesterday morning I did not really think this was noteworthy to post about. Those who I matter to sent me birthday greetings, etc. and to those I send my sincere thanks! But it turned out there was something that did make the day memorable for me after all and worthy of posting about!

I took the day off from work and was having a quiet but enjoyable day playing video games, watching TV, etc. I took a trip out to Costco with my oldest boy Chris who had lost his job, and I bought him a few weeks staple food to get him through the end of the month when his term is over and he comes home from college. I thought it ironic that I be buying for others on my birthday in fact! Chris came back to my house with me and played some video games and we were soon joined by Mike, a friend of the family.

We had plans to get out to dinner together that evening with my ex-wife, but all in all I figured it would be a quiet, uneventful birthday with nothing to distinguish it from any others I have had in the past. How wrong I was!

My 15 year old daughter Danielle came home from school around four in terrible shape! She had a fever of 103 degrees, a bad pain in her left side, and was throwing up, plus she was so upset that she felt she would be spoiling my birthday! She was in tears! It turns out she felt sick that morning and went off to school without waking me up or saying anything for the same reason! While a small part of me was annoyed that she did not say anything, and thus put herself through such an ordeal going to school, the rest of me was touched that she would do such a thing for me. Of course I would have preferred she stayed home from school yesterday so we could have gotten in touch with the doctor sooner and saved her such an ordeal, but this was certainly an expression of love for her father that made me feel very loved.

Another thing that impressed me was out of all three of my kids, she was the only one who gave me a card, and one she drew herself in fact while feeling so sick. I will treasure that card!

So, in more ways than one she really made this a birthday I will not soon forget! Hopefully she'll be fully recovered for her 16th birthday next week!

My ex also added to this day by running out and bringing in dinner for us all,, which I thought was very sweet of her though I felt bad that Danielle could not eat, as the doctor has her on fluids only until they determine what is causing her fever and pain. Plus, she had no desire for food the way she was feeling.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Picture Of The Day 08/25/10

Fog glimpsed through the trees across the street at work this morning.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tails Tales - Up to 30 strips

Hey, Tails Tales is up to 30 strips now, so give a look, and share the link with others.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Picture Of The Day 08/14/10

One of the few, the proud, the chosen who has joined the ranks of the privileged cadre that have driven my Mustang! As she got her permit yesterday I took her out this afternoon for her first behind the wheel driving session outside of her driving class.

Not only do her and the Mustang look awesome together, they were awesome on the road.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Picture Of The Day 08/08/10

Missing my dad today! The picture below was taken the last time I saw him back in New Jersey back in 2007. He passed away a few weeks before we were going to see him in 2008. Hard to believe last month marked the two year mark since he he boarded that last train west...

A word of advice for those of you with you parents still out there, if there's anything you wanted to ask them or tell them, do it NOW before it's too late. Two of the biggest regrets in my life was that there were so many things I wanted to talk to my folks about and say to them that I always thought there'd be time for that later. How wrong I was!

There's not always a tomorrow! Tell them now!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Tales Of Tails Comic Strips

I did not realize how much I was going to enjoy making the photo comic strips featuring my cat Tails as the main character! I had posted the first few here on my regular blog but decided today at lunchtime to create a separate "Tales Of Tails" blog that would be used solely for these strips.

You can find that blog here!

Please let me know what you think of the strips.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Tales Of Tails 08/04/10

Tails of Tails 08/04/10

Post No Bills

This is for all you advertisers of fitness centers, offshore casino's, health tonics, vitamins, improve your systems, and every other advertisement you try to sneak past my MODERATED comments.

Don't waste your time or mine, or at least try to be creative, like the only advertiser who phrased his advertisement in such a manner I felt I had to post it unedited. Now, if you can post your add like that, I'll let it go through.

In fact, in the spirit of fair play, I may let any advertisement reply posted to THIS post go through!

Have at me!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Tails of Tails 08/03/10

Created this strip completely on my iPad in about 5 minutes.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Picture Of The Day 08/01/10

Death Spank in the early morning sun! That's the way to start your day!!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Picture Of The Day 07/27/10

Shadows on the wall of my living room.

Picture Of The Day 07/26/18

Tails languishing on my bedroom dresser enjoying her view of the outside world.

Monday, July 19, 2010