Monday, October 31, 2011

Old Halloween Pictures

I don’t have pictures from John Kerry’s first appearance Sad smile. These things happen.

Halloween 2011!

Today is the day I discovered Orange Tootsie Rolls. I wish I had not since I am now addicted. I’m afraid to even consider what a Tootsie Roll is made out of. It’s like McRibs – I’d rather not know since it would probably ruin it for me.

We were pumping out the Halloween jams (with a few snippets of classic John Kerry and George W. Bush quotes mixed in for good measure) for all of the neighborhood to hear thanks to my still awesome Windows ME Thinkpad. Vintage laptops forever!

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We dressed up in our finest weird-wear and posed with our good buddy John Kerry, who is making his 8th annual appearance this year! He only comes out at Halloween and it’s a tradition that cannot be missed.

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People actually took pictures of John Kerry peeking out the window at them this year. I thought people did this at every house. I know – I need to repaint the shutters. I’m a slacker.

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Another spooooooky Halloween is in the books. Next stop – Turkey Day!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Birthday!

Our oldest, Sara, turned the big 1-0 today. So, we had one of our crazy and chaos filled parties last night. If you didn’t see the pictures on TMZ, here are a few:

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In this one, Sara is holding up her favorite thing.

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Check out the ‘cupcakes of peace’. Maybe we need to send one of these to Iran.

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We made her open our gifts this morning because we are cruel like that. We’re also cruel enough to take pictures of people when they have just gotten out of bed.

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A good time was had by all and it’s all done which is the best part of all to me.

On to Monday!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Just a couple of more days left on the blog sabbatical

I’ve been too busy to update. Soon, I will fill the blog with pictures of birthdays, Halloween costumes, and the McRib’s I have eaten lately.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Creeping Along

Another week is slowly slipping by and that means another 30 degree temperature drop is coming. I would complain about all of the back and forth with the weather but at least this means we get some warm weather before it just turns completely cold. I took advantage of our second to last 80 degree day to pull out the grill tonight and fix pork chops. It actually felt a bit like summer out there tonight. It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is just a few weeks off.

I’m completely unprepared for the holidays. I haven’t bought a thing. I am a slacker. I need to stop thinking about how soon the holidays will be here.

I am feeling much better today after a somewhat sleepless night. To reward myself, I bought the absolute best lunch I could think of.

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I think I shall have another tomorrow so I can maintain the roundness of my figure.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sick Day

I didn’t really take a full sick day but I sure felt like taking one. I’m not sure where this stomach bug came from but I will be glad when it is over. The only odd thing that happened this weekend was that I got stung by a bee. Other than that, I ate the typical junk I always eat and no one else in the house is sick. I didn’t attempt to eat any healthy food which I am certain that my system would reject.

So, I am now on a diet of Pepto, toast, and other assorted light foods.

pepto

Don’t worry – I did spray my laptop keyboard with Lysol so you most likely will not become infected by reading this.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Facebook is more trouble that it’s worth

Do you know what really bugs me? Facebook really bugs me. I would delete the whole thing if that wasn’t the equivalent of dropping off the face of the Earth. I actually did that for a lot of years after school – just dropped off of the face of the Earth and it really wasn’t that bad. Out of my nearly 300 Facebook “friends” ("Friend” does not mean what it did before Facebook – now it just means “Person I may have just bumped into once at Chili’s who looked me up on Facebook”) there are about 20 who I really would bother hanging on to.

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My big frustration is how difficult it is to filter out who sees what, such as who has my phone number that might sync over to their phone because Facebook has a way of melding into every electronic device you have. This person I saw once at Chili’s might possibly go down their entire contact list and finally ring me in the middle of the night because they have a flat tire on the expressway. This bothers me. I barely sleep as it is. I’d probably already be up. That doesn’t mean I want to go to the expressway in the middle of the night and help someone I only met once at Chili’s. I know – a real friend would help. But, we’re not REAL friends. We’re Facebook friends.

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What also bothers me are people who don’t understand that they control their own security – not me. They think that me doing something with the SUBSCRIBE button on their page actually will prevent their comments from becoming public. No, the SUBSCRIBE button only limits what appears in my news feed. It has nothing to do with what they like or comment on and where it appears on what page. They control that themselves. I could “inform” them of this in a likewise very public post but they would just say I’m the bad guy and they should have known that before they added me on Facebook because I wasn’t particularly friendly to them that one time at Chili’s. They just added me because it was cool back in 2010 to have as high a “friend” count as possible. Now, in 2011, they’ve just realized what a pain it is to have such a high “friend” count. They don’t want the hundreds of “friends” they accepted in the first place seeing so much of the personal parts of their own lives.

I’ve seen multiple people rant about this in various finger pointing statuses. I get offended because they obviously have not looked at their own security settings and then I agree with them because no one can figure out the security settings. I work in computers every day and the settings on Facebook make me long for the simplicity of MS-DOS 5.0.

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So, my five paragraphs of complaining about Facebook are happening because Facebook is too complicated and too annoying for anyone to truly figure out. It has put the Postal Service out of business and it has made us way too connected to each other in a completely un-positive and un-meaningful way. I hope the other people who get frustrated over the mess that is Facebook will just delete me and save me having to do it when I am up real late one night and bored and get all crazy with the delete button just because I’ve already seen that episode of Later with Carson Daly.

Don’t worry – you won’t miss my generic updates and dog pictures anyway.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ugh-ly Day

I could not “get in the groove” today. I barely slept last night and have no idea why. I vaguely remember watching tv and goofing around on the internet at 3AM. I also ate something but can’t remember what. So, now I am tired and wanting to go to bed but I know that I will go back there tonight and not be able to sleep. It’s funny how that happens.

Oh – the ugh-ly day? That was caused by our early sneak peek preview of winter that arrived last night. It looks like this now:

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And, it’s cold and rainy. It’s an early start for the cloudy season and I hope it doesn’t stick around for long. I remember whole weeks last winter where there was not a peek of sunshine. Hopefully, our relief will come on Friday.

Finally, I bought a new end table from my preferred source of ultra-cheap furniture, Freds.

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I needed something small and functional to sit between two chairs and this worked perfectly. The best part was that it was just $15. Of course, it looks like a $15 table. I won’t be in Architectural Digest any time soon so I’m not too worried about it. And, the Chinese craftsman who created this beauty slapped this interesting warning sticker underneath:

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THIS IS A TABLE!!!!

To top off my day, I burned my hand on the stove while preparing the evening cuisine: fish sticks and french fries.

OWWWWWWWW!!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Merry Christmas!

This crazy station flipped to all Christmas music today. You just try to resist clicking here to listen. I’ve been listening for almost an hour. Something is wrong with me.

christmasmusic

Monday, October 17, 2011

Happy Manday!

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It’s Manday again so I’m bringing the fabulous Divine out of the archives to start out my entry today. There’s a story behind Manday but it’s one of those “you had to be there” stories that won’t make much sense if you weren’t.

Today was the first day back from vacation and it was crazy hectic. Also, I have no additional vacation scheduled for the rest of the year so that means all I have to get me through the rest of 2011 is binges at Baskin-Robbins and cups of coffee – lots of cups of coffee.

Hey! Let’s all get pneumonia!

wx

I’m sitting here listening to a podcast through my earbuds because I am attempting to drown out Two Broke Girls. Every time I see the commercial proclaiming that this show is the #1 new comedy, I cringe. It is horrible but it appears that the majority of people who still watch tv do love horrible shows. Of course, maybe people are leaving the room between How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men. This show is just left on while they are folding clothes or taking dumps. And, compared to The Sing Off, Two Broke Girls starts looking like Masterpiece Theater.

At least Castle is on tonight. Thank goodness. I coffee’d up real good at supper so I will have enough caffeine to stay up until 10PM. I woke up around 5 this morning and could not get back to sleep. Maybe it was a huge case of the ‘going back to work’ dread. Coming back after vacation does remind me of how I felt on the morning before the first day of school.

Last and least, my iPod experiment is continuing nicely. I spent a lot of time away from the laptop over the weekend. I’m also slowly learning all of the ins and outs of iOS. I did spend a little time on the laptop setting up iTunes Home Sharing and it is phenomenal! No more moving files back and forth with flash drives! It is sheer genius! I send my sincere thanks to all of the unknown little people who have created this while working in the shadow of Steve Jobs.

Onward to Tuesday!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gadget Talk: I rant on and on about Nooks, Zunes and iPods, Oh My!

I’ve been in the middle of a gadget conundrum for the past few months. I’ve been looking for one device that can take over the casual surfing of my Acer netbook that has developed an annoying short in the screen. I wanted something easily portable and quite simple – any heavy duty stuff such as writing on the blog would still occur on my trusty 5 year old Gateway laptop.

Gadget #1: My Nook Touch is just about the best gadget I’ve ever had and I do all of my reading on an e-ink Nook since the color display kills my eyes after a while. It can surf the net some but the browser is really locked down. It’s meant to be a document reader and does that very well but it is not right for casual internet use.

nook touch

Gadget #2: The first thing I tried was our sadly underutilized Nook Color.

I can browse all over the internet and the browser is quite good. The stock software on the Nook Color did not allow sideloading of apps (if you can’t get it in the B&N Nook App Store, you can’t get it) and I had some stupid hangup about wanting to load apps just like my wife does on her iPod Touch. I’m not sure why I thought this would change my world but I stupidly decided to root the Nook Color.

I installed Cyanogenmod and that changes the Nook Color from a locked down Android device into a full fledged Android tablet. Sure, there are benefits. You can customize the appearance and you can download any Android app that will work. “That will work” is the key because not all Android apps work on all Android devices. If your LCD Screen Density is not right for an app, you cannot download the app. FRUSTRATING!! I can’t imagine an un-geek even trying all of the crazy crap I tried just to make different apps install and just because they installed didn’t mean that they would end up working.

This experiment made me realize that I was wrong about “locked down devices”. Having locked down devices means app stores dedicated to your device and this is the way to go. They go to all of the trouble to make sure that things will work. B&N, Amazon, and Apple all “get it”. They all control the device and the app store. There are so many models of Android devices out there that the Android Market just can’t cover them all.

I finally just gave up. Yesterday, I returned the Nook Color back to its own factory software. It is a real Nook Color again and I forgot how wonderful that actually is.

nookcolor

So, with the Nook Color back to being a Nook Color, I surrendered it back to my wife.

Next, I looked at my Zune HD and tried to use the built in browser to navigate to some websites and considered making it my casual surfing companion. Well, Microsoft has never updated the browser so a lot of stuff does not work.

Gadget #3: My Zune HD has traveled with me all over the country  but Microsoft is discontinuing the Zune line so that ship is sinking. It’s a shame because the Zune player is a great media player – it’s perfect for music, videos, and podcasts. Navigating through your media collection is an absolute breeze.

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Also, the Zune software is 10 times better than iTunes (which still looks exactly like it did in 2001 and works about as well as it did then also). You can quickly organize songs and control what syncs and burn cd’s and add podcasts, etc. etc. etc. iTunes looks like something out of the Soviet Union and most everything you need is buried in menus that you can’t find.

So, why is it dying? First and foremost, because it is not an iPod Touch yet Microsoft tried to make it into one by adding apps but they were an afterthought and it sure showed.

Second, Microsoft Points is a joke. Let me set up a credit card like we have in iTunes and let me pay for the items I want without having to buy Microsoft Points first.

Do you want Wichita Lineman? That will be 110 Microsoft Points, please!

zunepts

With that all said, I went out and drank the Steve Jobs Kool Aid.

Gadget #4: My new iPod Touch.

ipod touch

My wife has had one for several years. It will be my casual surfing buddy and my go to device for casual picture and video taking. For now, my Zune HD will continue to be my main media player but the iPod Touch can do so much more. Getting my music organized in iTunes was a bear so I’ve only moved over a few songs. Podcast management is not that great but I do like the convenience of the built-in speaker.

Apps work exactly like they should. I can easily refill my prescriptions with the Walgreens app. I can catch up on my email. I can check the news and weather. I can breeze through social networking and see who is unintentionally making me laugh on Facebook with their crazy opinions and posts. The pictures I take are quite amazing and I can email them in two or three taps. I can do just about everything I can on the netbook and I don’t find myself getting “sucked in” like I do when I open up the laptop.

I’m starting to miss the days when all we had was a floor console TV and an Atari. Books were books and if you wanted to know about the news, you picked the newspaper up out of the driveway every morning and afternoon!

I still have too many gadgets but at least each one will have a specific role. My Zune is my media player. My iPod is my mini computer and may one day become my media player also. My Nook Touch is my e-reader. My laptop is my “heavy duty” machine. I’m thinking that if I didn’t work in technology, I might not think I have the need for all of this stuff. But, everyone around me seems to be in the same boat. I see tablets, cell phones, laptops, etc. all over the place and I wonder how all of it doesn’t consume entire lives.

I’ve finally gotten to the point that I want to stay connected but I want to take the absolute least amount of time doing it. I think that these are the tools that will allow me to accomplish just that. At least, that is my hope.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Decorations = Back Pain

All of these totes…
halloween totes
…turned into all of this.
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Some of these decorations now have seven or eight years of wear on them and it’s starting to show. I guess this is the year I’ll be hitting the after-holiday clearance aisles so I can get some newer yard swag.

Even my glowing eyeballs are starting to crack.

They probably feel like my back does. In addition to dealing with the decorations, I also mowed the yard and put all of the totes back up in the attic. I’m starting to wonder if this is really a vacation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Braces Tuesday

The day we’ve all been waiting for finally arrived. The orthodontists get to take another vacation or remodel the kitchen thanks to Sara getting her braces today.

braces small

Sara’s a bit younger than I was when I got mine and that’s a good thing – she’ll only have to have them for about 18 months. And she is out of school for fall break this week so she can mope around here complaining about the soreness instead of having to do it in the classroom.

It was also a rainy day today and it rained just enough for me to postpone mowing the yard again.

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I’ll probably have to mow it tomorrow since I will have to put out all of the Halloween yard decorations and unpack the Fall stuff that I pulled out of the attic today. As much as the kids enjoy looking at decorations for two and a half months each year, it sure is a lot of work and it gets a little harder pulling down the heavy totes each year as I get older.

halloween totes

I started reading the first Richard Castle book on my Nook Touch today (so far, so good) and I even got caught up on some podcasts as we drove back and forth to the orthodontist (about 40 miles each way – it will be a really fun drive when the snowy weather arrives) and as I cleaned the house. So I am also getting a little “me time” in there as my last week of vacation for the year slowly goes by.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Commercial Truth

Every time I see this commercial, I can’t help but think of how the trajectory of life works out. She has all of this hope and promise and yet ends up being a pharmacist in a big box superstore. Yes, she might be the best educated person working in the superstore, but she’s still working in a superstore. She might drive a Mercedes but she still has to park it out front at Target and she still has to park out beyond the outer yellow line during the holidays because all the spaces up front are reserved for the customers.

This commercial is a true story. She really is a Target pharmacist.  Instead of being out there changing the world, she’s explaining the side effects of Cialis to a 70 year old man wearing a gold chain and smelling like Old Spice. Of course, the smell of the Old Spice is a nice change because it covers up the constant wafting odors of hot dogs from the snack bar.

Of course, Virginia might be a real-life Chuck. She might be a spy and this whole Target gig could be her cover. If not, at least she gets a killer employee discount.

Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada and I am off this week here in the US just by sheer coincidence. I took a week of vacation for fall break and because Sara is getting her braces this week.

Roast for Thanksgiving? I think I’ll pass.

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I normally don’t take today off because I enjoy the days that our Canadian office is closed because that means a good catch up/get organized/purge things day for me. Canadian Thanksgiving marks the first big holiday at work and our descent into the run of holidays during which I have yard decorations up for over two months.

I’ll be heading up into the attic this week to get our Halloween decorations and it will be way too hot to be up in the attic as usual. It’s weird how summer here seems to last into October. It’s hard to get in the holiday spirit when it is 90 degrees.

I would write about what we did all weekend but it is a blur of running from one place to another. I know there was a trip to Walmart in there somewhere because I had enough food here to fix breakfast this morning. I’m hoping that there will be time to rest a bit this week in between the yard decorating and trying to keep the kids entertained.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mac Memories

Here’s a picture of our yorkie, Angel, with my old Mac Classic II. Both are gone now. I no longer have the file of this picture. I printed it out way back when and kept it.

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Note the blazing fast 14.4 modem on top of the Mac. At the time, this thing was blazing fast and could do things that we’re just about unbelievable.

So, Steve Jobs was a rear end a lot of the time. I’ve read all of the nasty things people keep bringing up and guess what – no one is perfect. I’m sure plenty of the jealous and not creative people who crossed paths with Jobs over the years made a point of recording every imperfection they could just so they could boost their own bruised egos.

If you’re going to do big things, you’re going to have to be not so nice. There are a lot of naysayers out there. And, yes, Jobs was a pretty bad father also. His priorities were a mess. But, I never bought an Apple product because I was trying to validate the personal life of the man behind the product. I bought Apple stuff because it worked. I bought it because Apple took the nasty side of computing and hid it behind a very user friendly interface that we could all use. I bought it because Apple unlocked the door to so much we could never do before – real desktop publishing is one thing I can think of that completely blew me away. We could all make real newsletters. We could all make real professional documents.

Thanks to Steve Jobs, we can go to a computer and not boot into DOS and have to type in commands to open programs. Did he invent every innovation? No. But he did believe in innovation and he had an eye for what the common user needed. Before Macintosh, the features of computers today that we take for granted were only accessible to the very wealthy or quite connected. Home computers were a joke and small businesses still using pen, paper, and filing cabinets were trying to compete with big businesses that were totally automated.

Steve Jobs and Apple made real computing accessible for the majority.

Sure, people complain today that iOS is too locked down. Apple controls it all! The horror! But, it works. This is the failing point of Android. The system is beyond fragmented. Go to Walmart and look at 4 different tablets on four different versions of Android and then remember that they all cannot run all of the Android programs.

Think about how fast Mac evolved while Windows lagged behind. It took years for Windows to try to copy all of the good things in Mac and they only finally got it right in Windows 7!

I miss my Mac. I miss Oscar the Grouch jumping out of the trash can and singing when I deleted things. But most of all I miss the feeling I got discovering all of those cool things I could do on a Mac for the first time.

People born after 1992 think we’ve always had those things and we need to thank Steve Jobs for that, warts and all.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thanks, Methheads and Big Pharma

Thanks for discontinuing the only allergy meds I have ever taken that has worked. I have been informed by my pharmacy that the last major distributor of Brompheniramine has ended production and I will no longer be able to get my pills.

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Breathing is overrated. So, who is to blame for this? It depends on who you ask. In one corner, we have the meth makers (like you see on Breaking Bad). They are the reason that the government has cracked down on every decent antihistamine with decongestant and caused them to be jammed behind the counter where no one with an actual medical need can get to them without standing in a line and then overpaying.

Remember these pills? They worked also but they are no longer distributed in the US. We have to drive to Canada for these now. Thanks, meth makers of America!

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In the other corner we have big pharma. The pharmaceutical companies want us to buy their patented items like Allegra and Claritin (which don’t work as well) so they have taken the cheaper (and better) products off of the market. It’s a great way to line their pockets while we are sneezing our heads off.

So, I’m going to enjoy my last two and a half weeks of pills and then I guess I will move to Antarctica where there are no allergies or meth making penguins.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Content, content every where, and no time to think

I’ve spent the better part of the last couple of weeks “realigning” my virtual life because I’ve been drowning in “content” – bookmarks, tweets, Facebook birthdays, unread blog entries, etc. - and I finally hit oversaturation. My virtual cup has runneth over.

I’ve had so much information coming in that I couldn’t possibly process all of it. There is so much to read and most of it is just filler and filler has a way of pushing out all of the good stuff and taking over.

I stepped away from all of it in order to regroup. I realized that I needed to do two things. First, I had to decide what was important to me. Second, I had to purge the things which were not.

In the important category, of all of the things I “create”, this blog is the most important. It is my outlet and I have not been doing much of a service in the writing department lately. This is partially because I have been letting myself drown in distractions and partially because I had crazy self-imposed rules such as only writing one entry a day. If I have a voice and an idea on a particular day and that comes out as three entries in one day, I need to do that. I can’t put ideas in the queue and find any inspiration in them on my down/distracted/low-energy days. Yes, just like everyone else, I have down/distracted/low-energy days and those seem to be the days that I don’t write or I write about something completely uninspired such as how the weather is.

I also have this crazy need to rearrange stuff every so often. I have the itch right now to reset the living room. I’m not sure why I get bored with things when they sit in the same place too long but that compulsion has also spread to this blog and that is why I have posted the new layout I’ve been kicking around in my head over the last few weeks.

Also on the ‘important list’, Twitter comes in second for me and everything else is just me dabbling – Tumblr, Foursquare, and GetGlue are ways for me to like other things publically, such as the shows I like to watch and the places I like to go. Of the blogs which I read, those listed on the right hand side of this page are the ones I care most about.

On the ‘not important’ side of things, I had a lot of cleaning up to do. I purged a lot of blogs I followed. I went through the people I follow on Twitter and cut out about 30 of those. I blocked all of the people I don’t know on Twitter so they are no longer following me either. I’ve decided that Facebook and Google + are more wastes of time than anything else and I’ve really cut down on what I am doing social networking wise. I examined the podcasts I listen to and made the decision to cut out more than half of them and this included some I’ve been pretty dedicated to for years. I even deleted programs off my laptop and backed up and eliminated files I just never got around to reviewing. I deleted a bunch of bookmarks I saved for rainy days that have never come around.

I needed to eliminate the clutter from my virtual life in the same manner that I have eliminated it from my physical life and I needed to do it for the same reason – the clutter, whether real or virtual, can paralyze us. It can take over and snuff out the time we need to create and to learn. I spent more time reading web pages this summer than I did reading books. I spent more time fretting over what to write about than I did just sitting at the laptop and letting the words come out as they should naturally.

My goal now is to throw out “the rules” and write when and where the urge hits and also to narrow the amount of information coming in to a point that I am not wasting my time on the things I shouldn’t be wasting my time on. It’s all about focus and at this specific point in time, I have my focus back. We’ll see how long it lasts!