November 29, 2005

“An Engineer’s View”

Filed under: General — Cory @ 12:48 pm

Last night I was looking through some old files I had and I came across a file named “EngineersView.jpg”:

I thought it was pretty funny. :)

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November 28, 2005

Back in the Day: ICQ, Winamp and WinNuke

Filed under: Friends,General,Technology — Cory @ 3:00 am

Last night my buddy Johnny Strunk and I were reminiscing about the old crazy days of instant messaging, and I started thinking about my early experiences with computers and the Internet.

Growing up in Blackstone, VA, I spent most of my teenage years focused on go-carts, guitars, basketball and squirrel hunting (yes, its true). My dad had computers around the house for years and our home was one of the first in the county to be on CompuServe. However, it was all text based and I had never really taken much of an interest.

Strunk was just the opposite. He was all into computers and was the man around our high school1 for fixing anything that used electricity. At that time, most of the computers at Kenston were still old Apple IIe’s, with a few Macintosh’s mixed in whenever the school could scrape together some extra cash. Strunk hated messing with those old Apple’s, and by the time we graduated he was happy that the school had been given an old Dell running Windows 3.1.

Around this time “AOL” was becoming a household name (at least in our neck of the woods) and Strunk had a subscription. It was at his house in the spring of 1997 that I first saw a website, and it was a memorable one: Those crazy black-nike-wearing, spaceship-riding aliens had just committed suicide and their website was all over the news. Of all the websites on the Internet, this is what my friend chose to introduce me to the World Wide Web.

When I arrived on the Hampden-Sydney campus as a freshman in the fall of 1997 I was far from computer saavy. It was the first year that HSC had recommended that students bring their own computers, so when it came time for me to head off to school my dad hooked me up with a sweet Pentium 166MHz with 16MB of RAM and a 3GB hard drive running Windows 95, of course. I had no idea what to do with the machine, so at first it was mainly used as a glorified CD player. Asking Strunk for help was not an option, as he was two hours away working on his computer science degree at his new home, The College of William and Mary.

 [ ICQ ] After a couple weeks of school I got an email from Strunk, telling me to go to and download something called ICQ. I did this and installed the software, and after a few emails from Strunk, I had my UIN2 and was online. Of course, initially I had no idea what this meant or how it was significant. I hated typing emails, and this seemed to be a way to get in touch with people without composing an email, so I was all for it. Soon he showed me how to send files through ICQ, and he sent something to me that he said was music. I clicked on it, and nothing happened, so he told me to go to and download something called Winamp. After I downloaded and installed the software, Strunk told me to drag the music file on top of the Winamp window. I can remember the excitement as I listened to that first mp3 (“Far Behind” by Candlebox) and realized that my friends and I could send music to each other, for free!

 [ Winamp ] So this whole trip down memory lane started last night when Strunk reminded me about one really annoying (and fun) feature of the early ICQ clients, some of you may also remember this. I can’t recall exactly what it was named, but there was a feature that allowed you to playback a foghorn sound on a recipients machine. Anyone who had this happen to them can probably still remember the sound. The first few times this happened to me I was completely confused and thought my computer had contracted some sort of extremely obnoxious virus. I soon discovered that I also had this ability, and neither friends nor family were spared, but I thought it was hilarious.

 [ WinNuke 95 ] This reminded me of another annoying little Windows app that we had a lot of fun with: WinNuke. WinNuke was a small app that could be given an IP address, and it would DOS it. It took advantage of the WinNuke OOB vulnerability and would completely crash the victim’s computer. Combined with ICQ (which would reveal a person’s IP address), we used WinNuke to “bluescreen” all of our friends on campus. I can remember “nuking” one friend’s computer when he was apparently nearly finished with a paper. I guess this was before word processors had auto-save because he claimed to have lost all his work, but I always doubted he had actually written anything. For some reason, these things never stopped being funny.

It wasn’t long after this that Strunk set up my first Linux desktop for me and I started down a more serious path with computers. But, that’s a story for another day.

1. For those that do not know, I attended grades 4-12 at Kenston Forest School, a small, rural private school in my home town of Blackstone, VA. This was not an elite “rich kids” boarding school. Think “Happy Days” meets “Green Acres“. The school was poor and always needed money. Fundraisers included selling Coach’s Brunswick Stew, selling fruit, selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and selling tickets to the “Texas Festival,” an all-you-can-eat BBQ/ribs/stew event. Notice a trend?

2. Although I have not regularly logged on to ICQ in almost 4 years, I still remember my UIN as if it were my social security number.

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November 27, 2005

Dale Watson, Jason Boland and the Stragglers

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 2:25 am

I love to go out and see musicians perform, and around here that almost always means going to a Texas dance hall. The only problem with trying to see musicians at a dance hall is, well, the damned dancing. I like to be able to see the pedal steel player tear up the slide, discover what chords the guitarists are playing, and try to learn something by watching the fiddler. When there are all these people spinning in front of the band, getting in the way and generally being annoying, it completely takes all the fun away for me. But whatever, they are there to dance and have fun too.

Tonight I drove out to Bracken, Texas to the Hangin’ Tree Saloon to see Dale Watson. I had never been to the Hangin’ Tree before, but as soon as I entered I could tell this was not going to be a place for me. The main room was long and narrow, with Dale and his band playing at one end at floor level. There was a buffer region between the band and the tables, and as you can guess, it was packed with dancers. I stood as close to the front as possible to try to watch the musicians, but every few seconds someone in a cowboy hat would say “‘scuse me, pardner” and I would have to reposition for them to squeese by. I stayed for a few songs and decided that it would probably be best to just cut my loses and head out.

I remembered that Jason Boland and the Stragglers were also playing tonight, out at Floore’s Country Store. I arrived out in Helotes around 10:15 and it was perfect timing because the band started playing about 45 seconds after I walked in the door and paid the cover.

Several months ago I bought the Straggler’s recent album, “Somewhere in the Middle.” I really liked a few songs on the CD, especially “If You Want to Hear a Love Song” and their cover of “Hank” by Aaron Wynne of Eleven Hundred Springs. Jason also has a terrific singing voice, along the same lines as Waylon Jennings.

The first hour of the show they played songs that I had never heard, which was ok, and the crowd seemed to be enjoying it. The only thing that seemed a little out of place was the fiddler. I am not sure if he is a recent addition to the band or what, but his fiddle leads didn’t quite match the rest of the music. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the fiddle is one of the most difficult instruments to master, but he took the lead on several occasions when it would have been best to let the pedal steel shine. This is a common problem.

Anyway, after an hour or so they finally played “Hank” followed by “If You Want to Hear a Love Song.” While it was great to hear each song performed live, neither sounded quite as good as the album version. I stayed around for another song, bought a t-shirt and headed home.

I think Jason and the gang probably have a shot at becoming something big. They’ve got that true Texas Country sound, and they definitely look the part.

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November 26, 2005

Slaid Cleaves at Cheatham Street Warehouse

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 5:37 pm

Tuesday night I drove up to San Marcos to see Slaid Cleaves perform at Cheatham Street Warehouse.

It had almost been a year since I last saw Slaid when he performed at Floore’s Country Store. The most memorable thing about that show was his cover of Don Walser‘s “Rolling Stone of Texas.” So when I found out that Slaid was returning from his tour and would be playing at Cheatham Street, I had to check it out.

This was my first trip to Cheatham Street Warehouse, and although I was willing to drive that far to see Slaid, I thought the $12.50 cover was a bit much for a Tuesday night show.

When I got there Graham Weber was on stage and there was already a nice little crowd. I had seen Graham’s name on music calendars, but had never heard him perform. He sang some nice songs that he had written, although I would probably blush if I had to even read the lyrics to some of them (like the one he wrote for his wife on their anniversary, very nice though :) ). I particularly enjoyed the speed-singing songs that he did. (Graham: come on, get that website going!)

After Graham finished up there was about a 10 minute break before Slaid took the stage with Michael O’Connor and Ivan Brown. They opened up with “Drinkin’ Days” and “Horseshoe Lounge” before Slaid promised to play some new material. He mentioned that recently he had been playing songs that his friends had written, and at that point they played a song by Michael. I wish I could remember the name of it because it was excellent. After several more songs they played “Horses” and as Slaid began yodeling I remembered his Don Walser cover at Floore’s, and I thought about requesting that they play “Rolling Stone of Texas.”

As “Horses” came to an end a train passed by and they joked about playing a “train song.” Then Slaid started telling a story about performing songs by his friends, and he mentioned Don Walser. At this point I knew he was going to do it, but I was so caught up in the story that I forgot to pull out my camera in time. However, I was able to start recording about 10 seconds into the performance, before the singing started. It’s not high quality, but here’s 2 minutes and 48 seconds of Slaid, Michael and Ivan performing Don Walser’s classic:

After they finished “Rolling Stone of Texas” they decided it was time for a break. By this time it was almost 11pm and I had close to an hour drive ahead of me, so I decided to head home.

It was great to see Slaid and the gang perform again, I had almost forgotten how terrific their music sounds when it is live. According to his website, there will be no shows from January through mid-April, so you may want to check out one of his shows soon. Sunday afternoon shows at Gruene Hall are my favorites, so I am definitely planning to be at his show there on December 18.

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November 23, 2005

Junk Food for Your Soul

Filed under: Weekest Link — Cory @ 1:39 am

So the little fantasy camp that I was in about posting my weekly links every Sunday just didn’t work out. Sorry, I am not that disciplined. However, I plan to continue posting random Intercrap that I stumble upon so that you too can waste away valuable moments of your life. Now, go read this stuff:

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November 21, 2005

Las Vegas and San Francisco

Filed under: People,Places — Cory @ 2:16 am

[ Dinner at The Tillerman: Me, Dad, Colin, Kathryn and Scott ]Recently I spent a few days out in Las Vegas and San Francisco. It was my third trip to Vegas this year, and my first trip ever to San Francisco.

I flew out to Vegas to meet up with my dad, step brother and step sister, who were there for NACE, an autobody industry conference that my dad usually attends. We started the trip off by seeing Mystere, a Cirque Du Soleil show at Treasure Island. I saw Varekai earlier this year, so when dad asked about things we could do in Vegas I suggested that we see one of the Cirque shows. As expected, Mystere was incredible. I really have no idea how humans are physically able to do some of the things that are done in a Cirque show, its just amazing.

Scott flew in late that night and I met up with him at the Luxor, where he and I were staying (I won’t bother linking to thee Luxor website, since it is one of the most tacky and outdated sites on the Internet). They didn’t have wireless, but fortunately I brought along my Airport Express and saved the day.

[ The Bellagio Fountains ]The next day we made the requisite pilgrimage down the Las Vegas strip. It was the first time Scott and Kathryn had been to Vegas, so there was plenty to see, including the fountains at The Bellagio. Afterwards dad took us to his favorite restaurant out there, a little out-of-the-way place called The Tillerman. This was without a doubt one of the most impressive meals I have ever had. If you are ever in Vegas and do not mind spending a little extra on a fantastic meal then be sure to check out The Tillerman. Oh, and make sure to try their Creme Brulee.

Dad, Colin and Kat flew out early the next morning, and Scott and I spent the day roaming around the casinos on the strip. Around dinner we were at MGM Grand, so Scott made reservations for us at the Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill. We had another terrific meal, and to top it off, Wolfgang himself appeared beside us just as we were finishing our desserts. He stopped long enough to speak to us and shake hands before hurrying off. You never know who you will run into in Vegas. :)

From Las Vegas I headed over to San Francisco, where I was originally supposed to meet up with this slacker friend of mine. I had never been to San Francisco, or California for that matter, so I was pretty excited about this trip.

You may remember back in July I went up to Austin to see Elana Fremerman play with with Cindy Cashdollar and Doug Davis. While I was there I met Mel Chapman, an extremely nice guy who seemed to be a living encyclopedia for the music that I love. He was visiting Texas from California, and offered to show me around San Francisco if I ever made it out that way. So, when I had secured my plane tickets, I sent an email to Mel to let him know about my trip. Mel pointed me in the direction of an inexpensive and clean hotel in SF, and told me about several music hot spots that he suggested I try to see. I am not sure how the trip would have turned out without all of Mel’s help, but I know I would have been much, much more lost.

[ Bluegrass Jam at McGrath's ]
On Monday night I decided to head over to Alameda and check out the bluegrass jam session at McGrath’s Irish Pub, which Mel had recommended. I arrived between 8:30 and 9:00, and by that time there were already around 20 musicians gathered in a circle. It had been a long time since I had seen anything like this, and it sounded absolutely terrific. I can remember 4 fiddles, 4 mandolins, at least 6 guitars, 2 banjos, an upright bass, and a guy playing harmonica. I pulled up a bar stool, grabbed a Fat Tire, and listened to some excellent music for the next 2.5 hours.

The next day I decided to drive down to Silicon Valley. I took Highway 101 down there, drove by the Google headquarters, and then found my way over to 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino CA. I went into the retail store they have there and bought some Apple swag, including a couple t-shirts, a mousepad and a pen. Yes, I know that I am a total Mac fanboy, so you can stop telling me now. On the return trip I drove up Interstate 280, which was a complete surprise. Where Highway 101 was mostly commercial, I-280 was almost entirely scenic. It was hard to keep focused on the winding road because I kept looking out the window at the foggy little mountains on the left, and the rolling pastures on the right. After getting closer to the city I spotted an In-n-Out Burger, so I had to stop for a snack. I spent about an hour driving around San Francisco, which only resulted in frustration. I stopped by a few stores, and later that night I walked over to the Fisherman’s Wharf to meet up with some other Rackers who were in town.

The next morning Mel drove down to give me a tour of the city. We started the day by driving over to Berkeley and visiting The 5th String, a music shop with an excellent selection of guitars, mandolins and banjos. We stayed for about half an hour and played many of the instruments before leaving. The 5th String is one of only 5 “Gibson Acoustic Instruments” dealers in the U.S., and with my visit to the Mandolin Brothers store in Staten Island earlier this year, I have now been to 40% of all the places in the U.S. where you can buy a Gibson Mandolin. :)

After leaving The 5th String, Mel and I headed over to the U.C. Berkeley campus. We walked along Telegraph Street for a while and stopped by Rasputin Music, Amoeba Music, Moe’s Bookstore and several other shops before grabbing a late lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant. Berkeley was pretty much exactly how I expected it to be.

It was 3:30 by this point so it would be getting dark soon. One of the things Mel had suggested that I see was Muir Woods, so we decided to head over there before the park closed. I’ve seen some impressive trees before, but nothing quite like these big boys. Even though the park is only a little over 10 miles from San Francisco, when you are out in the middle of these big trees there is nothing but complete silence. If you didn’t know better, you would never know that you were that close to a major U.S. city. We walked around the park for about 45 minutes (until it got dark), and then headed down to the Golden Gate Bridge.

[ Me and Mel ]The Golden Gate Bridge is one of those things that I had always heard about, but I had never really thought much about it. As we drove across the bridge, parked the car, and then walked back across it, I began to realize how incredible it must have been back when it was completed in 1937. The wind was blowing really hard, and there were people bicycling back and forth across the bridge. Every few hundred feet we would stop and look over the edge to see the city lights, and Mel would tell me another interesting fact about the city, or point out some building over in the lighted hills. What an amazing place.

When we left the Golden Gate Mel drove us back into San Francisco where he showed me a few more places around town, including Lombard Street, the “most crooked street in the world.” By this time it was getting to the point where Mel needed to leave to head back to his home. He had driven 2 and a half hours down from his home in Placerville that morning to show me around the city. Mel is one incredibly nice guy and I am truly thankful that he took time to come show me around. I would have certainly missed out on seeing a lot of fascinating things if I did not have him for a guide. Thanks Mel!

While at the Rackspace Halloween party the previous week, Annie told me that I needed to have sushi while I was in San Francisco. This sounded like an extremely good idea, so I asked if she could get the names of some good sushi restaurants. After reviewing the recommendations she gave me, I settled on Ebisu and started the drive over there.

And I drove.

And I drove some more.

And I got lost.

And I ended up on some hilltop.

And I backtracked.

And I got really hungry.

And I began yelling at stop lights, and curvy roads, and hills, and cautious drivers.

After what seemed like an hour, I finally found the restaurant.


(According to Google Maps, this should have been a simple 11 minute drive. I would have taken this route if only I had known about it. The hotel did not have wireless, so I was stuck with only my imagination and a car — apparently a noxious combination in SF.)

Once inside Ebisu I sat down at the bar and began looking at the menu. The Itamae was extremely friendly and chatted with me the entire time I was there. I started with a Boston Roll, and it was without question the best roll I have ever had. The six pieces disappeared much faster than I was expecting, so I looked at the menu again and asked for the 49er Roll. From my seat at the end of the bar I could see everything the Itamae was doing and it was so fascinating. In the same way that I can spend hours watching construction machinery move materials around and dig holes, I could have sat there the entire night and watched him transform the raw ingredients into the works of art that everyone was enjoying. Even considering the expensive food I had the previous days in Las Vegas, this $16 dinner was one of the best meals I could remember.

As I left the restaurant and began walking back to the car, I thought that it would be absolutely perfect if I could find a little coffee shop to stop in for a while and check my email. Well, wouldn’t you know there would be an incredible little place called The Canvas Gallery on the next corner! As I walked by the window I could see several Apple laptops inside, so I knew I was at home. Outside the door there were couches with several people playing guitar and hanging out, and I wondered why you don’t see that in more places. Inside there was an area where a bunch of people were playing cards, and another area where lots of people were listening to a girl sing and play the guitar. I found a table near all the other computer users and opened up my laptop. In San Antonio (and most places, for that matter), I have become used to having to pay for wireless access at coffee shops, airports, etc. So, it was really nice when I joined the Canvas wireless network to see a message that simply said “The Canvas Network: Help Support FREE WiFi – Get a coffee once in a while.” I experienced the Apple brotherhood, stayed for about an hour, and then finally accepted that there was no way to avoid it: I was going to have to drive back to the hotel.

The next morning I awoke with the sad realization that my trip was over, and that I had 2.5 hours to get ready and to find my way to the Oakland airport. It felt like I had just arrived and that there was so much more that I needed to see and do. Sigh.

Oh well, one day. ;)

• • •

November 15, 2005

The Week in Links

Filed under: Weekest Link — Cory @ 2:21 am

It’s about eight days late, but here’s what I came across over the past two weeks:

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November 10, 2005

Feel the Apple Love

Filed under: People — Cory @ 1:53 am

So I’m hanging out at this coffee shop in San Francisco, checking email and catching up with the ‘Net. Sitting at the table in front of me is a skater punk, typing away on his 15″ PowerBook. I decided to go get a drink, so I pointed to my laptop and asked the skater dude if he was going to be there for a few minutes. He replied (in a totally gnarly accent), “ya dude, it’s an Apple, I won’t let anybody fuck with it.”

Apple: bridging the gap between punks and, well, everyone else. :)

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