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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

President Obama

Congratulations to President Barack Obama* and VP Joe Biden.

Time to take our country back.

Most of my candidates did not win, but at least the top of the ticket took it.

Jim Doneless Douglas... you'll continue to be our ineffective and pointless Governor with your just as useless lapdog Brian Dubie. Congrats on showing that Vermonters, even while they embraced Obama were passive enough to vote you two back into office.

*I think my endorsement settled the deal. ;)


just got back from voting. What? You didn't?? Must not be an American citizen, because an eligible voter who doesn't vote - well...perhaps only a step smarter than someone who didn't know who they were voting for in the presidential election until they got to the ticket. Or perhaps you've not voted YET. If polls are still open... you can come back to read this later... go vote.

I'm sick. Left school early, lucky to not have students with me for the afternoon, so I wouldn't be missed. Called my violin teacher to let her know I wouldn't be seeing her today... just get home, wait for Karen, go vote, come home and try to recover from the cold, which has had a seriously bad effect on my throat.

Why is my voting worthy of a blog entry? Pshh... I dunno, I guess some of it is a little in need of explanation.
First, the one without real need is the vote for the Obama-Biden ticket. For real... did you vote for McBush and Caribu Barbie? Give me a break. YOU need to seriously soul search to have a good explanation for that move. It's your right... just using it for evil is wrong. Enough of that.

The US house only has one Vermont rep. currently it's Peter Welch. He replaced Bernie Sanders last election (who went to the Senate with traitor Leahy). I voted them all into their positions. This time, however, Welch didn't do a few things I expected. He didn't stand full force agains the war, he didn't stand against the final passing of the corporate bailout last month and he didn't stand UP for articles of impeachment to be placed on W. To big things to me. So I voted for Jerry Trudell. He's a slightly wacked out "Energy Independence" party candidate but isn't wacked out what the US House is about? Put the people with loud ideas and wild ideas? He's not going to win, but I felt like Welch let us down - those of us who expected a much more liberal-anti-current-GOP guy. I could have gone with the Progressive Party candidate, but when I watched him in a debate on Vermont Public TV, he came off as unsure at times and had a hard time looking UP when answering questions. Shifty almost. If Trudell got his wacky ass in the House, maybe there could be some real energy behind alternative energy in the US.

Vermont State Governor! I voted for Dean. When he went off to change how the US Presidental campaigning process would work forever, I voted for Burlington mayor Peter Clavelle - who lost, then for - well, I don't remember. They all lost to Jim Douglas, whom I'm nicknamed Doneless because he's pretty much done nothing FOR Vermonters. Vermonters tend to be ok with keeping people around who don't screw up completely as long as they are neutral. Well, Gov. Doneless is a total neuter. Anthony Pollina is the Progressive Party candidate. That's the same party Bernie Sanders wan with before going national - independent is what the greater US knows versus Democrat or Republican. Pollina entered the race relatively early on. Gaye Symington entered well after he did. She was the top dog in the Vermont House, a Democrat. When she entered the race officially, many in the Democratic party called Pollina a spoiler.
It's a legit claim in a way, since liberals in VT (if not all of the US or world) are often willing to split their voting among Democrats and alterna-candidates. It appears conservatives of today are single minded. Thus, I believe Doneless' first win and subsequent wins. I used to concider myself a Democrat. No, I'm a liberal. I voted for Pollina. He'll lose, but I hope that he and Symington' total is the same as Donless', which I believe would prove that Instant Runoff Voting will in fact be the most fair option for voters. I like Pollina, but I'm also voting AGAINST Donless.

I suppose the only other vote I made that needs explanation is for the Vermont State Representatives. Two seats from my ward have been taken up by the team of David Zuckerman and Chris Pearson for a few elections. I voted for them even. This year, Keisha Ram ran. She recently graduated from UVM. I met her years ago as a student in the McNair program - a program that aims to get first-gen college students to stick it out to graduate school. I helped run a training program for her cohort in some computer and software skills. I taught her how to do video editing. She, along with a couple others in her group, was very intelligent and well spoken. Something I felt wasn't often presented by perople in her generation. When I heard she was running for state rep, I was a little excited - then I realized it was against the pear-zuck team. She has also pretty much pointed out that she has no real differences than those two. They are Progressive Party candidates and she is a Democrat. Both perfectly fine in my eyes. I had a couple little back and forths with Keisha and Chris on a couple issues. I see Dave almost weekly at the farmers market - I think he sold out when he cut his hair, but my wife reminds me that perhaps it was done for a greater purpose. Anyway, this was the only major vote I made up my mind AT the booth. I split my vote - Keisha and Chris. I know Chris will continue to do a great job and can only hope Keisha maintains the tradition. I do feel a little guilty for taking a spot away from someone I'm certain is more progressive, but since I feel like the house left some work undone (IRV) in the past (though Doneless promised to veto any IRV legislation) a little change in a similar direction is a worthy gamble.

There you have it. I don't OWE explanations, but I figure it's a good thing to provide. I would love to run for an important office some day, but being an atheist in the US nearly garentees that I'll not get elected to the types of positions I'd want. Oh well, I'll just do what I do and keep hope alive.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Undecideds Are Stupid

So the focus on last night's presidential debate was in part on the "undecided" voters who were part of the present question askers. I won't get into it completely now - I'll save it for a longer post - but man, if you are not decided by now, you MUST be a moron. I'd be shocked if even Nader would claim that McCain and Obama are even remotely the same choice. So what's holding you up?
If you haven't decided by now, perhaps you should just give it up. Your opinions are useless anyway.

I have included an image in my left column showing the most current electoral college tallies for the November races based on polls and the analysis from Electoral Vote. Last "election" I was glued to this site for days before the election. It ended up being wrong, but that only goes further to proving that the election was a hoax anyway. Even Zogby, the night before the election called it for Kerry (I should provide a source huh - but really, who cares... he lost a lot of credibility).

I'll likely remove the image after the election of Obama. Yeah, I am calling it. Because a vote for McCain is a vote for Bush and a vote for Palin is a vote for the local beauty queen dufus, and even delusional evangelicals MUST be smarter than those options.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Torbrand the Sneaksy Hobbit

If case you didn't know, I play Lord of the Rings Online. I love most things Tolkien related and being able to role play IN actual Middle Earth (well, you know... a computer representation of) is amazingly cool. I believe a lot of WoW player think it's stupid and lacks features, but they are tools who appear to miss the point. Better for the rest of us I suppose.
I don't play very often as it is a role playing game essentially and requires a decent amount of time for each session to accomplish anything, so I tend to try to play for chunks of no less than 3 hours and a few times have squeezed in about 8+ hours. With my job and the requirement of getting to work early, the essentially means I play during vacations or some long weekend. I even put together a special computer specifically for this game - only had to buy a new CPU, additional ram and a kick ass video card to do it. I'm also a lifer, so I never have to pay for my time again after the initial $199 I paid for play time. This means I'm good until the game dies away. I just hope it sticks around for a good long time. I'd been waiting for this since Sierra originally started to develop a version around 10 years ago.

I played this summer connected to a video projector. I'm not sure there's a better way to play a video game (or do anything video related), but it sure was a pain in the ass to set up each time. Finally though I figured out how to get it to diosplay on the TV. It's only a 36" CRT, but it does fine. I don't run at a super high resolution anyway, not wanting to risk the nice framerates and turned up graphics effects - man, seeing the tall grass swaying in the wind while I'm running through it is just cool as anything. That doesn't mean I play more - school has started, so I haven't actually played in over a month, but soon... soon!
Mines of Moria, the first pay for expansion comes out shortly. I'm not going to get it right away. I know I can get it now for a deal (I think), but I believe it's really for higher level characters and my primary character (see below) is only level 19 right now. Like I said, no rush. It's Middle Earth for crying out loud... enjoy it or leave. :)

I got an email this morning from the peeps at LotRO about the new ability to have sigs for the forums with dtat blocks for out characters, and those also include a "likeness". Still very cool - though I don't post in the forums much. Even cooler, I can post an image of the sig stat block elsewhere... so it made for a good excuse to create another entry here and show off my Hobbit Burglar.

If I know you and you are interested in playing, let me know. You can play a trial of it, but if I hook you up with an invite, and you buy, I get a 30 day free play time cert... which I don't need (lifetime membership, remember?) but I can transfer... thus adding a month to your play time, unless you go lifetime as well. I'd say you could come watch the game in action, but well... hey, if you are interested in that, perhaps something could be worked out. If I don't know you - wow, thanks for reading. Check youtube or summat, I'm sure there are lots of videos posted. I tried to capture some video while playing and it didn't go well. If you are already playing, tell me during gameplay that you read this :)... then come help me on a quest.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Shake It Up

I'm doing P90X to get myself back into a more athletic shape. I started this past June and will be ending in two weeks (had to restart the penultimate week because I was dead tired and sore after the first week back to school - this past week). One important thing I learned this time around was the importance of protein. Last summer during fitquest I didn't supplement my running and other workouts with protein, so I lost a lot of weight (~25 pounds), but didn't really gain much muscle. So this time I hooked up with protein drink mix. Gold Standard 100% Whey is what I eneded up going with after asking questions and checking the ingredients. I mostly have the Double Rich Chocolate flavor. It's actually quite good, but has an aroma that isn't all pleasant to all. In fact, my breath afterward usually makes the wife cringe. Wanting to be able to mix with other thins than water (I didn't tend to mix with milk) I later got the Strawberry-Banana flavor. Not too bad either. No great, but certainly passable. Smells a little better too - though the wife does not like bananas, so I can't really win now can I? :)

The first two phases of the program limit carbs a lot and all phases limit fruit in the diet as well. Well, I didn't follow the diet too clasely. If I did, I'd have definitely lost more fat, but I think I did pretty well so far. I'll be posting the pre and post pix when I'm officially done. I did avoid a lot of fruits, which is hard for me, but I stil lfind it hard to get in a ton of veggies - they are expensive to buy fresh and we don't like most frozen options - or the fresh go bad before we finish. I did try tyo eat a lot of cucumbers and lettuce from our garden.

3rd phase, however, more carbs are needed. Not sure it really factors in, but I decided to turn my drink into a shake. It allows me to turn an 8oz protein drink into about a 20 ouce mini meal after my workout. Mmm-mm. It's some good stuff, and here's my recipe. Nothing special, I'm sure there are a ton out there just like it, but hey here's my take:

Chris' Choco-Banana-Protein Shake
1 scoop of Gold Standard 100% Whey - Double Rich Chocolate
1/2 scoop of Gold Standard 100% Whey - Strawberry Banana
1 Medium banana (best if frozen first)
8 oz Milk (skim)
2 Tbps Dark Chocolate Dreams (brand All natural Peanut Butter & Co.)
6 Ice Cubes

In a blender, add the first 5 indredients and blend until smooth. You might need to stop it once to push down any ingredients that got stuck to the sides of the blender.
Keeping the blender running, drop in once ice cube at a time and continue to blend on high until you don't hear any chunky sounds, perhaps doing a few sustained pulses to chop up any last ice chunks.

Pour into a tall glass and drink as is or use a straw.

Nutritional info:
538 Calories
Fat 15g
Saturated 3.5g
Protein 51.5g
Carbohydrates 55.6g
Fiber 5.1g
Starch 6.3g
Sugars 35.4g

Try it and post comments on how you feel about it. Unfortunately, you can't just buy a couple scoops of the Whey mix, but you might be able to get sample packs at the local vitamin shoppe or gnc or somewhere. You could also use a similar powder mix of a different brand. I'm certain it won't be too different, though the nutritional info would likely be different. The kicks Nutella's ass. It's different, but common. I did make this with Nutella and it tasted just great as well, so you could substitute that as well. I have also done it with just peanut butter. I use Simply Jif because it has less sugar and salt and less of the additives or others.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Are You Training for a Marathon?

Aug 20th was a changed day. We were supposed to be gaming that night - moving gaming back to Wednesday nights after a summer of Monday night gaming - we're dangerous like that. ;) Anyway, it meant less pressure to get my act together for gaming, and since Violin lessons are now on Tuesdays, I wasn't too worried about making sure to get a practice session in the day before a lesson as usual. I also didn't feel like doing my Kenpo X workout (oh, I never mentioned here I'm doing P90X - saving it up for the final report :) ) so I decided to go for a run. My normal run is about an hour - run down to the bike path and keep going until I get to about 30 minutes then turn back. Great plan for forcing the full hour and usually MORE, as the return home has a nasty uphill: battery park. Ugh!
The weather was perfect. Perfect!
At the 30 minute mark I actually ran (not literally) into my violin teacher walking the opposite direction. I stopped and we chatted for a bit and I continued. I figured I'd go for another 5-10 minutes... then about 5-10 minutes later I realized "hey I feel pretty good", so I decided to try to run to the Burlington-Colchester line, which is about the middle of the bridge over the Winooski River on the bike path.
Well, as I was about as mile away from there, I started to wander in the mind again. I realized I was pushing my luck - well, pushing my muscles. It still felt good, but I knew I had to run back home, so I started to worry, or more so wonder, "what if?" OK, I could turn back now. Nah. I'm to OC for that, I'd feel like I didn't try. That happens nearly every year when we hike the White Mountains. I'll be feeling like I just want to get to the next hut and bypass some side-hikes that either get me up a peak that "counts" or to some neat views. This year I didn't do that. If it had a geographical name and it was in my way, I climbed it. It only ended up adding perhaps an extra half-to-full mile, none easy, and more time, but it was worth it.
So, not continuing on the run was out of the question. Then I thought "hey, I could just keep running until I couldn't any longer. I've neve done that before. I have NO idea how long that would be. I joked in my mind that I'd end up in Canada. Hahaha. Then I'd just call Karen for a ride home. Well, turns out that would have been a bad idea . I didn't have my phone and didn't have money or well, anything besides my clothes, mp3 player and a house key. So I set the bridge as my goal, thinking "hey, round trip, that'll be close to a half marathon.

I ran. By about 58 minutes, I got to the bridge just as what appeared to be a larger group of young girl soccer players out with their coach on a bike ride coming the opposite direction. I stopped to rest for a minute to let them pass. I didn't realize they would stop on the bridge next to me. I was feeling like I might block other traffic, so I turned and started running again. I just barely passed the lead and they started up again, slowly all passing me by. I kept going. It was my thing, typically, unlike most activities, when I'm running I don't care too much about who passes me. I was passed a couple times by the same woman who was running with her two dogs. She looked older than me, but she looked more fit and was wearing what appeared to be a commemorative t-shirt for some running race or marathon. I know I can't compete with a competative distance runner. I'm a sprinter at heart.

At about 1:30 into the run, I realized my ass was really starting to hurt. My legs were sore too, but nothing like my ass. I noticed I was running with a straighter leg stride. I decided to run with my knees up some more. All the while I was trying to keep my heartrate within the range my polar HR watch was telling me to keep it - 164BPM being the top it set for optimum performance. Well, that wasn't going well. I was more hovering around 167-172. The knees up did allevieate the butt pain, but it did tire me out a little more. I kept it up to stretch out the glutes and then went back.
Something extremely annoying about the bike path - no water fountains on the path. At least not on the part I was on. WTF is that all about? Encourage people to get out their and be active, but don't give them an easy way to hydrate?!?! I don't carry water on me when I run because I can't satand having a bottle bouncing around on me and I don't have a decent secure way to strap it on anyway. I see some people carry their bottles. No way. Not for me. I need to be able to loosen up my hands when I run. It promotes better running form.

Anyway, I'm convinced I was dehydrated and that caused a lot of the muscle pain and fatigue. I had to drop down to a fast walk for about 30 seconds 3 times on the bike path. I was burnt. When I got to the pain park at the foot of college street I could finally get to a fountain. I stopped the timer and got some water. Whew... that was good.
Then starts the rough part. Up the hill to Battery St and then up the Battery Park path. Uh, I could run TO the path, but I had to walk up the path. It was just way too much, if I wanted to make it home in one peice. Keep in mind, my knees aren't so great and I always worry about weakening them to the point that they just give out.

I got up the hill and ran back to the base of my block, at which time I ran harder - as much of a sprint as I could muster - to the end, where I live. Done. Stretch time and some moments to reflect on accomplishing the longest run I have ever done, both distance and time-wise. I spent a good 10 minutes stretching outside the front door then went in for my protein drink. All said and done it was just over 11.5 miles. Not quite the half marathon I thought it was, but still... easily 3 miles more than normal for me. I do suspect that the measurement of the run is off though, but what can I say? I believe I used to typically run 8 miles in about 1:20 or so. It's all iffy.

Here is the map of my run if you wanna see it's glory. The masochist in me thinks I should try to do this perhaps once a week. Eventually it'll become a lot easier and perhaps I'll build it longer. I'd love to be able to run a solid marathon one day. I might try to make a team to do the Vermone City Marathon next year, so that's a good start. Watching the olympians do it in the under 3 hour time makes me shiver knowing that I'd be lucky in my current level to finish in 5 hours.

In any event, it was a run in the right direction and proof that my fitness level is not too bad.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The X Factor

So, I just finished watching Xanadu for the first time in possibly 10 years or more. Not sure for sure how long it's been. This movie has been a favorite of mine (when I remember) since I was 10 or 11. Obviously Olivia Newton John (1) was the primary reason at the time but E.L.O. supplying the bulk of the soundtrack was also a big thing which also fed a little of my inspriation in the electronic side of music through the years.

Anyway, is it weird that a cheesy ass movie like Xanadu could still have the same effect on a 36 year old dude that it had when he was 11? Sad movies don't make me cry - or they RARELY do. Movies with needfully happy endings do choke me up.

So, have your laughs at my expense - just remember I did share. And I still hold that I did not like when OLJ got all tight and leathery in Grease. To this day I still like the innocent and angelic look.

All that said - the movie is pretty lame. Most musicals are lame. All the added feature songs and stuff to showcase "talent" and embellish the stories. Yuk. Not my thing. However, I will watch it again, and likely numerous times before I drop dead.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I Thought Vermont Was Friendly

"I thought Vermont was friendly"
Believe it or not, I was told that quote yesterday by someone from (I'm guessing) Florida. I'm guessing Florida because that was where the license plate on her car was from. Her car that was parked behind our cars blocking them in the driveway. Which we only noticed when we needed to get out to pick up our Wings.
Yeah, we walk out to get a move on, guessing another 10 minutes for them to be ready and about a 5-10 minute drive.

As you can see in the image, nicely recreated if I may say so myself, there are 3! empty spots in the lot. If anyone can point out ANY logic for why one would even remotely think her parking where she did was the right thing, or even reasonable.
But what followed was even more strangely stupid.
After we walked around to the other people's who share the parking lot apartments to see if it was of their friends, to no avail, we called the towing company (scumbags in their own rights) to tow the car away. As Karen was on the phone, a girl came out of the apartment with a gaggle of other students and walked toward the car.
I asked "is this your car?" She said yes. I then sorta laid into her, "are you insane? Why would you park blocking us in like that. There are open spots and you chose to park behind two cars blocking them in?!"
"I'm sorry" she said. But frankly, I wanted to her to feel stupid and ridiculed, or at least embarrassed. She didn't. She had NO conscience about it.
"I figured you could just parallel park out of the spot."
Say what?!? We were parked about 6 inches from our front car and she was about 1.5 feet behind us. Perhaps I could have made it just fine - I'm not so great at the parallel parking. But who is this moron to tell me I have to do such an extreme thing just to get out of MY space???

"I'm trying to be nice." She said. As if I did something to her and she was doing me a favor. In sane. Followed by "I though Vermont was friendly" and even "I thought Vermont was nice" while I was still trying to get her to understand that I didn't understand why she would choose to park behind us when there were open spots - not to mention it is a private lot where she had no right to be parked in in the first place.

It's funny. People give me a strange look when I comment that I'm more or less a misanthrope, but people like this and situations like this only prove that people are stupid and can only really be trusted to do the most selfish things in the end. I feel like I need to track her parents down and slap them silly then ask them if they feel comfortable having raised such a stupid child. Then find out which college she goes to so I can make sure I never recommend that anyone ever apply to a place that would accept such an idiot into their student body. Yet another case of entitlement strikes again.

If you are a parent, please teach your child/ren than they are not infact the only important people around and that they are not exempt from some common decency and that if they pull this kind of crap on me, I will lay into them like you apparently never did.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Firefox Lightweights

Yeah, been a while since last post. That'll be fixed soon.
Anyway, Firefox 3 officially came out as the final stable release a couple weeks ago. I had been waiting MADLY for it for a long time. Seriously! My Firefox 2 would consistently, after being open for a couple days use up approaching 850 MB of memory. Almost a gig. That was a year ago or so. I got fed up and instead of reinstalling my system (come on, next to moving, I rate reinstalling my systems up there as the worst activities) I bought more ram. I jumped the lappy from 1GB to 2GB. I figured that would help. It sorta did, but frankly, it just gave the old FF2 extra headroom to pillage. Eventually, by late may, it would be eating up 1.2GB or memory.

In all this time, if I wanted to play a game (mainly Lord of the Rings Online - I'm usually Torband [Hobbit Burlgar] on the Elendilmir server, I have great screenshots to post) I'd shut down Firefox altogether to free up resources.

Blah blah blah. So FF3 came out and I was excited. I had already downlaoded beta 5 or so, but installed it seperately so I could maintain FF2 and just test. First, FF3 didn't seem to have a working version of the Session Manager etxtension. Errp. Game over. I live by that extension. You'll understand when I get to my point. The truth is that I believe it did at the time work, but I didn't dig deep enough or look properly. So I waited. I practically live in my web browser, so putting a beta in place is not my way any longer. I did back in the days. I would happily install the latest Netscape and Mozilla versions and jumped on Firefox as soon as it was publicly available. Anything to not us Internet Exploder.

Now I've had Firefox 3 installed for a couple weeks and have to say I like it and I'm happy. My system does run better now and my memory use is back down to something I'd consider acceptible. I just read a review on FF3 that isn't a bad one, but doesn't glow. I don't care about that. To each his/her own, really. What cought my eyes for real though was that he was commenting on running 4 tabs. Um... what's that? 4 Tabs???? What kind of web user is that? Am I really just way the hell out there? Let me explain. I currently have 37 Firefox windows open and a total count of 144 tabs. Yes, you read that right. 144 tabs. I believe the most I've had Firefox 3 take up memory-wise has been in the 550MB range. That's still a lot, but I'm also not a moron. I expect it will take a lot, but that's less than half of previous, and frankly, previously, I'd try to stay under 34 windows and about 130 tabs. I have noticed that CPU use is a bigger bottleneck, but my system still runs better with Firefox 3 than previously.

What's the real problem? All the jackasses who design web sites with unimportant java and flash content. All the tools who have to embed multiple youtube videos into the pages. I have some of those things on sites I make, but frankly, I'm just not like all the idiots on MySpace who actually think that using every tool at your disposal on your page makes you look cooler or like you know what the hell you're doing - because ... wait for it, you don't have a friggin clue. Just because there is more bandwidth doesn't mean every visitor wants your lame-ass example of design or layout. Ahem - I'm getting off topic.

I suppose the point of this was to point out that in my opinion, if your idea of surfing the web is having a couple windows open and a few tabs, you are in no position to really talk about the efficiency of th software. The original overhead of the software is always getting higher and higher. My first PC - an IBM PS/2 Model 55 - has (I still have it) a 40 megabyte drive. That's one long mp3 song and certainly couldn't fit most operating systems - barely even any modern linux distros. The fact that his 4 tab Firefox 3 experience chokes up 150MB of ram or so when my 37 window/144 tab instance is currently using **485,292KB (485MB) shows that is scales up well and has certainly solved the memory leak issue, and frankly, that's almost good enough a reason to upgrade.

In case you're still one of those people who are still using Internet Explorer, get over it and just get Firefox 3. I gain nothing from it other than one more person not being lazy and sticking with the default browser or M$ fanboy (only a little better than an Apple fanboy) who always claims "Microsoft just makes software that works" (hahavistahahaha). Of course, I also highly advocate to those Windows (and even OSX posers) out there with an extra machine or older laptop to install linux on it and give it a serious try. Try to not put it on an already broken system, because then you'll just blame linux and that's stupid.

**the memory useage will go up, and possibly down from time to time, but I've fun it for 5 day without a restart and it didn't go above 550MB or so.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


So, yeah, I know, sometimes I could be like an marketing whore. Actually, that's not really the case. If I talk about a product, I must have a strong feeling about it. Usually it's games I think I even wrote some about books (and likely will plenty often later on). This time I'm just writing a little about my Kindle. If you've been under a rock for a while, or for some reason never go to Amazon's web site, you might not know what the Kindle is. The Kindle is an ebook reader. It's a new school one though. It uses e-ink, which is actually microcapsules of black particles that get rearranged to produce a sharp grayscale display. Its extremely low power requirement makes is great for displaying content that you could be staring at for hours on end, like a book.
Meh, you might know about other ebook readers, Cybook and the Sony Reader are other examples. I actually checked out the Sony Reader one night at Borders, which is what set it back into my mind to look into options. My luck usually sucks majorly, but sometimes serendipity just kicks in. The Kindle pretty much hit all the blogs and engadget type places where people drool over new technology and geek toys. I read up on it but wasn't sure. I put it out of my mind. Frankly, these devices are too damned expensive for most people to take seriously.
That said, I somehow, a few weeks ago, decided to do some more research on the Kindle. Reviews were all over the place, but because Amazon sold out pretty quickly from it's first batch in like January or February, very few people had actually touched them. In fact, I read a lot of very scathing reviews from people who never set a finger on one. I could understand the constant dissing of DRM - it makes me sick too - but dissing the usability of the device!?!? Come one people, get some lives. But when I research, I mostly read the 5 star reviews and the 1 star reviews. I like the polar opposites. I found I needed to concentrate on the 4 star reviews because there are some certain flaws with the device that kept a lot of people from giving a full 5 star rating. The 1 star reviews were mostly useful for laughs and cries.
So, the point. Yep, it's for reading books, but it also connects to the Sprint EVDO network (they call it the Whispernet). This allows for purchasing books directly from the unit, but also allows for basic web surfing. I can read my gmail, but some sites don't work right (such as for trying to do IM on it). This feature uses a lot more battery life, but it can be turned off with a hard switch on the back, next to the power switch.
It also play mp3 files. I think it's a cool feature, but I have an mp3 player for that. I used to want mega-multi-use gear, but have some to realize that unless you want to spend a lot of money, you get mediocre versions of each thing compiled into one device when you do that. The web on the Kindle is a little better than mediocre, but it's not the main focus - Whispernet as a content delivery method is though. Anyway, I might throw a long mp3 piece on there for background reading music, but I'm not really worried about it.

The look. It just looks good - reading the screen that is. The white shell is nothing to sing about, but it's plainness is akin to the tragedy that is Mac design. Boring. (Though Mac fanboys always claim it as a pinnacle of design - whatever, white, beige, silver-blue, whoop-de-doo.) Wherever you look for reviews, you'll see the same thing, likely, reading e-ink is easy. Just like a book it can be held at any angle and still be seen (obviously within reason). The text size can also be adjusted. I have perfect vision, so I'll be leaving it at the smallest size most of the time, but the largest size could make for coke bottle bottoms wearing people to read easily.
It remembers where you left off. I have been relatively randomly switching for book to book reading a bit here and there. When I got back to a book, It goes right back to where I left off. That is key for me. You can set up bookmarks as well. I haven't done that. You can annotate too. I haven't done that either, but I'm sue when I used more educationally inclined books, I'll mark it up some.
The device itself is almost exactly the same size as a standard DVD movie case - all dimensions. The reading screen is almost as wide and about 2/3 the height of a typical form factor paperback book. When you change font sizes, it repaginates the document. It sort of makes traditional page numbers useless, but has it's own "locations" system, which I have read is plenty fine for citation use.
If you let it sit, it'll go into a "screensaver" mode, which just shows some grayscale images. No page turnes happening, so battery life stays super low. Supposedly we should able to get a week or more from a single charge, without using Whispernet. I don't know, haven't tried to test the limits. When I take it to the White Mountains this summer, I'm hoping to have my solar USB charger fixed to being along. It will trickle charge from usb, I believe at about 1/4 the speed (says 2 hours to full charge on wall wart). You can turn the "screensaver" on and off at will, which is nice for acting like a lock screen mode so that the cats or someone else poking around doesn't accidentally activate one of the biggest complaints from users: the sensitive location of the page turn buttons. Yep, it IS relatively easy to changes pages forward by accident. Depending on how you hold it, you might need to intentionally adjust how you place your fingers or thumb in order to not hit either of the two next buttons of the single prev button, or the "back" button, which isn't "back a page" but "back a level", like back to the menu or something like that.

So, the price. Yup, $399!!! That's a lot of money. If you're the type who buys a lot of books though, it could pay for itself pretty quickly, as many books can be bought for about $9.99. However, if you like paperback novels, that's likely not much of a deal.
The good news is that you can download and convert books of all types (well... we'll see about that).
If you want to download some ebooks for free, here are some sites I've found:

  1. eSnips- Pretty good searching but messy. It appears to link outside for some content, but does also seem to provide content/books that are NOT likely legal - as in, copyright violations. Frankly, I don't care. Paying for a paper book and then having to pay for the electronic version of it again annoys me. And yes, I think I should have access to mp3 versions of all the old hip hop cassettes I have.
  2. wowio - I haven't spent much time, but they appear to have a cool collection of all free books and a good philosophy.
  3. Manybooks - more free books
  4. Project Guttenberg - a project for electronification of old texts and such by a large community of transcribers.
  5. Baen Free Library - a for profit publisher that realizes that offering some free and complete content will build faith in, fans of and support for writers and their publishers. Read the introduction on the main library page (the link) - it's a lot like how I feel about the music business, though I feel it should go even farther.
  6. ... eh, you can do a search from here on. That list alone will net you serious results. Bit Torrent land has some stuff too, but beware, there's a LOT of PDFs, and converting PDFs to a format the Kindle will read is a craps shoot - the other serious flaw: no native PDF reading ability. They need to add that as a firmware upgrade.
So, you have content or downloaded a book that you want on the Kindle but it's not already in the PRC for AZW ebook format... now what? You can create a compatible file using Mobipocket Creator, which I believe is actually supported or something by Amazon. It's free. It's not the most incredible interface and doesn't allow easy customization (such as a simplified way to make a table of contents). Of course, you could also email your documents to "yourkindlename" and for ten cents per document to be sent right to your Kindle or for a free conversion that will be send back to your email address (as registered at Amazon. I tried to convert a document and it came back ok, but the equations and images in it kinda got in the way. Again, they need to work on the "experimental"-ness of that feature.

So, there ya go. A long review of the Amazon Kindle . I tried to say what matters, but I'm sure I left some thoughts out. I'm sure I can only keep your attention for so long anyway. As for the link to buy it above, hey, yeah, I'll make some change on it, but if I helped convince you to buy it, why not? :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Of Mice and Money

Strangest thing today. I went out to take the back wheel off the bike to remove the tire and check for defects and erosion on the rim. I had moved the bike to the back of the driveway, next to the garage that I have no access to. Moving around and dawdling, I look down and see a dead mouse and a dollar bill, right next to each other.

The rear tire has been leaking slowly for quite some time, a little bit before I put it to rest in December (2007). I decided I didn't want to keep checking it and pumping more air in it, especially since I'd be mostly using it starting at about 6:45am to head to school, after which it would likely have fallen from the 41 psi or so to about 25 psi. Not so good. Not so safe, and certainly not fuel efficient. So I was going to follow the advice of fellow VF500F owners and check to see if there was erosion on the rim where the bead seats. Well, as almost always is the case, working on the bike rarely goes smoothly and timely. So much for going for the bike ride I wanted to go on.
For crying out loud!

It took me about two hours to get the tire OFF the rim. What a pain in the ass that was. Nothing new, but I think I always forget how much a PITA is will be - "oh, it'll only take a few minutes". Stupid.

I get it off finally and sand around the bead area clean up the rim and check the tire for holes or cracks. After some more struggle, I get the tire back on the rim. If you've never changed a tire (not wheel) you might not know that it's not easy to do by hand - using tire irons - versus what an equipped shop would have for this very job.
I crank on the compressor and ready for the seating. It NEVER goes easy. I usually have to bounce the wheel around like a basketball to get the beads to at least move close enough to the seat area such that when I pump in the air, it actually pumps up the tire and doesn't just blow air out the openings.
Well, it didn't go well. It's only a 125 psi compressor, which would be more than fine if the bead set quicker, but noooooooo, never.
As I'm sitting there in the tiny little space at our front entry which doubles as a workshop, yelling and swearing at my wheel and my bad luck, I see something shiny.
There it is. There was some metal thing sticking into my tire. I had to pry it out and all of about 12-13 mm of it were embedded into the tire.

Yeah, that figures. So, I sat there then laid back, angry, steaming quietly, wondering about how I'm gonna deal with this. I try to be self sufficient, but there are times I'm not equipped, and this appears to be one of them.

The tire can likely be repaired (as temporary as that's supposed to be), but for all intent and purposes, it's dead, like that mouse, and it's gonna cost me some money I didn't expect to have to spend, like that dollar bill.

I don't believe in "fate" or "omens" - they are as silly as religion/faith. But sometimes, the irony that life gives is a serious punch in the face.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ready to Roll

OK, only 3 more days will spring break. Man, I've been counting down the days for a little while, but not all that seriously. This week comes and for crying out loud, as expected, the kids are (some) worse than normal... some MUCH worse. Yeah, I know, that's what happens the week before spring break, but honestly, TRUST ME, if you saw how some of the kids were behaving today, you'd give me a shoulder massage. Well, not ACTUAL violence, but I felt like some was potentially gonna happen. One kid will be staying home tomorrow for (one) telling another student "why don't you kill yourself". That's screwed up.

The good, however, was that I got the pole vaulters in the air a little bit yesterday. They are sorely missing access to a proper pit, and therefore missing the opportunity to ACTUALLY vault. This is a screwed up situation. I'm waiting to hear back on some used mats and access to the UVM pit over spring break. First meet of the year tomorrow and supposedly the coach at the home school will let us use the pit to practice after the PV event is done. That would be cool... assuming my vaulters remember to bring some poles. Heh!

I got the bike ready a week and a half ago for the spring release and today I finally took it out. Re-riveted the right can first. Believe it or not, the bike started first try with only about a second of turnover... amazing!! I'd take it to work starting tomorrow, but I made an appointment to get a chip in the Civic's windshield fixed, then Thursday I need to pick Karen up fro work... so grrr... looks like Friday will be the first chance to take the bike to work. It better be a fucking nice day out... hehe, but I'm also guessing there will be more heating over the next two days so the ambient temperature might be up in the morning, which would be nice. It's still chilly in the morning.

So, I'm ready to roll - roll on into spring break, roll on over the crossbar, roll onto the streets and roll away from 12 stress inducing sperm byproducts for a week.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Aim for the sky

Wanted to post a quickie I'll need to add to later when I have time... Westborough MA, Patriot Pole Vault Club coaches... young vaulters and eager coaches, together in the windy cold learning about vaulting, coaching vaulting and camaraderie. Well worth a 240 mile (each way) drive.

I think I'm back in the game... now to find some new pole vault mats to make the kit at school legal.

... again, more later.

Oh, and I got some LAAAAAAAME video footage. If I can get anything useful out of it, I'll see about posting it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Look ma, no hands.

So lately while playing DDR on the Wii I've been getting access to new "challengers" after scoring A's on certain songs. I looked into it and found info saying what amounted to it being too early for me to be getting them, having not completed more than ONE songs with an A in the difficult level - forget about expert. The tracks are "Super Samurai" and "tokyoEvolved" (I think, they could be "artist" names.. doesn't really matter to me at this point). They are pretty cool. Samurai is a neo hip hop thing... tokyo is a hyper pseudo-industrial-hardcore techno track. Both challenges are hard as hell, and frankly, I'm not ready for them.
So, I went to youtube to see if anyone posted some tips on how to get better at doing the complicated steps and such. I found people who aces these songs, yet interestingly, they all turn the hand motions off.
Say what!?!
Yeah, one main point of the Wii DDR is the use of hand motions, turning it off is lame and well, in my opinion, cheating. So, I'm certainly impressed with the scores, but they are leaving out an important part... I guess I'll have to reserve some judgment on their merits. Hey, I doubt I could score well yet without the hands anyway.

On that note, I can't condone when people post their amazing scores when the camera is pointing only at the TV or.... you can hear them hitting buttons on their controller instead of stomping on the DDR pad. For real... what are you bragging about?

I'll set up a cam one of these days to capture me my attempts at DDR superstardom. They'll be real and honest... and hopefully I don't have to censor my rage attacks when stuff doesn't work.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

If we put you there, don't screw us!

In less than 14 hours I'll be going to vote, primarily in the Democratic primary, but also for local stuff - school board, councilors, permission to explore a re purposing of a dilapidated local landmark.

Over the last few years, I've been looking forward to this election cycle in a massive way. Brattleboro (I believe) Vermont is putting on their ballot a vote for whether to indict W if he sets foot in their jurisdiction. I wish Burlington had the same thing. I think back 3 year and then 7 years and I have to believe that more and more of those people who voted for that scumbag realize they royally screwed up and royally hosed America in the act. The least patriotic people I could imagine - those who unquestionably supported this criminal over and over.

So, now I'm expecting the tide to turn and a democrat to take over the White House - and coupled with the Democratic majority in the House and Senate a reclaiming of what's important for the success of the country, and not just rich people, oil men, libertarians and poor people who actually believe that making their bosses wealthy will trickle down. Um, watch the movie "Idiocracy". The only thing that appears to be trickling down is brain damage resembling lack of foresight and common sense.

That said, if/when a Democrat recovers the White House, s(he) better not fuck it up. I swear, unlike Repugs, we need to hold our elected officials accountable. No more bullshit like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Obviously, as recently stated, I'm voting for Barack Obama. I have a feeling he's representing more of what he'll actually do an less of what we just want to hear. I hate people who are happy to have politicians say what "we want to hear" and forget that "show and prove" is more important.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

DDRdict or Dance Dance Ragealution

As previously noted here, I have the DDR for the Wii. It's amazingly fun and a great workout. When I'm not sick or overly tired, I try to get in an hour most days and days where Karen isn't around for an extended time and I'd want to play, I go for more. This morning I played for around 2 hours. I also got my heart rate monitor watch in the mail yesterday, so I put it on and tested it out while playing. Before I accidentally stopped the "exercise mode", which monitors my heart rate range as I go and the calories burned, it was about 750 calories. I do tend to try to stick to the faster/high foot rate songs, but that sounds high. however, 1.5 hours of counting, I guess it would make sense. I wasn't tired like during my fitquest hour long runs, but it was good. So if it is as reliable as I'd guess it's price and reputation would signify... well, yay.

However, have you fricken played it? How about DDR anywhere? There is beginner, basic, difficult and expert modes. Beginner really (for me) is about getting used to how it works and getting used to the steps/pad placement. The Wii version uses the Wiimote and 'chuck for doing hand motions, which are essentially punching at the air. More on that in a bit. Well, the difficulty jump from basic to difficult is ridiculous. No exaggeration what-so-ever. I can kick pretty good ass on most all the songs on basic level, but as soon as I kick it up to difficult, boo-yaa. MY ass stomped on the floor. When my neighbor downstairs is home, I wouldn't even try, as I know I stomp on the floor a lot, hopping around like the pad was hot coals and my feet were made of tissue. I'm honestly lucky to have a few good measure, but it has lots of combination steps that I can't fathom yet. Massive hats off to those who can do it. I'm sure I'll get there, but I imagine it'll be a while. I realized that some songs' difficult are only a level harder than some basics, so I should focus on them until I get some of the techniques.

As for the hand thing. Fer feck sake! Touchy. Countless times I have had a chance to have a complete combo - meaning I don't miss any steps - and a hand movement suddenly doesn't get registered. I think I have the secret to getting it and then I'm only proven wrong. PAINFUL and aggravating. Yep, to the point of rage sometimes. I start swearing at the game and yelling. Really, I should be embarrassed, but I guess I'm at home, so it should be ok, though is bothers Karen like mad.

And that leads to the DDRdict... this game is addicting to a perfectionist. I want to beat the songs, beat the challenges and beat myself. This morning I tried again for the last (that I know of) challenge in the challenge stage (I really hope there are more when I finish it - ready to be unlocked). The song is nice and not too fast, but for crying out loud. The missed hand motion or a misplaced step kept ruining it. I needed a 50 combo and to beat the master in that stage. I got a 49 and a 48 and a bunch of lower. At one point though I was messing up on the hand thing within the first 8 steps... and I got pissed and sat the rest of the song out, pouting like a child.
I kept telling myself "ok, this is the last time", "no, this is definitely the last time" and on and on. Pathetic. I did the same song/challenge at least 10 times. I just have to beat it. Finally I just said screw it, I must be tired (I was a little) and took off the chest band - for the heart rate monitor - which meant I was done. Hehehe. I folded up the mat and proceeded to putter around a bit before trying out the P90X Ab Ripper X video - uhhhh... ouch! More on that some other day, I'm sure.

Vacation is nice. Now if only I had more days where I could just do what I want without worrying about bothering Karen (or ignoring) - though she does DDR with me most of the time. Tomorrow, LotRO using a projector on a big wall. Should be fun.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Yes I can, yes I will

A couple posts ago I commented on a slight hesitation to fully throw my support behind Barack Obama. It had nothing to with the man's politics, but more to do with how he's still so much like them all and a teeny tiny fear of winability. I just read, this morning, about his stance on gay marriage. I didn't do my due diligence previously. The fact is, the primary 5 remaining candidates (Obama, Clinton, Huckabee, Romney and McCain), not one of them supports gay marriage. I find it ridiculous, but at this point in time, it's one issue I have to set aside. I'm not gay, it won't effect me, but it does effect me. He's still a xian, which is a given in US politics these days, so again, I have to suck it up.

Going around is a "music video" produced by (or the Black Eyed Peas) created using an Obama speech. It's filled with tons of celebs throwing their voices and support behind the Big-O. I missed the speech originally - I tire of some of the political speak when it's more or less "preaching to the choir". It is very inspiring and has given me the final nudge to say:
"Iamchrismoran", aka Chris Moran of Burlington Vermont, T-Snake of Crossfade Records and Torbrand of the Shire (hehehe, LotRO reference) support and endorse Barack Obama for the office of the President of the United States of America. May the Bush taint never stain this country again. I guess now I have to think about using the bumper sticker I got this past summer when downtown with Karen. We stopped at the Obama table and I said, "I'd like to take one. I haven't made up my mind yet, but just in case, I'd like to be ready." I am ready! Yes I can, yes I will. Yes we can, yes we will.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


So I commute to work about 48 miles each way. Hay, I don't like it. The idea of being a commuter sickens me, but frankly, good jobs are scarce, and teaching jobs are few and far between in today's climate.
Our budget is getting hit like mad because of this. It's been angering me to see $3.15+ gas prices and I've just started to remember things form the past, like President George "fucking lying scumbag piece of shit" W. Bush telling us that his glorious war was going to find lower gas prices. Am I the only one who remembers this? I can't find a reference in a quick google search, but I swear there was at least a line or two in his war declaration (I have it recorded somewhere, I guess I should check it out) about how destroying Iraq will make gas prices go down for US citizens.

Anyway, it did make me think about how much we have been paying and finally - after weeks of meaning to do it - look up the stats. This site lets you chart the gas price trends in Vermont, but only as far back as 6 years. That, however, is not too bad. 2/24/2002 appears to be around $1.40. Today, at least $3.15 and climbing. Hmmm..... that MORE THAN DOUBLING in price in only 6 years. How fucked is that? The chart shows a nasty spike in August of 2005 and a cooling off in Q3/2006. But in the last year - a DOLLAR per gallon increase. The D.O.E. has a chart showing what I'm guessing are national averages since a long time ago. I wanted to know what it was like in 1998, before I got married. The wife and I both walked to work back then and only drove for shopping and visiting family. $1.06!

Did you miss that? $1.10! That's nearly 1/3 of what we are paying now, and certainly will be LESS than 1/3 of what we will be paying this summer I'm guessing. Their chart kindly converts the prices into "real" prices, which accounts for inflationary prices. Actual average was $1.06, according to the chart. Worst yet is that since 2001, the "real" price is lower than the "nominal". I'm no economist, but I'm pretty sure that represents the US Dollar falling into the shitter over that time. $2.59 was only really worth $2.23. Der! No one here is surprised to find that not only are we paying more for necessities, but even the value of them is dropping.

Why the fuck this fuck-tard president isn't heading to prison for shitting on the country, I don't know. This man has got to be the WORST president in our history and he's too fucking stupid to even know it.

My new gig as a teacher has luckily paid me more than I was getting after 8 years at UVM, but so much of that is getting sucked away in the nearly $5 per day fuel cost to get there, and it's killing me. Even riding my motorcycle isn't looking like the fuel saving option any longer.

During Bill Clinton's run as Commander in Chief, prices were in check. We had wars during his terms. But as soon as big oil man W got in the throne, it nearly immediately started to go up, and up and up and up. Fluctuations happened, but it was consistently more than anytime since 1985 (in "real" dollars").

Don't get me wrong. This is a good thing in that it's forcing people to re-evaluate their fuel consumption practices, but as I'm sure you see, it's not stopping asswipes from buying Hummers or other large SUVs. Not even close. This weekend I did see a news blurb about how the sales of hybrids is going up (something like by 60%) and SUV sales are going down (but only by 12% or so), but really. For every Hummer out there, you likely need to buy 10 Priuses to make up for it. When we went looking for our first new car, the Honda Civic Hybrid is really what I wanted, but at the time (forgot the year), it was $5000 more than the Civic and came with less of the things I wanted. Hell, if it had just the sun/moon roof, I'd have likely jumped at it. I have to assume the modern Prius and more are more ammenity oriented, but the last car we got was for bad weather travel fears, a Subaru. It does the job, but frankly, it's a lackluster car, even at the
high trim level. So, when our Civic EX dies - likely soon, since we just got the title from the bank - I'm hoping we look at an alternative fuel option more seriously.

Until then, just over a year until President Fuck-Up moves the fuck out of the Whitehouse and perhaps we have a chance to fix all of his fuck-ups. Personally, I hope he dies on his way out the door. Yeah, I said it.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Big O

So the news just said that Barack Obama just won the Iowa primary. Cool!

For weeks I've been struggling with my candidate support options. I almost wrote an entry here to fully support Obama, but I still struggled. At the time - about a month and a half ago - it was really between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The true struggle? They are all happily outwardly Christian. Not that I will be able to vote for a winnable candidate who isn't, but I'm really tired of the christ-pandering. That said, they are at least progressive when compared to the repugnicans running for the executive seat.

So I didn't type out my endorsement. I still like Kucinich and Richardson. I think they are more honest and likely reliable and quite more likely to be less likely to pander to religious nutters. But those are traits that don't get people elected in today's U.S.A.. I also like John Edwards. In fact, I like him more than Hillary. Don't get me wrong, I'd happily support another Bill Clinton term (hehehe) but they are really part of the problem. She's just in too deep. Edwards may be a lawyer and likely wearing snake skin, but I seem to trust him. THAT said, we've GOT to admit, it's time to have a president who isn't from the South.

I'm not officially sticking my name behind anyone specifically right this second, but I'm very happy to see that Obama has taken a big step forward. He's the one I feel will actually make a CHANGE at the top - though frankly, would it even be possible to elect another fuck-tard like George W. Bush again? Well, we the evangelical xian movement continues to prove, you can't idiot proof politics as the idiots get better and better - and not in a good way. Huckabee... you seem like a nice person, but you're still a fucking wackjob lunatic like all the wack-job lunatics who you (used to) preach to.

And if this is any indication of who's running for the top job, then in all reality, we're all screwed no matter, since Gravel and Kucinich are the only two who are operating in what I would consider the most important quadrant. For the lazy, I've included just the graphical story.For the record, I'm much more left and a little more south of Gravel (L/R: -8.25, L/A: -3.79)