The Haphazard Blog

Archive for February, 2010

Core Trainer, Week 5

by on Feb.28, 2010, under Life, Physical Therapy

Not too much to update on this week. I tried to ride it without holding the handle. You know that feeling you get when you think you’re about to lose your balance? The feeling down in your stomach? That happened to me about a dozen times in a minute or two. It was a little nerve racking, but I got through it. Today, without the handle, it was no problem. I wonder if it was psychological?

I also noticed the following morning I did not have any pain in my SI joint, which is a sign of good progress. I wonder if that will be the case tomorrow? If so, then I will be riding it without the handle all week. I don’t have the strength to sit up tall without the handle however. I also can’t make use of my trick to kind of hug myself (that sounds so sad) because I then can’t use my arms to subtly help keep balanced.

Also, without the handle, I noticed I was pushing into the floor somewhat. That may be a sign that I should make use of the stir-ups (maybe try and make them as long as possible) to see if I can get my legs more involved. It feels like I am really getting a lot out of the Core Trainer. I do not remember sticking with an exercise program on my own this long. I mean every day without any excuses to skip a day. It gives me some ideas for some other products.

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Keeping Specific File Types Out of My Recent Documents

by on Feb.28, 2010, under Software, Technology

In Windows, the My Recent Documents Start Menu item is useful and productive. It allows you to quickly open back up an item you were recently working with. Unfortunately, for some users (like me), it can get filled up with files you don’t want in there. In my case, it’s mostly media files (audio, video, pictures). If your application doesn’t stop the files from showing up there, then it can reduce the effectiveness of recent documents.

I tried to find a way to stop these files from being listed. I found some applications you can run to clean up what is shown and some ideas for simple scripts. But again, you have to manually run them after the fact. Finally after some digging, I found a way to prevent them from being listed in the first place.

I’m going to preface my instructions with Microsoft’s registry warning:

Warning Serious problems might occur if you modify the registry incorrectly by using Registry Editor or by using another method. These problems might require that you reinstall the operating system. Microsoft cannot guarantee that these problems can be solved. Modify the registry at your own risk.

I’m going to include an example using the image file format JPG (*.jpg files)

  1. Open the windows registry (Start->Run…, regedit, OK).
  2. Navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT.
  3. Locate the extension for the file type you don’t want to show up in My Recent Documents (.jpg).

    Registry Folder for .jpg

  4. There will be a (Default) key that points to the application that handles these files (on my machine, it is jpegfile).
  5. Navigate to the value for (Default) within HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT (further down).

    Registry Folder for jpegfile

  6. Locate the EditFlags key. If it does not exist you can create one (Edit, New, DWORD Value).
  7. If the EditFlags Type is REG_DWORD, follow this step and ignore the next step. Change the 3rd value (from the left) from a 0 to a 1. Make sure that the Base is Hexadecimal. In the example above, change the value from 00010000 to 00110000. If it is already a 1, do nothing.

    Editing the EditFlags Key (DWORD)

  8. If the EditFlags Type is REG_BINARY, follow this step. Change the 5th value (from the left) from a 0 to a 1. Make sure that no extra values are added (there should only be 8 characters). An example would be to change the value from 00 00 01 00 to 00 00 11 00. If it is already a 1, do nothing.

    Modifying the EditFlags Key (BINARY)

  9. Press OK and exit the registry. (You can repeat this procedure for all the file extensions you wish to keep out of My Recent Documents (e.g. mp3, mpg, avi, wmv, flv, mkv, wav, jpg, gif, bmp, zip, etc.)

This works for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. I’m not sure about Windows 2000 and older. Also, for Windows 7, this will also prevent the file from showing up in the Recent or Frequent category of that application’s Jump List.

For the technically minded who want further details on what they are doing, here they are. You are setting a File Attribute Flag, specifically the FTA_NoRecentDocs flag. Because this is the only flag set on that byte, you can simply toggle from 0 to 1. If other flags used this byte, it would become necessary to “OR” all the bits. This is also why you leave all the other values as they were. Finally, the difference between DWORD and BINARY is the position of the least significant byte. In DWORD, the least significant byte comes first. In BINARY, the least significant byte is last.

UPDATE: I have recently discovered that if you upgrade the application or install a new application to handle those files that the registry values could be reset/erased. For example, upgrading Quick Time caused mov and mp4 files to start showing up in My Recent Documents again. So I had to re-do the procedure above. Good thing I wrote it up for future reference. :)

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Core Trainer, Week 4

by on Feb.21, 2010, under Life, Physical Therapy

I experimented some more with the core trainer this week. I tried out all of the pre-programmed workouts and used the tilt in manual mode. With the tilt, I found that the forward tilt made it easier for me to sit up tall longer. I’m not sure if this is better or not though. I will need to check with some people who would know if it is better to get some help to do an exercise longer or get no help and tire more quickly. The tilt backwards makes it harder to sit up.

With the pre-programmed workouts, the core trainer will change speed (all 3 workouts) and tilt (2 of the 3 workouts). I like that it changes things up on you so the workout feels random over 15 minutes. I’d recommend two improvements in this area:

  1. On the side to side workout (no tilt) it would be nice if you could manually adjust the tilt for the workout to something besides level.
  2. When adjusting the speed range for these workouts, the slowest one has the core trainer stay at the slower speeds (there are 9 speeds, and it stays at the first 2). If you speed it up, the range goes from the first 2 to the first 5. That’s a pretty big jump. I was expecting it to go to the first 3 to incorporate 1 more speed. I’d like to see it go 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5, 2-6, 3-7, 4-8, 5-9, 6-9, 7-9 and 8-9. I can’t handle the fastes speed, but I imagine it currently does 1-2, 1-5, 2-6, 3-7, 4-8, 5-9, and 8-9.

I think I’m getting better with it since I seem to be able to keep pushing a little further each week. I also ride it without any worry. When I first started to ride it, I wore a gait belt and had someone loosely hold on. Then I stopped and someone just stood next to me just in case. Now I’m OK being left alone on it. Transferring on and off is also getting easier and quicker.

Today, when I first started riding it, it felt a little different. It didn’t seem as smooth a ride at the lowest speed. It’s something I need to really pay attention to as my trial period comes to an end.

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Glenn Beck Isn’t Always Crazy

by on Feb.21, 2010, under Politics

After finishing work on Friday I headed over to the living room to watch TV and FOX News was on the TV. Turned out, they were the only “news” channel not to be going on-and-on about Tiger Woods with pointless opinion. (He cheated on his wife over and over. There’s no excuse. No one will ever know if he’s really sorry. What did people expect from him besides an apology?) In any case, Glenn Beck was starting and he was talking about pensions.

Personally, I think pensions are the next big mess. I don’t see the government standing by as pensions start to get wiped out when they can no longer be paid. Especially when so many of them will be for former government employees and unions. Just like social security and Medicare, pensions are becoming untenable. The simple math makes no sense on them. Beck showed a clip of the Governor of  New Jersey talking about what it looks like in his state.

One state retiree, 49 years old, paid over the course of his entire career, a total of $124,000 toward his retirement pension and health benefits. What will we pay him? $3.3 million in pension payments over his life and nearly half a million dollars for health care benefits: A total of $3.8m on a $124,000 investment.

So the worker that replaces him will be contributing $8,070/yr to the pension and it will be paying the retired worked $72,300/yr (assumes 30 years of contributions and 35 years of pension payments with 5% increases). What kind of ROI are they expecting to get? This is going on all over the country. When Mercedes-Benz was trying to sell Chrysler off a couple years ago, the buyer’s were trying to avoid purchasing the pension obligations. That was their biggest concern, not the other assets.

Pensions are going to crush companies and states. Here in Kansas, the pension fund is only 56.5% funded ($8.3B shortfall) for their calculated future obligations. I’m certain those calculated future obligations are larger than they calculate given the explosion in government salaries over the last few years. Healthcare is 0% funded ($317M shortfall). Pew Research released an in depth paper for all 50 states, the trillion dollar gap.

Again this is a case where politicians will wait until the last minute to do anything because the only possible solutions for state/federal government are to raise taxes to cover the shortfall or reduce benefits. Best to let the next politician deal with the problem (even better if they can collect theirs first).

Companies will have to stare down bankruptcy to get out. Depending on how well the workers/unions at those companies are connected, the taxpayers may get to bail them out too.

So far, President Obama has talked about taking care of the long term now, but he hasn’t shown any leadership or made any demands of Congress to make those goals a reality. Are we doomed to let things continue until they are so bad? When no one will buy our debt and inflation is running out of control? The Tea Party is a good idea in concept, but from my perspective, they are simply a partisan group who chose a popular issue to attack the President and Democrats with. They’d have a lot more legitimacy if they formed before President Bush left office and attacked his policies that did the same thing we see them attacking now (stimulus, debt).

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What About Kate?

by on Feb.20, 2010, under Entertainment, TV

That’s what I wondered when they showed the scene in the cave. We saw:

  • 4 – (John) Locke
  • 8 – (Hugo “Hurley”) Reyes
  • 15 – (James “Sawyer”) Ford
  • 16 – (Sayid) Jarrah
  • 23 – (Jack) Shephard
  • 42 – (Jin or Sun) Kwon

What about Kate Austen? She was “touched” by Jacob as a child (when she tried to steal the New Kids on the Block lunch box), but isn’t on the list. There must be some significance to that along with the question of Jin, Sun or both (Jacob touched both of them). I don’t think this is the explanation or meaning of the numbers, instead it’s just another use of them. The mysteries on the island continue.

Both Sawyer and not-Locke (the man in black) saw the boy. Is he alive? Richard didn’t see him, but I believe he had his back to him and was gone when not-Locke looked back. The boy tells not-Locke that he knows the rules, he can’t kill “him”. Is the boy Jacob? Who is “him” that the boy refers? Jacob? Was it Sawyer? He brought him down a dangerous ladder. Sawyer had to choose to go down himself. Was he trying to lead him into a circumstance that leads to his death? Are all the people that Jacob touched safe from the smoke monster? Could that explain why it stared down Locke and did nothing? Did it appear as Jack’s dad and get him to almost chase him and fall off a cliff?

Off the island things are also mysterious. We have seen Ethan Rom (the guy who took Claire in season 1) and Ben off the island. Ethan was working at the hospital where Claire was taken in labor. Ben is teaching at a school where Locke ends up working after getting fired from Hurley’s box company (confirming that link from season 1). Is this to show that all the people on the island are linked. Maybe they weren’t all linked in the past, but would/will be in the future.

I think the mysteries that I would like to know the answers to before the show ends are:

  • What was special about Walt? Did he have a key role in this? Did his growth spurt cause them to just abandon him? I think if he does not have his mysterious “ability” explained, then the growth spurt was a problem and they just dropped him.
  • How will they explain the the off-island (plane lands) and the on-island (plane crashes) stories?
  • How will they explain the differences between passengers on the original Oceanic 815 flight that crashed and the one that lands?
  • What is the battle between the man in black and Jacob about?
  • Who is Richard and why doesn’t he age?

Going back to the time travel mystery. When the bomb is detonated, they go from the 1970s back to 2007. They say that the crater is there from when they blew up the Swan. It looked like some of the debris burying Juliet was from the drilling rig and she wasn’t nearly as far down as she fell. One of the Dharma vans came with them. I can see how they differentiate between the people who time traveled (the people went back to the time they were supposed to been at), but how come some objects went and some didn’t? This might be nit-picking, I’m not sure.

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Finished My Taxes Early

by on Feb.14, 2010, under Bills, Life

I filed my taxes a lot earlier this year. Primarily because I did a poor job in tax planning and withheld too much money. I ended up with refunds from both the federal and state. I always got a weird sense of enjoyment in owing every year and filing right before the deadline.

This year, I need to do a much better job with investing. Bank account interest is incredibly low. I missed out on the big recovery from the bottom last year. It’s time for me to become less risk adverse. My irrational fear of losing money prevents me from making any real money. It’s odd that I can identify my problem but have yet to find a way around it. It is getting to be very bothersome. I start to invest, then bail out after a couple trades. And it’s not like they were bad trades. I made money and still didn’t keep doing it.

I wonder what makes someone a good trader psychologically?

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Core Trainer, Week 3

by on Feb.14, 2010, under Life, Physical Therapy

I was able to get back to the full 15 minutes this week. I’m getting better as well. When I first rode it, if I closed my eyes I could feel that I was not maintaining a good position. Now I can close my eyes and stay level without a problem.

I tried to use the core trainer without holding the handle. I had no problems keeping my balance, but I was also unable to sit up as tall. With the handle, I’m able to put the arch in my lower spine. I’m definitely helping myself up into that position, but once there, I can tell that I’m not holding my self there with my arms (at least for up to a minute at a time). I also tried to use the stirrups. Same result without the handle, it’s a lot harder to sit up tall. But I could also tell it did facilitated my inner thigh muscles to start working.

It looks like I have more than enough room to get stronger and use this over time. I’ve found over the years that I seem to have a lot of muscles/functionality that needs to be awoken. I think it’s because I simply do not use those muscles most of the day. After I finish riding the core trainer, my core does feel tired. But a couple hours later I can feel that the muscles are working so much better. I think over time, that time will get longer and longer to the point where they are firing a lot more than they are not.

This week I’m planning to try some of the pre-defined workouts. I think the side-to-side workout should be fine, but I have a sense that the waist and hips ones (they incorporate tilting) will be difficult and out of my current reach. I also want to time how long I can sit up tall.

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