30 Aug

Efficiency Expert

“Efficiency Expert” by Edgar Rice Burroughs is a very entertaining story. I recommend reading it. More importantly, I recommend downloading it from the above link and using Microsoft Reader to read it for you.


Look, there’s a lot of stuff out there that I’d like to read, but who has time. My employer seems to think that I should be doing the work they want me to do for like, what, 8 or 10 hours a day? I mean, in the face of these unreasonable demands upon my time, what kind of investment can I really make to books?

Well, Microsoft has come to the rescue. You have no idea how desperately you need Microsoft Reader. Seriously.

I can honestly say that it can make the most mundane administrative tasks whiz by. Whenever I’m faced with hours of brain-dead configuration or editing, I fire up Reader and put on my headphones. The odd Microsoft voice actually does great with pronunciation (better than the LH voices, IMHO), although it does take some getting used to…However, after a few minutes I don’t even notice. And with an endless source of free novels from The Gutenberg Project, I’m set.

Except for one thing. Gutenberg stuff comes down in ASCII text. And I need a .LIT file.

Well, with Microsoft Word Plug-in for Reader, I can reformat the text to LIT in a matter of minutes. I really need to create a macro to do this…matter of fact, I may do that and post it later.

Anyway, download a book from Gutenburg, and open it up in Word. Since this is for my own personal use, I strip out the legal stuff from my lit files. The examples I provide here, by the way, are NOT for distibution–and PLEASE don’t create them this way if you wish to distribute them later. Now then, on separate note to the Gutenburg Project: Please get it together. Place all that junk at the end–PLEASE!!! It is only of interest to those within the project team–the rest of us just want to read the story and hate looking for the beginning amidst a blithering onslaught of comments and notations.

And quit with the carriage returns!!! What is this, 1992? Sheesh!!!

Secondly, I select all and change the font to a Times New Roman. Please stay clear of the sans serif types, they look cool, however, for long term reading fonts with a serif are easier for the human eyes to identitify–thus upping the reading WPM.

Now, to deal with those carriage returns.

Click on Edit | Replace or Ctrl + H. Ad the parameters ^p^p in the Find field and /az/ in the replace field. You can use whatever you like there, however, /az/ is unlikely to be found in the “wild”, so it’s a safe bet. Click Replace All. This marks the place of all the actual Paragraphs.


Now we will take out all the extra line feeds and replace them with spaces. You can’t see it from the picture, but there is a “space” in the Replace field.


Next, we’ll put the paragraphs back in. Find all the /az/ placeholders we put in, and replace them with a ^p^p. That gives us a pleasing double-space between paragraphs.


Cool. Do any other editing you like…but you’re kinda wasting time if text-to-speech is the goal. Now we’re ready to convert. Click the little reader icon that was installed from the Word plugin of which I spoke earlier.


Fill in the information correctly here or it won’t appear in the Reader library properly. Annoying.


And we have an ebook, folks. No flash photography, please. Put on the cans, and hit the play button. Now I’m ready to change a single parameter on several hundred servers…one-by-stinkin’-one. Or install my monitoring package to each machine on a new customer’s network.


BTW, I highly suggest the Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs as well. Pure, fun, ray-gun science fiction. Have fun.

21 Aug

Sunlight, on my shoulder, makes me happy…

I’ve updated the Sirius project with a new page of pictures.  I have only two or three challenges to solve before I can finish it up.  AND then, we’ll launch this puppy!  Ok, five.

  • Rail buttons–not really a challenge, I just have to order them.
  • Motor retention clip.  I think I can probably fabricate this…we’ll see.
  • Upper shock cord attachment…I want to be able to change out the cords if one gets damaged.
  • Parachute design–build or buy?
  • Paint scheme–I have some ideas here.

I’m teaching myself Blender, so I can work up some 3D models of the rocket.  That way, I’ll be able to play with some of the color schemes I have in mind.  And Blender is just awesome, btw.

Oh, and the rocket’s back-story is almost done too.  Wait–you didn’t know that the rocket had to have a back-story?  What kind of philistine are you!?!?

09 Aug

Midget Smugglers

My friend, Thomas Joseph Murray IV, would always request disambiguation with the following phrase, “Is that a flaming herring juggler?”.  I think it comes from the muppets (much like my drawing).  Anyway, the question centers around which object is actually on fire, the herrings or the juggler.

So, in the case of Midget Smugglers–well, you see where I’m going here…

Moving right along, if you haven’t been to 1984 Arcade, you really owe it to yourself to head over there.  As their slogan goes, “$5.00 all you can play, no tokens, no quarters.”  We recently took a group there and had a blast.  You can watch the video over on the download page, or get it here.  (Oh, and I also linked the bottle rocket videos there, too.)


In other matters, I’ve colorized my rocket logo as a step to take a manual to print.  I sat up until about midnight working on it, but it finally came together and ended up looking pretty sharp IMHO.


BTW, if anyone knows where Tom IV is, tell him to email me.  His dad, the inestimable Tom III has retired to Florida, but I have not heard from the son for 10 years.

08 Aug

Oh, The Pain–The PAIN!

Well, that didn’t take long 🙂 Chris has already posted a comment:

I think you’re projecting your own backpack insecurity and
inadequacy feelings onto me. You’re going to be begging me to carry some of your
stuff in my super comfortable, internal frame, light-weight, high-tech


amazing. The backpack is the same weight as yours yet carries so much more and
is going to be soooo comfortable to use. And don’t be afraid of that price! I
snagged one on eBay for less than half that.

I might be able to recommend
a good counselor if your personal problems continue.

So…I guess I need to put it up for a vote. If you feel, as Chris obviously does, that a modern steamer-trunk is required to spend 15 days in Europe (or voyaging on the S.S. Polar Explorer), please speak right out. However, as a reasonable and contemplative adult you steadfastly believe that compact and stylish wins the day, you may wisely agree with me.


Anyway, lets go.

08 Aug

Like Fruitcake!

ScummVM is a great application.  If you haven’t been able to play the old LucasArts adventures on your WinXP machine, then this is your one-stop-shop.  It is unbelieveably easy to use…just point it at the game and it just runs.  For instance, I took an ISO of Sam and Max: Hit the Road, mounted the ISO using Virtual CDROM Tools, pointed ScummVM at the virtual CD directory and good stuff just started happening.

The World’s Largest Ball of Twine was a great memory.


However, I loved the Mystery Vortex.


Anyway, two other things:

Number one, Chris Lazarro is patently jealous of my backpack.  And he should be.  It is incredible.  All the shoulder and belly straps can be zipped up behind a panel, and a side shoulder strap can be used.  Or you can unzip the panel, store it into hidden compartment, and use it like an ordinary backpack.  I’ll take some shots of this if I get around to it.  It was some un-expected goodness.

Secondly, I’ve redesigned my rocket’s graphics.  I’m thinking of putting an instruction manual together in the trademark Joe Baxter way, and seeing what a complete kit would go for on eBay.  It will give me an excuse to learn a 3D Modeler–as there is no way I can release a professional product without cool graphics.  I’ve rebranded it the Sirius Beta.  And as an update, I’ve filled all the tube spirals in and am ready to get a thick coat of white primer on the body.  I still need some plastic modeler’s putty to fill in the seam of the nose cone.  Here’s the new logo, btw:


Ok…I was mistaken–Thirdly, MilkShape is an awesome freeware package for low-polygon models.  It is worth checking out.  Update:  Sorry, it’s not freeware.  It is trialware for 30 days, and costs $25.00 to register.  Which still appears to be quite a deal.

03 Aug

3 New Laws

How could I neglect three other semi-famous laws, those of Arthur C. Clarke.

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

In any case, if you are planning on backpacking through Europe, and I know you are, check out www.ebags.com for some great deals on packs.  However, find one you like, then do a search on google or froogle for that model’s name.  Sooner or later you will find a link back to ebags that plugs in a 10% discount.

I got the High Sierra Passport, which works out to about 2890 cubic inches.

Today is passport day, btw.  We have the paperwork filled out–so at lunch, it’s off to Walgreens for a photo, and then to the post office.  I’ll try telling them that my name is Jason Bourne.  After all, Ozark is only 4 miles away from Nixa.