Posted by: Admin | August 24, 2009

New Blog

So FYI, I’ve decided to start up another blog. It’s called Daily Computer Tips.

Now there are plenty of computer tips blogs out there already. I know that. My main reason for this blog is to have an excuse to post something daily. Even if it’s just a small paragraph or two explaining some small computer related tip or mystery. It will get me in the habit of writing more often.

The other great thing is that it will give me an opportunity to apply some of this knowledge I accrued getting my degree. I really do like helping people with their computer issues. I’ve always thought of myself as a “do-it-yourself-er” when it comes to some things. I don’t have the necessary skill or experience or courage to take apart my engine or build a house, but pressing buttons and playing with electronics is easy. If something ever happened with my computer I wasn’t afraid to use Google to research the problem and fix it myself. Going to school for IT filled in all the gaps in my knowledge.

Now friends and family usually just ask me what to do, since they know it will be faster than trying to figure it out for themselves. That’s great. I’m glad they think of me that way. A lot of times in the IT industry I see techs complaining about people always pestering them about computer stuff. I’ll admit, it’s not always welcomed, but see it for the positive that it is. People value your opinion enough to ask you. That is an asset to you and you should see it that way.

Hopefully this blog will allow my friends and family a forum to ask me about computer stuff when I may not be around. In the course of their computer use they can hop over to my blog and post a comment and then I can explain the solution in an upcoming blog. Then everyone can benefit from the questions and answers.

So leave me a comment here and I’ll blog about it.

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Posted by: Admin | August 23, 2009

Breakfast, how hard can it be?

So, I really do try to stay positive most of the time, but unfortunately, I can be a bit impatient, especially first thing in the morning. If I haven’t had coffee yet, don’t mess with me, you WILL be sorry you did.

As we are apt to do, my wife and I decided that this morning we would go out for breakfast. Now, I know that I should probably not go out for breakfast. I mean, it’s real easy to make breakfast at home. But I’m lazy, and we were low on food items, so we decided to go try this new place for breakfast.

I live in Wilmington NC. I know it’s not the cultural center of the universe or hell, even the state, but it’s a fairly large “medium sized” town. You would think that there would be a decent breakfast spot around here. Maybe I’m just too hung up on breakfast. I mean we have some good seafood restaurants, decent steakhouses, but whenever I go out for breakfast I feel the urge to buy some property and open a proper breakfast diner. I see all of these great places on the Travel Chanel and the Food Network. Bobby Flay is on talking about the best french toast, and then some other guy talking about freshly made corn beef hash in some diner in Cleveland, and I think why can’t we have that here. I mean it’s just breakfast, how hard can it be?

Well we have several Waffle Houses. They’re OK if you’re drunk and it’s 3:30 on a Sunday morning and you can’t see straight enough to see the sanitation score. Otherwise, not an option.

There’s an IHOP. It’s usually an hour wait to get a table on a Saturday or Sunday morning. The tables are always sticky, the floor is dirty, and it smells. The food isn’t very good either and it’s over priced.

Cracker Barrel is another popular breakfast spot in this town. Another chain. I have to spend 30-45 minutes wondering around their store full of redneck junk before I can eat. Half the time my order or my wife’s order is wrong. It’s loud. Did I mention the all the countrified goobers?

There’s a couple of local “diner” type places. Jimbo’s and Whitey’s which have been around forever. I’ve never had the pleasure of eating at Whitey’s, but my wife assures me it’s horrible and won’t let me go there. She says the floor is sticky and the ceiling is brown. Jimbo’s is OK, but they only take cash, another dirty, greasy spoon place. The wife hates it as well. Their food is nothing special either.

I guess that’s my real problem with breakfast places here. They’re just plain ordinary and you have to wait forever to get seated. Why am I waiting an hour to get a plate of cold eggs, a biscuit, grits, and sausage and then pay you $20-$30 for it? But people here line up on Saturdays and Sundays like it’s the Taj Mahal or something.

When I go out I want something special. Show me something I’ve never had before. Or put a nice twist on an old favorite. There’s a few other places around town that have a weekend breakfast or brunch. There were a couple of places close by in the Mayfair area that offered brunch on Sunday’s, but they closed within the last year. There’s the White Front breakfast house downtown on Market Street. Can you spell g-h-e-t-t-o? The Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort in Wrightsville Beach offers a wonderful brunch buffet on Sundays. They have prime rib, duck, pastries, an omelet station, and for 3 people to eat there the bill was $60.

There used to be a Shoney’s in this town. Oh how I miss it. My friends and I would cut first period and drive 30 minutes just to eat there. They had a breakfast buffet and it was awesome. We also used to have a Perkins. It was open 24 hours and they served breakfast any time. They both closed, I really don’t know why, poor management perhaps? We did have a Denny’s as well, briefly, but I was happy to see that one go.

Sorry to get off on a tangent, but suffice it to say, we’re still looking for our favorite breakfast spot. So today we got up and left the house at 10:00am (early for us on a Sunday) to try a place we had heard about called Bon Apetit. It’s actually a catering company that has a small restaurant on Carolina Beach Road. We had been told and read online reviews that they had a wonderful breakfast.

We arrived at the place about 10:20 ish. We found a parking spot in a large gravel lot adjacent to the small eatery and walked to the front door. Not a glass door like at some chain, but a regular door with a doorknob like on the front of your house. We walked in and looked around. There were two couples standing in an area maybe 10 feet by 10 feet deemed the “waiting area”. There was a small bar on the back wall along the kitchen area with stools and seating for maybe 15 people. There were approximately 20-30 small tables crammed in the rest of the space and they were all full. There was a sign that said “Please seat yourself at a clean table”.

So there was no one to take your name or put you on a list, it was every man, woman and child for themselves. The couple in front of us had a small baby that my wife was making faces at. There was one table that had a couple of cups on it, but was otherwise unoccupied. I kept waiting for one of the couples ahead of us to take the table. Maybe they didn’t see it. I thought about just going over and sitting down, but that would have been rude. Perhaps they were waiting for it to be “cleaned”. There were about 4 waitresses running around the place. No one seemed interested in cleaning the table.

While I was pondering on this, my thoughts were interrupted by a party of four “gray hairs” coming in behind us. It was already a tight fit, but the wife and I stepped over towards an occupied table to accommodate the elderly group. Well it was two couples and right away one of the old ladies started motioning with her arm at the sign. “Well it says just seat yourself.” “There’s a table over there we could sit at,” motioning at the table that still had the two cups on it. All the while bumping into me with her backside.

OK, I haven’t had my coffee yet. I don’t like loudmouth, know-it- all’s, especially those that have no consideration for a line or my personal space. At least IHOP has a process where they put your name on a list. But here in the land of breakfast originality I was going to have to beat down a 75 year old woman to keep her from stealing a table that should be for someone two spots ahead of me in line.

At this point about 6 more people tried to shove their butts through the door, which wasn’t happening. The lady in front of us with the baby actually said to me “Hey, can you move they’re trying to get through.” Where am I supposed to stand, on the plate of eggs at the table next to me? I don’t why she was so concerned for them. Maybe they were with that couple. Maybe they worked there. At this point I was too pissed to stand around and find out. I turned to the group of now about 10 people crammed in the door way and said loudly “Excuse me.”  and proceeded to push my way out apologizing to my wife the whole time who had been so excited to get up and go try out a new breakfast spot.

To the people at Bon Apetit: I’m sure your food is great, but get a clue. Put someone at the front with a clipboard and a pencil and make people stand outside until a table is ready. Hell, the Waffle House has their own security guard. People don’t play when it comes to breakfast around here. Someone is going to get shanked.

By this point is was 11am and we drove to a place close by called “Henry’s”. Henry’s is a local place that is managed by a group that owns several other popular seafood and Italian restaurants. I had seen a review online that someone posted about their wonderful brunch selections. When we got there it was almost empty. The waitress seemed excited that we had arrived. I have eaten there for dinner several times and have never been disappointed. It’s a little pricey, but a nice place with a good menu. As the waitress was taking us to our table I asked “You are serving brunch, right?” She gave a puzzled look and said, “Well, we don’t have any breakfast items on our menu if that’s what you mean.”

“Thanks”, we said and turned around and walked out. We drove around a little more and decided to just give in and go to Cracker Barrel. There was enough people on the “porch” to look like a family reunion by 11:30. I told Erika, “We’ll be waiting an hour at least. Let’s just go home. I’ll stop and get some stuff at the store and make breakfast at home.” She had given up. She looked out the window and sadly said “Fine, I don’t care.”

On the drive home we both vented our frustrations about the breakfast situation for about the 100th time. Finally she slammed her hand down and said “Saltworks, why didn’t we just go there.”

The Saltworks II as it’s formally known is an old country eatery on Wrightsville Ave. There is another “The Saltworks” (I) on Oleander Dr/Military Cutoff near the marina, which is just a hamburger stand.

Saltworks II is small, but larger than the other, and usually packed, but they have a decent selection and there’s not any tourists there. Just locals and college kids. They used to serve dinner, but now just do breakfast and lunch until 3pm. We had been a couple of weeks ago. It was the first time I had eaten there since I was a teenager, but it wasn’t all that bad. The atmosphere wasn’t great, but the prices were good and the food was some of the best around here for breakfast. Nothing fancy, but it was flavorful and the service was decent.

So we drove back across town and went there. There was a line and it took us about 30 minutes to get a table. Another “seat yourself” place. There was some elderly woman complaining behind us the whole time, but by this point I didn’t care. We finally got seated and got some coffee. I had french toast and sausage and the wife got pancakes, bacon, and hash browns. The food was good and the bill was only $19.48. Not bad, but still not quite what I’m looking for.

All that and finally we were done eating breakfast at 12:45.

I would still like to eat at Bon Apetit. Maybe we’ll have to get there at 7am when they open. There’s also a couple of places downtown I’d like to try for brunch. Deluxe and Cafe Phoenix. Their menu’s look really fancy. Pretentious breakfast.

Bobby Flay’s favorite french toast recipe doesn’t look all that hard to make. Maybe from now on we’ll just stay in for breakfast, how hard could it be?

Posted by: Admin | August 21, 2009

Update? Bullshit!!

I figured an update to me blog here could be in order. I abandoned it late in January when it was a bleak winter of unemployment. I was fortunate to find a job in March with a small start up company in town doing home-automation. Due to several factors, that gig lasted a short 3 months and at the end of June I found myself unemployed once again. Probably could write a short blog about all of that, but suffice it to say, the economy sucks and the government/financial sector isn’t making it easy to start new businesses.

After having started down a certification path for my new job, that I had to pretty much abandon after being laid off, I returned to focusing on the core IT related certifications that I had been ready to get upon graduation. I decided to tackle the CompTIA A+ certification first, since the format was simple (multiple choice) and it is a life-time entry-level certification. I searched around online and found several good training guides and video tutorials for the test. I also found a site that offered a modest discount on vouchers for the exam.

There are two exams to pass to receive the certification. An “essentials” exam covering basic knowledge of computer hardware and software and then you choose one of three other exams based on what career track your pursuing. The full Prometric price is $167.00 for each exam, so $336.00 for both. I managed to get a voucher for two exams for $ 287.00. Not a big price difference, but when you’re not working every little bit helps. I studied for the first one pretty well, not knowing exactly what to expect in terms of difficulty. Plus if you fail an exam, you get to pay all over again if you want to retake it. Always having had a knack for tests, I easily passed both tests and am waiting for CompTIA to mail me my certification and logo.

Which brings me to the point of this blog: what good is a certification anyways?

During my college coursework the instructors all seemed to be of the opinion that certifications were good and useful and that anyone serious about a job in IT better get them while the knowledge is fresh. The reason I bring this up at all is that I had a job interview recently that had been bothering me the past couple of weeks.

The job was a “part-time” position for a managed and hosted IT solutions provider. In laymen terms, they have a data center somewhere with servers and they come into your business and set up access to a server or servers for your business. They either manage the user accounts and data on their servers for you, or allow you to manage it yourself. The upside to this for the business is that they don’t have the upfront expense of buying a lot of server and networking hardware that will most likely have to be replaced 5-7 years down the road with new stuff. It also cuts costs for them in having to employ and manage their own “in house” IT staff. Also “part-time” reading no guarantee on what we’re going to be paying you from week to week, and no benefits.

The company was small (15ish employees), owned by a woman who relocated her business here from NJ, most likely for a lower tax rate, more real estate, better quality of life, and a host of other benefits. I’ve had my share of interviews, but this one just seemed hostile. I don’t know if she was overcompensating for some reason, trying to be off-putting to gauge my reaction, or just didn’t like me, but whatever it was she was brash and surly. At one point she asked me a question about my work history asking why I hadn’t been offered a certain position. My response was that I hadn’t completed my degree yet and that the employer wanted someone who had their degree. She then replied “Certifications are bullshit, do you know that?” I just stared at her. I had nothing to say, at least not anything that would have been productive in an interview.

I was taken aback though for a couple of reasons. One, I hadn’t really been talking about certifications. Maybe she heard certifications, but I specifically said degree. So are you also saying that my education is bullshit? Two, all anyone up until that point had told me was that certifications were wonderful things that would open all sorts of doors and employers loved to see.

In reality a certification, like a degree, is just a piece of paper and doesn’t mean much if you don’t have the ability to apply that knowledge in a working environment. I know that. But it seems to me that having an organization test you against a certain set of standards and back up the claim that you do in fact have the knowledge you say you do can’t be a bad thing. Experience is great, but are you really going to get a shot at getting any experience if you don’t know anything to begin with?  Having a certification or a degree doesn’t guarantee you a job. But can it hurt? It seems that if you have taken the time, money and initiative to earn a certification in a certain area it should signal to an employer that you are some one who has a passion for technology and learning. Is that bullshit?

I’ll admit that there is a certification for everything under the sun. A lot of those certifications are probably useless credentials, invented only as a money-making propaganda machine for some companies latest application. But to totally dismiss all certification programs as bullshit would be something I would expect from someone who doesn’t have any and is too narrow minded to care or understand anything other than what can make them a buck.

The interview didn’t really go anywhere, and I left with my tail between my legs. It bothered me a little, but  in the end, I can only keep my chin up and keep doing my best. I’m chocking the poor interview up to my excellent resume writing abilities. I guess I just oversold myself.

So now I’m CompTIA A+ certified. Whatever, you can’t bullshit a bullshitter, I was certified in BS long ago!

Posted by: Admin | January 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Erika

The gang in Myrtle Beach, Jan 08

The gang in Myrtle Beach, Jan 08

Today is my wife Erika’s 35th birthday. Last year for her birthday, we went to Myrtle Beach with some friends. That is when this picture was taken. We drove down on Friday night and stayed at a hotel in Myrtle Beach. We were supposed to go to a zoo, but the weather was cold and rainy, so we wound up going to the Ripley attractions on the “boardwalk”.  We also went swimming in the hotel pool and went out to eat at Rioz Brazilian Steakhouse, which is now my favorite restaurant anywhere. We all had a great time.

This year her birthday falls in the middle of the week, so we will probably just have a quiet dinner at home. We were going to try and go down last weekend to eat at Rioz, but it’s hard to justify the drive just to go stuff our guts. So we stayed in town and had dinner at Romanelli’s and went to a movie.

My wife was born several weeks premature. I’m told she was small enough to easily fit in the palm of your hand, with room left over. Although, she couldn’t be touched in her fragile state. In the seventies, the technology for keeping premature infants alive was not what it is today. In fact there were only a handful of babies that had lived being born as premature as she was at that time.  Everyday she is here is a miracle to be celebrated.

Happy Birthday Erika. I love you.

Posted by: Admin | January 20, 2009

Truly, a historic day…

Tribune photo by Terrence Antonio James / January 20, 2009

Tribune photo by Terrence Antonio James / January 20, 2009

Today, January 20th 2009, was Inauguration Day in the U.S. There were a lot of people happy to see George W. Bush go. There were also a large quantity of people who were happy to see Barack Obama come in. Some were happy because he was black and thus the first black president of the U.S. Some were happy because he was a democrat. I’m sure a lot of people were happy because he wasn’t George W. Bush again. I think most people were celebrating for all three reasons.

After the swearing in, Mr. Obama gave a speech. It was a rather good speech, but it was just a speech, full of ideals and promises, but little else. In case you missed it you can read it here:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/obama/chi-obama-speech-090120,0,1085546.story

I must say that I’m not an Obama supporter. Perhaps it is because so many others are willing to blindly agree with him and his policies without really knowing much about him or his plans for the country. I hope that he is able to do a good job of being president. The last time I checked though, the president gets to sign laws and control the military and make appointments. He doesn’t actually have the power to do all these things that people think he can like curing the plague and making everybody rich (just kidding, sort of). They should probably read the Constitution. George W. Bush probably should have read the Constitution too.

But today was a day of unity in Washington. The Democrats and the Republicans were all happy to be together. No divisiveness today. They were all overjoyed that they managed to snowball the American people into believing there was some difference between the two parties for another four years.

Speaking of snowballs, today was historic in Wilmington NC for another reason: snow. Lot’s of the white stuff fell down today. Southeastern North Carolina is not known for snow, that’s for sure. We usually see a little each year in the inland counties, but to see it in Wilmington is a rarity.


The last time I remember getting snow here was in early 2002, February I think. So it’s been long overdue.

Yes truly a historic day, snowballs for everyone.

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