Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

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A Bank's Math

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help
On the television last night I overheard an advert for a financial institution at first I assumed to be a joke, not unlike the Geico Insurance spots that mimic infomercials and Old Navy commercials. Amazingly enough, it was no joke: the Fifth Third Bank is legitimate.
Fifth Third traces its origins to the Bank of the Ohio Valley, which opened its doors in Cincinnati in 1858. In 1871, that bank was purchased by the Third National Bank. With the turn of the century came the union of the Third National Bank and the Fifth National Bank, and eventually the organization became known as "Fifth Third Bank." Since its beginning, Fifth Third has provided superior customer service and followed sound banking principles.
Given that historical information, would it not be logical for their name to be the Eighth Bank?

Swedish Shopping

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help


Do you shop at Amazon.com? I would really love it if instead of going to their website directly you use mountsutro.org/amazon. You receive the same shopping experience but I receive a small amount of money per purchase via their affiliates program. It is fun and free! Help me out financially and have fun thinking about Muppet chefs at the same time.

Bookmark this for Amazon.com shopping:
» https://mountsutro.org/amazon

Thank you in advance!

Flash That Does Not Suck

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help


It is no secret I am against many implementations of Macromedia's Flash web technology. While there are so many wonderful things that can be done with Flash, I find the majority of sites that feature it do in a way against basic design principles, web standards, interoperability and, well, taste. On occasion there is a site or two that uses Flash in such a way I cannot help but like.

Today's example is the US corporate website for the Dyson Appliances company. After reading another rave review about their super-powerful, yet pricy vacuum cleaners I decided to hop on over to their site to read some technical specifications. As I write this I still have not gotten past the first page, mesmerized by the two figures with the telescoping attachments vacuuming the borders of the page's navigational elements. They even have a Flash game to demonstrate some of the telescope functions.

Why I Love Technology

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help


As I have mentioned in the past, I am one of the few odd IT people who still use older equipment at home. My primary computer is still the Gateway Solo 2500 (link to non-related, but interesting article about installing Linux on a GWS2500) I purchased in mid-1999. While it may not be able to run the latest games and such, I worry not because it does what I need it to do and does it pretty well. I always run the latest and greatest software and some how this old machine figures out a way to manage, even with Windows XP, Office 2003, Photoshop and Illustrator.

The only thing about having an older PC is the simple reality that compatibility issues are sure to come up. Back when I finally relented and upgraded from Windows 2000 to Windows XP, one of these inherent issues appeared. Turns out the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) chip on my motherboard is not supported by Windows XP. The result: any time a power saving feature is enabled by the operating system, a critical error occurs and my system stops cold in its steps.

So far I have lived with this issue simply by turning off the power saving features such as hard drive spin-down and LCD turn-off. They were pretty moot to be anyway, as I generally put the system to sleep or hibernate when not actively using it. I decided the other day, however, that I wanted to go to sleep to the sounds of SomaFM a favourite streaming audio site. While it would have been simple enough to just close the LCD lid and hit the sack, I decided I wanted to try to nip this issue once and for all.

I searched around online and found the consensus solution for those not wishing to reformat (a process I already meticulously conduct every six months or so and recently just completed). It was a simple enough procedure: tell Windows your computer is not an ACPI-compatible machine. After a reboot, all system hardware is re-identified and installed and ACPI services are non-existent.

Since I turned on System Restore in case the situation hit the fan, I was ready to step-back the change because I immediately did not like the fact the power button no longer launched the Windows dialogue with options to sleep/hibernate, reboot or shutdown. Instead, it either acts as a power button or a sleep toggle, as directed by the BIOS. Sleep is no longer an option, only hibernate. I decided to let it stay for a while and just see how things operate.

It is absolutely amazing how much better my system now runs without the dark ACPI overlords stalking around. I always thought my video card simply sucked, but with ACPI gone, video (streaming and otherwise) are as fluid playing as they should. The obvious lack of sudden system lock-ups is to say the least, a plus. And the one problem I had succumbed to, destined to never find a solution: DHCP and intranetworking. Lo and behold, my system automatically accepted an IP and all networking goodies from the network AND every machine on the network can see every other machine on the network.

Amazing. Absolutely, incredibly amazing. I cannot even fathom how many countless hours I have spent trying to get all the machines on my network to operate as they should. And now, I just connected a foreign system to the network (a machine I am doing work on for a client) and *poof* with no hassle what so ever, the new system is visible by everyone and transferring backup files to my server.

Down Easy Street

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help


I just saw someone pulling a "Marty McFly" via a stationary webcam broadcast from Duval Street in Key West. If you look at the camera, you are looking from Sloppy Joe's bar toward the other side of Duval Street and the intersection at Greene Street. A van driving north on Duval (left to right) and turning left on Greene had an additional passenger: some guy on a skateboard holding on to the ladder on the back door.

For those who do not remember, at the beginning of Robert Zemeckis' 1985 time travel hit Back to the Future, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) gets from Emmett Brown's home to downtown Hill Valley by holding on to various vehicles whilst riding his skateboard.

Call On Me

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help
From a Human Interface Device (HID) design standpoint, washers and dryers have a lot to be desired. Have you ever noticed that to start the washer you pull the dial, but to start the dryer you push it? This is on two separate machines, mind you. Front-loading dryers are just silly as well, because I always end up dropping at least one white item on the garage floor during the washer to dryer transition. I would like to see an all-in-one unit (does it exist already?) that both washes and dries clothes in one simple step. A LCD touch screen powered by an intuitive graphical user interface would control the entire process wherein you could enter your options, initiate the cycle and come back in a few hours to find freshly laundered and dried clothes.

I drove down to Key West for general entertainment and to also look at a few employment opportunities of interest. I was only going to stay for a few days but ended up going for a whole week. I had a great time spending time with my friend Nathan who lives on the island, though he ended up working through most of my visit. Fear not, however, as Key West is one of many places where I can find endless amusement for myself. I met some really nice people that I hung out with for a few nights, drank entirely way too much and found it very difficult to come back to Orlando afterward. The first day there Nathan and I went out on a snorkel sunset catamaran cruise that was just brilliant. We took pictures on the cruise, but I am still waiting for Nathan to e-mail them to me. I will be sure to post them as soon as I am in receipt.

My birthday is quickly approaching. Ugh. I do not even want to do anything for it this year, save receive a copy of The Ministry of Sound's The Annual 2005 Limited Edition 2-Disc plus DVD box set. I would enjoy that.

Thanks to my friend John I now have a decent pair of headlamps for my car. He gave me a set of 4000k Liteglow Xenon Super White bulbs after noting one of my headlights was dim. I figured it was just a matter of a faulty bulb, but it turned out that the connection itself was faulty. One of John's employees graciously installed a new wiring kit so I now have two, very nicely functioning headlights.

For the first time in several years, I am in the process of going through old boxes of stuff and actually getting rid of a lot of garbage I do not need to hang on to any more. Despite the excellent progress I have made as so far, I still have another few days of work to finish the project.

A Weekend Story

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help


I will be extraordinarily happy when this holiday season concludes, if for no other reason than the traffic patterns that have established as of late are abhorrently oppressive. While I am enjoying my truncated morning commute to the office, what I make-up in time is more then well accounted for during the evening commute home. Not to mention exactly how badly the driving is during all of this holiday panicking. Nothing communicates the good sprit of the holiday season better than reckless driving.

This holiday season did bring with it my first foray into the realm of corporate holiday parties. While the Gray Robinson holiday extravaganza was first class, it was not with my own co-workers. Our holiday event was held at the Marriott Orlando World Center Resort near the Walt Disney complex. The World Center (whose website redundantly proclaims it to be "One of the finest Orlando Resorts in Florida") is a large, y-shaped complex containing four-diamond amenities, a professional level golf course and the quality of service one would expect from an upper-level resort hotel. We were given the opportunity to purchase a room at a greatly reduced rate for the night for after the party, an offer that was truly too good to pass over.

At around six on Saturday night, guest Erik and me, dressed to kill in our finest suits (okay, only suits) made our way down to the World Center. After checking-in and quickly inspecting our accommodations, we made our way down to the Canary Ballroom. The path down to the convention hall was filled with professional staff ready and willing to guide hotel and party guests to one of the various functions being held that night. At the entrance to the Canary were two stilt walkers in holiday garb, both there to welcome new arrivals to the party but to also ensure every guest stopped to pose for a professional photograph.

After posing for the photograph, we entered the ballroom. The large chandeliers were dimmed to a medium level while larger lighting fixtures along the walls of the room were draped in a red curtain, creating a soothing and warm glow. The jazzy holiday tunes of the live, four-piece band filled the area while people milled around the open bar and hors d'oeuvre table, featuring fancy cheese dishes, large prawn shrimp cocktail and sushi. After drinking and mingling with co-workers and their guests, we made our way down to the dinner tables. The meal itself was buffet-style, but first class all the way. Prime rib, turkey, freshly tossed pasta dishes, steamed vegetables, salads and so much more lined the buffet tables. Everything was wonderful. A desert table was also opened shortly thereafter and although I did not sample anything from it, the items looked immaculate. The chocolate fondue fountain was a nice touch.

After everyone was finished eating and was enjoying a cocktail, our president took the stage for a standard "thank you for your hard work and dedication" type speech and to distribute gifts to every employee. While at Family Fun Weekend, I learned just how nice many of the prizes are during these events. I received a fifty-dollar gift certificate to the upscale restaurant Fleming's during that outing, but was hoping for something other than a gift certificate this time. I anxiously waited for my number, thirteen, to be called so I could walk to the stage and learn what I had won. A little more than halfway through the gift distribution, my turn came and I received my gift: two roundtrip air coupons on Northwest Airlines. Wow. More drinking followed and we eventually went up to a co-workers room to consume, converse and play the card game "asshole."

The next day I awoke to a three-alarm hangover. After showering and enjoying the eleventh floor balcony of our room, we left the hotel with the intention of simply heading home. The topic of lunch quickly came up, however and we discussed eating at Jungle Jim's but eventually settling on the new-ish Fuddruckers at Festival Bay. What a colossal disappointment. Even before I lived in Florida (fifteen years now), I ate at Fuddruckers and enjoyed their self-proclaimed "World's Best Hamburgers." Around five years ago, the chain left the Orlando area leaving it lacking a great burger joint. When I read the restaurant was returning to the area I was elated. Now having eaten at this updated version of the original concept I can safely consider the chain dead to me. Perhaps and with any luck their locations in Miami and elsewhere retain the absolute quality and enjoyment of the original, but I will not return to the Orlando location as it stands.

After eating, we browsed the still substantially vacant shopping complex that is Festival Bay. We ascended to the overhead viewing platform at the Vans Skatepark and watched mostly kids skateboard and rollerblade the sport complex's ramps, half-pipes and pools. As that grew old, we continued our voyage home only to be distracted by the overrated Mall at Millenia. Walking the complete upper level followed by the lower level, stopping in the occasional shop, was a pleasant and unusual diversion for us.

Still not ready to go home completely, we found ourselves at the Universal Studios Florida CityWalk Cineplex for a screening of Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Twelve. Although it does not hold a candle to the original, Ocean's Twelve was a very specifically stylized presentation of a slightly convoluted plot that had a fun mixture of thematic elements wrapped between an all-star ensemble cast. I enjoyed the movie for what it did accomplish, but left feeling that there could have been so much more. Finally, after a quick jaunt around the CityWalk complex, we headed home stopping one last time for dinner at Bennigan's.

It was one of better weekends I have had in a while, a fact I attribute to the unusual activity roster. There are so many little things here and there to do and see, but I miss them largely under the convenience of the old standards. Starting the week previous during a visit to the Florida Museum of Natural History's Butterfly Rainforest exhibit at the University of Florida's McGuire Center, I concluded I needed to get out and do more non-standard activities.

This weekend was no exception.

Closest to the Pin

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help
I had planned on writing about my weekend, including my much anticipated company holiday party, but I am instead compelled to write about the events of this evening. You see, I managed to lock my keys in my car.

Already home for the night, I returned to the car, entered on the passenger side to access the glove box and somehow both left the keys in the seat and pushed the lock button before closing the door. Unable to locate a spare and unwilling to pay for the services of a locksmith to come and remedy my stupid mistake, I decided to try the next best thing: break into my own vehicle.

My first thought was to try using a straightened-out coat hanger slipped between the weather seal and glass in an attempt to "pop" the lock. I did not hold high hopes for this method and abandoned it rather quickly. I instead decided to acquire some tools and try to pick the lock itself.

As a child, I used to pick small padlocks for fun and had become pretty decent at it. Of course, I am sure those locks were rudimentary as far as real security is concerned. With a set of dental picks and a few small flathead screwdrivers, I went to work. I decided to attempt my lock picking in order of the locks I felt most prone to tampering and simultaneously of least usefulness to me should I inadvertently cause damage. The passenger door was first, followed by the trunk. No luck. The last chance for my easy out was the driver's door.

I kneeled next to my car working the tools with my hands and holding the flashlight with my legs, all the while mindful of the cars driving past most certainly thinking twice about what they saw. Then, just as I was contemplating surrender, the pins of the lock and the universe aligned.

Needless to say, I am fairly amused by all of this. When all was said and done, I had successfully broken into my car in just over thirty minutes.