Category Archives: Rants and Ramblings

The Kindle Fire: Initial Thoughts

Some thoughts on the new Kindle Fire from Amazon:

  1. The display is bright, colorful and crisp. It is also very reflective, which means the Fire isn’t going to become my primary ereader; I’ll still be using my Kindle 3 (AKA Kindle Keyboard) for that.
  2. The apps are, in general, very good. The Hulu+ and Words With Friends apps don’t adjust to different screen orientations, but that’s a fairly minor quibble. The Comixology app displays comics quite nicely, but it would be nice to be able to manually adjust/pan the zoom window.
  3. I purchased two games through the Amazon app store, ((The Kindle interface to the app store is fine, but searching the Amazon site for apps can be perilous. I’ve seen several Kindle books pretending to be games (complete with images from the actual games), clearly intended to dupe people into shelling out three dollars for a misleading product. Hopefully Amazon will bring the hammer down on this soon.)) Fruit Ninja and Plants vs. Zombies; both are brilliant examples of how to create fun, engaging games with a touchscreen interface.
  4. The Amazon Silk web browser is better than I expected.
  5. Video playback is very nice. I streamed Conan the Barbarian through Amazon’s Instant Video store and have watched a few clips on Hulu+. In both cases, the video was sharp and the audio (especially through headphones) was clear.
  6. I’m not a fan of the AC adapter. The Fire has heftier power requirements than previous Kindles, so rather than a USB cable with a snap-on AC adapter, the charger included with the Fire is a one-piece, transformer-style adapter. It’s not huge by any means, but it’s definitely more bulky than the USB cable I’ve been carrying around for my Kindle Keyboard. The Fire can be charged with the Kindle 3’s USB cable, but it appears to draw more power than the USB port provides, so the Fire must be turned off and charges at a trickle. ((I’ve seen estimates of 9 hours to fully charge from a USB port, versus about 2 hours to charge with the AC adapter. I’ve not yet determined whether the snap-on AC adapter for the Kindle 3—which is smaller than the Fire’s transformer—can be used with the Fire; I hope it can.))

Sail

These three videos all feature the song “Sail” by AWOLNATION, but I think they’ve got much more than the song in common. Have a look and meet me a little further down the page to see if you agree.

First up, wingsuit flyer Jeb Corliss grinds “The Crack,” which is apparently in Switzerland.

Next, iomedes shows off an amazing 43,000-piece LEGO model of a Venator-class Star Destroyer from Star Wars.

Finally, dancer/contortionist Arthur Cadre does…well, this:

So what is it they’ve got in common? Passion. Obsession. Maybe just a dash of insanity. These videos are all about people doing things that you and I might observe and say, “I could never do that.”

As insanely cool and amazing as I think wingsuits are, I’m scared to death of heights and there’s just no way I’m jumping off a cliff wearing one.

As much as I love LEGO and Star Wars, I don’t have the patience or the creativity (or the LEGO bricks) necessary to design and build an intricately detailed, 8-foot-long model.

And my body just can’t don’t what Arthur Cadre’s does; it can’t even do some of the things it used to do twenty years ago.

I admire these people for their passion, their creativity and their ability to do those things I’ll never do, and for loving what they do enough to want to show it to others.

Dust Bunnies

It’s been a while since anything new showed up here, hasn’t it? It happens.

Every so often I remember I have a blog, but then I go back to watching Chuck or playing Portal 2 or trying to fix an ailing computer so I can watch Chuck and play Portal 2. Today I decided to actually blow the dust bunnies off my WordPress installation, so let’s see what happens next.

By the way, I’m only about halfway through Season Two of Chuck, which is currently in the midst of its fourth or fifth season, I believe—or maybe a season just ended; I don’t know. Whatever the current state of everyone’s favorite Buy More employee, I’m at least a couple of seasons behind. I mention this because I don’t know what’s happening in the current season and I don’t want to know what’s happening in the current season. Ditto for Sons of Anarchy (I’m about to start watching Season Two) and…oh, pretty much every other television series produced in the last five years.

The reason I’m so far behind is that I didn’t start watching Chuck until fairly recently. As a Johnny-come-lately fan, I’ve been watching the series on DVD, and those discs are delivered to my mailbox by a service called Netflix. You may have heard of Netflix; they also have a streaming video service that allegedly uses up most of the tube-capacity at night.. Netflix recently made a lot of people very, very angry (frothy, even) by raising their prices. To some people, this rate increase is the straw that broke the camel’s back, ((It’s a camel that watches a lot of DVDs, which isn’t natural behavior for the species as far as I can tell. Of course, this is no ordinary camel. No, it is a whiny, baby camel with an incredibly fragile spine.)) and they apparently intend to stop paying Netflix to deliver DVDs to their mailboxes. I’ve been too busy watching DVDs that are delivered right to my door to be pissed off about being asked to pay a separate, entirely reasonable price for the service.

Speaking of halfway—and I was—I think I’m a little more than halfway through Portal 2, though I can’t be sure. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but a potato just mentioned something about paradoxes that leads me to believe I’m closing in on the final showdown. It’s a great game, much like the first one was, and adding J.K. Simmons as Aperture’s Cave Johnson was a stroke of pure brilliance. Also, I guess there’s cooperative multiplayer now, so good news for gamers who aren’t misanthropes. ((Both of them.))

I’ve also been hanging around on Google+, which is kind of like Facebook without Zynga. I know, I know: what’s the point of Facebook without Zynga? Did I mention there are circles? And that you can put people in them? It’s handy for separating people you actually know from people who just seem to be popping up on all of your social networks. ((I need a circle named “People With Whom I Have A Lot of Friends in Common, But Don’t Actually Know.” I’m never sure what I should do about these people when they “friend” me. Should I try to get to know them better in case they’re someone awesome or should I try harder to win over that person we both know so they’ll like me better? I’m leaning toward Option Two, based solely on my perception of the ratio of Awesome to Not Awesome people on the Internet. You’re Awesome, though. Of course you are.)) One of the default circles is named “Friends” and another is “Acquaintances.” I have a handful of people in the former circle and an awful lot in the latter. If Facebook had circles, I’d have one named “Farmville and its Ilk” and it would be a bottomless pit into which I dropped every one of my “friends” whose sole purpose in social networking is to cajole everyone they know into sharecropping on their virtual back forty.

Incidentally, if you’re on Google+ and you’re using Google Chrome, you may want to try the G+Me browser extension, which—in my opinion—makes for a nice, clean G+ experience. You’re welcome to seek me out there, if you’re so inclined; the worst that could happen is I drop you into my “Ugh, More Damn People I Don’t Know” circle.

So that’s a bit of what I’ve been up to lately. What about you?

 

My Favorite WordPress Plugins: Absolute Comments

One of my favorite WordPress plugins is Ozh’ Absolute Comments. Why? Because it turns this:

Into this:

That’s it. See that little highlighted bit? Absolute Comments pre-populates the Reply form with that bit, so I don’t have to type it myself. The upshot is that each reply I make is addressed to the person to whom I am replying, and their name is a link to their original comment, followed by a space, an em-dash and another space (e.g., “@Kingfish — “). When I reply to a comment, I don’t have to create a link or track down the em-dash (Alt-0150 on the numeric keypad in Windows, but no keyboard shortcut that I’ve found on my MacBook.); I just start typing my reply. I could make it fancier if I wanted to, but I don’t, and Absolute Comments is integrated into the WordPress dashboard’s commenting system, so it doesn’t have to load special pages; everything is in-line, right on the dashboard.

It may not seem like much, but not having to manually link to the comment I’m replying to makes engaging in a dialogue much simpler. I didn’t realize how much I appreciated this plugin until a WordPress update created an unwanted “feature” and I had to disable it. Ozh recently released a fix for the problem and the plugin is back, which makes me one happy blogger.

Where Did All The Words Go?

Blogging seems to have taken a backseat of late; apart from the occasional “cute thing my kid did/said” post, there hasn’t been a whole lot going on ’round here. I do still talk (and sometimes write) about geek stuff over at The Secret Lair, but my personal site has been pretty quiet. For a while earlier this year I considered letting the domain name quietly expire, but then Laura reminded me that she has a blog here, too, so I renewed it for at least another year.

So where did all the words go? They’re not all on The Secret Lair—I don’t post anywhere near frequently enough there—nor have Facebook and Twitter claimed them all; I very rarely update my Facebook status and my tweeting is sporadic at best. Maybe all those words are still rattling around in my skull somewhere, or maybe they’re just not there anymore. I doubt it’s the latter; I think far too highly of my own capacity for clever turns-of-phrase and insightful opinion-rendering to believe the words just up and vanished. They’re just on hiatus for the moment; they’ll be back eventually.

Assuming the Mantle

The following is only slightly paraphrased and contains two instances of the phrase “pretentious douchebag(s).” This preamble is verbatim and also contains two instances of the phrase “pretentious douchebag(s).”

ME: I think I may buy one of those MacBooks the pretentious douchebags like.

BOB: Oh? Are you appropriately equipped to assume the mantle of pretentious douchebag?

ME: Well, the MacBook comes with a coupon for a free soul patch and form-fitting black turtleneck, but I’m concerned that I don’t have the right body type for the turtleneck.

BOB: How about a pair of hipster glasses and an ironic t-shirt?

Alas, I can’t afford hipster glasses just now as…well, I recently purchased a MacBook; but I hope this t-shirt is sufficiently ironic.

Meanwhile, at The Secret Lair…

The Secret LairWhen I’m not blogging here (which seems to be an awful lot, of late), one of the things I’m doing is blogging over at The Secret Lair. If you’re missing my particular perspective on geeky movies and such, you may want have a peek. Recently, I talked about the rebooting of the Spider-Man movie franchise, the trailer for The A-Team movie and (of all things) Friday the 13th. You should also check out Chris Miller’s rant on the apparent lack of a remake of The Rockford Files, if only because it ties in to The A-Team discussion. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t direct you to the latest installment of our webcomic, featuring our version of a yuletide classic carol.

Later this week, we’ll have a review of the Star Trek Online beta from one of our intrepid field reporters and possibly a review of the zombie/Star Wars hybrid novel Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber (provided I actually finish the book on time). I have no idea what Miller has cooked up for tomorrow morning, but I’m sure it will be curmudgeonly.

EDIT: Links removed, as The Secret Lair is no longer a going concern.

Someone Used to Blog Here, Remember?

SleepyI think it is now safe to add “Blogging Dynamo” to the ever-growing list of phrases that do not accurately describe me. ((Also on the list: Health Nut, Dance Maniac, America’s Sweetheart.)) After a month-long “Internet detox”, I expected to be chomping at the bit and raring to go, but that’s clearly not what happened. Every time I hit the “Add New” button to create the first blog post of 2010, I wind up staring at the blinking cursor for five minutes and then shutting down my web browser. So, no “2009: The Year in Review” or “How I Spent My Internet Detox” or “What Santa Brought Me” posts—not yet, anyway.

Meanwhile, my wife has launched her own blog, The Unreal Me, which is an exercise in creative writing. She’s already posted one poem, a couple of character sketches and a short story. ((To be fair, the short story was written back in July of 2009, when Chris Miller and I decided to write a new essay or piece of short fiction based on a particular theme every two weeks. Our first theme was “coffee”, and Laura decided to join in the fun. Chris’ essay, “The Significance of the Coffee” can be found on his blog, Laura’s short story, “Coffee Break” (intended for mature audiences) has just been posted, and mine…well, mine has a beginning and an end and absolutely nothing in the middle.)) A running theme thus far seems to be women who are seeking a break from demanding children, dirty laundry, and husbands who leave the empty milk jug in the sink instead of rinsing it out and putting it in the blasted recycling bin where it belongs. Naturally, I have no idea where she gets her inspiration, but as far as writing goes, Laura is definitely winning this year. ((It’s not a race.))

Even Kyle has done more writing than I have this year. I’m making coffee and he comes into the kitchen and rearranges the magnetic letters on the fridge. “Daddy, what does this spell?” he asks. “Skuh-fred-jah-wicks,” I say; how else would you pronounce “SKUFRDJAWYX”? Maybe he’ll get another set of letters for his birthday so his refrigerator words aren’t limited to what he can assemble from a single run through the alphabet.

The only critters residing at the International House of Johnson who aren’t generating more words than me so far this year are Rosie and Gil, but I think both of them made a New Year’s resolution to be at least as lazy—if not lazier—than me. They’re making a fair go at it, but I’m definitely giving them a run for their money.

I have a slight advantage over the cats in that I have an almost-four-year-old boy at my disposal who is ever eager to help his daddy with the most menial of chores. Last night, during a brief intermission from Wallace & Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, I looked at my empty glass and asked Kyle if he would get me the milk jug from the bottom shelf of the fridge. He dutifully ran to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door—from my vantage point on the couch I could see the word “BLEMNTORD” spelled in primary colors on the front.

Does he know “bottom”? I wondered. Up and down and under, yes, but what about bottom?

“Give me a hint,” I heard him say.

“Bottom shelf,” I said. “The milk jug; it’s almost empty.”

There was a pause, then an excited “Oh!” and then he was dashing across the living room with the jug in his hand. He watched as I uncapped it, then poured almost a full glass.

“What are you gonna do with that?” he asked.

“I’m gonna drink it,” I said, handing him the empty jug. “Put that in the sink for me, okay?”

The Great Internet Detox (2009)

Chris Miller calls it “The Great Information Detox”, but I’m going to go with “Internet Detox” this year. No Twitter or Tumblr, no Facebook or Flickr, no blogging or reading RSS feeds—not until 2010.

Before I go, I want to thank everyone who participated in How Not to Grow a Beard Month this year. More importantly, thank you for spreading the word far and wide about Beards4Boobs, and for bringing in donations to fund breast cancer research. Last week, I was wondering whether we’d hit $2,000; yesterday morning I thought we might not hit our goal of $2,500; I went to bed last night happy that we’d managed to exceed the goal by nearly $200; this morning, I woke up to a final total of $3,663.23! My flabber is officially gasted. So a huge “Thank You” to everyone who participated, putting their scruffy cheeks and chin on display all through the month of November, and another huge “Thank You” to everyone who sponsored a beard. You are all awesome, generous people who clearly have much love for boobs in your hearts.

That’s it from me until January. I hope your holidays are happy.

World Dryer Corporation to Pre-Vandalize Automatic Hand Dryers

World Dryer Corporation Logo
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In a press conference held Monday afternoon, a representative from World Dryer Corporation (a subsidiary of Carrier Corporation) announced that all automatic hand dryers produced by the company would be manufactured with pre-vandalized operating instruction labels.

“We estimate that nearly 98% of all installed automatic hand dryers are vandalized within 24 hours of installation,” said Scott Tidwell, Vice President of Public Relations. “This initiative will save hundreds, possibly thousands, of vandal-hours per year.”

Vandal-hours the company hopes will be put to use creating new, original means by which automatic hand dryers can be defaced.

“We’ve seen the same tired old phrases scratched onto our labels for at least twenty years,” said Tidwell. “There’s just nothing new in automatic-hand-dryer-vandalism world. We’re going to change that. Starting in October, the vandals are going to have to step up their game.”

World Dryer Model A Series
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Until 2002, when the company introduced the new pictographic instruction label to select markets, nearly every automatic hand dryer in every McDonalds, State Park and WalMart restroom was defaced in exactly the same manner; it is this standardized vandalism that World Dryer will reproduce.

“Once we re-tool the manufacturing facilities, every dryer with the classic text-based instruction set will advise people to push their butt and rub their hands gently ‘under arm hair’,” Tidwell said. “The final step, of course, will be to ‘wipe hands on pants’.”

When asked whether automatic hand dryers featuring the pictograph-style instruction labels would be modified with text instructing users to “Push Button” and “Receive Bacon”, Tidwell responded in the affirmative, but indicated that such dryers would probably not be produced until early 2010.

Shares of Carrier Corporation’s parent company, UTC (NYSE: UTX) closed at $56.11, down 0.23%, after the announcement.