Sunday, December 28, 2008

Carbon Tax

I was talking with my nephew recently about the need for higher gasoline prices. I essentially believe we need to change tax policy in a revenue neutral way to encourage the development and use of more energy efficient technologies. Today, I saw this article in the New York Times written by a conservative senator and one of Ronald Reagan's economic advisers. I like this approach to the issue since it seems like a solution that everyone can support.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Magic Cube



In my Secret Santa stocking at work I discovered a Magic Cube this morning. It's essentially a Rubik's Cube. The best part about it are the instructions. They don't help me, but they're fun to read.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wildlife Snow Scene


We have a winter wildlife theme going on in the office with Dan the Snow Bunny, a penguin and the squirrel family. The totem holds up Douglas the singing fir tree (not in picture since he doesn't count as wildlife).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Training

I was recently drafted into a competition with some friends. We're doing a boys vs. girls team challenge for an upcoming 5K race, the Gobble Jog. Since it's been a really long time since I've done any running, I thought I'd go down to Marietta High School and assess my condition on the track; it's not great. I ran 2 miles in 19:56. I'm definitely not setting any records with that. I did some internet searching and learned that for someone my age, a 26 minute 5K is near the 50th percentile. Given that the race is less than 6 weeks away, I'll be happy if I can finish it in 30 minutes flat. I don't think that's TOO optimistic.

Single Cup Coffee Club

Last year I bought a French press so I could enjoy some good coffee at home. I still have it and enjoy the coffee it produces, but the cleanup and prep time isn't always convenient. So, I finally took some advice and decided to give a single serving coffee maker a try. I bought the Keurig B66 coffee maker bundle found at Costco with some birthday money from Mom and Dad. It comes with a large variety of coffee, tea and hot cocoa cups to try. I am very pleased with the coffee and how quickly it can brew.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Peppered Vodka


I just tried some of Grant's Peppered Vodka. It is spicy perfection! Sure, my throat feels somewhat scalded now, but it is worth it. This was my mix:

1 part Grant's Peppered Vodka
3 parts low sodium V8
Celery salt to taste

No additional hot sauce required.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Grant's Not Here

I checked. He's definitely not here today.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Kitten Update

Angie, as seen above, still likes to spend most of her time at the back of her box. She still hisses quite a bit when I pet her, but I've been fortunate to not be bit or scratched yet (yes, I'm knocking on wood right now). I've read some material online about how to domesticate feral kittens; most of the techniques don't work well with her, so I've decided to fall back to a regular routine of visiting her and petting her in few minute chunks. Much longer than that and she really starts to get irritated.

I'm having more success with Frances, though you might not be able to tell from this picture. She was preparing to dart away in this shot. I'm able to pick her up and hold her in my lap with moderate success. She isn't too keen on the idea of being handled when I'm not holding her, but she usually settles down and almost goes to sleep while I'm holding and petting her. I'm hoping she'll rub off on her sister, but so far it seems to be the other way around.

I knew this was going to be a lengthy process going into it, so I'm not really discouraged. It probably would be a LOT easier if I already had a domesticated cat from which they could learn. I may pursue this idea if I can procure a good example cat.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

iPhone 3G Day - Take 2

After making a failed attempt at buying a new iPhone on Friday I decided that I would be content to try out the new features of the 2.0 firmware on my first generation iPhone. There is no doubt about it; the new App Store makes the iPhone an even MORE useful device than it already was. I found that my favorite app was Pandora. I never used Pandora much from a PC. Streaming to my phone and then on to my truck stereo is a whole different experience. There was something very geeky cool about have my own, personalized "radio station" to listen to while driving. Well, I found that it glitched for a few seconds a couple of times while driving around on Saturday and THAT was all the excuse I needed to make a second attempt at buying an iPhone 3G. The extra bandwidth would surely help to eliminate those annoying glitches.

I arrived at the Perimeter Mall Apple Store around 12:15 or so. The line was less than half as long as it was on Friday so I decided to give it a shot. The people in line near me were easy to get along with, so it was overall not a bad waiting experience. I still spent 4 hours in line (yes, it's stupid, I know), but I got my phone. Now, the question is, was it worth it?

Their are primarily 3 differences between my new phone and my old phone:

1) 3G. I've seen comments online stating that iPhone on 3G is anywhere from 2.4x to 5x faster than the original iPhone on EDGE. I couldn't test this at my house (I'm lucky to get a signal here at all), so I went up to the Kroger parking lot about 1/4 mile away. I found that the iPhone 3G is fast... really fast. I performed 3 different download speed tests and found the rate was between 1350 kbps to 1850 kbps with a ping time averaging between 200 ms and 300 ms. For a comparison, the same speed tests when conducted at my house using WiFi average around 3400 kbps with a ping time around 100 ms. When browsing the web via 3G it felt almost as fast as WiFi (as you'd expect based on the numbers above).

2) GPS. The cell tower triangulation the my first generation iPhone performed to find its location was very good. The GPS in the new iPhone is even better when outdoors or in a car (no, it doesn't work well indoors... it falls back to standard cell tower triangulation). When in my truck, however, it pinpoints its location with a nice blue dot in a few seconds. It's very cool.

3) 16 GB of storage. I carry a lot of music with me. I'm a freak about compression artifacts. After my post about how to rip music, I eventually decided to re-encode everything I carry with me at 256 kbps even though I couldn't hear a difference at 160 kbps. I know; I'm sick. Anyway, at that bit rate I was able to keep about 870 tracks with me. Since my phone also works as my "CD changer" in my truck, I like to have as much variety as possible. This left very little room for apps. With my new phone, I can carry nearly 1800 tracks, install around 20 apps that I find interesting and still have nearly 300 MB of space leftover for more apps. To me it is a worthy upgrade.

So, was the phone worth 4 hours in line, $300 and a new, crappy contract from AT&T? Yes. I'll continue to use Pandora regularly to suck bandwidth like there is no tomorrow. And next year, when they release a 32 GB version with some other trivial changes that I could probably live without, I'll most likely upgrade again. I'll admit it. I'm a fanboy.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Kitty Litter

I found Frances and Angie (yep, they're both girls) camped out in the kitty litter when I came home from work today. It was clean. Frances is the slightly darker one on the right. She generally seems less likely to attack. Angie has an itchy trigger claw, but I think she's warming up to me.

iPhone 3G Day

I just stopped by Perimeter Mall to get an iPhone 3G. The line was WAY too long to wait in. I kind of expected it to be short or non-existent 2 1/2 hours after the store opened. Instead, I found a line that I estimate was roughly 180 people long. I like Apple stuff, but there's no way I'm waiting in a line like that.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Alternative Energy

I've seen a few articles recently concerning the wind power plan proposed by T. Boone Pickens. It's actually a really good idea. Check it out and see what you think. I believe the idea is that he wants to encourage the next President, along with the Congress, to get behind the plan to help move it along.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Kittens Have Arrived


I decided that I should get a kitten so I could work on being a kind and loving person. I tend to have trouble with empathy, compassion, blah, blah. Anyway, my plan was to seek out a Siamese kitten that I could train to act like a dog; I used to have a cat like that and I suppose I wanted to duplicate that experience. Well, plans don't always work out. Instead, I learned of two feral kittens in need of a home. This was almost exactly NOT what I was looking for, but I realized that this is perhaps a better situation for both me and the kittens. Instead of me imposing my preferred behavior on some poor, unsuspecting kitten, I can try to build a mutually beneficial relationship with a couple of cute little critters that would just as soon tear out my eye than take a nap. Don't let their cuddly ways fool you; these are man-eaters. This might turn out alright.

Roof Replaced

The crews couldn't finish the roof on Thursday. Communication was difficult in general, but I thought they told me they were going to come back on Friday morning to finish. That turned out to be wrong; they came Saturday morning instead. It still took most of the day Saturday for them to finish it up. I think the job may have been bigger than they realized.

Overall, I think they did pretty good work, but I wouldn't recommend the company I used to anyone else. The level of organization and professionalism I experienced from the people in the main office was completely unacceptable. It took more than a month from the time I signed the work contract until the job was finally started. During that time I had to repeatedly call to find out the status of the job since nobody bothered to call me to set up a date to start work or notify me of schedule slips once the date was set. They sent out crews (while very nice) that had no idea where my house was, and when they called for directions the job foreman had almost no ability to communicate with me in English. The company had great reviews on Kudzu and received an 'A' in Cobb Home Reports for whatever that's worth. Maybe my experience was atypical.

Before: Standard, three tab shingles with poorly vented roof.


After: Architectural shingles (supposedly weather better) with properly vented roof.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Roof Repair


The replacement of my roof is underway. The first thing I noticed is that the process of removing the old shingles is very, very loud. I found it interesting to see how the guys work on such a steep surface; they use something that looks like the foam cushion from a couch seat. You can kind of see them under the two guys on the left. I suppose the foam not only is more comfortable, but the large surface area gripping the roof surface makes it much safer.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

After The Rain


The rain this afternoon was a welcome gift. The effect of the sunset on the clouds was icing on the cake.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

U-verse

U-verse recently became available in my neighborhood so I decided I'd ditch Comcast and give it a shot. This Wikipedia article is a pretty decent summary of what the service is all about.

In the house it is based around a 2Wire 3800HGV residential gateway. Of the 25 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up of bandwidth, 10Mbps down / 1.5 Mbps up is reserved for my internet connection. I've conducted speed tests using various testers across the net including multiple NDT servers, and the results are pleasantly consistent.


The highest speed I've observed is 9.52 Mbps while downloading the ISO image of Ubuntu from Georgia Tech. My Comcast cable connection could beat that when in its "Speedboost" mode, but that only lasts for a brief period of time. My download speed from Tech did not fluctuate. I prefer having a constant, predictable speed.

The gateway can also serve as an 802.11g wireless router, but I'm not using that functionality. I just set up my 802.11n base station to operate in bridge mode and disabled the wireless on the AT&T box.

The TV service works well, too. You need a decoder box for each TV. They use the coax wiring already present in the house to communicate with the gateway. The user interface falls somewhere between the crap that is Comcast and the perfection that is TiVo; I'd say it's closer to TiVo on that spectrum.

Overall, I am satisfied. I'll post updates if my opinion changes.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day

I took Mom and Dad to the Atlanta Botanical Garden for an early Mother's Day activity. There were a lot of families there doing much the same thing.
 
Dad found a frog that he really seemed to enjoy.

Mom, for some reason, was always on the lookout for snakes and other creepy crawling things. She wanted me to take a picture of these to prove that the critters were everywhere.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Twizzler Straw

Today several of us from work went to the baseball game. It's an annual event now. A few of us tried to drink beer through Twizzlers. The volume of liquid you can drink through one Twizzler is really too small to be satisfying. I think you'd need at least four.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Some More Photos From Greece


I posted some more photos from Greece to Flickr. The one above is from a little stroll I took through an open-air meat market. I converted it to B&W and took out some detail to make it slightly less nasty to view. It was actually a really fascinating experience to walk through there. The pictures I posted to Flickr have nothing to do with meat.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Drunk Guy

You never know what you might see while sitting down for a snack in Athens. Near the center of this picture you may be able to make out the form of a guy talking to a pair of police officers sitting in their car. A few minutes prior to this scene, the guy was acting generally drunk and disorderly and got into a scuffle with one of the local restaurant owners. Apparently this happens almost every day according to one of the waiters that was enjoying the show. I think the drunk guy operates the little shop that you can see near the left side of the image. As the day goes on he becomes progressively more drunk. In the end nothing happened. It looked like the cops really didn't want to get out of their car. After talking to him for a few minutes, they drove away. I suppose he's a "regular" for them by now. Five minutes later it was if nothing had ever happened.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Temple Of Poseidon

There was a rumor going around during the meetings today that we were going somewhere nice in the evening; the rumor turned out to be true. We took a tortuous drive down the coast in a pair of cabs operated by aspiring Formula One drivers. The "exciting" ride was worth it. We visited the Temple of Poseidon at sunset. The sky was somewhat overcast, but the atmosphere was perfect for visiting this site.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tuesday In Athens

On Tuesday my coworker and I visited the office of our colleagues in Athens. After a long afternoon of meetings, we went out with a few of our friends from the office to have dinner near the center of the city. Unfortunately I didn't bring a camera other than the one built in to my iPhone. I'm hoping to go back some time before heading home to get some better pictures. In the picture above is a small street containing several restaurants. Streets like these surround the Acropolis.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Good morning, Greece


Above is the view from my seat just prior to landing in Athens. Curtis and I are currently waiting in the hotel restaurant for our rooms. It's a really nice location. I'll post more pictures as time permits.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Vegas Revisited


I recently came back from another trip to Las Vegas. I have only ever traveled there for work related purposes. Some day I think I might enjoy going just for the fun of it. I posted a few more pictures to my Las Vegas set on Flickr.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dairy and Blogs


I took Dad and Uncle Don to walk on one of the nearby trails. It was a great afternoon for it. They mostly talked about dairy products, but I think everyone had a good time. I also learned that Uncle Don maintains a blog with links to a few of my cousins' blogs as well. I guess it must run in the family. He hasn't updated his blog recently, although I think that will change; he's in need of a computer upgrade. I demonstrated the appeal of the iMac to him. I suspect he will soon be a member of "The Cult of Mac." His blog, Lake Country Reflections, is now appearing in my links.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pot Holders

Uncle Don and Aunt Rose are in town to visit. Aunt Rose brought along some pot holders that she made to give as gifts. When she realized that I am vegetarian, she thought that I wouldn't want any of them because of the edible animal theme. I'm flexible about that kind of stuff; I may not want to eat the cow myself, but I'm not offended if someone else wants to eat it. Anyway, I found these that I like.




Sunday, March 23, 2008

Twitter

Grant introduced me to Twitter over the weekend. It seems like a cool idea. I like the concept of posting brief thoughts, status updates, reminders, etc. It has a nice, simple interface for the iPhone, but something like this would be easier to do if I could just think about an update rather than having to type. Maybe someday a slimmed down, more capable version of this devices will replace the ubiquitous Bluetooth headset and I'll be able to do just that.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Animal Protein

For those of you that enjoy eating animal protein, perhaps you should read this article. My preferred kind of protein probably doesn't look as bad.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Loafing

I arrived at work this morning a little later than usual; it was 6:22 AM when I pulled into my parking spot.


It's a tough crowd in the morning.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

1213

An odd numerical convergence occurred when Grant and I went to lunch. His ticket was number 12. Mine was number 13. The clock on the register was set wrong, so my ticket time was 12:13. However, I was able to take this picture when it was REALLY 12:13.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Eclipse

There was a total lunar eclipse last Wednesday night. The next one won't be until December 21, 2010. By then I should have a lens with a much longer focal length; 70mm was just not enough to really get a nice, tight shot of the moon. A lot of cloud cover also made it difficult to shoot. These are a couple of pictures that I thought were acceptable. 



If I have my bright points of light right, that should be Saturn to the lower left and Regulus near the top of the frame.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

My New Lens

I started my Canon L-series lens collection last week by ordering the EF 24-70mm f2.8L lens from Amazon. I was torn for a while between that lens and the EF 24-105mm f4L IS, but in the end I decided that the greater maximum aperture was more important to me than the stabilization and additional focal length. I also ordered a B+W UV filter and a B+W circular polarizing filter. From what I've read, they are widely considered to be among the best filters to use with a high quality lens; it seemed worth spending a little bit more on good filters to protect and maximize the investment I made in the new lens.

Dad helped me test the lens with the clear UV filter. This picture didn't come out too bad considering it was night and I shot without flash, using only the ambient light in the room. The large aperture combined with the high ISO performance of the 40D is great.

Here's a shot I took using the circular polarizer. It really does a nice job enhancing the deep blue color of the sky.

And in case you didn't know, the top of this rock is the highest point of ground on Kennesaw Mountain (at least I haven't found anything higher).

Not So Hungry

Last month I ordered some food from a place called The Hungry Vegan. I really liked the concept of having some good, meat-free food delivered to my house. I'm a vegetarian, but I'm definitely not a vegan; I think animals can be used to make great seating surfaces, I just don't want to eat them. My main reason for giving the mail order thing a try was that I absolutely do NOT enjoy cooking.

The food came in a much bigger box than I expected.

Inside the box was a styrofoam cooler filled with vacuum sealed bags of food and a cold pack. I don't really know what I expected since they had to ship fresh food a few hundred miles by ground, but the idea of having a large, styrofoam box sent to me every week bothered me. They had a little note in the box that described all the food and made a point of mentioning that the dessert boxes used recycled cardboard. Who cares? You've just sent me a block of indestructible polystyrene! I'd rather have had the dessert encased in bulletproof plastic domes if I have to deal with a styrofoam cooler anyway.

These are all of the bags of food. I paid around $85 for that. The little block of bread (African Toasted Peanut Bread) in the lower-right corner may as well have been a block of sawdust. I took one bite of it, gagged, and then promptly threw it away. The rest of the stuff was pretty good, but it wasn't $80+ good.

And these were my desserts. On the left you see my blueberry pie and on the right is my pumpkin cheesecake. The flavor was good, but now you see why I didn't think so highly of those recycled cardboard boxes; they were almost smashed beyond recognition.

I won't be ordering again. It's not practical or cost effective to ship fresh food like this. Instead, I'll just go to my local Whole Foods and pick up some food from the gourmet, ready-to-eat, food area. In fact, I did that today. For $31 I bought the following:

1 terriyaki grilled tofu (think terriyaki chicken breast for vegetarians)
1 herb crusted tofu
2 spinach cakes
2 vegetable samosas with chutney
1/2 lb. smoked mozzarella pasta
1/2 lb. Greek salad
1/2 lb. mixed fruit
1/2 lb. szechwan frizzled green beans

For me this is a better option for enhancing the variety of my meals. It's still a bit pricey, but at least nothing is smashed.

This Is Why I Go To Work Early


I took this picture from my truck last Tuesday afternoon at around 4:00. As you might be able to see from the picture, I'm not moving. Nobody next to me or behind me was moving either.

I think the rain may have caused someone to collide with the barrier wall. I arrived at the scene just in time to be stopped so the accident could be moved off to the side. Traffic may have only been stopped for 5 minutes, but I suspect the folks behind me experienced a much longer delay than that.

Yes, I don't mind arriving at work at 6:00 in the morning if I can sometimes leave early enough to miss a bad drive in the afternoon.

Monday, February 4, 2008

No Mas FARC


There is an interesting demonstration going on outside of my window. A few of us in the office have been watching it unfold over lunch. The Colombian Consulate is in the building next door to us, so I suppose that's what the anti-FARC demonstration is being held on top of our parking deck.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More Snow... In Chicago

I'm getting my fill of snow this winter. You can see my ice scraping staff hard at work clearing the windshield. We weren't really planning on leaving the hotel tonight since it is 10 degrees out there, but the items on the menu at the in-house restaurant didn't look very appealing. Instead we went to a nearby pizza place (stuffed pizza, yum).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's A Snowy Night In Atlanta


It started to snow this afternoon. This is quite a rare event here. It's even more rare for any of it to stick. It's a nice, snowy night in Atlanta.