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Christmas Eve

Blogging my way through the 1935 Goudey baseball card set

I’m collecting baseball cards again.

I collected for most of my youth, but as adulthood set in, other priorities took over. It happens a lot. But now my kids are getting old enough to take an interest in such things, and if my son is buying baseball cards, I might as well buy a card or two myself, right?

On Christmas Eve, I decided to take on a challenge: The 1935 Goudey set. Goudey was the biggest name of the 1930s, but at 36 cards, the 1935 set is small enough that a mere mortal like me can stand a chance of accumulating one example of each, and do so in a reasonable period of time. Most of the player drawings in the 1935 set are reused from the 1933 and/or 1934 sets, so it looks and feels like a classic Goudey set.

It’s not going to be a particularly cheap endeavor, but with one exception, it’s possible to get a low-grade example of each card in the set for $10-$15. A complete set in low grade is likely to cost less than $1,000. And while $1,000 is a lot of money, that’s approximately $20 a week. Most of us spend $20 a week on things that aren’t particularly good for us. Spend two years doing it and it drops to $10 a week.

Read More »Blogging my way through the 1935 Goudey baseball card set

A simple way to make sure a Christmas-gift train works on Christmas morning

Last Christmas Eve, I helped one of my Internet pals figure out why a brand-new N scale train he purchased as a gift didn’t work.

He got lucky. He had his old train available, which he was able to steal parts from to get it to work that morning. Not everyone is that lucky. As long as you’re reading this before Christmas, I have some advice for you if there’s an electric train of any sort on someone’s list.

Set it up one night this week and make sure it works.

Read More »A simple way to make sure a Christmas-gift train works on Christmas morning

On troubleshooting

My Windows 7 upgrade was supposed to be a one-hour project on a Saturday afternoon. It dragged on until Wednesday. I’m at the point now where I probably have an hour’s work left on the machine–it’s Thursday now–but it’s late and I’m not sure I feel like it.

The answers–loading the BIOS defaults and changing the parallel port settings–seem obvious. Now. But when I look for my keys, where I finally find them seems obvious too, even though it sometimes takes a long time to find them.

Read More »On troubleshooting

Christmas Eve, a train that wouldn’t run, and a happy ending

It was Christmas Eve. I finished playing Santa, then I plopped down in front of the computer to unwind and signed into Facebook. Internet pal John Dominik posted a status update about buying a Bachmann N-scale train set and it not working, and how he knew he should have tried it out before Christmas Eve. I offered to help. He related the epic troubleshooting he went through–OK, perhaps it wasn’t epic, but his account of the things he tried was longer than the Book of Jude and several other books of the Bible–and, frankly, there wasn’t anything I would have thought of that he hadn’t already tried. He went beyond that and even tried things I wouldn’t have tried. Or recommend, for that matter, but that’s OK. He mentioned he’d had a set of HO trains when he was younger, and that gave me an idea. I asked if he still had that power pack, because, if he was willing to do a little creative and sloppy wiring, he’d be able to get that new Bachmann set working with it. He said he did.

The temporary fix worked, and Christmas Eve was salvaged. John said he hoped Bachmann would be cooperative about the bad power pack.

Read More »Christmas Eve, a train that wouldn’t run, and a happy ending

Merry and blessed Christmas to all

I just wanted to take a minute to wish all of you a very merry and blessed Christmas. With the snowstorm, we had a whiter Christmas than I remember having in a very long time, and driving home from Christmas Eve service was a bigger adventure than I bargained for. My older son (who’s not quite 3) actually slept late this morning. That’s probably the last time that ever happens. I’m sure he’ll be up at 5 or 6 like every normal child next year, and for the foreseeable future.

I’m doing some computer upgrades now, so I may have some new experience to relate in the coming days. We’ll see. Hopefully there won’t be too many stories of disaster and recovery.

Merry and Blessed Christmas to All…

I made it through three services last night. I ran camera at one service, which is usually a struggle because Pastor likes to run a marathon while he speaks–and last night as he was prowling about, he forgot where a step was, so he actually fell off the raised platform he speaks from. He disappeared from view, so I’m zipping around with the camera in a panic–where’d he go?–and then he popped back up, laughing.
I need to start taking a video camera to high school basketball games so I can practice keeping up with Pastor.

Brad, my partner in crime, was on lights.

The Video was smack-dab in the middle of the message. Pastor talked about journeys, spiritual and otherwise, then he wondered aloud whether Mary and Joseph knew what they were in for. Brad took the lights down, and Mary and Joseph popped up on stage, holding a doll, in front of a fake fire. My idea of using a real fire in our new building got the axe really quickly, just like all my best ideas. Instead, Brad rigged a fake fire, where he buried a bulb in a pile of logs, and somehow he made it look real. Mary and Joseph wondered aloud what all the prophecies in the book of Isaiah regarding the Messiah meant. After a couple of minutes, Joseph left, leaving just Mary and the baby onstage. Our vocalist snuck up on stage, and I hit play on the camera (it’s the only miniDV device we have at the moment), and The Video–the popular song “Mary Did You Know?” set to pictures from The Visual Bible: Matthew, plus a few classic paintings by people like Rembrandt–played. And play it did, without a hitch, except for one spot where the audio clipped because it got louder than the camera could handle. Normalize, schmormalize. Next time I will. At the first service, Larry was singing when it clipped, so no one heard. At the other two services, his timing was a little different. Pastor heard it. I heard it. I don’t know if anyone else did. But every project has a flaw somewhere. Next time, I’ll run the music through a sound editor and normalize it myself.

Larry had asked when in the service he’d be singing. “The middle of the sermon,” I said. He looked at me like I was joking. Obviously he hasn’t worked with us enough.

Then, when the song and video ended, Pastor popped back up–at the back of the church, out of camera range. “The question isn’t ‘Mary, did you know?’ anymore, but it’s, ‘Do you know?'” Then he walked around, pointing to members of the congregation, asking if they know.

Good stuff. A few people cried through the video. There were people there to answer their questions. We survived. We sat around a little while after the 11:00 service, talking about it all. This was my first Christmas Eve service at my home church in more than 10 years, and the first one I’d had any involvement in. I don’t know if this is going to become an annual thing or not. If it does, I’m glad it’s once a year.

Blast from the past. At the 11:00 service, a former parish pastor-turned author who’s a member of our congregation gave the children’s message. “I snuck one of the presents from under our tree here tonight, tee hee hee,” he said with a sly look on his face. “It says right here on top: To Tim, with love. I wonder what it is…”

And that made me remember. My dad always knew everything he was getting. I never figured out how.

Until this year, that is. I was at a Christmas party, and the hosts’ son got to open one present at the party. So he was picking up packages, shaking them, trying to decide which one to place his bet on. I asked him if he’d like me to take some packages to the hospital for an x-ray…

And then I realized why Dad always knew what he was getting. Dad put himself through Med school working as… an x-ray technician! And then, once he got out of Med school, he worked as a radiologist–reading x-rays!

Which made me wonder… Would he? Well, Dad was just like me. Or the other way around, more likely, seeing as he came around first and all. So I guess the first question to ask is, would I?


So would my Dad?

You bet your last wooden nickel.

Another blast from the past. Next year, when I’m more bold, I’m gonna read the classic “Mary and Joe, Chicago Style” by Mike Royko. I’d link to it but unfortunately I can’t find it online anywhere anymore. The Trib seems to have taken down its Royko tribute. Nuts.



“Hacking setup; VCache”

I heard yesterday from the keeper of the best DOS utilities collection I’ve seen, Dev Teelucksingh. If you do much DOS stuff these days, you owe it to yourself to check out his site at Among other things, he’s got DOS-based CD and MP3 utilities and players, an executable file packer that also has Linux and Win32 versions (excellent for when you’re strapped for disk space), programming languages, replacements for DOS utilities like FDISK, and networking tips and tools.

Another non-computer topic. There’s a ton of computer stuff in yesterday’s mail, so once again, a non-computer topic here. This is just like sophomore and junior years of college.

On Christianity. I don’t want to steal Al Hawkins’ trademark, but I was occasionally posting song lyrics that seemed appropriate long before I first saw his site, and this seems appropriate.

I was a Catholic boy
Redeemed through pain, not through joy

They can’t touch me now
I got every sacrament behind me:
I got baptism,
I got communion,
I got penance,
I got extreme unction
I’ve got confirmation
‘Cause I’m a Catholic child
The blood ran red
The blood ran wild!

Now I’m a Catholic man
I put my tongue to the rail whenever I can.

–Jim Carroll Band, Catholic Boy (1980)

Dan Bowman sent me this link, from Shoot the Messenger, about someone raised Catholic going back to a Christmas Eve mass. It didn’t sound to me like a particularly powerful or effective service. Tradition for tradition’s sake. The message is good enough for you because it was good enough for some previous generation.

Being raised Lutheran, which I’ve heard described as Catholicism without the Pope (that’s an oversimplification but there is a great deal of truth in it), I can relate. Traditionalists want us to come to God, but on their terms. But that’s wrong. Their terms and God’s terms aren’t interchangeable. They often aren’t even compatible.

God uses language we understand. The message of Christmas is full of them. Many religious heroes are said to have been born of a virgin: Buddha, Zoroaster, Lao-Tse. So Jesus, also, is born of a virgin. God didn’t want His Chosen One to seem inferior. And the magi. They were astrologers. God doesn’t approve of astrology, but He wanted them to know, so he lead them to Him, using language they understood: a star.

God went to a lot of trouble to draw outsiders to Him. Today, many churches want outsiders to go to a lot of trouble to understand and become them.

This is wrong, wrong, wrong. Read the book of Acts, the story of the early church, again. Is there any mention of the Latin mass there? Peter and Paul spoke Aramaic and Greek. Where’d Latin come from? Rome. What’s so special about Rome? That’s where the early church grew, the base from which it really took off. Fine. Why’d the early church really take off? Because it related to people.

So, it’s not the tradition we need, but rather, the spirit of the tradition. You can, as I cynically say, “Wait, therefore, for 15th-century Germans (or 2nd-century Romans) to come to you, and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” or you can do what we’re actually told to do: Go to all people and baptize. Yes, all people. And that includes 21st-century Americans. And in order to go to those people, you have to be accepted by those people. You have to understand them and relate to them.

Let me tell you about my Christmas Eve experience, as a Lutheran boy who left the tradition and then came back after finding and experiencing the spirit of the tradition.

I went to a service at my old church in Columbia, Mo., on Sunday morning. The service was OK. But it’s not like I go to that church for the services. I go for the people. They’ve got great people. I drew energy and encouragement from them, and I think they got the same from me, and every time I go it’s like I was there just last Sunday and we pick up right where we left off, even if it’s in reality been a year since I was last there. It’s like family. For some people, it’s better than their blood family. That’s special. That’s real Christianity.

I went to a candlelight service that night in Kansas City, Mo., at the church my sister Di has been attending. It was a great service. Pastor talked about the true meaning of Christmas: Christ, who was missing from our lives and is so often missing from Christmas, came. If there’s an emptiness you can’t explain and you can’t fill, why not let Him in? No dwelling on details that seem trite today. The big problem today is that people feel insignificant and  lonely. Everyone is afraid of being alone.

Here’s your problem today. Sound familiar? Here’s God’s solution. Do you want it? It’s yours.

And that, too, is real Christianity.

That philosophy makes me a rabble-rouser and a troublemaker. But that’s OK with me. A lot of traditionalists in the first century thought Jesus was a rabble-rouser and a troublemaker too. That was why they killed Him.

So, thanks for the compliment. I’ll be a rabble-rouser and a troublemaker. That’s real Christianity.

Too bad so few people have ever seen it.


“Hacking setup; VCache”

A Mac Norton Antivirus tip

Mac Norton AntiVirus tip. If this affects you, you probably already know this, but just in case, I’ll metnion it. NAV under Mac OS 9 isn’t exactly reliable. Its autodetection of installing software (so it can offer to disable itself during the process) likes to crash the system. The conventional advice of rebooting without extensions to install software is no longer a suggestion in this environment. It’s a must.

I don’t like having antivirus software running all the time personally (it slows down systems something fierce and I find it preferable to just not engage in high-risk activities because sometimes things slip past antivirus software–I’ve always thought it’s better to promote responsible behavior than it is to try to make irresponsible behavior safe), but sometimes that’s unavoidable, e.g. in corporate environments where there are policies mandating such things.

Weird day yesterday. My boss and I had talked about moving me on to bigger and better things. Yesterday was the day. I totally forgot. I was wondering about mid-day why I hadn’t had anything to do when someone else mentioned it. Oops. So now I’m Office 2000 Deployment Czar. Sort of. Yuck. Didn’t I see a pile of IBM Selectrics somewhere…?

And then this… My songwriting partner asks about the feasibility of writing an original Christmas song for the Christmas Eve 11 pm service. Ooh. Is there such thing as an original Christmas song? But this is like being asked to write a song for your best friend’s wedding or something, so if there’s a way to still write an original Christmas song, I’ll find it.


From: “Gary Mugford” <>
Subject: The definition of rich

  From the Great White North, have a great holiday season. We struggle
away ourselves, having already had the holiday
back in October.

  Your pastor’s saying brought back a memory of something I wrote way back
in Grade 9. Haven’t changed belief in it much
since then. It was a poetry assignment in English that was supposed to
combine traditional and non-traditional form.
It’s lousy, but I’ve never written a poem since then. To me, I’d done
better than I could ever do again. And since I had
the marks to afford it, I declined to ever write another poem. Schmaltzy,
yeah. Crazy for sure. But i’s gotta be me!

  I unabashedly give you …

The Richest Man in the World

“Rich,” he said, “That’s what I’ll be!”
“I’ll own the world, just you wait and see!”

And then he met her.

And his world started to shrink, not grow larger.
And his wallet grew thinner, not fatter.

As the years passed by,
and life passed unto death,
there came to be erected
in the Olde Church graveyard,
a tombstone bearing an inscription,

“Here lies a very, very rich man.
She loved him.”

Poetically, sure, there’s room to criticize it, but that doesn’t change the
message one bit. That is the coolest thing I’ve read in a long time. Thanks!

From: “Don Armstrong” <>
Subject: Ergonomic thingies

Dave, have you checked out 3M’s CWS (Computer Workstation Solutions) site, particularly their Ergonomics section, and particularly what they call their Renaissance Mouse?

It’s at

Now, the “Renaissance Mouse” obviously owes a lot of its ancestry to gamer’s joysticks, but it seems to me to make a lot of sense when I play-act going through the motions of using it. There are other things there – like gel-filled wrist-rests – that also make sense. I’ve used them before, and they help.

Regards, Don Armstrong

I just checked the site. The renaissance mouse looks much like the old
third-party joysticks people bought for Atari 2600 consoles. Definitely
interesting. I may be putting my credit card to use…



From: Edwards, Bruce
Subject: Ripping audio

Hi Dave:

I noticed that yesterday you talked about ripping audio from your CDs.  What sound card do you recommend as a good choice for encoding audio from LPs to either WAV or MP3 format?  I am interested in (when I build my next PC in about three to four months) getting a sound card that will provide excellent fidelity from an analog line in source.  I know there will then be interference issues within the PC too, are certain sounds cards more immune to this than others?

Thanks for any comments.

By the way, I ordered you book off Amazon last Friday and they were selling it for 50% off list.




It’d be really hard to beat the Sound Blaster Live! series (just avoid the Value version of the card, now discontinued). The card itself has excellent sound quality, and a much larger number of capacitors on it than I’m used to seeing these days, which will cut down on excess noise. The sound inputs are outstanding as well. The only way you’ll do better would be to get a truly professional-grade audio card, such as those from Digital Audio Labs (but you’ll pay more for it and you’ll have a card with zero multimedia capability–no MIDI, no nothing).
I see as well that the book’s at 50% off list. I wonder if that means it’s nearing the end of the line? It’s still at 20% off in the UK, which is where my sales are anyway, so if it stays in print there I’m in good shape.