Sunday, March 29, 2009

Software recommendations

My computer has been plodding along lately. It's probably tired -- it's about 7 1/2 years old, which is something like 100 years old in computer years. But it works fine for my limited usage -- mainly surfing the internet, writing the occasional story/letter, and playing word games. So it's in my best interests to keep it running and this week, I took a stab at trying to reduce the recent sluggishness. The good news is, as far as I can tell, no virus infection. I ran several different programs and I do have some difference in performance, so that's good. The best part is that all the programs I ran are free for home use. So here's a list of free software that can make your life (and that of your computer's) easier.

  • Lavasoft's Ad-Aware - this program is pretty darn good for searching out malware and again, it's free for home use. One word of caution -- I had a heck of a time with the Anniversary Edition of Ad-Aware; it installed but then wouldn't run. It turns out to be an issue with the registry. If you've had a previous installation of Ad-Aware, it leaves behind some "junk" that the AE edition can't handle. Which leads me to my next piece of recommended software.

  • CCleaner -- Jerie recommended this to me years ago, but I admit to not being great about using it. When I ran into the aforementioned problem with the Ad-Aware AE, I remembered this program. It's basically a registry-cleaner. It goes in and finds orphan commands, files, etc., and cleans them out for you. In my case, most of the issues had to do with remnants of programs I had previously installed/uninstalled, such as an earlier edition of Ad-Aware. It's worth running. It was amazing just how much "stuff" the uninstallers leave behind to clutter up your system.

  • Avast -- I replaced McAfee with this free anti-virus software and I'm much, much happier with it than McAfee. I guess I believe its real-time protection more than I did with McAfee because Avast is pretty shrill when something happens -- either online or downloading email -- that it doesn't approve of. Its GUI is pretty easy to deal with and did I mention it was free? Note, you still have to register the software with Avast within 60 days of installing it on your computer.

I'm also running ZoneAlarm firewall on my computer instead of the built-in Windows firewall, however, I find ZoneAlarm to be kind of a pain. It is constantly nagging at me to update software (no more than 15 days apart each time) and with every update, you have to "retrain" the software to remember all the programs permitted to access the Internet. I guess this is how ZoneLabs gets people to upgrade to the paid version of their software. For free software, it's not bad if you're looking for a firewall. Just be ready to need to update every two weeks or so.

And then back to Ad-Aware. I ended up uninstalling Ad-Aware AE and re-gressing back to an earlier version of Ad-Aware (I still happened to have the *.exe file). That worked just fine. If I'm feeling really bold this weekend, I might try again with the Ad-Aware AE. Right now, due to the issues I had with the installation of Ad-Aware AE, I can't recommend it and would suggest, if possible, to keep your current, working version of the software, or find a *clean* site that will allow you to download an earlier version.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The L word

Layoffs have started here in Sweat Sock City. I say this with a bit of awe because until about two or three months ago, we were pretty well insulated from the financial malfeasance that was virally spreading across country and through the global market. But all good things must eventually end, and it was only a matter of time. Friends are losing their jobs to layoffs now and it seems every day, there's one more person without work. It reminds me a lot of 2000-2001 when a lot of people I knew got laid off and it was hard to know what to say, what to do. Everyone eventually rebounded, got back on their feet, and are/were doing well. It's just a job, it's not who you are. Still, it's hard. I guess the old adage of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst was never more true than it is today.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


New Mexico bans the death penalty.
"Faced with the reality that our system for imposing the death penalty can never be perfect, my conscience compels me to replace the death penalty with a solution that keeps society safe," [Governor Bill] Richardson [said].

Only 35 more states to go...

Monday, March 16, 2009


I've been re-learning the art of web design and what makes a good site, and uh, what makes a site suck. So I've been hanging out at the site where I first learned, years, and years ago, Webpages that Suck and stumbled across the worst websites of 2008. Oh. Gosh. Anyway, it's worth a look if you, like me, are looking at redoing your website or just want to tidy your site up a bit.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Home away from home

So as I promised threatened a couple of posts ago, a critique of hotels. I've stayed in a lot of hotels over the last couple of years, ranging in price from about $140/night to a high of $289/night. I've had single rooms, two-bedroom suites, one bedroom suites, breakfast included and breakfast not included. The following I have found are crucial for the business traveler:
  • I must be able to find the cable jack for my laptop. Telling me you have internet access in the room and then making it impossible to find is just crazy. And by the same token, wherever that jack exists, having a desk nearby is preferable. It does me no good to have the jack on one side of the room and the desk on the other. Also, when you're charging $289/night for a room, charging an additional $10/day for Internet access just feels petty.
  • A shuttle from the airport would be welcome, especially in times like this when travel budgets are tight and car rentals/cab fares are discouraged.
  • I love that there are ironing boards in every room, but again, like the cable jack, why is it so hard to put a plug somewhere convenient to an ironing board? I don't think I should have to contort myself in order to iron a pair of slacks. Maybe hotels should be considered a venue for extreme ironing?
  • Breakfast included is wonderful. Again, you simplify the expense report and your guest doesn't feel nickle and dimed. And also? $26 is a lot for eggs and toast and coffee. I'm just saying. For $26, I want to see my breakfast on a gold plate and my coffee served in fine bone China. Also, I'd want white gloved butler service*.
  • I don't read the USA Today. I feel sad every time I open my hotel door and I see the newspaper sitting there. But I'm also forgetful and don't remember to tell the front desk to take it off my account. And it's like 75 cents a day, and after the $26 for breakfast and the $10 for the internet, you're like, eh, maybe I'll read it on the plane or maybe I'll leave it behind for the housekeeper because maybe she wants to read it. Right.
  • Hotel remote controls are way too complicated to operate. Seriously. What's up with the 80 million options, 95 percent of which you have to pay for? By the time I get to the hotel, I'm so frazzled due to planes, trains, and automobiles that all I want to do is kick off my shoes and rest my aching feet and watch television and half the time I can't get past the main Menu screen.
  • A listing of available channels and their corresponding numbers would make life easier. I'm just saying.
  • Room service is always good. And desirable.
  • Thank you for never messing up a wake-up call.
  • Those boarding pass kiosks I'm starting to see in hotel lobbies? AWESOME. Few people try to travel with a printer (those lightweight printers are trouble) and half the time, the business center in the hotel is a) completely full up or b) the printers don't work. The kiosks solve that problem. Very awesome and great innovation. Now if we could just get that electric plug and internet jack problem solved...

Sunday, March 08, 2009


I missed that today was Spring Forward, and as a consequence, I have missed my step aerobics class. I'm glad I figured it out now because as aggravating as it is to miss the class, there are other things that are infinitely more important that I cannot miss. Such as getting to work on time tomorrow. Note -- add change clocks to Sunday "to do" list.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Road warrior

I seriously have the world's largest collection of shampoos, lotions, soaps, conditioners, and other "stuff" from hotels. Hyatt Place has a nice white ginger shampoo/conditioner in easy to squeeze bottles and they aren't stingy about the amount of shampoo either. The Doubletree provides Neutrogena shampoos and conditioners, and they even provide face lotion with SPF in it. One Marriott has orange ginger lotion, which smells very nice, while another Marriott went with Lemongrass. The Ramada provided citrus ginger body lotion, but I have no idea which hotel is responsible for the mint thyme shampoo, but the bottle is really nice. Spa Select is another bottle of lotion from a hotel I can't remember but it contains comfrey, orange peel, althea, yarrow, fennel and licorice root. I only know what one of those things are.

The International Hotel in Calgary deviated from the ginger theme and went with almond, but god only knows who is responsible for the very sleek Physique brand. There's a hotel that provides Pantene, which doesn't claim any vegetable, flower or root for an ingredient. I also have several bottles of lavender-scented linen spray, courtesy of the Crowne Plaza Hotel. The sorriest looking bar of soap came from the Best Western. The Sheraton shuns all manner of exotic organic ingredients and went with Vaseline brand lotion. I also have a bottle of shampoo called Golden Door; this one contains cedarwood and Spanish borage oil; no, I don't know what those ingredients are either.

This is just one shoebox; I've got a second one in the bathroom closet, also filled with toiletries from various hotels. I'm kind of scared to open it since it was closed some time ago as the bottles, soaps and tubes kept spilling over the top of the box and "escaping" in the closet. I never use them, so yes, it's kind of weird that I keep collecting these various bottles of "stuff" to bring home, but there is just something irresistible about the witch brew of exotic flavors that make it impossible for me to leave them behind; who knows when I'll run into borage oil shampoo again? Or what if there's a shortage of ginger or lavender or mint? Then what, grasshopper?

Tomorrow, I'll talk about the hotel rooms themselves as those are almost as important as the toiletries.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


Baconnaise -- the taste you've been waiting for all your life: bacon flavored mayonnaise. There's a Baconnaise Lite as well as regular flavor. I'm still wondering how this product is vegetarian-safe. I guess it doesn't really matter -- it combines two things I really, really, really dislike into one. Baconnaise as a dip for artichokes/Brussels sprouts/squash/pumpkin/zucchini/broccoli would have me running for the hills (or at least the nearest vegan restaurant).