The Lost Tribe

The court of Queen Elizabeth I was a dour place, filled with sycophants decked out in the drab black cloaks fashionable at the time. But then Walter Raleigh showed up, dressed like a peacock in garish colors in a dizzying array of expensive fabrics like silks and damasks. Raleigh certainly dressed to impress – in 1584, he reported the theft of three clothing items worth almost £115 – which was more than enough money to run an entire household (including servants) for an entire year!

But Raleigh came to court with more than just nice clothes. He was intelligent, witty, and just plain charming. It was Walter Raleigh, for example, who allegedly laid one of his expensive cloaks over a mud puddle so that Elizabeth wouldn’t dirty her royal feet. He could play music, write poetry, flirt and talk about almost any issue in his West Country accent, which Elizabeth found perfectly adorable.

She quickly began lavishing gifts on Raleigh, from titles and royal appointments to estates and monopolies. It was the monopolies on wine licenses (granted by Elizabeth in 1583) and the export of wool (1585) that gave Raleigh immense wealth that he used to buy more of his beloved expensive clothes, to spare no expense in redecorating and refurbishing the estates that Elizabeth had given him, and to fund an entourage of 30 servants (each of whom needed their own set of fancy clothes, too!). Raleigh quickly rose from a virtual nobody to become one of the richest men in England, and he used his wealth in ways and quantities that shocked and staggered his contemporaries. Raleigh, indeed, threw money around in ways that would make even the gaudiest hip-hop mogul of today hang his head in disgust.

But Raleigh was more than just flash. He had a dream… a dream of an English colony in the wilderness of America. In 1584, Raleigh sent his first colony to Virginia (which then comprised a section of what would later become North Carolina). The colonists landed at Roanoke Island in present-day Dare County, North Carolina. The colonists would suffer greatly due to lack of food (mainly caused by poor selection of colonists) and troubled relations with local Indian tribes. The expedition ended in failure in 1586.

Raleigh found himself unable to fund a second trip on his own, so a joint-stock company was created. When enough investors had been lined up, Raleigh launched a second expedition in 1587. This group of colonists were supposed to stop by Roanoke Island and pick up a few soldiers left to guard the settlement after the first expedition left. They were then to settle somewhere north on Chesapeake Bay. However, Simon Fernandez, the captain of the colony’s main ship, the Susan Constant, unceremoniously dumped the colonists on Roanoke Island on July 22, 1587, as he wanted to get to the Caribbean as quickly as possible to loot Spanish treasure ships.

Although Raleigh and company promised the colonists a steady stream of supply ships, it wasn’t to be. By the time John White (a friend of Raleigh’s and overall commander of the expedition) arrived back in England from Roanoke, it was too late in the year to return to Virginia. Then the Spanish Armada sailed towards England, and every ocean-worthy ship was commandeered for the defense of the realm. White managed to get a special dispensation from the Queen to allow two small ships to sail to Roanoke in 1588, but the captains of these ships were greedy and tried to capture Spanish ships while in transit; instead, they were captured and the venture was a total loss.

Continue reading “The Lost Tribe”

Best Headline Ever!

Imagine the disappointment when people clicked on this BBC News story:

“Great tits cope well with warming”

No, the story is not about Gemma Atkinson… it’s about small British birds that are apparently unaffected by global warming (so far, anyway). There are some great lines in the story, though, such as: “The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds commented that other species are likely to fare much worse than great tits as temperatures rise”.

Personally, I am a huge fan of great tits and if I found out that great tits were being hurt in any way by global warming, I’d stop climate change all by myself (although one feels that I’d hardly be alone in this – most other men love great tits too!)

Seriously, the article does raise some interesting points. Britain’s great tits are adapting to change by laying their eggs earlier in the spring, since their main food supply – caterpillars – are appearing earlier in the spring as well. The exact same species of bird has not done the same thing in the Netherlands, and scientists are puzzled as to why not. Are British tits smarter than Dutch tits? Who knows? But I don know one thing… I could go on with the double entendres for hours!

ABC picks up Mars

It’s official, folks: according to Variety, ABC has picked up 13 episodes of the David E. Kelley-produced U.S. version of Life On Mars.

I’m both encouraged and terrified by this news. “Encouraged” because this will allow millions of people to enjoy the wonderful story that is Life On Mars. I’m also encouraged by early casting news, which has nothing but British or Irish actors listed so far. So perhaps the “U.S. version” will be a simple remake with a minimal amount of changes.

But then, I’m also terrified by what could happen. Perhaps one of the suits at ABC will demand that the show relocate to San Diego with Zac Efron as Sam Tyler, Ashton Kutcher as Gene Hunt and Jessica Simpson as Annie Cartwright (shudder!).

Still, it’s good to see the show being picked up. I’m intrigued to say the least… bring on the fall schedule!!

No, It’s NOT Ironic…

OK, so this is a pretty weak (not to mention short) rant, but here goes:

Am I the only American that’s just fed up with people that use the word “ironic” all the time without knowing what it really means? Irony is defined as:

[a]n intentional contradiction between what something appears to mean and what it really means. Irony is normally conveyed through contradictions between either what is said and what is meant or appearance and reality.

In casual usage, irony generally means “an outcome that is the opposite of what was intended or expected”. If someone spent their entire adult life working in a fire extinguisher factory and died when their house burned down (due to a lack of extinguisher)… that’s ironic. Someone’s house burning down on the day they make their last mortgage payment? Not ironic.

In other words, if porn star Ron Jeremy were to move to Virgin, North Carolina, that would be ironic, since Ron Jeremy is pretty much the opposite of a virgin. If, however, he moved to Infected Cock, North Carolina, that would not be ironic. It would be a coincidence (and a funny one at that)… but it wouldn’t be irony.

I guess my main rant here is that far too many people call something “ironic” when the proper word they should use is either coincidence” or sheer “bad luck”.

Speak the Queen’s English, people!

WCNC Can Suck It!

So… last night I was hanging out here at the house, waiting for My Name Is Earl, The Office and 30 Rock to come on. Since the missus and I have a DVR, we often wait until a show is over before watching it, so we can skip the commercials; since we were out of town most of this week, we had a backlog of stuff to watch. So instead of watching The Office live at 9:00PM, we watched Hell’s Kitchen from Tuesday while waiting for The Office to finish recording.

But no. There were some storms in the Charlotte area last night, and our lovely NBC affiliate, WCNC, decided to run 2 hours of “Storm Updates” instead of showing their regular programming. Let me repeat that… instead of showing Thursday night’s programming (which included the season finales of Scrubs and 30 Rock), they chose to show their weatherman giving us viewers “second by second” updates on the storms… which, by the way, were in the extreme northeastern corner of WCNC’s viewing area. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky in Belmont during all this, and in fact the weather for most of the Charlotte area was just fine… a light rain in some parts, but mostly cloudy skies in the rest of the area.

But no. Instead of my favorite comedies, I get some jerkass weatherman breathlessly wanking about the storm for two freakin’ hours! In case the program directors at WCNC hadn’t noticed… it’s 2008, folks. WCNC broadcasts SD programming on channel 36 (cable channel 6), HDTV programming on channel 36.1 (cable channel 220) and… 24 hour weather information on channel 36.2 (cable channel 221). They could have chosen to run their normal programming and simply added a crawler that said “for storm news, please tune to channel 36.2” on the screen… but they didn’t. Since many folks don’t have digital TVs yet, they could have even flip-flopped their programming, and run weather information on their SD\HD channels and their normal programming on 36.2 for the 97% of us that were unaffected by the storm.

And to add insult to injury, they did run a crawler that said that “… My Name Is Earl, Scrubs, The Office and 30 Rock will be broadcast tomorrow on NBC.COM…”. Why yes, that’s a perfectly acceptable substitute: a 320×240 streaming Internet video looks exactly as good as the 1080i version WCNC would have broadcast!



Many folks don’t know that when you delete a file in Windows, that file isn’t really “deleted”.

You see, Windows keeps track of everything on your hard drive using something called a “Master File Table” (MFT) or “File Allocation Table” (if you’re one of the 4 people left still running Windows 98 and the FAT32 file system). When you delete a file, the file’s entry in the MFT\FAT is erased, and the space is marked as “free”. But the actual data is still there, and it will remain there until it’s overwritten by a new file. And even when the data is overwritten, it’s possible for computer forensics types to figure out what files were originally there.

The only real way to “delete” a file in Windows is to take the space where the data was located and overwrite it with random data from 7 to 35 times. Some programs, like DBAN, will overwrite all the data on an entire hard drive, which is good for when you want to donate old computers to charity, and want to be 100% certain that any data on the drives is gone.

But what about securely erasing data on computers that you need to keep using? DBAN will wipe out an entire hard drive – thus rendering your computer useless. What if you want (or need) to securely delete just a few files? What if you work with medical patient information and need a means of completely removing any data files, but keeping all of your other files intact?

I like Eraser. This free, open-source program adds an “Erase” option to Windows Explorer’s context menu. Just select the file(s) you want to erase, then right-click and select “Erase”. Eraser will then overwrite the file(s) using the Guttmann, US DoD 5220-22.M method, or with pseudo-random data. It can also erase Internet Explorer’s index.dat file, “Temporary Internet Files” and cookies, erase free space, erase the contents of the Recycle Bin, erase network files, floppy disks, CD-RW, DVD-RAM and DVD-RW discs, and erase the page (swap) file. Oh, and it works with Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP and DOS! It’s a great little program – did I mention that it’s also free? – and is a quick and easy way to remove any trace of files on your computer!

SONGS I LIKE: “Let’s Dance…”

The WombatsThe Wombats are an Anglo-Norwegian band from Liverpool, England. The band is comprised of two native Liverpudlians; Matthew Murphy (vocals, guitar and keyboards), Dan Haggis (drummer and backup vocalist) and Tord Øverland-Knudsen (the Norwegian, who plays bass and does some additional vocals). The group met at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and quickly became fairly famous in the UK.

Their latest single – from October, 2007 – is a jammin’ little tune called “Let’s Dance to Joy Division”. It’s rockin’ and funny (in an ironic sense) too:

So if your ever feeling down,
Grab your purse and take a taxi,
To the darker side of town,
That’s where we’ll be,
And we will wait for you and lead you through the dancefloor,
Up to the D.J booth,
You know what to ask for,
You know what to ask for.

Go ask for Joy Division,
And celebrate the irony,
Everything is going wrong,
But we’re so happy,
Let’s dance to Joy Division,
And raise our glass to the ceiling,
‘Cos this could all go so wrong,
But we’re just so happy,
So happy.

Have a listen and tell me what you think!



Self Extracting Archive (SFX) files are archive files (like .ZIP or .RAR files) that have been converted to .EXE files that can run on any Windows computer. The appeal is obvious – if the IT department needs to send out an “emergency patch” for a home-grown application, they can convert a ZIP or RAR file to an EXE file that doesn’t need WinZIP or WinRAR installed. The user doesn’t have to do anything other than double-click the EXE file to extract the contents.

Us IT folk have to put a SFX file together every so often. Most of us have our favorite programs for doing this. I prefer the old, trusty WinRAR. Others prefer WinZIP. Programmers may require something more powerful, like Advanced Installer or a Nullsoft Scriptable Install.

But what do you do when you don’t have access to your favorite SFX creator?

You might not know this, but Windows has one built right in: IEXPRESS.EXE. Click click Start > Run and type iexpress.exe and press the ENTER button. An IExpress installer can extract files only or extract files then run a command. You can also customize your installer with custom titles, EULA screen and final dialog boxes.

You might find IEXPRESS lacking some of the more advanced features of other installers, but it sure could come in handy in a pinch!

Click here to read more about IEXPRESS at TechNet.

Country Fried Steak!

I’m a Southern boy at heart, and one of my favorite meals from childhood is country fried steak. Like many Southern dishes, country fried steak came about as a way to make something delicious out of inferior ingredients. Although cardiologists might shriek in horror at the fat content of this dish (and honestly, you just can’t eat country fried steak every day), it’s simply delicious… and cheap to make, too!


Cube steak
1 cup flour
Cayenne pepper (optional)
1 Egg
3 tablespoons milk


1 Ziploc bag
1 small bowl
2 shallow dishes or plates
1 deep skillet (cast iron preferred)

1) Put the flour in a Ziploc bag. Add the salt, pepper and cayenne to the flour. Seal the bag and shake vigorously to mix.

2) Crack the egg into a bowl and beat slightly. Add the milk, then continue beating until thoroughly mixed.

3) Put about an inch of vegetable oil in the cast iron skillet (you could always use lard or shortening for best taste, although this sends the fat and calorie content through the roof!). Heat the skillet over medium high heat until the oil is hot.

4) Dump the flour mixture and egg batter into separate dishes or plates.

5) Take one of the cube steaks and drag it through the flour to coat both sides, shaking off any excess flour. Dredge the steak in the egg mixture until coated on both sides, again shaking off any excess. Put the steak back in the flour to coat again, shaking off any excess flour.

6) Place steak in hot oil. Allow to cook 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

7) Repeat with additional cube steaks.

Country fried steak is always served smothered in gravy. You can make your own from the leftover oil and some flour, or you can just use powdered gravy mix. Opinions vary widely as to which gravy you should use. Some swear by a white gravy, but I prefer brown gravy. It’s honestly your call – there’s no “wrong” answer here.