Thursday, December 29, 2005

I'd like to teach the world to sing!

Or at least how to talk. On the phone

It has come to my attention, for somewhat obvious reasons, that many of the people of this country, and our friendly neighbors to the north, do not know how to properly communicate on the phone. Now who am I to say this, being that I've been chastised on numerous occasions for my phone etiquette? Well at my worst, I still seem to be above average, and I dare say, I've learned a few things along the way.

Now I don't really want to write about the topics of conversation people have with each other, as I really could care less. I also am not presently interested in how people initiate phone conversations, as they seem to do well enough to drive up our nations land and cellular phone bills to a more than adequate level. My topic for today is how to answer phones, especially with people you don't know. If you want to use your own private language with your closest friends and relatives, please do, but when you're dealing with the rest of us, perhaps we should have some guidelines

Let's start this little manual with the basics. First, you must pick up the phone. This is done by removing the handset from your phone and placing it on your head, preferably in a position where the earpiece is close to your ear and the microphone is at least pointed towards your mouth. In the case of cellular telephones, you'll probably have to press a button of some kind. Please, after pressing that button, don't press any more because the person on the other end may be presented with painful tones. You should also avoid fumbling with the phone after picking it up, because this can also generate loud noises rendering the opposing party deaf or auditorilly injured for some time.

The next, and crucial part of this procedure is the greeting. A number of greetings will do, but it is nice to have one. "Who dis" is not really the most friendly of ones available. Usually a "hello" or "hi" is best, but you may choose to use the less popular, "greetings." Also, please speak with sufficient volume to be heard. Yelling, however, is not necessary. If you hear silence on the other end of the line, this could indicate a couple of things. The most likely is that the person that is calling you is using an autodialer, and may not yet be aware that you have picked up the phone. Your choices at this juncture are to hang up, as it is likely someone that wants your money or information, or to remain on the line and find out who it is. If you choose to hang up, they'll probably just call back, so you may as well remain on the line if you can, and resolve this issue. It would probably be in your best interest to listen to at least the first line of their spiel so you'll know who they are. If they're not someone you want to talk with, you can then just tell them to "take me off your list." This, as provided by the fine laws governing our society, should ensure your removal within some small amount of time. Other variations may also work, but cursing and such are not likely to assist you in achieving your aim.

Now we'll move on to who should be answering your phone. It may be in your best interests to restrict phone answering to those that can actually respond to at least some spoken language, preferably English. You may think your children sound cute calling everyone that calls "mommy" or "daddy," but you are the only one. Also, if you could refrain from having your children make your answering machine messages, that would be great.

OK, now how do you respond to people that are asking for a particular person? Well you can say that you are that person, simply by stating "this is he" or "this is she" depending on your gender preference. Saying "Yes" doesn't necessarily provide the caller with the correct information, as far too many people say yes to everything, except maybe sex. Saying "yes" to every question asked inspires very low confidence in you and your comprehension.

If the person asked for is not there, you have a number of options. You could let them know they aren't there, and perhaps ask if you could take a message. If you do let the caller know the requested person isn't there, please don't then ask who it is before again saying that they aren't there. The caller probably remembers the first time you said that, and doesn't need the reiteration. It also makes them question the validity of your statement. If the caller said they were the president of your country, would the person be there then, or would they then be hiding behind the toilet?

There is one more point I must make. If you speak in quiet gasps or moans, don't expect to be understood. Please at least make some attempt to annunciate and be heard. I'm not a doctor and I'm not going to cure whatever illness exists in your body.

Well that's about enough of these. Go forth and sing, or at least speak!

Images courtesy of google image search, from,, and

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Saitek P2600 Rumble PC Gamepad Review

This force feedback gamepad has some interesting features. The most notable, and touted, is the FPS or first person shooter function. By pressing this button, it lights up, and sets up the buttons and sticks for use with the standard first person shooter titles. This means that the right stick becomes your mouse, for mouse look and the other buttons become things like reload, "F" for flashlight and the right forefinger becomes your left mouse click, or trigger. The D-Pad also might work to switch weapons.

Included with this gamepad is a bunch of configuration software, that lets you configure deferment buttons for each button, and even different buttons for how far you press the sticks a certain direction. This means you can make it sprint when you press the stick all the way up. Unfortunately this feature is a bit difficult to configure and doesn't seem to always work. Also you can't assign anything to the stick buttons, when you click them down. Why you can't do that, I can't imagine.

The buttons all handle quite well and the front triggers are well placed. Also this gamepad has a comfortable but wide feel larger than a PS2 type controller, and even a bit wider than an xbox s-type. This may be comfortable to many, but it seems too wide for my manly but smaller hands.

The thumbsticks do respond well, but I've seen better, as on the Thrustmaster 2-in-1 dual trigger. I just can't quite get the sensitivity right to be able to aim with the mouse look stick. I'm almost always too far or not enough, and budging the stick a little bit more and back, well, somebody just got a headshot on me.

If you want a gamepad that you can just install, plug in and press FPS this one will do the trick. However, I haven't played any games that actually use the whole button map of that feature, and so I've had to make new profiles. If you're going to go ahead and make a new profile, you might as well run the free JoyToKey software, which is a bit more programmer like, but still not too hard to figure out with some trial and error. Then you can just use a more comfortable gamepad, and even setup a stick as a mouse, which it allows you to do.

Stanley IntelliMeasure 77-007 Laser Tape Review

This laser tape measuring device, which is really an ultrasonic distance measuring device, can be found on ebay for about $20 at the time of this writing. It's an older model from the IntelliMeasure series of tools from Stanley.

This device features a rather large sized ultrasonic transmitter and receiver, similar to the old Polaroid cameras that is the actual workhorse of this tool. It's accuracy is stated as +/- 0.5% with a 2 - 50 foot range. Longer measurements can be achieved by taking smaller measurements and adding on by using the (+) button.

It also uses a handy laser pointer on the side so you know what you're pointing at. However, unlike significantly more expensive devices, this laser doesn't measure anything.

It has some neat features as far as calculating area and volume by simply telling it which measurements comprise the length, width and height and pressing the desired function.

It also can measure in feet or inches, from either the top or bottom of the unit. Although that allows you to take semi-accurate measurements from one wall to another, it's really just adding 5 inches to the top measurement. These changes are selected by depressing the mode button.

Now what can we do with a device like that. Well, you can't measure wood to cut it, that's for sure. You can get generally good areas of rooms, for example if you're looking at apartments or houses. I suppose if you want to be relatively sure where your dresser is in your room as opposed to your bed, you can figure that out.

Now what's wrong with this device? Well it can give you some quite crazy measurements at times. When pointed at a wall with a net of Christmas lights on it, it thought it was 20 feet farther away than it was. Fabric can absorb the ultrasonic waves and thus create inaccurate readings. Even ceiling tiles can cause problems. Also, readings must be taken perpendicular to the surface, or they'll just bounce around and give an error message, which prevents it being used if that dresser is at any angle.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Orbit PTDVD-768S Review

I bought this portable DVD Divx and bunch of other stuff player on Ebay for my birthday. Now that I'm putting it back on ebay, why not review it so others might be more informed about its qualities.

This player has a number of intersting properties, among which, is the ability to play divx. I've tested it with v5 Divx and Xvid and it actually played most of what I threw at it. Some things were not playable, but I can't say for sure which versions those turned out to be, it just seemed be more hit than miss. Unfortunately it did have some audio sync issues, more so than you'll see playing the exact same files on your computer.

The biggest problem this device has is with the display. It has a 7" 16:9 ratio display. This would be quite nice if it could use it adaquetly. Unfortunately the display has two major problems. One, it shows everything from total black to light shadows in about two different shades of grey. That's really not cool. Sometimes you just have faces suspended in a grey blob that should be the colorful environment around them. The other problem is really just for aspect ratio purests like myself. If you can go to a bar and see a widescreen tv showing normal tv without cringing or crying, then you might not even notice, but this player likes to stretch images. By default the player shows everything in 16:9 format regardless of what it was originally made to play on. Using the remote, no button on the player, you can switch it to 4:3 which will letterbox the sides, or I guess the proper term would be to just side border them. This is fine for tv, except of course the 7" screen now becomes quite smaller. The real problem is if you watch something that is letterboxed in the 4:3 format, like a divx movie. Now if you put it to 4:3 you get black borders on all four sides, making your screen maybe 3 inches. Some more expensive players might have a letterbox mode, or zoom mode that will expand the screen to chop off the letterbox bars and thus use the widescreen, but this one does not. The only solution I found was to recompress the videos with a horizontally squished aspect ratio, from whatever it was to a 4:3 horizontal number, while leaving the vertical the same. This is just time consuming and annoying.

Additionally this player can actually read files off of a usb drive. The one one I had which worked was my little usb smart card reader, and yes you can play pictures and even videos off of it. So if the screen were only of better quality it would be a quick and portable way to preview photos and videos from your digital camera, but its not.

The last two notable features are the built in tv tuner and the game function. The tv tuner works when plugging in their rediculous tv antenna which is annoying. Also you have to program in the channels, also annoying. The game function is basically a nintendo emulator, NES. How this is legal I haven't figure out, and it probably isn't. It comes with like 300 games on a porely organized cd. It didn't seem useful to me, but the included game controller provided me with 45 seconds of entertainment.

As far as inputs and outputs, it does have quite a few, but they all go through 1/8" headphone style jacks, including the svideo cable. This makes me doubt it's really delivering s-video quality, and on my tv I couldn't tell for sure. It definately has some color glitches but I think it has more to do with the decoder in the device.

All in all I'd recommend avoiding this particular device. The only thing that makes this better than a laptop for dvd's and video is its size, and that it doesn't burn my legs. Also the battery actually sort of works.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

silicone bracelets for "no cause"

Fed up with recent fads? I found a bracelet on ebay that lets me express this and my otherwise morbid nature. It's a black bracelet that just says "DieHard" as opposed to
"LiveStrong." I wear it proudly showing my conviction to nothing. If you can't find it on ebay I found this link for you

Show that you don't care about anything. I don't.

Here's a whole set of I don't care bracelets from Archie McPhee's

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Mental Health Bracelets

My brother was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. It's a scary mental illness and it's very difficult to get through it, both for him and for the whole family. We are working through it though, and he is acting very normal more and more often. The only therapy I've found that really helps him is acupuncture. I take him to my friend, and former NightRider associate, Phranque Wright. You can see his website here:

If you know somebody with a mental illness and would like to raise awareness of the possibilities of living a normal life and recovery, I found some bracelets you can wear also. The Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania is offering orange mental health awareness bracelets with the message "Embrace Recovery." They are silicone bracelets, like the ones for Lance Armstrong, Live Strong.

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