Thursday, October 27, 2005


Another price difference noted at the grocery store: the apples up front, right near where I walked in were more expensive than the apples near the back in the organic section. The organic apples in the back weren't coated in wax and they looked fresher and more natural. This is good. I walked back up front and put the mass produced apples back. I'll take lower priced organic produce any day.


I bought razors at the grocery store today and I stopped to do a little math. To set the stage, I should say that for the past few months, I've been shaving with a double-edged safety razor, a badger hair brush and good glycerin-based shaving cream (no aerosol cans). This all started when I read an article back in April.

Blades for the razor are incredibly cheap. Or rather, they're priced appropriately and most modern blades are incredibly over-priced and the product of marketing. A ten pack of double edge blades was $3.00, or, $0.30 per blade. A four pack of blades for Gillette's newest marketing creation, the M3 Power, was $12.00, or, $3.00 per blade. Yes, that's right: for the cost of one M3 blade, you can get ten double edge blades. Wow.

You might click on those links to Amazon and think that the razor, the brush or the cream are expensive. But it's all relative, and the cheap blades offset the rest over time.

The biggest benefit of this is that I get a superior shave with less irritation. This is due largely to two factors: since the blades are so cheap, I'm more inclined to change them regularly and not drag a dull blade across my face. Second, the good cream applied with a brush that has soaked in hot water gives a great base for the blades.

Yes, despite what the commercials tell you, a razor technology first patented in 1904 (by none other than Gillette) gives a superior shave to the new stuff coming out today.

I'll sum up this post with one word: marketing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

SBA 2006 Dissapointment

I installed Microsoft Small Business Accounting 2006 tonight. I've been using GnuCash on Linux for my financial management needs for about three years (before that I used Quicken for about two years). GnuCash is the main reason I keep a Linux box on hand. That and SSH and Bash rock. It implements true double entry bookkeeping with a no-frills interface. Quicken used categories; I think MS Money does, too. But accountants use double entry bookkeeping. Once I learned the methodology (via the GnuCash docs), I became a convert. GnuCash is pretty good and it's free.

SBA 2006 got my hopes up. It's accounting software, not home money management software. But I gave up on it within two minutes. I went to create an expense account: Expenses. Fine and dandy. Create a sub-account, Food. Okay. Then another sub-account, Eating out. Error message: SBA only supports one level of hierarchy. WHAAAAA??? In GnuCash, I have a moderately deep hierarchy of accounts. The likes of Expenses:Entertainment:Vacation:Airfare is not uncommon.

Garsh, should I try again? Should I adapt my thinking while I explore the potential benefits that SBA has to offer? What will I do with Expenses:Transport:Car:Gasoline, Expenses:Transport:Car:Insurance, Expenses:Transport:Public, Expenses:Transport:Taxicabs? How will I see how much I spend on my car? How will I see how much I spend on transportation as a whole? Hierarchies make sense when it comes to books. I want to try SBA, but I'm baffled by this, really. How was the one deep hierarchy decision made?

Another baffling issue (though not a dealbreaker) is that SBA uses MSDE for its backend. Cool, except for the fact that I already have SQL Server running on this machine (or, perhaps, within my enterprise?). Why not utilize my existing installation (investment)? Seems silly, since they're virtually out-of-the-box compatible. But very cool that it leverages a SQL server engine. That in and of itself is a good thing, but I really don't need or want two instances running side-by-side.

I guess I'll go back and explore its features and see how I can adapt within its limitation (what I see as a very huge limitation). But, wow, how stupid. Give me a real hierarchy, not a one level. I wonder what that implementation looks like under the scenes, whether the limit is artificial or if they designed it that way. We'll see.

Burn a DVD ISO for Free

I was poking around after installing the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools and noticed that it installed a little app called dvdburn.exe. It does just what you would expect: burn a DVD ISO to disc (I'm actually using it on XP MCE). It also includes the related cdburn.exe. I'm also a fan of cmdhere.inf (right click, choose install). It lets you right click on any folder and open a command prompt to that directory. And let's not forget robocopy.exe! So there you go: some nice little free utilities from Microsoft.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


I had a pretty fun weekend. Friday I went to a happy hour, drank beer and watched the Sox game. I'm not a huge Sox fan, but I'm happy to see a Chicago team in the running. Being that I live on the North Side, this is Cubs territory. There's not a ton of excitement, given the significance of the situation (I live across the street from a few bars, so I have a good indicator outside my windows). I can't help but wonder how nuts this place would be if it were the Cubs. I guess I should ask someone who lived here last year.

After sleeping in on Saturday, I took a walk down to the Old Town School of Folk Music and picked up some fresh strings for the guitar. I'd had the last set since I got the guitar in December '04. So I walked back home, changed the strings (broke the high E in the process...damnit...good thing I bought two packs), and decided that I had to do something outdoors since it was so perfect outside.

I took a walk toward the lake, stopped in at a sushi place and had a bargain lunch special. The rolls were good, the fish was so-so, but all in all it was a very tasty late lunch. I then continued on to the lakefront and plopped myself down on the rocks at the shore and read for about an hour. The crashing waves...the sun...the breeze...the was almost like vacation (almost).

After that, I went to 3 Penny Cinema and watched The Aristocrats. The Aristocrats is a documentary about a sort of inside joke in the comedy industry. The joke is simple: "A family walks into a talent agent's office and says, 'we have a great act for you!' 'Let me see it,' says the talent agent." At this point the comic telling the joke improvises the most filthy, vile, incestuous, scatological act he can imagine. "'Wow,' says the talent agent, 'what do you call that?' 'The Aristocrats.'" (Watch South Park perform the joke for a prototypical example.) The movie is worth seeing, but (as I was previously warned) it suffers from very distracting editing. As for the cinema, it's a small, two screen theater that still only costs $6.50 for a ticket. Plus I live about 1.5 blocks away. Good enough.

Sunday started with me going to my guitar class at Old Town School, as usual. Then I decided to go for a run. I don't think I've run for much beyond two miles since track in high school, but today I decided to push it. (In fact, in March 2004, 2 miles was an accomplishment.) I ran almost four miles and felt great. I don't know what got into me. Maybe it's my soggy belly, or maybe it was seeing all those fit, trim people with their LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon t-shirts walking around town recently, or maybe the trouble I've been having falling asleep the last few weeks. Whatever it was, I ran about twice as far as I have in probably five years. My route: up to Fullerton, over to the lake, south along the lake to North, stop to stretch, cross over Lake Shore Drive, run back up to Fullerton, back to home. It felt great! Maybe I can make longer runs more regular.

I did some laundry after that, and have been watching some baseball this evening while diddling around on the computer. I'm experimenting with running Virtual Server 2005 on my Media Center, with Server 2003 running in a virtual instance. I want Server 2003 somewhere (mainly for IIS6 and multiple concurrent remote desktop connections), but I don't want extra hardware. My Media Center Box has plenty of oomph (though it needs a pinch more RAM). I'm frustrated by XP's limitation of only one interactive user at any given time. Two people can be logged in at any given time, but only one can be interactive. In other words, I can't remote desktop into my Media Center box and do work while at the same time playing music with the account logged into the console (hooked up to the TV). Another frustration I'm having is that I don't have a "home" computer anywhere. Every time I get a new laptop issued by work, I transfer my primary operations there, since I already have too many computers. But I'm thinking I can set up a "home base" in this virtual instance. Remote desktop in and I'm home. It won't work for things that need to be on hardware (DirectX, for example), but being able to leave MSN Messenger or AIM signed in somewhere (given that I can't sign in at work) might be cool. More to come.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Who, and how?

Who exactly is buying Ashlee Simpson's records, and how did she manage to get on SNL a second time after that first debacle?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

5 Blades

Check out this recent (2005-09-14) press release from Gillette: Gillette unveils 5-bladed razor.

Then read this article from The Onion, written in February, 2004: Fuck Everything, We're Doing Five Blades. "Written by" the CEO of Gillette.

The similarities are uncanny. From The Onion article: "Put another aloe strip on that fucker, too. That's right. Five blades, two strips...." The new razor has a blade on the back for "trimming sideburns." The Onion says, "I don't care how. Make the blades so thin they're invisible. Put some on the handle. I don't care if they have to cram the fifth blade in perpendicular to the other four, just do it!"

Props to erice for sharing this with me.