Recently in Life Stories Category

I just figured out a frustrating computer configuration issue so I thought I'd share the solution.

I recently bought a set of Bluetooth headphones but was unable to get them to work with either of my computers. The headphones worked fine with my mobile phone, and would successfully "pair" with the computers. However, once they were paired the computers would not recognize the headphones as an audio device. The computers had the generic Bluetooth adapter drivers from Microsoft, so I assumed that the problem was with the headphones.

But nope, the problem was with the Bluetooth drivers! The generic driver will let your computer pair with any Bluetooth device, but it doesn't know how to use most things, including audio devices. Consequently, even though the headphones showed as paired the Device Manager control panel showed them as unknown devices and the Sound control panel didn't show them at all.

The solution was simple enough: download and install the manufacturer's drivers for the Bluetooth adapter.

I was so used to the generic drivers working for everything -- or Windows Update magically finding the right drivers -- that I just didn't think in this direction early in the troubleshooting process.

Think what you will about Social Security, but your earnings record is a poignant monument to the thousands of hours of your life you spent working. My record shows 21 years of earnings now, and each row on the table brings back memories.

President Obama says that Hillary Clinton was careless with her top secret emails, and Hillary agrees.

Did Hillary jeopardize American security?

"Here's what I know," Obama told Wallace. "Hillary Clinton was an outstanding Secretary of State. She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy."

"You were prepared to say she didn't jeopardize," Chris Wallace said.

"I continue to believe she has not jeopardized America's national security," Obama defended Clinton.

Never intentionally. But damage caused by carelessness is never intentional, is it? The carelessness may be intentional.

It seems impossible to believe that putting top secret information on an insecure server didn't jeopardize national security, even if no actual damage was done. The use of an insecure server increased the potential for damage, which is what jeopardy means. The only way the potential for damage couldn't have been increased is if none of Hillary's information was valuable to our adversaries.

"What I also know, because I handle a lot of classified information, is that there are -- there's classified, and then there's classified," Obama told Fox News. "There's stuff that is really top-secret, top-secret, and there's stuff that is being presented to the president or the secretary of state, that you might not want on the transom, or going out over the wire, but is basically stuff that you could get in open-source."

It was top-secret, but not top-secret top-secret.

So basically the best defense law professor Obama can come up with is that Hillary was careless, but she didn't know anything important anyway.

My daughters have been watching a lot of "Frozen" recently (of course) and I dreamt an epilogue for the movie last night:

Prime Minister to Queen Elsa: We're all glad you're back, Queen Elsa!

Queen Elsa: Yep, everyone is fine again! Better than ever.

PM: Actually we're not... [one of my favorite lines from the movie -- MW]

QE: What's going on now?

PM: Well, we're all going to starve to death. All our crops died when you temporarily cursed the land with eternal winter. Do you think you can use your magic to bring the crops back to life?

QE: I don't think so.

PM: We'll have to dig into the royal treasury then. Maybe we can buy food from our biggest trading partner: Weselton.

QE: Um... actually I just banished that guy and promised we'd never trade with him again.

PM: Ok... what about the Southern Isles? Prince Hans was instrumental in protecting the kingdom while you were... "away". I'm sure his kingdom would help us out.

QE: Right... so, I banished him too. But on the plus side, I met a guy who runs an ice business. He's dating my sister now, so I'm sure he'll give us a discount.

PM: A discount on ice.

Since my wife turned me on to podcasts (yeah, I'm ten years behind) it seems like I've stopped listening to NPR in the car. Thanks to my revived interest in Dungeons and Dragons I'm currently listening through the back episodes of NPC Cast. D&D fifth edition is pretty cool, and I'm having a great time DM-ing two games, one with my wife and one with my brothers. We're playing through the Starter Set adventure, "Lost Mine of Phandelver", and everyone seems to be enjoying it.

You know you're a good parent when Homer Simpson makes a Spaceballs reference and your daughter gets it.

I love buying used books from Amazon for $0.01 each. Sure, most sellers charge $3.99 for shipping, but I can easily find 10 books from the same seller and combine the shipping costs. Here are the books and series that are currently in my cart:

After installing Windows 8.1 on my wife's laptop it would not connect to wifi or the internet. The computer kept saying "limited" connectivity and none of the built-in troubleshooters could fix the problem. I reset the router numerous times, rebooted the computer, updated everything, reset the TCP/IP stack, etc. In the end, the problem was that while installing 8.1 Microsoft removed my wireless adapter drivers and replaced them with a new Microsoft version! Argh!!!! What the hell?


Reverting back to the manufacturer's drivers solved the problem.

Another Christmas. This is the 30th-ish that I remember. I miss my dad and my family around the country, but I'm thankful for the family I've got with me tonight.

I suppose I could post something about Obamacare, but I went to the Lego store last night! Nothing arouses my covetous nature like the Lego Store. They had a Tower of Orthanc with 2500 pieces that stood 28 inches tall and came with a dozen awesome minifigs. There was an Ewok Village with all your favorites, and an awesome Millennium Falcon. There's no way I can justify buying any of them, alas.

Lego models make me nostalgic for my childhood, I guess. Why do I want to buy more when I have four huge boxes full of Legos in my basement?

I just received a notice in the mail from AT&T about two new advertising programs. Naturally the two new programs promise to "help [AT&T] and other businesses serve you better" by showing ads "more suited to my interests". The thing is, all I have with AT&T is a DSL account, so what ads is AT&T showing me anyway? Are they injecting ads into my data stream?

You can opt out of these two new programs, but check out the opt-out clause:


I have to opt out on each wireless device and every browser that I use? Screw you, AT&T! Why can't I opt out my entire account? What happens when I clear my cookies, do I have to opt out again?

I'm a paying customer, not a product for you to sell to advertisers! Argh.

I've been following a low-carb non-ketogenic diet for about a month now and I'm going to write a few posts on the effects I've observed. This post is about the effect I've seen on my ability to exercise.

My exercise regimen has two primary components.

  • Daily running 3-5 miles, 4-5 days per week.
  • Weight training every-other day, which usually comes out to 3 sessions per week.

Unfortunately I've been traveling a lot over the past month and my weight training has suffered. However I have been able to keep up with my running, and this is where I've noticed that my diet has had a significant effect.

Even though I'm overweight by BMI, up until I started my low-carb diet I could easily run 5 miles every day without straining. However, once I started eating low-carb I noticed quickly that my energy level was dropping. Running even 3 miles became an onerous trial, and my body felt weak and tired when I ran. It wasn't fun, and it was discouraging because I love to run.

I stuck with it for a while, but it became clear that the low-carb diet wasn't letting my body generate energy quickly enough when I needed it to run. So over the past weekend I started eating carbs before my run, and I noticed an immediate improvement. On Sunday morning I ate 45g of bread (180 calories) about 10 minutes before my run, and I felt fantastic. My run went great, and I had no trouble even pushing my daughter up and down the hills in my neighborhood -- hills that I had struggled to run up solo the day before.

I had heard of "carbo-loading" before, but it was only yesterday that I realized that before my low-carb diet I was living a life perpetually loaded with carbs. No wonder I had so much energy to run! However, I want to diet to be healthy, not just to follow some formula, and so I'm going to start eating carbs before I exercise. 180 calories of bread was enough to rocket me through a 4.5-mile run, and I'm going to experiment a bit to see how my body reacts to lesser amounts.

Low-Carb Diet Series:
Low-Carb Diet: What I Eat
Low-Carb Diet and">Low-Carb Diet and Exercise

I've been following a low-carb non-ketogenic diet for about a month now and I'm going to write a few posts about what I've learned. This first post is about what I'm eating.

First off, I'm not attempting an Atkins-style ketogenic diet. My goal is to drastically reduce my intake of carbohydrates while maintaining a varied and interesting diet. Here are the kinds of things I'm eating:

  • Lots of vegetables, including carrots even though they are considered "starchy" by many low-carb diets. I also eat a ton of spinach in salads and omelettes. I'll eat pretty much any vegetable except potatoes.
  • Fruit. Fruit has sugar, but I still eat it. I'll eat an apple a day, and I enjoy unsweetened berry smoothies. I've stopped eating bananas. I eat avocados, but without chips to eat with them I sometimes struggle to enjoy them as much as I used to.
  • Meat: more red meat than I have in the past. Lots of chicken. I have also been enjoying salami, ham, and bacon. My wife just bought a bunch of turkey bacon, which I don't care for.
  • I've also been eating a lot more dairy than I have in the past. Cheese in many forms, some butter. Low-ish-carb unsweetened Greek yogurt.
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes, even though these are not acceptable in many low-carb diets. I eat peanuts and almonds, and lots of peanut butter. I eat beans when I eat Mexican food and substitute it for rice.

The things I've eliminated:

  • Crackers, chips, cookies. I miss them!
  • Bread. Don't miss it much.
  • Rice, potatoes, all the filler starches that go with meals. I don't miss these much either.
  • Almost all sweets. I'll still use chocolate chips when I make almond flour cookies. The only sweets I eat are home-made to be low-carb. There's practically nothing sweet that's suitable to eat at any restaurant or store.

I've lost about six pounds in the first month of eating this way. I'll tell you more about how I feel in my next post.

Low-Carb Diet Series:
Low-Carb Diet: What I Eat
Low-Carb Diet and Exercise

No matter how much or how little money you make each year, the date you'll be able to retire depends on only one number: the percentage of your take-home pay that you save. It's obvious, but the more you save now the less you're spending. Lower lifestyle expenses means that the amount you save will last you longer in your retirement. Mr. Money Mustache has a handy chart to help you calculate how many years you'll have to work based on your savings rate.

The key insight is worth repeating: frugality now gets you double benefits. If you spend less now you will save more now, and your cost of living will be lower when you retire because you'll be used to frugal living. Here's the chart:

retirement years.jpg

MMM saved 65% of his take-home pay and retired in around 10 years. I'm not doing that well, but looking at this chart sure inspires me to save more.

I want to paperless. No more filing paper, no more storing paper, no more paper cluttering my desk, no more paper anywhere! (Except the bathroom.) Just imagine.

Have any of you done this?

Ah, that was a nice break, but now we're back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

2012 was an amazing year... definitely one of the best of my life. It's hard to see how 2013 can possibly be as good, but I've got a new baby due in just a few months so things are looking good!

I hope you all had a great holiday season.

I just voted in suburban St. Charles, M (definitely a Republican stronghold). The line was longish, but I spent more time checking and re-checking my ballot than waiting. Someone needs to re-allocate the "line up by first letter of your last name" system... of the three lines, "P-Z" contained about 80% of the voters.

I just got a haircut over lunch and my brain decided to merge the experience with the stone age tools I saw while on my honeymoon in Ireland! The result: stone age haircut! I want to carve a stone knife and see what kind of hair style can be made with it.

John Tierney says that Advanced Placement classes and tests are a scam. These paragraphs stand out to me because they reflect my experience:

AP courses are not, in fact, remotely equivalent to the college-level courses they are said to approximate. Before teaching in a high school, I taught for almost 25 years at the college level, and almost every one of those years my responsibilities included some equivalent of an introductory American government course. The high-school AP course didn't begin to hold a candle to any of my college courses. My colleagues said the same was true in their subjects.

The traditional monetary argument for AP courses -- that they can enable an ambitious and hardworking student to avoid a semester or even a year of college tuition through the early accumulation of credits -- often no longer holds. Increasingly, students don't receive college credit for high scores on AP courses; they simply are allowed to opt out of the introductory sequence in a major. And more and more students say that's a bad idea, and that they're better off taking their department's courses.

I took eight AP courses in high school (if I'm remembering right) and passed all my AP tests. In 1995 I did receive credit for those courses at UCLA as well as being allowed to skip many introductory classes. Because of my AP chemistry test score I didn't have to take any chemistry classes at UCLA, even though I was an engineering student. (I was excited at the time, but now I regret missing exposure to college chemistry.)

At least two of these AP classes were harmful to me: Calculus AB and Calculus BC. Because I aced these AP tests I received credit for two introductory quarters of calculus and was skipped straight to the third calc class of the series. I struggled to make sense of the course content and was relieved to pass the class with a C-. The two AP calculus classes I had passed had left me completely unprepared for the material. I also received a C grade on my next math class before I figured out that I wasn't stupid, I was just way behind the other students. It took a lot of studying and make-up work for me to bring my grades and my comprehension up to an acceptable level.

Those were the only C grades I ever received in college, and I blame them on the Advanced Placement classes.

When I get grumpy it's this.

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