September 30, 2004
It's official

It's official, the internet bust is over.

As of today, I'm cashing checks for doing nothing but making silly pages on a web site.

As I wrote about a few weeks ago, Google's Adsense program appears to work. I have turned my site, an homage to a guy with too much free time on his hands, into a bonafide internet property.

Who would thunk?

Posted by michael at 07:19 AM
September 27, 2004
When it rains, it pours...

Last week was geektacular. I was linked to on Slashdot about the GLAT and on Fark about the page on cleaning pennies. This has blown through any previous high number of visits to my site.

At last check, the cleaning pennies page has been hit so much I've burned up around 30 Gigs of data transfer. Yikes.

While it is nice to have lots of visitors and read nice comments about the page, the bandwidth management is an issue. Watching the spread of the link from page to page and from the US outward to the rest of the world is interesting.

In other news, the new Wired magazine arrived in the mail today. I was reading it in the bathroom while I watched the girls take a bath tonight. There were so many frickin' ads it was hard to find the content.

I started ripping out the pages that were ads. I only ripped it out if it was an ad on both sides. I pulled out half the pages... Above you can see the pile of ads on the left and the remaining magazine on the right. Remember there are still a ton of ads inside that have content on one side.

How much would it cost to have an ad-free version of the the magazine?

Posted by michael at 10:01 PM
New terms

A few days ago, Mr. P bought up a new blogging term. He wrote about it on his site.

The definition was:

"The condition where you have many items to blog about, yet lack the time or motivation to blog them."

He wasn't sure what term to use, blogjammed or backblogged.

It appears he chose to use blogjammed. What do you think?

Posted by michael at 09:55 PM
September 24, 2004
Cleaning Pennies with Taco Sauce

When I was in high school back in the 80s, I worked at Taco Bell. Work was not really tough at Taco Bell, so I had lots of time to goof off. One of the things I discovered was that the hot sauce would clean pennies. I've showed the trick to people many times over the years, but never really understood why it works so well.

I finally took the time to find out, and now you can know why you can clean pennies with hot sauce.


Posted by michael at 07:55 AM
September 23, 2004
Four days in the hole

Howdy loyal Cruft readers, I'm back.

Thank you for the calls and emails of concern, the entire Cruft family is fine and this site has made it's glorious return.

What happened was that on Sunday, a link to my entry about the Google Labs Aptitude Test got posted to the front page of Slashdot. Now for those that don't know, Slashdot is one of the most popular geek sites on the internet. I read it daily and so do hundreds of thousands of other people.

On Sunday night, these people started clicking on the link and the demand on the server that Cruftbox lives on got huge. This is called the Slashdot Effect or simply, being Slashdotted. The web host that runs the server that this site lives on had to take action or all the other sites and servers that they run would be affected by the Slashdot hordes.

After trying a few things, they simply removed the domain from the DNS server. A drastic step, but one that allowed all the other sites to be accessible. In laymen's terms, imagine that a hundred thousand people all had your address for a party and started showing up at your house. The police decided so shut down the party, so they simply removed all the street signs that told people how to get to your house. People drove around looking for your house, but could never find it. That's kinda what happened here. Cruftbox was here, but no one could find it.

The big problem, is that when the site was down, I could get no email and could not adminster the site. That was no fun.

Finally on Wednesday night, I got the web host to set things right and this morning, everything is in order.

In summary, being linked on Slashdot is great geek honor, but the consequences can be dramatic if you aren't prepared for it.

Posted by michael at 06:44 AM
September 18, 2004

The sports season is in full effect at the Pusateri household.

This morning was the the traditional start of the soccer season with the banner parade and the local speakers. It's a big event and even our congressman, Adam Schiff, showed up to talk about playing soccer 25 years ago.

Michele made the banner for Mira's team this year.

To get a feel for the chaos that goes on at 7:30AM, here's a picture of part of the field. There are 100+ teams in the opening ceremonies.

Beside the soccer games on Saturday, it is also football season.

Yes, I am an NFL Widower. Once Sunday arrives, the TV goes on and the NFL is on-screen. Michele is a serious football fan and we have the DirecTV total package. Every single game.

Now I like football, but I rarely feel compelled to watch a half dozen games simultaneously. Michele on the other hand, it quite happy to do this and quilt at the same time.

The living room gets turned into football central with the TV at one end and Michele's sewing & quilting station at the other. My job is bringing sodas and food to her while she sews. The girls are allowed in the room, if they are willing to watch football. If that want to watch something else, they are banished to our bedroom, where they can watch DVDs.

Sometimes I go up front and pretend to watch but actually take a nap. Michele is usually distracted and doesn't notice and I get to avoid the usual "No napping" policy in place.

Posted by michael at 10:01 AM
September 13, 2004
GLAT - Google Labs Aptitude Test

I saw this in one of my magazines at work.

The GLAT, a funny riff on the standardized tests that pervade academic life.

It seems Google Labs is trying to attract some high quality people into their ranks. If only I was a software guy, I'd apply...

The questions are a fun mix of items from "What's broken with Unix? How would you fix it?" to a simple blank space you are expected to fill with "something that improves on emptiness."

I scanned in whole test (it's only 3 pages) for you perusal. Hit the more link below for the images.

Posted by michael at 12:12 PM
September 11, 2004 will resume later will resume later

Posted by michael at 12:14 AM
September 10, 2004
Caught being a geek

Take a look at this photo:

Yep, that's Travis, Yoshi, and me in line at the comic book store.

The local newspaper, the Burbank Bugle, wrote up an article about 'men' reading comic books. Wednesday is the day that new comics arrive from the publishers, so aficionados usually stop by at lunch to pick up their latest fix.

After the comic book store is lunch where important issues are discussed. Important issues include Why George Lucas is a moron, the greatness of the Flash Gordon soundtrack, and the latest DVDs being released.

Posted by michael at 01:52 PM
September 07, 2004
Jasper green laser

A few weeks ago, I got an email from Noah of Bigha asking if I wanted to try one of the Jasper green lasers that he's selling. After verifying this wasn't some strange spam, I said yes. Several days later the laser arrived in a tube and I started to play with it a bit.

Thanks go to James for helping me take several pictures of the laser beam and also to Jason for taking a picture at the gun range.

Closeup of the laser

The little oval black button is the trigger that turns the laser on. Unlike the red lasers, you can keep the green laser on indefinitely.

Sizing the laser

Here is the laser with the Universal Size Reference Unit, a CD case. The laser comes with a lanyard so you can hang it around your neck and not lose it.

Pointing out stars

The green laser is incredibly bright. You are sitting there thinking, "Yeah, yeah, bright smight, I've seen those little lasers before. How bright can it be?" Well, Mr. Smarty Pants, it's so bright you can see the beam itself at night as it illuminates the air in the path of the beam.

This is a photo of the beam pointing up at night being used to point out stars.

For the rest of the review, click More.

Looking over the house

This is the laser pointing out the stars with the roof in the background for perspective. Pretty nifty eh?

Hitting the telephone pole

The strength of the beam is high enough to carry the light quite a distance. Pointing out a nearby telephone pole. This is how it really looks, not a camera trick.

Hitting a palm tree

Much further away is a palm tree that I could easily hit. The laser could hit the tops of palm tress that were a half mile away. Yes, I measured how far the palm tree was away. Is the strength of the laser sinking in yet?

Sighting the scope

We took the laser into the backyard and strapped it to my telescope as a sighting scope. James's photo looks damn cool doesn't it?

Sighting the scope, part 2

Gaffer's tape is what was used to attach the laser, so it wasn't precisely aligned. If I was serious, I would have used a real sighting scope mount and centered in the laser for accuracy. Too bad the moon wasn't high enough in the sky to point at with the laser.

Diffusing the light

My boss is a laser expert back from the days when they were inventing laserdisc inscribing. I asked him what would be good for diffusing the laser light. He said the optimal object was a bouncy superball. This is an image of hitting my daughter's transparent superball with the laser.

Yet another use for the laser

I wasn't content to simply point the laser up in the air every night, so I thought up another use. Rifle targeting! I strapped the Jasper to the end of my rifle. The laser doesn't have a constant on mode, so I used a girls pink rubber hair band as an impromptu perma-trigger.

Wide shot of targeting laser

Here's an un-closeup of the setup. Note that I used the all purpose gaffer's tape again.

On target

At the gun range, the laser was a little off. Again, I needed to mount it seriously instead of using tape. After every shot I had to try to manually readjust it. Although, for a shotgun, it would allow fairly accurate hip shooting.

Lasing the target

Here's what it looks like in person. You can see the beam and the path of the bullet easily. Jason got a nice shot here.

There's probably a ton of other things you can do with the Jasper like strapping it to a cantenna while wardriving or scaring neighbors at night out for a walk. I'm glad I had a chance to play around with the Jasper for a while. My daughter love it and had a great time playing with it. They couldn't get enough of bouncing the light off of mirrors and using it outside during nighttime strolls.

Pretty much everyone that saw the Jasper in action thought it was pretty damn cool. It's a bit expensive, over $100, but the geek coolness factor is quite high. It is a product that lives up to it's hype.

Posted by michael at 10:42 PM
Laptop Stickers

Joi Ito posted about putting stickers on laptops.

When I was at SXSW a couple years ago, I struck up a conversation with Jason Nolan about laptops and stickers. He recommended putting a cover on the laptop so I could save the stickers when the laptop died or I wanted new stickers. My wife, the artist, explained to me that I should use Frisket Film as the transparent cover.

Here's what my laptop looks like currently:

What does your laptop look like?

Posted by michael at 08:40 PM
September 06, 2004
Sweet Moolah

For several years now, I thought the internet money party had died or was at a minimum, pining for the fjords. I have been mistaken. The money party is rolling but the people at the party are trying to keep it quiet this time.

I've known for a while that this site gets visited by a significant number of people besides my mother and some people from work. For the last several months I've been bumping up against the 15 GB data transfer limit of my web host in the last week of the month.

Somehow my site even has a Google Page Rank of 7. Now this simply must be a mistake, because there are much better sites that rank lower. Again, this points to the fact that my site gets a goodly amount of traffic.

I had read that people could make some money by putting Google ads on their pages. You see them all over the place now on weblogs and other personal sites. But I simply assumed that you needed huge amounts of traffic to make anything more than pennies.

It seems I was wrong. You can make money and the party is rolling full tilt.

At the beginning of August I put Adsense ads on my site in a few places and was shocked to find myself making several dollars a day via the Adsense ads. This wasn't making sense to me and did a little research to find out what was going on.


It seems that internet advertising is mainly based on the click-through, or when someone actually clicks on a advertisement on a site and is taken to a new site. Seems straightforward, no?

Actually, Google put a twist on advertising by placing ads related to the pages content in as the ad. I don't know how they do it, but if you go to a page about travel, you will see Adsense ads about travel. Visit a page about computers and you'll see ads for computer parts. Advertisers want this. They want people that are interesting their product to be the ones that see their ads. Targetted advertising is what it's all about.

Google, being smart cookies, are letting the market set the price for ads. If you want your ad showing up on a page about online gambling, you bid a price you are willing to pay if someone clicks on the ad. Due to the competition to appear on the front page of a Google search, the price can get quite high. Making the front page can cost $4-5 per click. Supposedly the term mesothelioma (a kind of lung cancer that involves asbestos) can cost up to $100 per click.

So you can see that a single click on the right term, can bring in several dollars. Quite an amazing scheme if you ask me...


Now Google doesn't want people posting tons of statistics about their Adsense program, so I'll be general about the results. In one month I made over $100 from Adsense placement on some of my pages. Over more than 30,000 views of the ads, people were clicking only a couple percent of the time. Most people reach my site via Google and are not repeat visitors.

I know people that are making thounsands of dollars a month on ads, so my revenue is not that remarkable to people in general. But for me personally, an extra $100 a month for just having my web site up is fantastic. It's all funny money until the check arrives, but when it does, I'll be ecstatic.

I now understand why guys like Nick Denton and Jason Calcanis are into making niche websites and filling them with ads. They can make a ton of money!

Who know what the future brings, but the right now the internet money machine is cranking away and it has nothing to do with IPOs of start-ups.

Posted by michael at 05:02 PM
Spreading the know-how

Yesterday I received an email from Brody had built his own electric smoker based on the page I made.

No question.

Just thought I'd let you know I built the smoker, per your page.

I did cut a large hole where the elec. heater goes in, and I cover it during use with tinfoil, which I hold on with magnets.

I also had the opportunity to smoke something that wouldn't fit in the smoker with the top on. Made a temp top from tin foil, and it worked fine.

thanks again,


Good work Brody, your smoker looks great.

Now that's what I'm talking about people! Soon the backyards of America will be filled with homemade smokers and the smell of burning hickory wood.

I like his modification with the tinfoil and using magnets to keep it in place. He should be able to add wood chips to the smoker without having to move the meat like I had to do.

Posted by michael at 09:42 AM
September 05, 2004
New Music

Here are a couple of albums I've been enjoying recently. I suggest you give them a listen. I put in a couple samples to listen too yourself. Due to the current silliness with the RIAA, and considering my job, I've only posted partial samples of the songs to avoid legal trouble.

Razorlight - Up All Night

Razorlight is a new British group that Suw told me about. This group is a mix of the sparse guitar/bass/drums sounds today of the Stokes mixed in with a few other things. There's a dash of 80's new wave and the occasional folksy riff that floats in and out. I listened to the new Libertines album first (think The Clash) and was suprised by the tasty songs on the Razorlight album. They avoid the 'wall of sound' style that's been so overdone these days. I've been listening to them in heavy rotation in the car. The album is an import and the price varies widely, so shop around.

My favorite song on the album: Razorlight - Shuffle and Fall - 60 sec. MP3 - 700k

Northern State - All City

Northern State is a rap group of three New York women that lay down the fresh rhymes. Their first album, Dying in Stereo was fantastic, and this, their second album, does not disappoint. Branching out into a few different styles, the girls stretch their rap further. They aren't the female Beastie Boys yet, but who knows what the future brings. They are heading out on tour with Cake! OMFG, what a kick ass show that would be. No LA dates announced yet, but I'm keeping my eyes open.

My favorite song on the album: Northern State - Don't Look Down - 60 sec. MP3 - 700k

Posted by michael at 11:17 AM
September 04, 2004
Poker Lessons

Played poker with Brad, Tim, Brian and Rich last night. Here are a few more lessons I learned.

While your full boat is nice, the other guys four kings are nicer.

Ratcheting up the betting when a pair appears on the table even though you don't need it because you made your straight on the last card can be effective in misdirection.

Burning Castro's crops is fun and enjoyable.

Posted by michael at 10:29 AM
September 03, 2004
BBQ Insight

Here are my answers to the latest Insight:

1. When you do fire up the grill, what do you put on it?
Briskets, tri-tip, turkey breasts, chicken

2. Where do you buy your goods (any secret meat markets)?
Bristol Farms for special things like 4-5 pound briskets, Ralphs for generic meats.

3. Besides your house, where do you/would you BBQ around your area?
I used to BBQ at Martin's house, but he moved to Kansas. What do they know about BBQ in Kansas?

4. Gas or charcoal?
Wood! I smoke meats slowly for maximum tenderness and flavor. I do have a gas grill for the quick grill when needed.

5. What is your favorite drink to accompany the grill?
Sipper Jigger of Jack Daniels and Coke.

6. When you bring a side dish, what is it?
Michele will make a quiche or some asian dumplings.

7. If the host burrns the main dish, where do you go out to eat instead?
Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles

8. Post BBQ games: dominoes, croquet, bocci or badminton?
Drinking liquor, eating sweets, herding children.

Posted by michael at 07:10 PM
Two Movies

I've seen a few movies recently and I thought I should write up my reviews. Of course, no one really cares to check my reviews before going to a movie, but I'll do it anyway.

Zatoichi, The Blind Swordsman - Zatoitchi is to Japan what James Bond is to Great Britain and America, the story of a cultural hero that lives on in movies with various actors and directors. Takeshi Kitano, actor/writer/director of many films including Battle Royale and Brother, takes the reins of the franchise. Finally being released in the US, Zatoichi is on the screen in it's full glory instead relegated to the DVD route that many international films suffer.

Now, I'm a huge fan of Akira Kuroswa, and all other samurai movies are measured against the Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, perhaps the two greatest action films ever made. Zatoichi is good even in compairison to these films. Takeshi is limited by the bounds of the pre-existing 20+ films that came before and can't really stretch himself.

The action is good, the villians are evil, the innocents are innocent, and Zatoichi is one serious ass-kicker. You won't be disappointed. The ronin samurai and his woman are the most intriguing characters in the film. Poised on the edge between a desire to escape ever present violence and their need to survive they have the most interesting story. I sure I missed a ton of the subtle nuances since that Japanese would find culturally obvious, but that simply means I'll have to buy the DVD for the commentary when it is released.

The one thing I didn't understand was the closing dance number. Can anyone explain that?

Napoleon Dynamite - When I saw the previews for Napoleon Dynamite I was hoping for a huge blockbuster comedy with plenty of lines to put into casual conversation like Ghostbusters. Alas, it is not to be.

The film is hilarious and well made, but the humor is in the context of the film. The director shot the film at a deliberately slow pace. Compared to the MTV style of many films these days, it was quite nice to have extended scenes with locked camera shots.

The story takes place in present day Idaho, but has the look of an older film. The themes though are universal; feeling like an outsider and the desire to be popular.

For anyone that was not in the popular crowd in high school (meaning most of the Cruft faithful) this movie will resonate.

Posted by michael at 07:46 AM
September 01, 2004
Cassettes to CD

Earlier this year, my Uncle Ron passed away. Ron was a great sax and clarinet player. Growing up I can remember hearing tapes of Ron play. I have a clear memory of driving with my Uncle Gus to fish for bass with Ron's music playing as we drove in the pre-dawn darkness to a Kansas pond.

My dad gave me three tapes of Ron playing to convert to CDs. One of the recordings was quite old. One tape from 1970 that was probably a few generations old.

I realized that I didn't have a cassette player and even if I got one, I'd still have the problem of jury rigging the recording into a computer and converting it to a CD. After dodging my dad's emails and questions about the conversion for a while, I was beginning to get desperate. I pondered the problem for a while and finally stumbled on cassettes2cds.

Just like it sounds, cassettes2cds converts cassette tapes to CDs. It's mainly meant for converting old prerecorded cassettes into CDs for current use. You know that old Police, Led Zepplin, or Duran Duran cassette you have sitting around, it can be made into a CD. (Don't even pretend that you didn't buy one of these albums. I know you did and you probably also bought a Michael Jackson album as well in your younger days! Next you'll try to tell me you don't know the words to ABBA songs and hated Grease. Friggin' liars...)

Where was I? Oh yes, the base cost of the job is $7 per CD, less if you convert a large quantity.

I emailed the guy who runs the site and asked a few questions and he seemed to know his stuff. Throwing caution to the wind, I sent the tapes off.

When the tapes arrived I got an email telling me so and daily updates on the status of the conversion. In about a week, a box arrived.

I popped a CD in and sure enough the tape had been transferred. The CD was good quality, considering the source.

The CD is printed with a label that you write the text for online.

For $7 a CD, it's a terrific service. Sure you could do this stuff at home if you had the right gear, the time, and patience, but for those that don't cassettes2cd is a godsend.

You can also get MP3s made if you want. (No, you whiny ass iPod lovers can't get cheesy AAC files, you need to settle for manly MP3 files to listen to on your crappy white earphones.)

So, cassette2cds gets the Cruftastic seal of approval.

Posted by michael at 10:21 PM

Yoshi lent me a comic book. I was flipping through the pages and saw this.

This is how I feel every day. Why can't things just be simpler. Why do I find it so hard to let go?

Posted by michael at 09:30 PM

Catching snippets of the GOP convention brings to mind a quote from Apocalypse now:

"Oh man, the shit piled up so fast in [the GOP] you needed wings to stay above it."

Rationalizing hatred and greed has been translated into "family values" and "freedom".

Thomas Jefferson is rolling in his grave.

Posted by michael at 10:48 AM