Monday, August 2, 2010

Ender's Game

It seems like every book I read is the _best_ book I've ever read. It feels cheap to say it outloud, as if I am easily moved or amused by whatever's got my attention at the
moment. And still, after accepting this, the feeling of emotion and power after finishing a book seems stronger each time. Tonight, I love Ender's Game.

First, I'll begin with why I chose to read it. I remember hearing as a teenager a couple books on a geek's must have list. Ender's game wasn't mentioned too often, but enough so that I knew of it. A month ago I decided to give it a shot and downloaded the ebook online. Pretty random, I know. I was putting a couple hours into it a night, then just stopped. I had forgotten about it for almost two weeks when I picked it up again yesterday. I was instantly submersed back into the book. Today I decided to go to bed early at 10pm but couldn't resist letting myself read it a bit before light's out. Well, it's 3:30am now, and I couldn't have pulled myself away from it if I'd wanted to.

I don't know why I brought the text pad up and started typing, I guess it's like when you have that wonderful dream and you wake up to quickly try to write it all down. You feel as though the emotions and feelings will slip through your fingers and be gone forever unless you record them. Except I am caught between a rock and a hard place because I plan to post this to blog, so I really can't discuss the ending, because I want people to experience it for themselves.

Ender's Game definitely has a nerd appeal to it, it's a science fiction novel written about the future of humans, space, and war. It's about a young boy going through a sort of space bootcamp. Takes place in what I would assume is near the 2100's or beyond, although I don't think the date is ever mentioned. I'd hate for anyone to generalize it simply as SciFi though, because it has so much more then that.

I guess the biggest thing for me is the ending, the author, Orson Scott Card, nailed it. Just when I thought I knew a couple ways it could end up, Orson shows me something even better, totally creative, and beautiful. I'll admit that even now I am still drying my eyes. (Because of the allergies, geez!)

I really would recommend this book to anyone. I am surprised I wasn't given more of a push torward this book when I was younger, although I guess reading isn't really a hot topic among peers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Enter: The Droid

So, I've had the Droid for little over a week now, and because of my week long bow hunting vacation I have been able to spend some quality time with the device. Some history, my previous phone was a Verizon Voyager, which is a decked out touch screen phone, but not a smart phone. I had recently become more and more envious of Iphone users; however, never enough to make the jump from Verizon. I was really excited when I heard that Verizon would be releasing a phone that could compete with the Iphones, Palm Pres, and Blackberries of the world. I'll go through some pro's and cons, although I don't even want to call them cons. They are more like small subtle annoyances that are easier to remember when writing a review then it is to remember how awesome everything else is.

The physical Pros:

The screen is gorgeous, with a high enough resolution (480x854) that I can often view a website in it's entirety. The brightness, quality, and size of the display is also a thing of dreams. I haven't put any movies on it yet but I would like to see how it holds up against my ipod nano. The heavier weight feels solid in your palm and the slideout keyboard is also smooth, firm and durable. My Voyager felt like if I put a little too much pressure on the flip, it would break off, this is not the case with the Droid. It feels like a rock. Battery life is great, The only time the battery drains faster then you would like is when you have the display on bright and constantly. You can regulate the devices which use most battery life, such as wifi, bluetooth, GPS, display brightness, and account syncing. The 2 LED flash for the camera is pretty sweet. Unless you are taking pictures of animals, then they just look like our cyborg overlords, watching, waiting...

The physical Cons:

I was very comfortable with my Voyager QWERTY keyboard, with it's individual character keys. The shift to the Droid was allllright. I can't speed type without seeing many typos, but I imagine that will come with time. The lip on the right pushes my right hand farther from the keys then I am used to, which results in me pressing "/" instead of the spacebar A LOT. The alt key + delete will combine to delete a whole row instead of a character. This is a nice shortcut, I guess, but all it has done to me is result in frustrating lengthy IM's getting blown away to be rewritten again. Also, the d-pad on the right is not 4 directional buttons surrounded by an OK button like on the Voyager. It resembles a Ipod where the pad is 1 continuous button surrounding the OK. This makes me nervous when entering forms and texts because if I want to navigate with the d-pad I risk thumbing the inner OK button and sending off my data prematurely. And nobody wants that.

The bottom of the touchscreen has 4 physical links, all extensions of the touchscreen. One for back, settings, home, and search. The bevel around the phone is very small, small enough so that my static electricity from how I hold the phone constantly sets off the google search app. Not a huge problem, a quick back fixes it. Similarly, the volume buttons on the opposite side are easy to bump. I can't tell you the amount of times I unknowingly sent the volume from vibrate to silent. There's a game I like to play called put the phone in your pocket without changing the volume. It's a lot like Operation.

This is more of a like-to-have, but with all the candid opportunities to take a video or a picture in life, the camera should be a little more agile. If you hold down the camera button you have to wait several seconds for the app to load, then if you actually want to take a picture you have to hold down the button for about 3 seconds longer then when you think it took the picture. That's the actual equation, thus making you always lose. If I see Molly Malaney and Jason Mesnik walking around downtown Milwaukee I should be able to be the paparazzi that I am and press the camera button once and have a picture taken. No matter what I am doing with the phone.

The Software pros:

First, without any mention of apps, the phone is able to merge my gmail account and contacts with the contacts from my old phone. Then on top of that a facebook account can be merged in and combined with your contacts, (or you can even add your fb friends as contacts) It will take the numbers or email friends provide via facebook and populate your existing phone contacts with more information. Contacts can now direct you to the facebook profile, and all contact images are updated with status and profile pictures. So when a friend calls you see their facebook image. Also, The phone has a notification bar on the top, it shows which apps are running and the time, battery life, signal, and volume. When you receive a notification (Text message, new email, facebook invite, anything from any app) it flashes on the taskbar, then gets nested in a pile of unchecked notifications which can be viewed by pulling the taskbar down. You can then individually click on your notifications or clear all.

Second thing to mention before apps, Google maps. For anyone who doesn't know, Google released turn by turn navigation with their maps app. For free. This will make anyone hard pressed to find a reason to buy an expensive GPS device for your car if all cell phones have Google maps in the future. Not only is it free, but it also gets it's maps directly from the internet, always up to date, which you can't say for all the other GPS manufacturers.

Ok, so now, Apps. Wow. Definitely the key selling point of any smart phone. It seems like they have them for everything. Some are for fun, some are for productivity and information. I'm a big multitasker, and having multiple apps able to be run simultaneously is something I wouldn't know how to live without. I can run Pandora in the background for music as I run through other tasks. Just earlier today I was adding friends to a Xbox Live app by alt-tabbing between a browser of my xbox friends and the app. The widgets are also cool. Now instead of just having a home screen shortcut to an application, you can have a widget. A widget is usually a link to the application, but also a dynamic feed to display data quickly to the user. The weather channel has a small and large widget, both showing the temperature and weather image populated by your location. The Handcent (handles all my text messages) widget looks just like the shortcut except a small number on the bottom right of the icon shows you the amount of unread texts. Widgets also get as complex as the SportsTap sports ticker reading my favorite sports team schedules and scores, a time and date widget, or the pandora music player.

My current list of must have apps:
  • TasKiller (Manage resources)
  • Meebo IM (AIM, Facebook, Gtalk, etc..)
  • Pandora ( Music, duh!)
  • Handcent (Text messaging)
  • Robo Defense (Tower defense game)
  • Shazam (Get's songs by listening to it)
  • SportsTap (Good hub for all things sports)
The Software cons:

Having apps run simultaneously can be a downfall too. Everything runs fast and smoothly... that is until you have a bunch of them open at once. My TasKiller app says anything over 5 apps is too much, but I don't think I ran across issues until I was closer to 10+ apps. The main menu takes awhile to load, the screen taps don't register immediately, etc. The TasKiller app is great because you can tap it's widget and clear all but a few chosen apps.

Searching the apps marketplace could use more google magic. When I search 'weather' I should be returned the most downloaded highest rated weather reporting applications. Instead I am returned apps which match closely to the word 'weather'. Therefore weatherchannel and accuweather, which I believe are the 2 most downloaded weather apps, are around 10th and 20th in position. Not too user friendly.


All that being said, it's a great phone and I am very happy with my purchase. I realize it may look like there's a ton wrong with it, but it's just easier to nitpick something then to praise it. If you are someone that likes staying connected, social networks, taking pictures/video on the go, and just being a dork in general, this phone is a must have. And I'm sure an Iphone would do the job too, I don't want to sound like I'm saying the droid is better then any other smartphone. I haven't tried them all so I don't know. I do know that the Droid brings my expectations of a cell phone to new heights.

Monday, August 10, 2009

When saving money goes horribly wrong

Ok, so I found this Ebook, Ian Dunbar's AFTER you get your puppy, online for free. It is a sort of positive reinforcement training 'bible'. Maybe I can post on the evolution of dog training from how I was raised to today... another time.
I digress. So I didn't even look at the price of the paper back version after I found I could download the book to PDF for free. Victoria and I had vacation up north this last weekend (8/7 - 8/9) and I figured this would be great reading material, that and who wants to read 167 pages via computer. Why not print it off at kinko's? Normally I would think of printing this off at work, or home, but 167 pages is really over the top in my ethics book for at work printing, and at home it might kill our ink cartridge. I figure kinko's will solve the problem for mere dollars. WRONG! We stop on the way to the cabin in Eau Claire, our alma mater, and Kinko's hand's me 167 unbound pages of dog training... for $15.. I told him to print both sides, black and white, figuring I would save money. He didn't even staple it until I asked. Good thing I asked him after I was charged, who knows what fee that staple would have cost.

I march out of there and cross my fingers that the Ebook costs $30 or something, which im sure it didn't. We go up north and I never even open it up.

End of story. Right? No. I get home from the vacation, and get ready for work 7am Monday. I realize my keys are no where to be found. Victoria's car? No, they are on the USB drive that Kinko's never handed back to me.

I call Kinko's and get them to ship my keys and usb back for some $7 ground shipping charge and the cost of the envelope. So let's just say $10.

Out of curiosity I look and the book is $12.95 paperback, so lets say $17.95 shipped. I just paid $25 in cash and even more in stress for a unbound, stapled, goddamn dog training manual.

Commenters: It hadn't crossed my mind until now, but do you think Kinko's is responsible at all for not handing the usb back?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The time piece

The watch is the one piece of jewelry that is always acceptable for men.

I was told this by a guy trying to justify spending a couple hundred on a 'time piece.' He had a pretty expensive watch and I remember thinking I could never put that much into a watch.

Well, years later, and in a secure corporate job, I can start to see what he was talking about. A watch can be a good outlet to set yourself apart or say something about yourself. I recently dropped my old watch and broke the band. I went in to get it fixed only yo find out that wasn't possible. As I looked for a replacement I found myself drawn to the ones priced a little higher. I ended up purchasing the Relic seen above. Like a child on Christmas morning I was excited enough to mobile blog it. Consider it my early bday present. And don't worry, a local retailer known for great discounts took nearly 50% off the top. The more you know.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The dreams in which I'm dieing...

I don't think I've had a dream this realistic and emotionally moving in so long I almost have to write about it. I recently got my M license, so it started with me at my parent's 2nd of 3 houses(where we lived in the 90's). I had some random motorcycle and it was my first time riding. You are supposed to wait awhile and become comfortable with the bike before taking on 2 riders, but Victoria wanted to go with me so I took her on my back and we go off through the streets, taking curves and trying to stay upright. I fall over once and watch as elderly people drive by me and my mom tells me she used to bike and gives suggestions on staying up.

Then cut to a baseball game in Minneapolis. A lot of my friends and I visit the Brewer games here, so that may have been why I was dreaming about this. We were watching the game, twins vs some other random team. This went on for awhile with nothing out of the ordinary. Suddenly there was a earth shaking boom like an airplane had broken the sound barrier above us. People started screaming and looking behind us. I remember seeing the stadium falling in on itself a distance in the back. The crowd started to push forward as panic struck. I remember not being too worried, but then it happened again, a loud thunderous bang. I looked back and this time the stadium was collapsing much closer to me. I now felt a fear deep in my stomach. Either through the people's commotion, or just the fact that it was a dream, I knew the source of the catastrophe was terrorist attacks. First I thought it was missiles, but later it turned out to be kamikaze (I don't know why, nothing has really been happening in the news).

The crowd pushed on with urgency and panic and as I approached a large entry way that would bring us out of the stadium. A third explosion rocked us and I looked up to see the stadium directly above me begin to crumble and fall inward. (Picture the stadium looking as the coliseum, many rocks falling from the sky) I realized at this moment I had to make it below the overhang to survive. I dove just in time and where I had been seconds ago was now rubble. This success was trumped by the feeling that everyone who had just been with me hadn't made it. I followed random survivors as we walked out into the streets and made our way to a nearby building. Swat teams were all over in the streets and I remember stepping over a k9 drug dog with a muzzle on which barked at me. We made it into some big skyscraper and were directed to the 3rd floor(inside resembled Mall of America). They put on a movie for us all to watch to calm us while the attack was dealt with. I kept asking people what happened and they said that a higher-up in the army had a successful mission overseas and he had been from Minnesota. So that was why such an odd target had been picked for retaliation. I heard a huge explosion and looked down through the balconies to the ground floor and saw it rush in with smoke, dust, and ash, (an image very reminiscent of 9/11). The attacks had followed us and it was time to run again. I jumped from the balcony on floor 3 to floor 2, started running for somewhere to hide, people were jumping in show cars and riding away. I remember the need to hide somewhere small and sturdy. I knew the building would be coming down any moment. The floor went sideways and people started sliding down towards the smoke. I got my balance and dove into a kids ball pit. (now I was apparently on the ground level) some of the structure had broken off the kids play area and I took a heavy metal grate and held it against myself. This was the most emotional part of the dream because I looked up to the sky, and watched as pieces of brick fell from high above landed all around me. It was all very realistic and I remember having to look away for some of them so that the blow would be a surprise. The grate did a good job protecting me, but I misjudged one and a large brick hit my mid leg area and I heard 2 cracks and I knew my legs were broken. I kept on like this thinking I might survive as the building fell around me. Then the largest rubble fell above and I could see there was no avoiding it. It crashed into the me, and the grate wasn't able to deflect it as it had some of the smaller ones. My midsection was crushed completely and the dream cut to the aftermath of the attack. I was being helped by a nurse-like lady who I thought I recognized from Eau Claire. I asked and she said no, she hadn't gone there. She stuck a needle in my arm and started trying to pull blood, only nothing would come, just clear saline type liquid. I knew it was because I had massive internal bleeding and all my blood was in my stomach. I took the IV from her and tried pumping some blood from my arm to show her I had some. It was no use. She then took my IV and gave me a large shot of morphine. I knew it would be the last I saw as all my adrenaline, fear, and panic was replaced by a soothing high that took hold of my body. Then slowly, everything went black and I drifted into darkness.

After awhile my eyes awoke. I was at my cousin's parents 1st house. Where he lived in the 90's, and we were playing with nerf guns. (reminiscent of my childhood, being baby-sat elementary school age) We were playing cops and robbers, with 2 of his friends I didn't recognize. It was my cousin and I versus them. I was shot in the head with the toy guns and I had to act dead, for those were the rules. I layed and watched as my cousin tried to fend off the 2 friends in this faux-battle. He overtook one, but it did not end in his favor.

That is the moment when I woke up. Such an emotional trip I figured I would write it all down on here just so I can remember it. Dunno if I'll post this or not.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Marathon post

Little late, but now's as good a time as any. Earlier this month, May 3rd, my past 4 months of training culminated into 1 morning of running. I followed this training program, almost to a T. By the last 2 months I was actually running the recommended/example speeds (Tempo 8min/mile, Speed workouts under 7min/mile) My longest run, an 8 mile, straight 8 min per mile pace, felt just attainable. However, the guide said that same 8 min pace would be my race pace for the whole 26.2 miles. Haha, impossible! In regular over-competitive fashion, I nearly proved myself wrong.

It was literally a perfect day for running. 60 degrees, sun, little to no wind. Victoria and I awoke around dawn and went through a quick runner's morning routine. As I clipped on my race number to my old highschool track jersey I started feeling the pre-race tingle I had known so long ago. That anxious feeling that something big is coming and you'll either crash and burn or soar above the clouds. A couple weeks before the race I saw my company's physical therapist after I injured my heel. She happened to be very experienced in running and biking long distance and marathons (told me she ran around 3:30 times). She gave me a ton of good advice, but also gave me a little tooo much. She swore by having a fuel belt (4-6 8oz drink bottles on a belt) half with g2 Gatorade and half with water. When I found out these things were $45+ I decided I'd stick to the basics. I bought 5 HammerGel packs. 1 during warmup, and 1 every 6 miles. Since I hadn't been drinking any gatorade during my long runs I decided to stick to water at the water stands, and not drinking too much, mostly wash it around and spit it out. Also, a secret tip from Dr. Therapist, after your first poo of the morning, take 2 Imodium AD, and this will make sure its the last of the morning.

We arrived and I dragged Victoria along on a 15 minute warmup, 35 minutes before race start. I told her I would meet her somewhere as we broke off towards the end but that didn't happen. I stretched alone, and began getting the pre-race adrenaline flowing. Fell into the zone and tried to visualize how the race would go. I found my spot in the pace markers at the starting line, somewhere between 9 and 10 I figured so then I could be passing people most the race. I then spotted V and her race pace buddy for the half marathon at the 8 min mile group. I quickly ran up by them and started chatting. Before I knew it we were moving.

First mile I started getting in competitive 10k mode and tried passing people and told myself to shut it down, take it easy. I slowed and found V caught up to me again. We ran together for another mile or 2 and I realized that we were pushing 9:30 pace, which sadly was not going to be reaching any of the lofty goals I set for myself. We had stopped chatting so I gave her a wave and focused in on my pace and got back into the zone. (I specifically remember being mesmerized by Metallica's Master of Puppets) The miles all came one after another. As I approached a mile I would multiply it by 8, and say that was what my goal time was supposed to be at. At first I was at mile 4, and instead of 32 minutes, like I wanted, I was at 37ish. I told myself next mile would be better, and it kept on like that. Every mile it would become math time. I kept sliding closer and closer to my goal time. It was a good driver to keep going, but I worried that this fast pace might be too aggressive.

Then the marathoners split from the halfers at the 5 mile mark. Right before the first Gel stop. I took the 2nd of my own from my pocket and almost choked on it. I dunno why the pre-race one had been such a better experience. Now with a dry mouth it made me gag. Thank god I had taken it before, and not after, the water stop. I quickly grabbed some water and washed it down. I also remember looking and seeing its crumbled remains in my hand as I passed the last garbage from the fuel station. I quickly threw it on the ground, I don't know why, but I noticed 2 people picking up trash 10 ft further down the road looking at me and I felt really bad that I littered right in front of them. (It's humorous because if you see these fuel stops its just empty cups everywhere, and I shouldn't have been so worried ) To note: my future gel intakes were less of a surprise and went better.

As I mentioned the day was great, and the crowd thinned out now that it was only marathoners, (213 marathoners vs 1036 halfers) I ran along rural roads through the northwoods of Wisconsin. Every 2 miles was a pack of volunteers and people cheering or handing out water. It was a great experience, I was also passing people at a good pace. I daydreamed as I ran, wondering which place I was in, how many people I had passed, how many more ahead of me. Right before my half way mark a girl yelled out "Come on! 125!" and I thought that was my place. So for the next 10-15 minutes I tried to calculate if that was my place, and how many more I would pass before the end. 5-8 miles later I realized 125 was my race number. Which reminds me that I was glad I wore the freedom jersey instead of something plain. A dozen bystanders cheered by shouting "Freedom!" at me which made me more identifiable.

Yes, I know I look like a Dbag, this was mile 21. :-(

I crossed my half marathon at 1:50:11. Right on pace for what I thought I should be at. I wondered if Victoria would be finishing soon, Probably a little closer to 2:00. I kept on and I began to feel the cold grip of reality take my body. I kept on. At mile 16 I noticed I had began to start to feel the burn of a runner chafe just south of my armpits. I had prepared by taping my nipples and wearing compression shorts for my thighs, but I had forgotten about my under arms. The gods must have been smiling though, because within 800m of me thinking this, a random bystander (not even a volunteer) stood just past mile 16 with a huge jar of vaseline. He waved it at me as I approached and I gave him a huge smile and nod, possibly even a thumbs up. This guy was so helpful he actually started running before I got to him so I didn't have to slow down. I took a huge gob in 1 hand and thanked him and said something like "Thanks man, I hadn't even thought of this". I spread it on the worrisome areas and everything just felt right.

I kept wondering when the "wall" would hit, and as I finally forgot about worrying about it, it hit. Mile 21-23 are on a beautiful trail through the woods, but the problem is there isn't many spectators back there. And in miles 18-21 I felt like I was running in a parade, people everywhere. This new lack of cheers, despite the scenery, was a killer. You'd think I would leave the woods at 23 and the final 3 miles would be a breeze... Or at least the last mile? No. None of them. I had used everything in my gas tank and I was simply running to keep myself from walking. Every corner wondering how close I would get to taking that dreaded walk step. The fact that I kept passing some people may be my only savior. I ran up a hill 800m prior to the finish line. Didn't really know if I was going the right way (guy ahead of me was long gone) and got directed to the finish chute. I picked it up and sprinted by some of the halfers (walkers) and nearly collapsed at the finish line in 3:34:27. (an 8:12 min/mile pace)Good enough for 26th place. I remember being worried if I was drinking too much water, or if I was standing too still, or not stretching out enough. Lol! Once I calmed down I was able to bask in the accomplishment that was my first marathon. I felt good (good being a loose term. Immobile probably fits better) and it was as quick as the next day I was able to convince myself that another marathon would definitely be in my future before I leave this earth.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Classic Rock Ooooohhhhhhhh!

As I mentioned before, I go through phases of music. I have usually kept a pretty strict line in making sure I let people know when I say I like rock that its more new metal, hard rock, and alternative rock then classic. I would often point out that I am not living in the past and avoiding bands like The Who, Pink Floyd, or Led Zeppelin.

Well, after years of stubborn music listening, my walls have finally fallen. Or what's closer to the truth is I came to the realization that they have crumbled long ago. This morning I found a nice Classic rock top 50, and added most of them to a new pandora station. I don't know what the events were that led to this decision. Most of it probably can be contributed to the Guitar Hero Franchise (Before which I had no appreciation for a good guitar riff, and simply despised solo's) .

I have also come to the realization this summer that when I finally get around to buying a motorcycle, that it would probably suit my persona better to go with the Harley body style vs what I dreamed of all through HS and college, which was a crochrocket bodystyle. And as I envision myself badass'ing around like Wolverine (Or the Gov' of Cali), it just comes natural that I have some Led Zeppelin or AC/DC blasting.

Maybe some Master of Puppets to help the Gov'na

So there you have it. I am sure most of my readers will consider me now more cultured and relatable in my 'rocking.'