Thursday, July 30, 2009

Shopping Around

As I was finishing work, Delaney walked into my room with a pile of money. I thought he wanted to trade in some $5s and $10s for $20s, but he started out telling me he'd worked two hours pulling weeds today. He reminded me that he'd worked an hour on Sunday and asked me if I remembered. I did, and then he gave me $90 and said with the work he was up to $120, so would I buy his Lego Star Wars Republic Gunship.

We went to Amazon and found it for $160, and he was concerned. He told me that it was $120 at lego.com, so we went there, found it and he walked away happy. I started through the checkout and realized that Lego wanted $13 for shipping and $10 in tax. I wasn't quite ready to spot Delaney $23, so I went to find him.

We looked around, and it was all over the map pricewise. There were places selling it for $200, but no one we knew. Wal-Mart listed it, but out of stock online and no idea if it was in the local store. Delaney wanted it, so we decided to leave early for karate and go by there. I needed a few things anyway.

We got there, walked around, and found it for $118.88, and Delaney was thrilled. We got it and he kept smiling and talking about it in the car, and then on the way home after karate. Now he and Kendall are putting it together. He's proud of himself for working to earn the money. Twelve hours of mowing and pulling weeks over the last two weeks.

Beat

Once again, thinking I'd take it easy at karate. I ended up with Cory for boxing drills, a guy I haven't seen in months. So he was out of shape, and sucking wind, but we pushed each other along. Between that workout, the burpees at the end and the run today, I am beat.

Ready to relax with a beer, but we don't have any. Guess it's an apple juice night.

Snow

It's been crazy weather, in the low 60s today in July. This is supposed to be the hottest time of the year and we broke out jackets today. Then I just got an email that there was a light dusting of snow at Breckenridge today.

That is exciting. I can't wait for ski season.

Last Chance

Kyle came and asked me if I'd want to run a 5k with him and Tia last night, and then came right back and said I couldn't. Only Tia and he could go and I had kids. That's OK, and it's cool to see him thinking about running. He's run a few times on his own, outside and treadmill, as well as with Tia a bit. She says he's really fast and strong, with that tall, skinny runner's body. So she encourged him to run cross country.

After he told me I couldn't run, I asked him if he was going to do cross country. He said no, and didn't really have a good reason, so I tried to encourage him to try. My big argument? This is your last chance to do it.

Not entirely true, you can always run, could do it in college, but high school is different, and it's more of a team, and less competitive than it will be later on. Once you're in college, they tend to make you try out, at least I think so. Also running as an adult is different.

I had a friend who ran his senior year, and I didn't. I regret that now, even though I wouldn't have been good, I wished I would have just run. Especially since I've really learned to enjoy running.

We'll see if he tries. I said to give it a few weeks and he can always bail. Hopefully he will.

Busted Monitor

I woke up hearing the power cycle off and on a few times. I could hear beeping from the office while lying in bed, and the stereo blinked as well. The last few days, with rain and lightening storms, have had some short outages of 5 sec, but some cycling where we'll lose power 3 or 4 times in 5 minutes.

It's disconcerting, and annoying, and can cost us money. We have surge protectors and UPSes on many devices, but not all. And in this case, it wasn't enough.

I came downstairs to find one of my monitors dead. I checked, and sure enough it was on the UPS surge plug, but not a battery plug. My others are on the battery plugs, so I still had 2 of 3 monitors, but unfortunately my primary one, with the login screen, was dead.

I managed to log in, and Windows 7 figured out after about 10 minutes that one monitor was dead and moved the desktop, but it was annoying at first.

So I'm not sure if I want to buy a new one or not. I like 3 monitors, but I've been using the netbook and laptop more often, and perhaps it's not a wise use of funds. I'll have an internal debate over the weekend.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sore Knee

It seems that every night I go to karate something else bothers me. Tonight it was the left knee, feeling sore when trying to squat and get back up using that leg. It was the one I stepped funny on a couple weeks ago at baseball and it hasn’t bothered me too much, but it was sore tonight.

A good class, working hard. Delaney was almost as sweaty as me at the end. Not quite wringing out my shirt, but a good sweat.

At the end Delaney also stood up in front of the class and said he was collecting food for a food drive. He was very formal, explaining it to the class and finishing with a “thanks”. Kind of cute.

We Can't Have Flying Cars

While trying to film a podcast outside today, I was constantly distracted by airplanes. It's not that I live too close to an airport, though there's a private strip a few miles away, but it seems as thought the main airports in Denver have flight paths passing relatively close to my house. At one point I could see 3 planes in the sky in the same 100degree slice of sky.

They disturbed me, but I thought, what if we had flying cars? Then lots of people would be exposed to a lot of noise as others took off and landed near them. Roads can be load, but they're more self contained, and it seems that many of the houses on the edge of a neighborhood constrain that noise.

Flying cars would be a mess.

Forget about the safety issues, forget the technology, I bet it wouldn't happen because of the noise.

Maid Day

Every two weeks we have a maid come in to clean the house. It's always a hassle to get picked up, and I'm amazed how much crap gets dropped around the house in two weeks from all of us. It seems that one of us might make a bigger mess during any span of time, but we all probably have contributed to the issue.

My desk is probably my worst spot, but it makes for an annoying, and busy morning.

Scared to Reboot

I have my weekly conference call today, and in trying to get the webcam to work, it appears to be locked up with the manufacturer's software. Usually this happens and I reboot, and it will free up. Sometimes two reboots.

However the laptop has been acting up. Even with the new drive, if I reboot it freezes up during the POST screen, getting about 2/3 of the way through and then stopping. I might have to power down and up 10 or 15 times to get it to boot. I'm sure one of these days it won't ever boot.

While I need to get a call in to Toshiba and see what they can do, I'm also scared to reboot today. So no webcam for the call.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Working with Kids

My daughter sometimes jumps in the middle of my podcasting, and yesterday was no exception. I thought she was pretty cute, so I sliced out this segment and uploaded it to YouTube.



Is This a Problem?

I'm not sure, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

The other day our DVD played in our room died. It had been acting up, and I'd unplugged/replugged it in the strip a few times to get it to work, but it finally refused to come on. This happened to be one of the rare times Tia and I wanted to watch a movie, so we were annoyed. Our first thought was to watch the movie on my laptop.

So there we were, two technology professionals, successful, laying in bed, a laptop on my chest, us watching a movie. At least for about 10 minutes.

At that point I said I was done, and walked down to the basement, grabbed the DVD player from the treadmill and brought it back upstairs. We watched the movie, and I shuffled it back downstairs the next day. Since then it's come up and down a few times as kids or us have wanted to watch a movie. Kind of annoying, and I think I need a new DVD player on my shopping list. Or two.

The first time the kids asked me to bring it up, I asked why they didn't watch it in the living room and heard from them the DVD player down there wasn't working. Grrr, is everything broken? I then realized that they had been watching movies on the iMac or the XBOX 360, and didn't like either solutions. There aren't good places to sit around those devices.

When we came to Denver, the first winter we bought a big TV and a DVD player. Back then DVDs were still new, and you got 10 with a DVD player to boost sales. This was in 1999, and that is the same DVD player that's been in the living room ever since, through 2 moves. It finally died this year, 10 years later.

About six or seven years ago Tia and I bought ourselves a new TV and DVD/VCR combo for our bedroom. That lasted about5 years and then partially died. So two years ago, when we got the treadmill, bought two $40 DVD players that matched. One went down to the treadmill, and one to our room. The one in our room has apparently died, and now we have one non-computer working DVD player in the house.

That's probably all we should need, but since I like one for running, I think we need to get at least one more, and if I'm buying $40 ones, I'm tempted to get 2 and get the main TV working again. As we've had family over recently, it would be nice to have that TV available for watching stuff.

I don't see the $38 ones I saw before, but it looks like I can find a $47 one.

eReaders - Barnes and Noble Application

I downloaded the Barnes and Noble eReader application the day I heard about it and synced up my iTouch immediately. I was curious to see how it compared to the Kindle application, especially across devices.

The install from iTunes is seemless. I "purchased" it from the app store (it's free) and then it appeared on my iTouch after syncing. It asked for my Barnes and Noble account information, and once I put it in, I immediately had  a few books downloaded to the device: Dracula, Last of the Mohicans, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, and Sense and Sensibility. It also has a copy of the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

I tried a bunch of things on this device, and so I'll run through some comments on how things work as well as some comparisons with the Kindle application.

Ordering Books

Buying books online, or getting samples, is easy, and about the same as the Kindle application. Both applications launch a browser that connects from the iTouch. You can also use a PC to purchase books. There is less of a selection from Barnes and Noble, but it's a good selection for me.

Buying requires that you set up a default credit card and then it’s a click and a confirmation.

Navigating Your Library

The ordering in the Kindle application was always set for me to show the most recent read book at the top. This worked well as I often read a couple books at a time and keeping the most recent ones first was great. There were also author/title sorts.

The B&N app does it by download date, which is a pain for me. While typically my most recent book might be downloaded, there are times I'll buy 2-3 books and start reading one. Not having the most recently accessed book at the top is a pain to me. Not sure if it matters to others.

Sync

There is no sync. I have my “library” on multiple devices and there is no synchronization between them. At first I thought this was a big deal, but the more I think about it, perhaps not. If my wife and I share an account, and I think we should, then I don’t want her progress impacting mine. We share books in real life, but we might have separate dog ears or bookmarks in there.

As I think about it, the only good way for this to work is to have the ability to manually sync the book location up. Which means that every device would upload its progress periodically and then you’d get a list of devices on your account and locations, and you’d have to select one. Might be a nice future enhancement.

Reading

The readers are similar, but the more I’ve used the B&N reader, the more I think it needs work. In the Kindle reader I can swipe my finger right to left to turn a page, a gesture similar to turning a real page. I can go both ways, and that’s the default BN behavior. However the Kindle allows me to also touch the edge of the page on either side to change pages. The BN reader allows that, but I have to change the settings. I can select

  • swipe left/right
  • touch left/right
  • swipe up/down
  • touch up/down

It’s nice to be able to set this, but I’d like to be able to have a choice as I’m reading. There are times that I get tired of the swipe, and would like to touch. Changing the settings seems intrusive.

One of the reasons I get tired is that I prefer tapping. However tapping the page in BN reader works fine for turning pages. But if I want to get to the settings, and I have a few times, the tapping keeps turning pages. Normally in both readers tapping the center of the screen brings up the menu. Handy for changing books. I finally learned that I can swipe up or down to get the menu in the BN reader, but I keep forgetting. Very annoying.

On the other hand, their swipe seems to require a bigger swipe than the Kindle reader. I don’t know how you program these apps, but they definitely react differently on the same device.

Options

The BN reader has many more options, from everything like colors and fonts to automatic scrolling, a search feature, line spacing, justification, even a quick day/night setting to allow you to set two reading modes and switch between them with a single choice.

There are two big things that I think really give the BN reader the edge, despite a few annoying ergonomic things. The first is the ability to select a word and look it up. A dictionary is included with your BN reader for free, and once you’ve accessed it, you can press a word for a second, and the dictionary will open and find the word. I think it’s a light dictionary because there have been quite a few words that weren’t in there, but still it’s nice. One of the things I really appreciated about the Kindle device was being able to look up words. I’d never done that with physical books, just guessing at meanings from context. I often looked up words on the Kindle device, and thought it helped me learn a few things.

I was very disappointed the Kindle on iPhone didn’t have this, and liked that the BN reader had it. What’s more, it will ask you if you want to have it look the word up in the dictionary, in Google, or in Wikipedia. That is really handy, and I think it’s powerful on a PC, iPhone, or Blackberry. Not so great on the iTouch unless you have a wi-fi connection, but still cool. You can also set the reader to automatically look it up with one of those sources instead of asking.

The second thing that I think is amazing is that they give you real page numbers. They might not match the exact page in a paperback or hardback, but that is infinitely more reassuring than the Kindle’s “locations.” The book paginates, which slows the reading when you get started, but after that it’s nice to see page xxx at the top.

And even better is a graphical bar chart at the bottom of the screen that roughly marks chapters and the progress to date. I would love that on the Kindle as I often want to decide how much further I have in a chapter. There’s no good way to do that with the Kindle other than page forward and find out.

The Verdict

There are things I like about both readers, and while I think it’s easier to read on the Kindle app, the BN one’s progress indicator and lookup features make it my preferred reader.

I think both companies could learn from the other app, and I look forward to seeing them ported to other devices.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Both Wrong

An interesting point of view from the Huffington Post on the Gates/911 incident in Cambridge. It says that both groups are wrong, and to some extent I agree. Prof. Gates did not need to get so upset, but I think the officer is more at fault. You have to be professional, and you have essentially accused a black man of a crime in his house.

Both people had a bad day, but I still believe that Officer Crowley was more in the wrong.

Sore Knuckles

It never fails. I go to karate, tired, full, sore, something, and I think I'll take it easy. That was the case tonight. I ate a couple pieces of pizza on the way out the door at 5, taking Kendall to tutoring. I get to karate late, getting Kendall to piano. no warmup, or little, the body sore as we started class, and a senior student teaching. All recipes for an easy class. To top it off, when we went to partner drills I got a new guy, his 4th or 5th class.

And yet when we started boxing, I started pushing. Working hard, sweating, and dripping by the end of class. A good workout, and I felt I earned a step towards black.

I did get to work with Delaney briefly in some punching drills. He was a little silly and got tagged in the face. I hit his hand, he hit himself in the eye/nose. He was close to crying, but held it off. Held him after class and warned him not to goof off too much. Easy to get hurt if you're not paying attention.

Done Podcasting

I pulled this out of the bloopers for a podcast I was editing and decided to include it here.


video

This is the end of shooting for the day.

A latte, a bar, and a bottle

After dropping Delaney off at the Food Bank, I decided to come over to the local Starbucks in the country and work a bit. Better than driving 20 minutes home and then back again. I had the netbook, and grabbed a venti latter, a MetRX bar, and a bottle of water to fuel me for some work and then a run before picking up Delaney.

Donating Your Time

Tia loves her horses, and spending time with them, but she also loves helping others. She spent a good portion of yesterday helping her sister work with a horse. Chrissy moved to Denver and has been wanting to do more riding, and learn more, and Tia's moving her down the Parelli path.

This is on top of trying to find time to edit her video.

Nice to see someone giving of themselves. It inspires me to try to do more for the people I know.

Volunteer Scout

One of the merit badges that Delaney is working on requires 8 hours community service. So I've been trying to help him find a place to do that. Last week I had him call the Elizabeth Food Bank and ask them. They agreed, so we're packing up here shortly and I'll run him down there for a few hours of local help.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Baseball Sunday

Another fun game, another 7 innings, and another ass-kicking of the Spikes. We got killed and there was some doubt if we'd get past 5 innings. Actually there was doubt that we'd play.

I left early, thinking I'd run before the game, but hit traffic on the highway, and then the field was in bad shape. The early game had been cancelled, and we were debating it. Finally I went with another guy and bought some kitty litter that we spread up and down the first base line, where it was really muddy. The batters boxes and catchers area was raked, and we decided to play.

I start in left field, which was squishy wet from the get go. So wet that I was kicking up water all over me. I played a touch shallow to find a dry spot and the first batter promptly hit one 20 ft over my head. I was running to the fence and saw it hit beyond me.

And die. It hit in a small splash and stopped. I had to slow and come back to it. Lesson learned so I played deep for the next guy and he hit one through short on the ground that I had to run up on. At this point my feet were wet and the entire back of my legs was splattered with water and dirt.

From there they other team kept scoring. I think 4 in each of the first 3 innings, while we were shut out. They hit in between us, no errors on our side, and we had some hard hits right to people. I walked, fouling off a great pitch off the end of the bat. I regretted that when I walked. I also hit a liner that 2nd caught in the 4th, us still down about 12-0.

Finally in the 5th, down 14-0, the game on the line, there were two on and I hit a nice one to right center to score someone. I didn't score, but I did the same thing in the 6th, moving people around on a single to right. We managed to get through 7, and gave a few other guys the chance to pitch. In the 6th and 7th, we were joking around with the other team, and so it ended on a fun note. With rain starting to come down, we were happy to end things.

Pitching makes a huge difference, and once again we struggled because of walks. Not that we would have won, but I think it would have been closer if we'd have thrown more strikes. A fun game, and a good one for me. I played 1st, left, and center, no errors, snagged a bad throw at first, and was 2-3.

Bush Hog Repairman

After a lazy morning, I went outside to try and get the rotary mower going. I had a new wheel/axle/u_bracket assembly, a new A frame for the front, and my old rear, bent brace.

After unscrewing almost all bolts on the mower, I removed the old A frame and got the new one ready to go. I'd held them up to each other, and they appeared to be the same size. The new frame had a slightly different bracing point on it, but nothing that looked like a problem. I had to force it a bit, and life it off the deck of the mower to get it in there, but it was fine. The biggest time consumer was tightening all the bolts, most of which are 1 1/4" or so across, so it's slow going with 2 wrenches to tighten them.

Once that was done, I bolted my old frame back on. My thought was to get it on there and then try to bend it back. The old wheel had apparently gotten caught on something and bent the two bars counter-clockwise. Once I had this bolted on (very slow with nylon bushings in the nuts), I tried a few methods of bending it back, but all I managed to do was bend some of the pry bars I was using. I think I'll need to get something to heat it and then try to bend it another time.

In the meantime, I put the new wheel in there and then got the grease gun to grease the wheel and the two ends of the drive shaft. I hooked it up to the tractor and things looked good.

I got it set level, or close, and then headed out to the fields. I managed to cut a bunch of stuff, and it worked fine. The wheel is still a little cock-eyed, leaning to one side, but it cut fine. The rain came in, so not a lot was done, but probably a good hour of clearing pasture.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Free Parts

We bought our mower from a dealer up north a few years ago, and when I contacted them recently to replace a few parts on the rotary cutter, they were out of business. Shock, awe, concern, and I sent an email, not expecting anything.

After searching online and contacting other people, I finally got an email from one the old dealer and a guy I hadn't dealt with, asking what I needed. I sent a note back and he said he'd be at the shop yesterday after 3. So I left work early, packed up kids, and headed up there.

We hit tons of traffic, it was slow, and I am not sure I could handle that well anymore if I had to drive to work. I was getting stressed, but we managed to get up there. Having never been there, we found a building for rent with the right address, but no one was there. Empty warehouse, we checked the locked yard in the back, no parts. There was a pickup out front with a tractor on a trailer, so I thought we had the right place, but no signs, nothing.

I was disappointed, frustrated, and we were ready to leave when I noticed the lot across the street with a red tractor and various implements. So we walked over there and sure enough there were 6 or 8 of the same rotary cutter stacked up on a holder, along with blades, augers, etc. An assortments of various tractor parts. We walked around, looking to see if there were spares on the ground when I noticed a sign that appeared to be from this dealer on another building.

We drove over and found the guy, working on one last tractor that he had to deliver to a customer. They'd just run out of business, most of them moved on to new jobs (including this guy), but he was trying to close down the shop. I felt bad for them and we talked about what I had wrong and what I could do for service. He gave me the names of two shops (Colorado Tractor and Longmont Farm) to call for things. Then we looked through the bins of parts he was tossing in front and found an "A" frame and a wheel for the rear cutter. He just gave them to me, which was amazing.

I showed him the bent frame and he suggested heating it with a torch and trying to bend it back or calling Longmont Farm Supply and talking to them. He also gave me a free set of spare blades for my cutter.

So I can do a little fixing, but I think I'll email him today and ask what he'd take for another cutter. We could use the spare parts, it's cheaper than buying a new one and should give us a few years of service, and it would help them.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why No Subtitles?

I rented the Sopranos Season 1 from Blockbuster, thinking it might make a good running DVD. There's 7 seasons, and it would provide some good time. Plus it's easy to rent from Blockbuster.

However when I put it in, there were no subtitles. Why not? I can understand if it took a lot of effort to pay someone to transcribe the audio, but they have a script. They can just use that. I saw Analyze This recently and their subtitles must have come from a script since they didn't completely match the audio.

It's really annoying, and unfortunately, what can a consumer do? I can not buy the DVD, but I can't get this content from somewhere else. It seems like it would be an accessibility issue.

I really dislike "inbuilt"

I found it in multiple dictionary references, but I can't help but feel this is a colloquialism that isn't correct. I've always read and used "built-in" as terminology, but I see it more and more in my job.

I let it go in an article today because I don't have a good argument against it, unlike "upgradation." That one I can't let go.

And I hate seeing it in news publications.

Kindle Update - The iPhone App

I have an iTouch, and I recently downloaded the Kindle app to give it a try after I broke my Kindle device. It was kind of a knee jerk reaction since I was in the middle of Team of Rivals, War and Peace, and Wicked Prey at the time. My iTouch is much smaller, as shown below:

This is in the Apple App Store, and it's free, so you download it. Once you run the app, it asks for your Amazon.com account and password and then connects to Amazon. From there I immediately saw a list of "Archived Items" in the Home screen. I clicked it and all of my purchases were listed.

Pressing on Team of Rivals (it's a great book) downloaded that book to my iTouch and I could start reading. The device is intuitive, with a press on either side of the screen or a swipe of the finger across the device will turn a page either way. It's easy, and actually it's fairly unobtrusive. It's not as easy as clicking the buttons on the Kindle, but it's easy to do one handed. Plus it's a small, small device.

I tried the normal black text on which background, which was hard on the eyes. Just too much light coming off the screen. The sephia setting, which is an off brown text wasn't any better, but white text on a black screen worked well. It was easy to read, and didn't bug my eyes. Here's an image of the base screen and the options.

Amazon had copies of all my purchases, and selecting any of them downloaded the content to my iTouch. For a trip I had recently, I downloaded 5 of my old books, a couple that I wanted to re-read, and a couple kids books that I thought my daughter might read. They came right down over my wi-fi connection in a minute or two.

When I went to the Amazon site, my account now showed a new option for samples. As shown below, I had a send to "Steve's iTouch," the name I'd given my device.

Kindlesample2

I sent a few samples from the website and the process was as flawless as with the Kindle. I didn't need to sync with my computer. I could hit the "refresh" button from my home screen and the samples appeared.

Purchasing books was simple as well. On the home screen there's a "Get Books" button in the upper right that opens the Safari browser to Amazon's Kindle store. It's the mobile version of the store, so it loads fast, but it's optimized to work easily and let me look at recommendations, or search for books. I picked Finger Lickin' Fifteen and it immediately downloaded to the device.

 

Impressions

I've been using this app for a few weeks, and have read 4 or 5 books on it. The reading experience is nice, and it has worked well for me. I've read during the day, in bed at night, and it's easy to use. The accelerometer is used, so if you turn the iTouch sideways the text rotates. I've tried both ways, and landscape is nice for two handed reading (sitting down), but portrait is better overall for me. Since you can accidentally lean the device too far when reading, there's a lock button in the lower right corner to prevent the text from rotating. I've used that often.

A few times I've been in the car or outside and that's where the Kindle device shines. If you've tried to read your iPod or cell phone in bright sunlight you know it doesn't always work well. I was sitting by the pool one day and it was impossible to read. I've done that with the Kindle device and it's as usable in bright sunlight as a paperback.

The other thing that stood out to me was battery life. While using the iTouch for just reading (no music/video), I could get a couple of good days of reading out of it. But barely. I had to charge it pretty much daily. Since I run with an iPod as well, this isn't as big a deal as I thought it would be, but it's something to be aware of. I'm not sure how well the iTouch would last on a trip. I've easily read multiple books, across 4 or 5 days on the Kindle device without charging it. I rarely had the wireless on, so that helped, but it's something to think about.

The Final Verdict

I like this application, and it works well for me. It definitely means that I can delay the purchase of a new Kindle for awhile as I try this. It also means that I realize that the thing I love most of all is the Kindle platform.

It surpasses the device itself, which I really liked, but the platform is something I love. Being able to access content almost anywhere, buy books as I want them without needing a trip to the bookstore, is amazing. I've still wandered in the bookstore a few times over the last few months, spending some money on kids books to support the stores. I'd be sorry to see brick-and-mortar bookstores disappear and I like walking around. I really wish that Amazon would open the platform and allow me to buy a book in Barnes and Noble as well and get it onto the Kindle. Or that publishers would allow a download a the store.

I searched for a Kindle app on Android for my Google G1 phone, but there isn't one. I think because Amazon is worried about Google Books. However the Amazon platform, delivering content easily from their store, is a huge win, and would grow their market share quite a bit. I'd like to see this application ported to the PC, OS X, *Nix, as well as the various cell phone OSes.

Would everyone read on their devices? Maybe, maybe not, but I know that the porting can't be that hard and I'd like to be able to access some books on my PC (like technical ones). I'd like to be able to read if I only had my cell phone, or just my laptop. It's not a great way to read, but it works for short periods. Or in a pinch.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Spreading the Wealth



I've been searching for some things to watch while running lately. I completed Star Trek: TNG Season 2 a few weeks ago, and I've been running outside more, but I still like the treadmill many work days because it's quick. And I can do a short, 1.5 mile run easily down there.

I tried the Sopranos, and a few old DVDs, but nothing has captured my interest. So today when I got a 20% off coupon in email from Barnes and Noble, I decided to grab Leverage - Season 1 from them. I've linked to Amazon because I have a referral account there, but I've enjoyed watching the show during Season 2 and wanted to go back and see how it all came about.

Since I was on a roll, I decided to get Season 3 of Star Trek: TNG as well. It's taken me since Jan to get through 2 seasons while running and I'll see if I can make Season 3 last through most of the fall with some outside runs.

What Do You Call a Black Man with a PhD?

I won't answer the question because there's no good way to answer it after the Henry Gates Jr. arrest in Cambridge, MA. A colleague of his wrote an op-ed piece with this title, and he doesn't answer it either.

Prof. Gates gave an interview
about his experience, and I'm glad he's outraged. I hope he continues to pursue this and it makes headlines. I urge you to read it, and think about our country. Racism isn't dead, and will never be. And apparently perhaps it isn't that far below the surface.

The election of President Obama was a monumental moment for all minorities in the US. I'm still amazed that it occurred. I'm also slightly sorry I didn't vote for him, but in good conscience, there were other things I was more concerned about. I still worry about Democratic party spending.

I'm little sorry that the issue of race hasn't been more pronounced since the election. It would be nice to have everything color blind, but it isn't. I'm not convinved that Affirmative Action, or Title IX, or many other equality measures should be removed. We're not that enlightened yet, and this event is one sign of that.

Broken Legs

Tia's Facebook status:

So, I'm in Seattle on a business trip and my 8 yr old daughter calls and says, "Mom, I'm in your bed and I just ordered a Pay-per-view movie. Also, I need some breakfast. My legs are broken and I can't go ask Dad. Will you call him?"

I am not surprised. I heard about this from Kendall later. She told me she tried to call and ask about buying "The Pink Panther 2" but couldn't reach me. So she bought it.

Apparently she called Tia as well.

Her legs are fine now.

The Kindle Flack

There have been so many reports and debates about the Kindle debacle in the news. I saw an interesting one on Slate and responded with this comment:

"Some interesting comments, and while I think Amazon made a huge mistake here, I think there is an important thing to note here.

Artists deserve to be paid, if they want to be. Whether this is a book, music, a movie, software, etc. If they set a price, whether you want to call it piracy or theft, it's a criminal act to take their work for your own use. I think copyright is ridiculous, and as an author, I think the original 14+14 years was plenty.

In this case, ultimately Amazon did the right thing, but the wrong way. They did not await a court decision, which is what should have happened. In that case, a recall would be warranted. Read the laws on stolen property. Police can come into your house and repossess things. They just won't for a CD, but they will for a car. In the case of books which are sold (it has happened), a recall is issued, but often people don't comply, and the police haven't enforced it because of resources.

Ultimately I think Amazon failed, and broke trust because they

a) acted as judge and enforced

b) did not properly inform consumers

c) did not give them a choice. They sell legal copies. They could have informed consumers this was an issue and they'd like to either refund, or replace with a real copy (at Amazon expense), or wait for a court order, at which point they'd have to just remove the content.

I'm not sure how I want the world to work here. It fundamentally scares me that a court could repossess something I've paid for because I purchased stolen property. However the moral fiber of my character says that I shouldn't be condoning, or supporting the fencing of illegal works, if I can. "

I've read so many articles and discussions about this issue over the last week, and it's amazing to me how differently so many people view this. There seem to be 3 camps on this issue that I've seen.

  1. People believe Amazon did what they needed to do
  2. People believe that Amazon acted too quickly, but the end result makes sense
  3. People believe that no crime was committed

I fall into the second camp. This was a result of pirated works, and having them is a criminal issue. The issue of Amazon and DRM, and their actions is a problem, but the end result is that they should not have been selling these works.

What if this happens with Windows software? It has, and often because of the scale, the pirate can't make restitution to their customers, who would have to then purchase legal copies of Windows. The same thing happens with music, DVDs, etc.

What's scary about the Amazon story is that we have a wired platform, where essentially the seller has a semi-permanent connection to the consumer, and can affect the terms of sale, post-sale. Meaning that they can not only recall the product, but they can make changes to the content you purchased.

In most cases this would be nice, getting "patches" that fixed your software, corrected typos, etc. But that convenience also means that they can later censor your content as well if the language weren't deemed to be appropriate.

Imagine that happening with a movie you'd purchased, what if a scene were deleted because of some objectionable content? What if your software were changed, err, never mind, that happens now.

There is tremendous power and efficiency from having a vendor of some sort be able to automatically push services to you and update their product, but there's also a serious danger for abuse as well.

How would I want this to work? I have no idea, but I think we have some fundamental issues that we need to work through over time, and some laws to govern how this can be handled. I'm not sure that I trust any particular business to do the right thing.

Watch Your Repairs

Apparently PC repair people have learned a few things from auto mechanics of the past. A news group in the US spied on repair companies with some crappy results. Technicians not only were devious, wanting to charge for repairs they didn't make, but they also violated the trust of customers by snooping through details.

In my mind, the results of this operation ought to be reported to the police as well, and these individuals arrested, and fined, with a nice mark on any background check in the future.

PC TV

Last night after karate we came home, I cleaned up kids, and we were all set to watch Wipeout. A new episode was on last night and the kids love the show, so our plan was to watch it before the kids went to bed. As soon as I turned on the DVR, however, I realized something was wrong. Wipeout was listed as recorded after Leverage, and I knew that wasn't right. We started watching, and sure enough it was the Japanese Game Show program instead. We only had the last few minutes of Wipeout.

Delaney was OK, but Kendall was really disappointed. So I grabbed my PC and we went to ABC.com, where we couldn't see last night's episode (disappointing), but we did see an earlier one from this season that we hadn't seen.

So we watched, PC on my lap, kids in bed next to me, and it went pretty well. The streaming worked out well, no glitches, though occasionally it wasn't clear in the rendering.

TV online is close, but still not quite there. Still, it was a nice option that saved our plan for the evening.

Communicate

I definitely need to work on this, both at work and outside. It's from a technological point of view, but the lesson can be applied to any interaction.

Think Before You Speak

Sore

We didn't do a lot in karate, and I thought I wasn't overdoing it, but I was sweating up a storm. It was literally dripping off my chin as we took breaks. And with plenty of beginners, it was a slower class than normal. However we had someone testing for brown belt, so we ended up with lots of kata, and I pushed pretty good on that.

So my legs are sore, and I'm glad to be relaxing a bit.

Gadget Man

I'm searching for a new laptop bag. After getting a backpack from Microsoft and using it on a few trips, I realize that it won't work. Since I know there are a few other people looking for them, I commissioned a review on a Maxpedition bag from the Scary DBA. I'm looking forward to seeing what he thinks of that one.

In any case, when I was trying to stuff things into my bag and struggling. So I unpacked the bag and then took stock of what I had in there. My list of things:

  • 15" laptop
  • power brick and cord for the 15" laptop
  • HP Mini 1030R Netbook (10")
  • power brick and cord for the netbook.
  • iTouch
  • iPod sync cable
  • USB wall adapter
  • USB car adapter
  • iPod for running
  • External USB drive
  • External SATA adapter (purchased on the trip)
  • CD case, holds 12 CDs/DVDs
  • a dozen pens/pencils
  • 2 small notebooks
  • USB charge cable for cell phone
  • business cards (about 20-30)
  • headphones for running/editing
  • 2 digital cameras (1 for my daughter)
  • book light for airplane reading
  • small SD card -> USB adapter
  • external USB->VGA adapter
  • mini-tripod
  • bluetooth headset charger

Wow!

I was actually stunned by how much crap I was carrying around. No wonder I didn't like carrying the backpack. I can cut down a touch of this stuff, but I'm missing my camcorder, which I'll need at PASS along with a microphone.

I definitely think that I need to consider a rolling bag of some sort.

Don't look for all this at SQL Saturday #17. I'll be there with just the netbook, leaving the 15" laptop at home.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kindle Alternatives – B&N on Blackberry

I’m not a fan of Blackberry devices. Actually that’s not true, I really dislike them. They’re not intuitive, and I’ve never liked the form factors. Perhaps that changes as they move towards things like the Storm, but for now I’m avoiding them.

However they are popular, and my wife loves hers. So when I saw Barnes and Noble had a e-reader application for the Blackberry, I decided to try it. While we were having lunch today, I asked her to download it and see what it looked like. She did, and we connected to my account at Barnes & Noble.

Once there, the free books from B&N showed up, along with samples that I’d sent to my iTouch and samples I’d ordered from the PC application on my laptop.

A few comments. The Blackberry application seems much less refined than the iPhone/PC versions. It wasn’t as smooth to read, and the paging down sometimes paused the device.  I wasn’t happy with the default font, but when we picked “font settings” from the menu, the screen went blank and the application seemed to go out to lunch. The screen was also small, and not really as easy to read to me.

In this case, the device got in the way.

My wife didn’t like it either, but she wasn’t thrilled with the iTouch or even the Kindle. She liked to pick up a book and just get back to her spot, but I think that’s somewhat because she doesn’t read much and the change was somewhat drastic for her. She used my Kindle a lot last year, but was annoyed when I read a book in between her sessions and she had to find her book again. I agree with that, and it seems these are personal devices.

The Blackberry application, like the others, doesn’t sync up your location among devices. In once sense that’s good since if my wife and I “shared” a book, we wouldn’t want things going back and forth. However if it were just me, and I moved around on devices for some reason, I find that slightly annoying.

I rate this as a poor implementation, but to be fair, the small screen was a bigger deal to me. She has a curve, so I’d like to see this on a Storm.

Lunch at Paradise

Tia missed her flight and didn't get booked until later on today. So she called and asked if I wanted to have lunch.

Drove to Paradise bakery, and we had a nice lunch outside, watching people walk by and chatting.

My Morning

Tia left this morning for Seattle, so I'm on my own. Actually it's a girl-less house now, with Kendall at her aunt's. So I had a chore this morning



We aren't throwing hay right now, letting horses eat grass. So my job was to open up a new pasture for them to graze in. I did, and on the way back, they came to greet me.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Saturday Afternoon

video

How I spent my Saturday afternoon. Helping Tia film some horse stuff. This one came out pretty good.

The Most Polite

Tonight was Delaney's first Court of Honor where he got something. He earned 4 merit badges, though only got 3. We think there was a paperwork mix-up that we'll deal with next week. We've been out of scouts for a few weeks with travel and other stuff, so this was a good way to ease back in. Nothing to do but show up.

After giving out all kinds of awards, they pulled up all the boys that were at summer camp onto the stage. Then they gave out different awards, basically recognizing something about each kid. There were awards for the earliest riser, the aqua-man for someone that was always at the pool, a kid with the most sunburn and one for the most blisters.

Delaney got the "Most Polite Scout" award, which was pretty cool. Nice that they think that part of him stands out.

He's on a good pace. Five months in, 4 merit badges and almost a 5th. Slightly behind some scouts, but ahead of others.

Now I need to get him to continue working. An Eagle was awarded tonight, and hopefully that motivated him a bit.

Pictures

I had to get some pictures taken for work. For some promotional purposes they wanted professional photos, and I've been delaying for a couple weeks. I should have done it yesterday, but I didn't, so I decided today was a good day to get out there.



It was suggested that we hit a Wal-Mart, Sears, or JC Penny to get quick, cheap photos. My requirements were a collared shirt and a light background.


As you can see, I kind of listened, and hopefully one or more of these will work. I was a little impatient, hurrying the guy along, just a few poses, getting things shot so I could get back to my life.



I picked 2 of my SQLServerCentral shirts, but since it was a one price for all shots, I should have brought a few more. I might go back and get 3 or 4 more shirts done with similar poses and other shirts.



And I had to get one with a Friday shirt. That might be a fun photo session that allows me to choose from various ones on a Friday, depending on my mood.

Barnes and Noble eBooks

I saw yesterday that Barnes and Noble released their e-reader for iTouch/iPhone, Blackerrys, Mac, and PCs and at the same time opened up their ebookstore online to more than 700,000 books.

I think it's a great move, and I downloaded it right away. I'll sync up my iTouch and see how it compares to the Kindle reader.

One downside of this device, the formats used by the application aren't compatible with other devices directly, like the Kindle. They do support the epub format, so that's good, but it's disappointing that someone can't move content easily from the Kindle to the B&N application.

I also heard that they will be sending their books to the Plastic Logics reader, which is due to come out later this year.

Family Dinner

We had a nice family dinner last night, my sister-in-law, her fiancee, and my father-in-law down at our house. They cooked a nice meal, which we haven't had in some time. Kendall and Kyle went to piano while we got started, but they came back and we had a nice large scrabble game. Kendall helped me, working through words on my board. Kyle and Tia were together, with Delaney in and out a bit. Lonnie (my father-in-law) on his own, and Kris and Chrissy making a team.

We played one game while things were cooking, and I opened great with a 77 to start, using all my letters. That was the first time I think I've ever done that. We got through 3 rounds before dinner and everyone conceded the came to me :) It's not often that I win, with Lonnie and Tia usually competing hard and having great vocabularies. I'm usually 2nd or 3rd, and I've gotten used to it.

In the second game, I actually started the game with "MINT"  and even that required a blank space! I seemed to constantly have 4-5 vowels, and Kendall and I struggled for words, but somehow we were winning. We had 99 to start the last round at 10:30 and a 22 pt lead when I went to put Kendall to bed.

I wonder if I won....

Sore

My knee was sore last night, actually aching a bit as I finished work. I had ice on it on and off during dinner and scrabble, and was slightly worried.

My thought it that it was a bad step on Sun. I ran into the outfield from the infield, and stepped funny, and up or down step that I wasn't expecting. I made the catch, fell down, but afterwards the leg was sore.

Time heals though, and it's better today.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Steve Wear

A friend sent this. Trying to decide if I should order a shirt from Steve Wear.

A Productive Morning

Up at 8, everyone else asleep, I went down and made coffee. Then it was off to work, headphones on, chugging through my list of things. I went through my Q of stuff, knocked out a few articles, scripts, answered some posts, etc.

Tia came down after 9, and shortly thereafter some family came over, so I'm glad I had a very, very productive morning.

Public Speaking

I saw Ed McMahon's book "The Art of Public Speaking" recommended by someone recently. I forget who it was, but it was someone I respected and they were writing after his passing. So I immediately jumped over to Amazon and purchased a used copy.

It arrived recently and I'm just starting to dig in to see what I can learn. Between my own speaking efforts and being a merit badge counselor for the Boy Scouts, I think I ought to learn more about it. I'm tempted to hit a local Toastmasters meeting, though I'm not sure where I'll find the time.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Old Team

I faced my old team today in baseball. It was good to see them, and I got to talk to a few people that I haven't seen all year. Our games have never been scheduled near each other, so this was the first time I got to talk to a few of them in a year.

They didn't take us very seriously, and I can understand. They played people out of position, switched pitchers after every few innings, and in general treated it like a scrimmage. With good reason since we managed only 4 hits and no runs, losing in 7, 11-0. I didn't get a hit, but I did manage to hit the ball three times for outs.

I played OK in the field, making a couple plays at 2nd, blowing a throw to 2nd for the start of a double play, and dropping a liner. Not my best game, but I did make a couple good plays on harder hit balls.

It was a long, hot game, and we struggled again. We had 7 guys, picking up a couple that were friends of players. We've dropped a lot of games, and a few of the guys were upset, but I thought it was pretty good. We managed to make some plays, no one got hurt, and I had a good time.

The British Open

I didn't think I'd care, or that I'd want to watch, but after finishing a movie this morning, I turned on the Open to see what was happening. With Tiger out, usually I'm not that interested. He's chasing history, so it's exciting to see him in contention at a major.

There's history this morning, but of a different kind. Tom Watson, 59, is leading. I watched him fall behind, then everyone else fall back and now with a 1 shot lead, he just hit a beautiful 2nd shot at 16 that could put him 2 strokes up.

Rather exciting, even though I haven't played golf in a decade myself.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Puttering Around

This afternoon I
- Ran 2 miles
- Filmed about 15 minutes a couple times for Tia
- Pulled some weeds
- Set the pitching machine out front and knocked out 4 or 5 buckets of balls
- worked on making a sign for our gate
- helped Delaney bring the mower back from the top of the driveway when it died.

Didn't really complete anything, other than the running, but it was a nice, relaxing afternoon,

No Parts

The rear wheel on the rotary cutter came off last week, and while I could continue cutting, I wanted to replace it. so I took it to the local tractor dealer, and he couldn't help me. I had thought it would be a generic part, but apparently not according to these guys.

I went back, dug out the manual to find not a single company name or brand on it. Nothing on the cutter either. Calling the guys that sold it to me meant that I

So I tried calling the dealer I bought it from after that, only to find out they are out of business. Grrrr.

Today I took off the rear U arm and went down to see if they could fix it. They said perhaps they could substitute some parts and do some labor, but I'd be throwing good money after bad, and I'd probably be $250 or more in. A new one from them is about $1000-1200, and I can likely get another brand for more like $800.

So not sure what to do. A guy that runs a tractor dealer down south is supposed to call me back Mon and we'll see. For now I'm not sure if I should cut without the read wheel or not.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Small Step - Car Update

Ford is adding Eco-Boost to a number of vehicles. A combination of a turbo and fuel injection technology that can add up to 20% to the mileage for all kinds of vehicles. It's not a great long term solution, but it's a start.

It's good to see Ford making changes to try and improve the technology in cars. If you added this on top of hybrid technologies, then you really start to get some good improvements. I hope they continue to move forward with other technologies that will improve the way we transport ourselves around.

This is the type of improvement that GM and Chrysler have been avoiding, just sticking with minimal changes to their technology. GM has done a little, but not enough. It feels like they have been dragging their feet and resisting changes. Ford is trying things to see if they can improve things.

Big Brother

I was actually stunned to read that Amazon actually pulled content from people's Kindle devices after a publisher decided to stop selling the books. They can stop selling content, but removing it from people's devices seems to violate the spirit of any terms of service.

This is making me less and less likely to get a Kindle.

Tiger Missing the Cut

I was watching a little to see how Tiger was doing at the British Open. After a poor showing yesterday, being 7 off the lead, he has ballooned from +1 to +7 today, and will miss the cut.


I wasn't planning on watching much, but I'd be paying attention a little. However with him being out, I'm really uninterested now. I'm a Tiger fan, so if he's out, along with Phil, I'm not interested at all.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Working for Money

My little boy is motivated, and it's good to see. Delaney asked today how we could make some money and we said that we'd let him cut grass. He didn't like that idea, but a couple other things Tia threw out there were all just as distasteful to him. However we said that he needed to work, and we'd pay him well, mostly so he'd get the experience of earning his own money. He's done a little in the past, but he broached the subject today without asking for something first.

He's motivated by Legos, which is fine. So after my run, I went outside, got the mower running and set him up. I could hear it running, on and off, as he'd stop to move something, but only for a minute or two. Finally it stopped and about 5 minutes later my phone beeped with a text message. My sister-in-law, who is hanging out on the back porch, sent a note that Delaney was having trouble with the mower.

I went out there, saw there was no gas, and took Delaney up to the station to fill up. Then I helped him make lunch and went back to work. About 30 minutes later he asked me if I'd fill up the mower so he could go back out. He's been out there for almost another hour, chugging away at the grass the tractor can't reach.

He's timing himself on his watch, since that's how we'll pay him, and I said to come see me when he was done. He stopped it when the mower died from gas, and I had him start it when we started filling up the mower. He was surprised, but I said that was part of the job, and he if he had to fill it up, I'd have paid him for that time. We'll see how long it lasts, but it's good that he's willing to work for things.

We did the same thing with Kyle when he was younger, and he worked pretty well. He didn't want a lot, but he did go out there and do chores for money, and still will. Kyle's usually willing to groom the arena, or feed horses, or other things around the ranch in addition to baby-sitting.

I'm not sure how Kendall will do, but I think her brothers have set good examples.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Not Quite Ready

I went back to karate tonight, feeling good, having a good easy run today with no pain.

However once we started to work out, I realized pretty quickly I needed to slow down, not stretch as far. The warm up wasn't bad, and I learned to avoid knee lifts and some of the kicks. When we went to partner drills and combinations, I was really handicapped on one side. I had to take it easy on everything.

For some reason I think taking it easy makes everything harder. When we went for pushups and abs at the end, my arms and shoulders were really tired. Not sure why, but it was harder than normal, and I'd been working less hard!

Delaney started coughing up a storm right before class. People were wondering if he was OK, and even he tried to get out of it. However when we started working, his coughing got less and less.

Acronis True Image 2009 - Cloning a Disk

With my hard drive failing in the laptop recently, I scrambled to do something. I was on the road, and didn't have a lot of choices, especially as I was in a weird place. I was on vacation, and I didn't have super immediate needs, but I did have a commitment to speak on behalf of SQLServerCentral at the Richmond SQL Server and .NET Users Groups.

So I did a few things. I grabbed a netbook, which would give me short term help, and also I tried another solution I'd read about. I got a Black Widow, external SATA dock and a copy of Acronis True Image Home version along with a new SATA drive. I managed to get my laptop to boot, and then copied off the latest versions of my documents to an external drive.

NOTE and WARNING: Your hard drive will fail at some point. Make sure you back things up. A cheap, 1TB external USB drive costs about US$200. Get one, and periodically copy things off. I'd done this before my trip, but I was 4 days late in changes to a few things. I was lucky I could get the latest versions of things.

Once I was sure things were working, I took a deep breath. At this point I didn't see the external USB drive because it was completely blank. The hardware showed up, but no guarantees there was a drive there. I probably could have tested it somehow, but I was pressed for time with family calling for things. So I inserted the Acronis CD in the drive and booted to it.

When it starts, it's a GUI, and it's slow. It's loading off CD, and that gives you new appreciation for how well things work off a disk drive.

 

 

It's mainly a backup program and gives you lots of options. I had to move down to the clone disk option. The guy at Best Buy said I'd want to walk through the advanced selections to choose the new size of the partition. My old drive was 160GB and the new one was 320GB. I could live with two partitions on the new drive, but I've prefer one.

So I walked through, choosing the source disk and target disk, setting the partition to be the whole disc. Read carefully as the options were slightly confusing to me. I managed to get this right, and things are confirmed in your settings.

My screen didn't look like this one above, as I'd set one large partition for the target drive.

Once I started it, I had a couple graphs on the screen showing progress. The estimated time on my Qosmio F40, dual core 2.2GHz machine with SATA drives, was about 3 hours. So I moved on with vacation, slightly worried about it. I returned late that night, but was afraid to make the switch at that time. I rebooted the laptop, and it was working, so I left things alone. Well, that and I didn't have a screwdriver to work on the laptop. I packed up the new drive in it's plastic casing and went to bed. I had an early 100 mile drive down to Richmond the next day.

When I got time in the afternoon to try things, I removed the drive from the laptop with it's case and then put the new drive in the casing. I slipped it back in the slot at the front of my laptop and rebooted to find ...

The Acronis CD program starting.

I was confused, but then I realized that it was booting from CD. I switched the drives back, which was a slow process. And the same result, which didn't surprise me as the drive was failing. So, I left things alone, grabbed the netbook and a copy of the presentation on flash drive, and went to talk. I'm glad I did that as I had issues with the netbook as well.

When I returned, I opened the laptop and looked at it awhile. I mentally went through the steps and realized I'd inserted the drives upside down. I quickly reversed the original drive, praying that it hadn't damaged the connectors, and it worked. The SATA connection looks fairly symmetrical, so that's good. I then removed the drive, changed out the old for the new in the case and re-inserted it, and I had my laptop back, quicker, and with an extra 150GB of space.

Since then I've been using the new drive and it has performed flawlessly. All of my stuff works, the settings, the configuration, security, everything is as it was. I was skeptical that this would work, thinking there might be some system partitions or things, but the Acronis software has run very well. If you need a backup of your hard drive, want to put in a larger one, or have a drive failing, I highly recommend this process. My cost:

  • Acronis Software - US$40 from Best Buy (it's $50 online)
  • Black Widow - US$60
  • New SATA drive, 320GB - US$90

For a total of US $190. That's much cheaper than a new laptop, and it's certainly worth the time it saved me in rebuilding a new drive and installing things. I'm actually tempted to make an image of this hard drive periodically rather than back things up to ensure that I can recover if something happens.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back in Colorado

Kyle's been in AZ for a week, visiting friends, and he's due back tonight. We heard from him awhile ago that he's in CO, but still a few hours to drive.

It seems like he's had a great time, and he's communicated relatively little, which I think is a good sign. It means he's been enjoying himself and focused on things out there.

Hopefully he'll get back safely tonight.

Jury Duty

I didn't get selected, getting out of the courthouse just before 1 and grabbing lunch before coming home. So I ended up missing just over half a day and am still working a bit to get caught up.

The whole process was interesting, though slow and boring as well. I'm torn about not being picked since I've never served and it would have been interesting. However it would have jammed me up for work, or jammed up my co-workers, so I'm a little glad that I didn't.

I arrived and had to fill out a little paperwork. I hadn't read the summons, which had a short form on it to fill in your name, address, etc. So I filled that in, and went back to the clerk. Most everyone else was in the same boat and were filling theirs out as well. Once I did that, I got two more forms, one just with name/address for proof of service and the other a series of questions to be excused. I assume they don't give you them all at once to ensure that you don't lose something.

Seems inefficient, especially as they could easily have a stamp or something on the mailed card as proof of service. Lots of paper, though maybe that's the easiest thing to handle. It's a small courthouse and county, so it's not busy. Only one trial today.

After sitting in a room for nearly 2 hours, they finally said that they were ready to begin. There was only a civil case and they needed only 6 jurors plus an alternate. They began calling people in sets. First 7 as the likely candidates, then 6 (I was #10 overall in here), then we had 4 more come in the courtroom. Finally about 15 more in the gallery. Each set of us was walked into the courtroom and we had to remain in order, and seated in order. I guess that's a legal reason that people are processed in an order.

After another 20-30 minutes the judge was announced, we stood, he came in, said hi, said sit down, we sat. The reason we had 17 was that 7 would be empaneled, and the lawyers could whack 10 (5 each). So if no one was let go for cause, the first 17 was OK.

From there things were slow. He talked about the process, which was slow. He apparently was reading from a script. It took awhile and he explained that we were the first case in this new courtroom. So they were working out bugs. Fortunately we could all hear and see, and so he began to question us. He asked a lot of the same questions from the form, but then also questioned specific people that responded to other questions, like "do you know the plaintiff", and similar questions.

From there the lawyers each had a chance to ask questions. For the most part I had no reason to raise my hand at any of them. The only one was a question about who was a landlord (or had been one). The case was a civil suit arising over an insurance issue. Homeowners said the agent hadn't informed them properly, they cancelled a policy, didn't have proper coverage.

So we went through this for over an hour, and no one was dismissed for cause. Then the lawyers had their preemptory challenges. The process was a chart was passed from lawyer to lawyer, back and forth until each had crossed out 10 people. From there the judge then listed the 7 serving, and the 10 dismissed. The entire gallery was dismissed, and actually the first 7 people were chosen. So I missed by 3.

It was good and bad. I would have liked to serve, but they estimated a 4 day trial, which would have sucked.

This was different than Douglas county. There I sat in a criminal case, and they brought in about 50 of us. As they asked questions, or people claimed hardship, they removed people right away. As they lost people in the box they moved new people in from the gallery. That time I was like 30 or 40 in, and despite a lot of people getting let go, I never go to the jury box.

Still, I did my duty. I'm good for the rest of 2009, though with my luck I would expect to get called in 2010.

VDBA Raw

Here's the raw footage of one of the podcasts from this week. I had someone ask me if I could just shoot live, and include the various mistakes and other events that occur. I've been meaning to and it occurred to me for some reason that this was a good one.

It's 9:32 long, so be prepared.

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There's a couple minute pause in the middle where the toilet upstairs gets flushed. It doesn't come through on the audio, and I didn't need to pause, but I didn't realize that. It was loud down there!

So I played Tubz during that time on the iTouch, which is why I'm staring down.
Enjoy!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Jury Duty

It's funny, but in the last ten years we've lived in Colorado, this is the third time I've been summoned for Jury Duty. Tia hasn't been called once. So I'm off tomorrow to Kiowa to take my place and see if I get picked to serve. I got a notice a few weeks ago, called today, and my lucky number came up.

So I'll be heading down there tomorrow early to see if I'm chosen to serve. It's annoying and it means that I've got to jam a bit tonight to ensure that I get enough work done. Tia says she wishes she had it because she would get out of work, but not me. I need to still get things done so that the site runs without me.

I'm torn because I need to get work done, and this impacts the family time as well as Steve time. However it's a citizen's duty, and I wouldn't think of trying to get out of it. I talked to the kids a bit about it and tried to explain why I'm going and what I have to do.

Hopefully it means something to them.

It was sunny and calm an hour ago

It was a beautiful day earlier, sunny, calm, and the only reason I didn't run outside was that I pulled my groin yesterday. So I decided to take it easy on the treadmill, just a slow jog. As I walked downstairs, I could see some clouds rolling in and thought I'd miss cutting grass today.

I did my 20 minutes, then came up, showered, and warmed up some tacos for Kendall and I. It got dark suddenly downstairs and within 10 minutes it was raining. Shortly thereafter, it looked like this out the back window.


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It's hard to tell, but we had to shut windows, and there's a haze in trying to see out the front to the neighbors.

It's hard to see, but I have a couple shots. Here's out the front door, and it appears slightly hazy.



And here's out our bedroom window. That driveway was dry an hour ago.


It's coming down pretty hard, about what a Nor'easter would be like back in Va. There are already good puddles in the driveway and rivulets of water running down. I'll definitely be hooking up the blade and scraping the driveway this week!

Phenomenal Cosmic Powers

Tia was telling me the other day about someone she works with that quotes movie line constantly. She was saying how he's always working them into conversation, and she is alternately annoyed and amused. However it's not necessarily a talent she has, and doesn't often get the chance to participate.

However recently she was on a call and the guy said something about another person having "phenomenal cosmic powers". Tia chimed in with "itty-bitty living space."

Delaney, in the back seat, immediately started laughing. I did too, but I didn't know what that was from. Both Tia and Delaney remembered that from Aladdin.

We've been laughing about that for a couple days now.

Better

I can walk without pain, though I still feel the pull slightly in my right groin area. After a restless night, I'm glad things are healing. Laying there last night, I had a hard time falling asleep, with every move sending pain up my leg.

Tia gave me Aleve at bedtime, which I'm guessing kicked in at some point. I'm not a big drug fan, and I don't think of taking any, but I know that low doses can help.

The plan is to run soon, but I'm thinking to go with the old PT routine that I used with my shoulder. I'll put the heating pad on it for 15-20 minutes, then take it easy on exercise, and then ice it afterwards. That is what worked well for my shoulder, and it's what I read on a few sites. I did a little Internet research, for what that's worth, and most sites said the same RICE technique. Rest, ice, compression, elevation. I did that yesterday and then I'll do it again today, skip karate, jog easy, and then try to slowly increase activity on Wed.

I hope to be ready for Sun to play baseball again. Facing my own team, and I want to be able to play hard, though not straining.

You are building an online brand

With everything you do online. At least according to this blog post at ZDNet, which somewhat validates my presentation: The Modern Resume - Building Your Brand Online.

There's not a lot in the blog, other than mentioning there are some new tools that give you the ability to leverage your social profile with business cards, the Facebook vanity URLs, and more, but also new privacy controls on your Facebook account.

There are pretty good controls already on LinkedIn, and I think they're good, though I would like to see a little more granularity for sharing with co-workers/friends and a separate level for recruiters or potential interviewers.

I mention it in the talk, but it's worth repeating. Anything you post online is a part of your profile. None of them will make or break your reputation or your brand, but they add up. You don't want a lot of items that present you in a poor light.

Manage your brand. It's always been something you should do, and that continues in the digital world.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Crushed

We got killed today at our baseball game. It's not that we played that bad, a few errors, but for some reason we hit it to people and they didn't. Quite a few walks as well, with our pitching staff struggling to find the plate at times.

I had a decent day, despite tweaking my groin in the second inning. That stunk, but it happens. I walked and then took a lead. I got too far and the catcher threw to first. As I slid back, I mush have jerked a bit since my right leg felt the pull. It got worse as the game went on, and I slowed more and more.

After that I was 1-3, so not too bad. I actually half swung at an outside pitch and bounced one to third. The guy there was playing deep and I managed to beat out the throw for a single. Then a great hanging curve I popped up later. I had the last at bat, taking one, missing one, then hitting a foul homer down the right field line. They came back with a nice curve that broke outside and I missed. I should have let it go, but I was thinking "crush it" again.

In the field I made a couple nice plays at 2nd, but then blew another throw to 1st. Not much happened in the outfield, and I was too hurt to chase down a couple that came to center.

All in all a fun day, me getting time at left, center, and 2nd. If I'd have felt better I could have gone to first or third as well.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Good Start

GM is trying to come out of bankruptcy and build a new culture. One great quote from that link, which is part of the issue in many US corporations (maybe worldwide), they're letting 35% of executives go. That's a good start as they need to get leaner to build a better company.

I think the US needs a strong auto industry, but I think they still haven't learned. Ford seems to be the only company that's done well to try and reinvent itself, struggling in the shadow of GM as they sold many SUVs and other inefficient, but profitable, vehicles. Instead Ford has a nice new lineup, and as I see their new cars, I think I'd really consider a Ford vehicle in the future.

A Lazy Morning

Letting Tia sleep in while I read with the Kindle on iPhone app in bed. Kendall left last night to go with her Aunt and Uncle, so just Delaney was around. He lay with us briefly, but then went to watch TV.

So after reading a bit, and messing around on the laptop, Tia woke up, and we had the chance to just relax. We don't get that often enough, and it's usually at night when we're tired. In the morning one, or both, of us is on the go. This was a nice quiet time, no pressure to get moving.

I finally made coffee, and Delaney had a shower to clean up his nose and feel better. The doctor yesterday said he had a sinus infection and an ear infection, but we'd done the right thing by letting him try to fight it off. Our pediatrician doesn't like to prescribe too much, and he'd rather the kids have a week to try and heal themselves, but we gave in yesterday when Delaney was dropping green things out of his nose. He's on antibiotics and they seem to be helping.

We watched some of Shanghai Knights before I gave up and decided to get the day started. I headed out with a quart of water and started mowing grass. I did 90 minutes, getting a big slice of the front done, though after about 3 hours in, I'm not sure I'm halfway done, or close to it. I'll go out later and do some more.

Just finished Day 306, now off to the batting cage to practice a bit before back to mowing a bit more this afternoon.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bad News for Wind

A note from C|Net that T Boone Pickens wind project may be in trouble because of lower energy costs this year. That's not good, since I think he had a good site in Texas with lots of wind there.

The problem is building transmission lines, and I expect that will continue to be a problem for some time. Perhaps if he can get it going they'll make new towns and migrate people closer to cheap electricity, but it needs that initial investment to get going.

I was hoping this would be a great boon for the wind industry, but it looks like it might be on hold unless energy prices go back up.

Office 2010

A great spoof of an action film trailer for Office 2010. It had Delaney cracking up.


My Front Yard

It looked like this the other day.

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It looked like this last month

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Life is always interesting here, especially for Deuce.

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Now if someone would just throw his ball....

That was uneventful

I browsed over to ESPN for a break this morning and noticed that the Tour de France was live, and Armstrong was chasing the yellow jersey. So I clicked the link and got their flash based popup that shows the route, a live blog, etc.

However the blog is updated every minute or two, far from "live" action that I've come to expect in most of the gamecenters. Actually most of them lag quite a bit as well, but I was hoping for some audio, maybe animation, something that shows more happening. Instead, having a sentence appear every minute is was from exciting, and is, for the most part, a waste of programming time and bandwidth.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Making a Wish

On our trip to DC, Kendall and I had one day on the mall. It would have been nice to get more, but she ended up having a great time with family, so I didn't push it.

On our one day in town, we were coming back from Richmond, and we drove into DC on July 3. We had trouble finding a parking space, and I had to use the bathroom, so we power walked down to the American Indian History museum.

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On the way out, Kendall wanted to stop and make a wish. They have a beautiful waterfall and fountain outside. He's a shot of Kendall.

On the Tramp

One of the best investments we've had with kids. They love the tramp. Here's Kendall with Uncle Kris, jumping around.


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Granted the play area's a mess, and we have animals everywhere. but Kendall and Delaney always seem to end out there with friends, jumping around. We've had a tramp for about 8 years (this is the 2nd) and it's always been something the kids have enjoyed and been fairly safe on.

For years we had a net around it, but it came down last year and I haven't put it back up. Probably something I should do to be sure they're safe, but both kids are pretty good on the tramp, not getting too wild.