First post of the year...
just a quick one to get it out of the way. =) Hope everyone had a great holiday season and best of luck in the new year! Big changes for me in this first month of the year so I'll be busy. That's all for now.
just a quick one to get it out of the way. =) Hope everyone had a great holiday season and best of luck in the new year! Big changes for me in this first month of the year so I'll be busy. That's all for now.
Spent the morning upgrading the hard drive on my Powerbook to a Seagate Momentus 5400.2 120GB drive. That's 40GB (theoretically) more space than the 80GB that I have already and which I had basically filled up (RAW images and MP3s being the primary culprits). Was surprisingly easy to get up and running again.
As mentioned in my previous post I've been attempting to clone the 2 partitions in Erin's existing laptop hard drive to the 80GB hard drive I had just swapped out of my Powerbook. I had high hopes for this software that I found, DriveImage XML, because it was a free (bonus!) program that seemed like it could do something similar to CCC on the Mac.
Well, the minor remodeling that we had scheduled was finally completed along with the new carpet for the master bedroom and second floor hallway. Unfortunately, miscommunication between us and the contractor led us to having all the walls in all the rooms painted an off-white instead of the four different colors that we had originally wanted. Kinda pissed about that but Erin doesn't mind so I guess we'll be adding color via furniture/rugs/accessories/etc. All that's left is to have our new shades and blinds installed and our furniture delivered. Still missing pieces but those we can fill in over time. Gonna spend the upcoming extended weekend cleaning till it's sparkling and attempting to patch some holes in the drywall. Hope my back and knees will hold out. ;-p
I rarely get sick but I've been battling it out with a rather persistent cold for the past week or so. Sneaky bastard. Manifested itself as a sore throat and progressed from there. Sore throat was gone within a day or two to be replaced by a constant mucus pool that regenerates rather quickly no matter how often I clear my sinus passages. Now a sporadic cough has been introduced as well. Damn thing just won't go away. There were a few times already where I thought I had turned the corner but it just lingers, annoying the hell out of me. Grrr.... I guess it doesn't help that I have tons of stuff to do both work-wise and moving-wise so haven't been able to get enough rest. *sigh*
Looks like we won't be entirely moved in to our new place till this weekend. Which means an entire week without TV cause I just sold our 2 old ones yesterday. =( Ah well, for the better probably since I don't have the time for it. At least we have most of our moving done. Most of the stuff left to bring over are our clothes and kitchen stuff.
On the cold front, was still plagued by mucus until last night when we went out and bought a bottle of Mucinex. This shit ain't cheap but none of the normal "severe cold" and/or antihistamine medication we were taking seemed to be doing anything. But I gotta say, Mucinex seems to be pretty darn effective. No longer plagued by that batch of really sticky mucus that sorta sits at the back of your nose/throat and won't come up enough to get blown out or go down enough to get swallowed. I can't believe I'm talking about mucus on my blog but I promise, this will be the last time. =)
On the work front, I'm swamped. Tons of things going on from many different places. Of course, being in the middle of a prolonged move as well as being inflicted with an annoying cold doesn't help. Gotta get crackin'!
Forgot to mention that I caught The Lion King on Broadway over the weekend. I'm not entirely sure why they had to make a musical out of the movie but some of the costumes were great. The elephants and giraffes were impressive and Scar's costume was very, very clever and well-executed. Anyhoo, probably not worth the $110/seat that we paid (although they were good seats) but a nice afternoon spent nonetheless.
Also grabbed lunch at the nearby John's Pizzeria which was quite good. The mozzarella that they use on the pizzas is quite tasty and their desserts are very good as well. Definitely a good place to go for a pre- or post-show bite.
Spent the last 2 says finalizing our move to our new place and I'm so... bleepin'... tired. Was up till 4 Saturday night and then 3 last night cleaning up and assembling one of two work desks that we got from Staples. Had to get up early today cause Circuit City is supposed to deliver sometime between 8am and 11am while Comcast is supposed to come sometime between 9am and noon.
My body's sore, my brain's exhausted, and that damn cold's mounting a comeback and yet, I don't mind so much. Cause it's our own place. =) But man, you never know exactly how much crap you've accumulated until you go through ALL your drawers and shelves. And I guess we didn't make it any easier on ourselves by choosing NOT to go with movers and doing everything ourselves.
Even though I never made a purchase from FreshDirect while at our old place, they did come in real handy this past weekend as we were able to dig up a lot of nice boxes from them from the trash room to help us cart our stuff over. ;-) Unfortunately they don't deliver to where I am now, nor do I think they will anytime soon; otherwise I may have placed an order just to say thanks.
Anyway, this is my first post from my new home. I'd post a pic but the interior is an absolute mess. Although I should probably post one anyway and do a "before and after" sort of thing but I'm too tired to get my ass off this comfy couch to dig out my wide angle lens and take some shots.
Last night took my mother to see the Knicks vs Nets game at Continental Arena for her birthday. Got pretty good seats (8 rows back from the floor) for a cheap (relatively speaking) price since one team almost no one cares about and the other team sucks in a big way. But they're both amongst my mom's favorite teams so double points for me. ;-)
Anyway, it was interesting to see first-hand the defensive inability of the Knicks. I've heard about it all season but man they couldn't D anything last night. At the half the Nets' 3-point shooting was 60 freaking %. And the majority of those were wide open looks. It was ridiculous. On the Nets side, Vince Carter put on a show last night. Quite a phenomenal athlete and an exciting player to watch.
The Nets pretty much blew the game open in the middle of the second quarter, building and maintaining a 21 point lead until they started sitting their starters with about 8 minutes left in the final quarter. Once they did that though, the bench players stunk it up REAL bad. The entire last 7 minutes of the game the Nets bench scored 5 points total. 2 of them coming from free throws. Good lord that was a pathetic display. Not that the Knicks did much better against the Nets bench but they did cut the lead down to 13 at the final buzzer. But I feel bad for Larry Brown. I'm not sure what it is but the Knicks just don't seem to understand how to play good defense which is surprising since Brown's the coach.
Anyway, I made do with a 50mm f/1.4 lens throughout the game which turned out to be a bit shorter than ideal but I didn't think security was going to let me through with the 70-200IS. Plus I actually fit the camera body and lens in separate pockets of my jacket. The security person who patted me down felt the camera but all he asked was if it was a bottle (no outside beverages!) and that was it. Didn't even ask me to take it out. Maybe I should get the 85mm f/1.8 or 135 f/2 after all. ;-p
Took the majority of the action shots using shutter priority set at 1/125s and later 1/160s. At that speed the lens was wide open at 1.4 constantly so getting a well-focused shot was a bit of a pain as any slight discrepency meant a shot that was focused where I didn't want. But managed to come away with some decent shots (with some extra help from Photoshop ;-). But the 50mm never fails to impress me. 100% crops of some of the pics revealed quite detailed shots of the people on the other side of the floor. Too bad I'll be selling it off in a little while.
Whew, that took longer than expected but everything's finally back up! With no data loss to boot. Whoo hoo! =)
I originally put this up a little over a week ago so am just linking to it now. Basically I lucked out and was actually in a Best Buy one day that had the premium XBox 360 system in stock that day. So I picked one up. And proceeded to let it gather dust in my living room for like half a month before I got a chance to set it up. So this documents my first impressions.
Caught V for Vendetta this weekend and it turned out to be much better than I thought it'd be. Quite a pleasant surprise. Pretty long flick too but I'd definitely suggest catching it if you can.
What I am going to relate right now may not be news to anyone else but me but I found it sufficiently odd to document for posterity.
One of the typical tourist attractions that we usually take out of towners to is the big bronze bull down in the Bowling Green Park near Wall Street. The bull itself has an interesting history and personally I think it's pretty well made. And since it's such a quick attraction to see, we usually swing by on the way to the South Street Seaport. Typically we'll just take a few obligatory pics near the front and be on our merry way. We haven't actually done touristy stuff during the weekends for a while now, most of the time I'll take a day or so off to take guests around during the weekday. Saner and more pleasant that way. So this was the first time I was seeing the bull on a weekend with the superb weather bringing out tourists and local residents in full force.
After taking a few pictures at the front of the beast, I noticed that there was a crowd gathered at the other end as well so we wandered back to take a look. First time I've been to that side and thus, first time I noticed that the bull's ... anatomically correct. But everyone, and I mean everyone (young, old, guy, gal) back there seemed to be having a blast getting their pictures taken while fondling the bull's massive bronze balls. The poor beast's testes may very well be the most polished part of its body. And apparently tourists aren't the only ones manhandling the bull on a daily basis. But anyway, I was fine with all this animal lovin' picture taking but while I was turning to walk away, I caught a quick glance of one European fella having his picture taken while he was in the act of... fisting the bull. It took me a few steps for the scene to register in my brain. "Wait... what the hell was that???" Was he just an anti-capitalist? But still, leave the poor molested bull some dignity at least.
Someone should sew together a giant pair of pants for the poor guy to put an end to this indignity.
This past weekend had some pretty nice weather, ideal for being outside and doing some photography. So that's what I did. Erin's friend was in town so we hit a few tourist spots. I brought along my Tokina 12-24 and Sigma 24-70. The Sigma I hadn't used in quite some time so thought I'd dust it off a bit and refresh my memory on what it was capable of. I wasn't disappointed. Both lenses are capable of putting out some wonderfully sharp and colorful photos. Then again it was a bright, sunny day so it wasn't as if we were stretching the limits of the lenses or anything. Good pics nonetheless.
Just got my Canon 35mm f/1.4 lens back from the Canon Service Center here in Jamesburg, NJ and I'm sooooo psyched! They done fixed this baby up good! =) I had sent it in cause I noticed a larger than normal gap between the rear lens and the mount and they were able to fix it under the repair warranty since I had sent it in 3 months ago to fix a squeaky focus ring. And it came back lookin' great! Now it's pretty much brand spankin' new. So glad to have this lens back. ^o^
After looking at the lens mount after the fix, man, there's a HUGE difference before and after. This is what it looked like before the fix:
And this is what it looks like after:
If you look at the before picture, I had basically sent it in to get the areas circled in blue (melted, bubbly spot) and red (big gap) fixed. What I got back not only fixed those 2 areas but it also looks like the lens itself should have been mounted like a quarter of an inch further up the barrel to begin with! Makes me wonder how the heck I was shooting with no problems before. But anyway, I'm just glad it's back. =)
Well, I finally caught up with my Tivo'd shows over the weekend. Last I remember I was pretty much 2 weeks behind but thanks to the DVR automatically deleting shows once it runs out of space, I lost a bunch of stuff that I had been saving from way back. Now I can move on to whittling down my Netflix queue along with my BitTorrent queue. I have way too many lists of things I need to do and the number of lists seems to increase the older I get. Will this madness never end???
Anyway, really dreary weather these last few days so thought I'd post up this from an earlier, sunnier day:
Realized I haven't posted in awhile and it's mainly due to the convergence of multiple factors. The main one being life in general, in every aspect, has just been insanely busy. Then every new day brings a new story about the Bush administration that just serves to annoy me even more. I can't remember if there was ever a time where I've been constantly annoyed by the government for so many consecutive weeks straight. So that just puts me in a bad mood in general. *sigh* Well, not really much I can do 'cept buckle down and plow through it. All I can say is... it's going to be an interesting year...
On an unrelated note, I finally took the time out to clear out my Mail's inbox. I had emails in there from 2 years ago that I hadn't sorted yet. Kinda scary. Anyway, time to accumulate another 2 years worth of emails. ;-p
Anyway, a few images taken in my parent's front yard. I have a suspicion that my Canon 70-200IS is a bit soft wide open so thinking of sending it in to Canon for calibration.
Either it's soft or front/back focusing. Maybe I should send in my XT as well.
But my Canon 24-105IS continues to impress me every time I use it. Pretty super pics right out of the camera. Although its bokeh is a little... odd sometimes. The 70-200 definitely is better in that department.
Whatever could it be? ;-p
Valid points Lee, although I couldn't tell if you were being sarcastic or not. ;-) But, in case you weren't...
1. I haven't had a desire for a Mac desktop in ages. When it comes to Macs, I'm strictly mobile.
2. Are you kidding? I used to be king of the first iteration Mac products. ;-) I had the first Powerbook G3 model, first Titanium Powerbook G4, and first Aluminum Powerbook G4.
3. Isn't it $150? But yeah, that's stretching it a bit. However, since it was only a $10 premium after all was said and done...
My 2 gigs of RAM for me ol' MacBook arrived today. Installation, while definitely a breeze compared to the older iBooks, does require a bit of muscle as you gotta really cram those RAM chips into their slots. First time around I didn't do that so the machine wouldn't boot up. Plus the little levers that you use to eject the chips are made of somewhat flimsy plastic so I'm always afraid of accidentally snapping them off.
As for the heat issue, the MacBook to me appears to run no hotter than my Powerbook G4 1.25Ghz. It does get a bit toasty but I wouldn't say it's abnormally so. Plus the heat is mostly confined to the left side of the machine towards the rear so I can balance it on my right leg without a problem. Will probably just get another CoolPad.
Anyhoo, gotta wait till after Memorial Day for my HD to arrive so unfortunately another week or so before I can finally start testing this sucka out. Grrrr.....
Spent the better part of the last 2 days finally unpacking and installing my sound system. Good lord this stuff is a pain in the ass. And this is with the hard part already done for me. The previous owner had wall-mounted his speakers so he already had speaker wire running through the walls and ceiling for a Dolby 5.1 system. Unfortunately, the parts of the wire that was available at each speaker location was just a smidgen too short to reach my satellite speaker connectors. On two of them I was able to yank out enough wire to make them reach but the other two wouldn't budge so I had to make a trip out to Home Depot to grab some lengths of wire, electrical tape and wire connectors. Actually I wound up making three trips to Home Depot cause I got the wire size wrong the first time (good thing I only bought 5 feet then) and I had to make the third trip to buy some dry wall screws cause I forgot to buy a speaker mount for the center speaker.
Mounting the satellites onto the wall wasn't particularly hard but I always feel nervous when drilling holes into dry wall cause I hate having to patch up the holes if I mess up. The stud finder worked pretty well and out of 10 screws I had to use, only 2 needed support cause there was no stud where it was needed.
The 7200 rpm 100GB drive finally came in for my MacBook earlier this week. Swapping the hard drive was ridiculously easy. Easier than swapping RAM. The only thing to be aware of is the accursed Torx screws that Apple likes to use, in this case on the slim piece of aluminum that cradles the hard drive. Luckily I had a Torx screwdriver from way back when I was swapping things out of the original Powerbook G4 and even luckier, it was the right size that was needed in this case as well. Apple used a smaller screw on their Aluminum Powerbooks which pissed me off to no end when I was swapping out the HD on that machine cause I had to run out to a local computer shop and borrow the screwdriver from them.
My cousin was in town again from Taiwan so we went to catch the Yankees vs. Red Sox game last night since Taiwan native Chien-Ming Wang was taking the mound. I wasn't expecting much of a game since Wang hasn't had a good track record against Boston this year and Boston's starting pitcher was a no name that they just brought up from the minor leagues. Boy was I wrong as it turned out to be one of the best games I've ever been to. Was a night full of ups and downs both on and off the field.
Down: Got out of the subway station at Yankee Stadium and it was raining. Damn weather reports!
Down: Stadium security refused to let me in with my Timbuk2 computer laptop bag that had my camera equipment in it. Not because of the camera equipment (they didn't even look in the bag), but because of the bag itself. Huh? Told me to go put it in a pay locker at a bowling alley across the street from the stadium. Was on the way there when I remembered that my cousin had driven to the stadium so I went back and got his car keys and dumped my bag in his car. Didn't bother bringing the camera since the body wasn't outfitted with a neck strap and I wasn't about to hand carry the 70-200IS lens mounted all throughout the game.
Up: Got to our seats and was relatively pleased with the section. Closest to the field I've ever been. Slightly to the right of home plate on the first-base side, first row of the section behind the boxes that are right on the field behind the Yankee dugout.
Down: Walkway was basically right in front of us so we had to deal with a constant stream of people blocking our view throughout the game.
Up: People watching can be nice too especially when there's attractive women involved.
Up: It stopped raining.
Down: Wang gave up a screaming shot to Ortiz that bounced off the top facade in right field. That ball was still rising I think when it hit the wall. On a side note, on the way to the park, a NY fan had on a shirt that read "Big Papi has a Small Wee Wee." Heh. Fans.
Up: Rudy Giuliani showed up with his gf/wife(?) in tow. Looking pretty dapper in his off-white suit.
Up: Saw Spike Lee shepherding his kid back to their seats.
Up: Bernie tied it up with just his 3rd home run of the season. Long shot a bit to the right of center field.
Up: Manny narrowly avoided a brushback pitch that made a beeline for his head. Got the crowd up and cheering/jeering. Posada couldn't even catch the ball, it went straight to the backstop.
Down: On a 3-2 count of the same at-bat, Manny singles to center field.
Up: He inexplicably decides to try to extend it into a double even though it was a shallow field hit and gets gunned down at second base.
Up: Fan runs out onto the field from somewhere in left field. Crowd erupts in cheers as security streams out from left, center and right fields. Guy basically just runs across the outfield, not interacting with any of the players, but hamming it up for the crowd. Realizing he has no where to go once he's in right field as security has him boxed in, he comes pretty much to a complete stop. Crowd cheers the loudest when the first security personnel to reach the guy takes him down with a flying tackle. Not entirely sure if that was necessary since he was stopped and had his hands up but it was pretty fun to watch. Of course, none of this was mentioned in the media.
Up: Yanks go up by one when Seanez walked in the go-ahead run. That's just a sad way to lose a game.
Up: Melky makes a phenomenal catch in left field, bringing back a Manny home run that would have tied the game. It was an amazing catch not only because he had to jump up and time it correctly, he also had to make sure he held on to it as he bounced off the padding on the wall and sprawled to the ground. Great play.
Up: Mo quickly closed out the game in the top of the ninth for the suspenseful win.
So, it turned out to be a pretty entertaining game with solid pitching on both sides. Wasn't a blow out so we actually had to stay through the entire game and had its share of drama, comedy, celebrities, and some really hot women. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday night. =)
Erin came into the city this evening to catch dinner down at one of our favorite standbys, the matter-of-factly named "Excellent Pork Chop House" on Doyers. It's a bit of a farther walk to get to from the subway stations but the good food and prices are tough to beat.
The main reason that we frequent it as much as we do is because it's the only place we know of that serves the Din Tai Fung style chicken soup that we just absolutely love. Excellent Pork Chop House has the soup in chicken and spare rib form and both are pretty good. They taste pretty much the same except one has chicken and the other has spare ribs. A bit more oily than the Din Tai Fung version but still tastes good.
My usual fare is their Braised Chicken/Spare Rib Soup with Vegetable Rice combo. Oddly enough, and a warning to vegetarians, their "Vegetable Rice" has meat (pork bits specifically) in it. Basically it's lettuce, some sort of pickled veggie, and pork meat sauce over rice. It's the same rice you get if you order their rice dishes (e.g. Pork Chop/Chicken Leg over Rice). I usually order the combo and get a pork chop on the side. I think it's slightly cheaper that way (instead of getting a Pork Chop over Rice and the soup separately) but I may be mistaken. This time around the waitress made it even more slightly cheaper for us by charging us beef noodle soup w/beef price for Erin's beef noodle soup (no beef) and swapping out her beef for my pork chop.
When the name of your restaurant is "Excellent Pork Chop House", your pork chop should live up to the hype. There's no disappointment in that regard here. Their pork chop is seasoned and salted well and fried to perfection. Nice, tender and juicy. The Vietnamese style grilled pork chop is still my favorite way to season a pork chop but this is a pretty close second.
The only dish that I don't like here is their wonton noodle soup. Not that great. Had it once, never again.
Typically a trip to Chinatown with Erin usually involves me winding up as a pack mule as she stocks up on fruits from the roadside vendors. We didn't get any lychee this time around (she prefers to buy them still stuck on the branches instead of individually like in the above pic) and was more in the mood for guava anyway. But the prices they charge for guava here in the US is highway robbery. $4 per pound. In Taiwan you can get like half a dozen for $1 or something ridiculous like that.
I had the Tokina 12-24 lens on hand during this outing and got some interesting shooting from the hip type shots on the way home.
Motion blur's fun every now and then. =)
Yesterday we took a trip to visit what I thought was the New Jersey State Aquarium in Camden, NJ. It had apparently been renamed Adventure Aquarium for some reason. Wasn't until I was doing some research for this entry when I read that it had been going downhill for some years now before shutting down near the end of 2004 and then reopening last year under private management. But apparently the new and improved aquarium is much better than the old so I guess we picked a good time to go.
to all problems.
In this modern day and age where machines, electricity and the Internet rules all, there will arise an occassion every now and again where they must still bow down to the power of brute human strength. Yesterday I had pegged a few hours to take the time to finally wall mount our plasma TV. We had purchased the wall mount kit along with the TV but was too cheap to pay for professional installation (something ridiculous like $2-300). Since wall-mounting is a 2 person job I had my cousin come over to provide the extra muscle during the last step. I figured actually mounting the TV to the wall bracket would be the toughest part of the whole procedure but boy was I wrong.
Electric drills won't work. Unless you get some huge multi-hundred dollar one. Anything below $200 probably isn't going to cut it. Simply not powerful enough to drive a giant 3/8 inch wide screw with a huge hex head 2 inches into the wall. I started out with a 7.2V battery-driven drill, moved on to a 6.2 amp corded drill and then finished with a 6 amp corded drill with a keyless chuck and none of them could cut it. Either I have some super hard wood studs or people who say it's easy are packing some serious equipment (or knew beforehand that electric wasn't gonna work).
How did we finally get the bolts into the wall? On our last trip to Home Depot, we returned the 2 drills that I had attempted to use (~$150 combined) and settled for a long handled half inch ratchet and a half inch to 3/8 inch adapter so I could fit the Gator Grip Universal Socket on it. New total? $18. Cranked those screws in by arm and lever. Pain in the !@#$&!@$# ass.
Interesting moment during the whole process: when I was trying to use a quarter inch drill to first drill 2 inches into the wall, the drill bit got superheated and smoke started wafting out of the whole. Touching the drill bit itself was a nasty surprise as that sucker was scorching. In retrospect I'm glad I stopped when I did otherwise something in the wall might have flat out burst into flames.
Spent a few hours at the Jersey Shore today. Ventured out with my 10-22mm w/Circular Polarizer and 70-200IS w/1.4x Extender. There were 3 novice surfers playing around, no comparison to the guys we saw on the North Shore of Oahu. Tough to surf when the waves are miniscule. Click on the pic above for the small picture gallery.
My mother told us about a family of cats that suddenly showed up in her backyard and lo and behold, I caught sight of them late in the afternoon.
I first saw the mother chilling out on the ledge. She would look at me whenever she heard my shutter go off. Just your typical gray tabby. Not sure if she was abandoned but I do remember we had cat sightings going a decade or so back so maybe there is a family of wild cats roaming our neighborhood.
After a little while the mother jumped off the ledge and headed off towards our neighbors yard. Then this kitten appeared from the other side of the ledge. S/he immediately jumped back down after catching sight of me when I took this shot.
Intrigued, my mother and I took a closer look at our wall back there to see where this family was staying and discovered that there were 2 holes in the back side of the wall where they were hiding out in. Just 2 kittens and their mom. So I camped out on top of the wall a good distance away to see if I could get some shots. This kitten would stick his head out and then duck back in when he caught site of me.
Eventually I moved to a closer position that gave me a clear shot of their hideaway. The two holes seemed to be connected in the back. But it's definitely a good hideout for them as you wouldn't even suspect they were there unless you were looking for them.
The two siblings would take turns peeking out. They knew I was still there and didn't seem to be overly afraid but wouldn't come out while I was there.
With the sun setting too quickly I took a last few shots and left them alone. Hopefully we didn't scare the mother away and she'll come back for her kids. Wonder how long they'll stay here and what they're eating.
Some of you have been asking so Erin set up a couple of baby registries. Listed after the break...
Earlier this afternoon a whole cavalcade of horse-mounted police sauntered past our office, going north on Greenwich Street. Of course, it just had to happen on a day when I didn't bring my camera. Couple of my co-workers and I ventured outside to take a look. We never found out what the heck it was for but there were police from all over, not just NY.
As anyone who has spent enough time in Central Park can tell you, where there are horses, there's inevitably horse doo doo. They had obviously taken this into account however as a fleet of 3 street cleaners brought up the rear. Unfortunately, street cleaners aren't exactly outfitted to handle big chunks of crap on the street so all they wound up doing is mashing the stuff into the pavement, sprinkling it with water and leaving a still noticeable streak in the road. I guess no one makes pooper scooper's for street cleaners.
At the request of Erin's cousin, we spent part of an afternoon checking out the Nintendo World store down by Rockefeller Center. I also figured we could make our first trip to the fabled 5th Avenue Apple Store since we were in the general vicinity.
Not exactly sure what this thing they were putting up at the eastern border of Rockefeller Center. But it sure was shiny.
Took us a little while to find the store because it's not in the central Rockefeller Center area, rather a block south on 48th. Upon entering the first section you come to is for Nintendo DS stuff.
I know there are some hardcore Nintendo fans out there but to pay $500 for one of these jewel-encrusted ones is even a bit too much for me. Then again, if it was a jewel-encrusted camera... no, even I wouldn't get it then. =p
The central area of the first floor was a pit encircled with and containing multiple DS units where you can try out a whole bunch of different games for it. Here I'm engrossed in a new release that I'm embarrassed to say is called Cooking Mama. In it, you uh, cook stuff. But it's a great example of the type of games Nintendo can come up with when you have a touchpad and stylus at your disposal. Erin thought it was hysterical and at $19.99 new, may be worth a pick up.
Prior to coming to the store, I had read that they were accepting pre-orders for the upcoming Nintendo Wii. I wasn't really planning on pre-ordering but I figured since I was there I might as well ask about it. According to this fella that I was talking to, they would be getting TONS of units. He specifically said that he had no idea where Engadget got the information that they only had 300 or so slots for preorders as he had not heard anything about it and had personally taken about 30 preorders that day before me. So I preordered one. The new control system looks interesting enough, the price was right, and I figured if they actually have a shortage of them in the beginning (although I kinda doubt this), I could keep an eye out on eBay prices and sell it if it was high enough to be worthwhile. ;-)
Halfway up the stairs to the second floor the wall is taken up by this prominent logo. This pic is just to show Erin's cousin that we were actually there. ;-p
Stepping out of the elevator on the second floor you're met with this view. A whole bunch of giant displays arranged cylindrically. The displays are pretty unique too. Not just the typical plasma or LCD monitor. Not sure what the heck these things are, they just look like a really thin display sandwiched between 2 pieces of plastic. The displays themselves looked nice but glare was terrible.
The second floor of the store is mostly clothing and accessories but the Gamecube section is up here as well. Off to the side is the little area where you can try out some of the Gamecube games. Only 3 seats is not really enough but oh well.
Anyway, I'll post the Apple Store pics a bit later...
After leaving Nintendo World we continued onwards to the Fifth Avenue Apple Store. The location is quite nice, situated in an open plaza surrounded by benches, tables and chairs where visitors can take a break from either shopping the length of Fifth Ave or ambling around Central Park. Unfortunately, knowing this, the entire sidewalk in front of the cube is lined up nose to nose with hot dog/pretzel/shish-ka-bob/refreshment vendors which spew a pretty impressive amount of smoke into the air around the glass cube. Apple's cleaning costs must be freakin' astronomical.
Constant stream of visitors even at 5 in the afternoon on a Sunday. And as been reported previously, the glass elevator, while looking pretty cool, seems to be also rather temperamental as it was once again, not open for public use.
The spiral stairway was rather nice too. Entering the store itself revealed, well, a typical Apple Store. Clean and simply laid out, it was larger than what I was expecting. Only difference I noticed is that they seem to have a bigger bag selection here than in the other stores I've been to.
I really like the design of the stairway/elevator structure as well as the open space around it. Think they did a very nice job. Now if they could only make the elevator a bit more reliable...
I could probably stand down in the store and look upwards all day. Especially with a nice sky.
Overall it definitely is the most impressive looking Apple Store that I've seen. A good amount of security around although I think someone can still chuck a rock at the glass cube and take off without being caught if they were fast enough. But they probably have tons of security cameras pointed at the thing too. Anyway, definitely worth a visit if you're in the city; I'm sure it's probably more of a tourist attraction than a computer store.
of a dead hard drive. While I can't say that this is the fastest that a hard drive has ever died on me, I can say that this was the most critical as it was my main drive and I've probably lost about a month and a half's worth of data (best case). *sigh* Very annoying as there was zero warning. I came home last night, started to browse the web, and then spinning beach ball followed by the dreaded clicking/clacking/grinding sounds. Wasn't like previous HD failures in the past where it was a slow death, allowing just enough time to backup the important data. Just boom!! dead drive. Won't read, can't startup, can't do crap.
At least it's still under warranty so I can get a replacement but still, the data loss hurts. I really have to implement and stick with a daily backup program after I get things back up and running again. Been burned too many times already.
The other annoying part? Check out Hitachi's packaging steps. The electro-static discharge bag I can deal with but to have to use thick rubber foam to cushion all around it? No bubble wrap, peanuts and other regular packing materials allowed. That's just retarded for a notebook drive at least. I don't even know where I can get a hard drive shipping package for a notebook drive. Who sells that stuff? I can understand it maybe if the drive wasn't really dead but in my case, it's freakin' deader than a doornail. You'd have to be a god to bring this thing back to life. Will have to call Hitachi support after the weekend to see if I can send it in in just a bubble wrapped mailer since you can't damage it much more than it already is. Grrr...
The news of my main hard drive death was partly mitigated that same evening by an email I received from Apple notifying me that my ordered MacBook Pro (MBP) was finally leaving the largest Commie nation in the world. A BTO unit with 15.4" glossy screen, 2.33Ghz Core 2 Duo Processor, 2GB RAM, DL-burning SuperDrive and hard drive bumped up to a 160GB 5400RPM job. I was pretty psyched to say the least.
I've generally had pretty good luck with shipping when it came to ordering from the online Apple store. Even though I pay just for regular shipping, my purchases arrive in what seems like FedEx 2-Day service. This time was no different. My MBP was picked up at 1:38 am on 10/30 and reached my front door at 8:57 am on 10/31. I was pretty stunned.
My mom's previous notebook, a Sony VGN-A130, gave up the ghost a few weeks back and I was tasked with either fixing it or just finding a new one for her. Since it was out of warranty and it wasn't the RAM or the HD that was causing the problem, having it sent back to Sony for repair would most likely have cost over $700. In light of that, I figured it made more sense to just get a new one.
For the price and specs that my mom had in mind, I decided on the Sony N series (VGN-N150P/B to be exact) which Gizmodo had done a brief writeup on, saying that it was Sony's stylistic ripoff of the MacBook. Maybe if you were half-blind and standing across the room from both units.
Obtaining the unit was a story in itself as I think the Nintendo World Store here in NYC did a pretty bad job of handling preorders. It all started the Thursday of the week that the Wii was to be launched. I called up the store to ask when they'd be open on Sunday (launch day) cause I figured I'd just saunter in, pick up my preorder, and be on my merry way. Was informed that they would be opening at 8am but after I mentioned that I had a preorder, the guy also said that they'd be open at 6am for preorders.
6am? Uh, ok. Never one to shrink from really early mornings when it comes to gadgets, I dutifully got up at 5:30am Sunday morning and putzed around till 6 before giving the store a call to confirm that they were actually open. And they were, so we zipped into Manhattan; probably the easiest commute into NYC I've ever had. At the corner of 48th and 6th, I see the line. Now the Nintendo World Store is located basically smack dab inbetween 5th and 6th Avenues. The line that I saw stretched from the front door west towards 6th Ave, and then north to 49th Street. It probably went farther than that but I couldn't see around that corner. No problem I thought, I preordered! This line was for the pinheads who weren't prescient enough to do so.
So I found a parking spot on 48th between 6th and 7th Ave and we walked to the front where I looked around for an employee or somebody to ask what the deal was with preorders. The store was open, and there were a couple of non-employees within so I assumed it'd be a quick affair. WRONG. The first guy I spoke to had just gotten his Wii and he told me that even with a preorder, you had to wait in line. Are you f**kin' kidding me?!?! Apparently every so often an employee would make his way down the line to pull out preorder people. The guy suggested I just hang around near a break in the line (parking garage entrance) but I didn't want to look like I was cutting. Especially since the people near the front probably had been waiting there since the prior afternoon. After confirming with a store employee that I did indeed have to wait in line, we decided to just go home. It was relatively cold that morning and Erin wasn't dressed for an extended outdoor stay. I figured I'd just come back the following day before work and pick it up then. But still, what the hell's the point of preordering if you still have to line up a day before? They should have at least had a separate line for preorders.
So not being able to get my Wii on launch day wasn't particularly critical but Nintendo World should have been better organized. If I had preordered at a local store like Gamestop, they would've just called me to let me know the unit had arrived and I could just show up and get it. No waiting in a two-mile line crap. Anyway, I arrived back at the store Monday morning at around 9:30 (they opened at 9), and while there was no line outside the store (yet), there were already two lines in the store, one leading up to the first floor cashiers, and the other winding up to the second floor cashiers. And again, they weren't differentiating between preorders and joe schmoe. Good thing I showed up when I did cause they actually locked the doors about 10 minutes after and restarted the line outside. Took me about another 30-40 minutes waiting to get to the front and pick up my Wii (along with another Wiimote, a classic controller, and Zelda) but at least it was finally over. The Wii, despite it's diminutive size, comes in a rather hefty package. Not sure what the hell they crammed into this thing but it's no featherweight. Plus it didn't help that the bag they were using had string handles that were waaaaay too long.
So, was it worth it?
With Erin down to her last week or so of pregnancy, we decided to take a trip into the city since it's supposedly good for the mother if she does a good amount of walking and/or stair climbing. Plus she had a hankering for Peking duck and we didn't know of a good restaurant in Jersey that had it. So away we went.
We typically walk from the World Trade Center to Chinatown and recently we've discovered somewhat of a shortcut through the city police headquarters building and courthouses. Outside one of the courthouses sits two pretty nice statues: one of a woman with a shield, and another of a woman with what I am assuming are rolls of laws.
They're pretty nicely done although not in a particularly prominent place, located on a non-entrance side of a building which is kinda strange.
So our first destination (since we had left home relatively late) was the Peking Duck House on Mott Street to grab some late lunch/early dinner. They've got some great duck and my family has been coming here since I was a wee lad. They weren't always in this location, originally a few buildings over and on the second floor and they weren't so classy looking either. But the duck has remained more or less the same. Unfortunately, they used to have great soup dumplings (siao lung bao) too but ever since they moved to their current location that hasn't been the case. Erin also likes taking home the duck carcass (you have to ask the waiter to wrap it up for you) and boiling it for an hour or two. Makes absolutely phenomenal soup. Just add soft tofu, cabbage and mushrooms. Great stuff.
Afterwards we headed up to Rockefeller Center cause I wanted to check out the downloadable demos at the Nintendo World Store (not as exciting as I had hoped; downloaded demos disappear once you turn off your DS). Realized that this probably wasn't the best of ideas since it was now Christmas season and the Rockefeller Christmas tree had just gone up last week. So, the entire area was packed to the brim with tourists and shoppers. Hell, the entire area between Times Square and Rockefeller was a nightmare.
The department store across 5th Ave from Rockefeller Plaza had these giant illuminated snowflakes on the entire facade of the building that would light up to music and stuff. I think they had a show every so often. This basically caused the entire section of 5th Ave between 48th and 49th Streets to be packed to the gills with people either staring at this building or trying to take a picture of the Christmas tree (the view from 5th Ave was the only way to see the star on top of the tree). I'm surprised we got out of that mass in one piece.
On the way up towards FAO Schwartz, thought I'd take a quick pic of the nice Atlas statue a block north of Rockefeller.
There was also a giant illuminated snowflake suspended above the intersection at 57th and 5th. First time I've seen that.
We don't usually go to FAO for the toys. We go for the lemonade and the candy. At least that's what Erin goes for. Here she is getting her gummy bears and sour patch strips.
And what's a trip to that corner of 5th Ave without stopping by at the Apple Store. Figured I needed to take a coupla more pics since I had lost all my previous ones to the wonderful hard drive crash that I had just recently suffered through.
This time the elevator was working so we took a ride. Pretty nice.
Still find the entire entrance to the Fifth Ave store to be quite impressive. It just looks great.
Just another shot of the circular stairway.
With a final look at the store from above, we headed back home. Erin had gotten enough exercise for the day. Come to think of it, this may possibly be our last weekend excursion to the city with just the two of us for a long time to come.
Erin decided to be induced if she missed her due date of 12/8. During the last few weeks of her pregnancy our doc had us go for two more ultrasounds because based on her fundal measurements, the baby seemed to be rather small for his age. But based on the ultrasound measurements, the baby was about 7 pounds, 14 ounces give or take 1 pound. If it was one pound more, the doc was then worried that the baby would be too big for Erin to push out in a natural childbirth so he suggested that we not wait too long to induce.
Continue for the gritty details...
This should come as a surprise to no one but the site that I will save to blackmail my son in his later years is now up at devoncheng.com.
Every so often while watching Devon do his thing, I keep being reminded of something I heard awhile ago about babies and children being more sensitive to the paranormal. After observing Devon for awhile now I can certainly understand why it would appear that way to some people. The tendency to stare around people and at seemingly blank white walls can be a bit peculiar if you think about it too much. But at this age it's just them getting comfortable with their new senses. Apparently I'm not the only one who's ever wondered about this as a quick Google search turned up this rather interesting forum thread.
He also shows an interesting fascination with the large glamour wedding photo of Erin and I that we have framed. He'll just stare at it intensely every single time we point him in its direction. He can be whining or crying but when we move his line of sight at that picture, he'll immediately stop whatever he's doing and just stare. I think it's cause it's pretty much entirely black and white (with Erin in a white wedding dress and me in a black tux) and newborns supposedly find black and white very interesting things to look at.
But anyway, I think he's already starting to consciously smile at his current age. Prior to now, I was never sure if his smile was just one of those things he randomly did or if he was actually happy/content. Actually I'm still not 100% sure now but he does seem to do it a bit more often than before.
When you grow up lil' guy, you're gonna have to pay good money for this type of treatment.
Anyway, if there's one silver lining to the dark cloud that is having a newborn that sleeps during the day and loves to keep you up at night, it's that you can take him out on afternoon excursions without a problem as he pretty much just sleeps through a good chunk of it. Letting mom and dad do whatever they need to get done. It's not that he doesn't sleep at all at night. It just feels that way.
Early this morning Erin had to go get her biometrics taken with the Department of Homeland Security so we got Devon all suited up for the outdoors. He wasn't particularly happy about that since this was his prime sleep time so he wasn't diggin' it when we started to cram him into another set of clothes.
Since the federal building was close to my office, we took my normal commute (bus to Journal Square, PATH to Christopher) which usually runs about an hour one way. Erin had him nestled in his Baby Bjorn carrier and he pretty much slept through the entire 3 hour trip. He made a little fuss when Erin was having her fingerprints taken but overall remained comatose. Erin though was really tired after all that. Guess Devon's really packing on the pounds.
Devon turned two months old this past Monday. He's recently taken to licking at his right mitten for unknown reasons. Not sure if it's a sign of hunger cause he usually has other signs for that. I'm hoping it's not a sign that we need to get him a pacifier cause we're trying to steer clear from having to go that route. The evening before I was surprised to see him actually raise his upper body up on his two pudgy arms when I flipped him onto his stomach. But only for a second as he promptly toppled over and almost fell off the bed. Ah, kids...
So today we celebrated by braving the elements (snow overnight and driving sleet during the day) and taking him to the pediatrician to get his first battery of immunization shots. One oral and 4 needles. The doctor started off with the oral first which went fine since it was sweet. While Dev was still distracted from the new flavor in his mouth, he was then jabbed with 2 needles into his left thigh in quick succession. Apparently his reaction time still needs some development cause it wasn't until the second needle was withdrawn that he started to bawl his eyes out. Unfortunately for him there was still 2 more needles looking to embed themselves deep into his other thigh which the doctor proceeded to do quickly and efficiently. Needless to say, Dev wasn't thrilled by this sudden turn of events but to his credit, he didn't cry for too much longer after everything was done.
Anyway, he has another 2 months to go before his next meeting with 4 needles. At least he's been growing rather well, now weighing a little over 14 pounds and measuring a bit over 2 feet long. Apparently he's big for his age. I'm thinking with Erin trying to feed him every time he's awake has something to do with that. ;-)
I decided this was more of a spew than a blog entry so I moved it to the appropriate place.
Devon's a real bundle of joy. I would like to think for the most part he's a pretty happy kid. Baby requirements are generally pretty simple. The only problem of course is when one or more of these requirements suddenly need to be fulfilled at 4 in the morning.
Sometimes I wonder if Devon's really a cute baby or if I'm just under the influence of the "parent delusion" where every parent thinks their own child is the cutest, most beautiful baby in the world. Pre-Devon, my view on babies was exactly like this guy's. Erin or my mom would be looking at my cousin's kids and commenting on how they look like this or that while I'd just be, "Eh. It's a baby."
Normally we cover him up with a blanket when we put him in his bouncer but lately he's taken to kicking furiously when that happens so that the blanket slides off. All the while giggling happily. Apparently it's a big game to him. I'll keep covering him with the blanket and he'll just keep kicking it off with a smile on his face. It's funny as hell but I'm not going to be responsible if you catch a cold kid.
went to my 1 week post-LASIK exam today and passed with flying colors. Both eyes are now 20/20 and they don't expect to see me back for another 6 months. I did ask them why they kept advising me to use the Artificial Tears eyedrops even though my eyes don't feel dry and the doc replied that because during the operation, potentially a lot of nerves in the area are damaged so even though your eyes are dry, you just don't feel it. So use the drops daily for at least a month to be on the safe side. Right-o, drops it is then.
I'm not. But I take just a eensy teensy pride in putting together roughly half the furniture we purchased for our home. Basically anything made of wood was painstakingly pieced together by me with two screwdrivers: one battery operated, one hand operated. Granted, furniture has come a looong way if all it takes to put 'em together is a guy with a screwdriver but it still takes a good amount of mental and physical effort, especially when the parts come unlabeled or with baffling instructions.
The latest victim to fall to my meager skills is this 3-piece media center from CB2. I dedicated this weekend to getting rid of the 3 huge boxes taking up our dining room area since they weren't doing us much good unassembled. The middle section I had assembled two weekends ago but hadn't had the time to replace our existing stand with until now. I also took the time to organize, as best as I could, the ginormous mass of cables and wires that are the bane of entertainment systems everywhere. Basically a lot of twist and cable ties liberally applied.
Total time spent? Probably around 20 hours. My hands are chafed up and I'm sore all over, but I think it turned out pretty well. Got some more shelf space now to fill with stuff. ;-p The perfectionist in me desperately wants to shift the tv down to seated eye level but then my mind remembers the major ass-whuppin' that we took putting it up in the first place and says, "Eh, we can live with it."
Erin decided to spend her Sunday afternoon trying out a recipe for scallion buns that she found online. This was her very first attempt at baking anything so expectations weren't very high. She was pretty enthusiastic about it though and I got a very funny picture of her sitting on the floor in front of the oven staring in while the buns were baking which unfortunately I'm not allowed to show.
Truthfully they came out looking a lot better than I was expecting. Pretty edible looking I'd say. She wants to get a bigger pan so next time the buns aren't as squished together.
Why scallion buns? Cause we both like them. And the pictures in the recipe looked pretty good.
Edibility-wise, they actually turned out pretty good. Only knock on it was that the bread came out to be a bit denser than we're normally used to from the stuff we get at the Chinese bakeries. But very good for a first attempt.
The remaining test is to see how edible they remain after a day or two. Since she made a dozen what we didn't eat today will be our breakfast for the coming week. But so far, I give her and the buns a solid "B". ;-p
This is the type of exchanges one has when a baby has kept you up for most of the night.
The following occurred at around 6am this morning:
Me: (woken up for unknown reason) Blrgh...
Erin: Hey, can you move baby to his crib?
Me: (a bit more awake) Oh, uh..... ok.
Looks around for baby. Not between her and me.
Me: (thinking) Ok, maybe he's on the other side of the bed past Erin.
Gets up, walks to the other side of the bed. No baby.
Looks in crib. Baby sleeping, moves a little.
Me: Hey, he's already in the crib.
Erin: (no response)
Me: (slips back under the covers) @#$@#$@!
The following sequence was taken with Devon seated in my mom's lap. He was having a grand old time while my mom was fussing over him but then stopped smiling when it was time to take actual photos where my mom was looking at the camera as well. Silly kid.
Erin wanted to get out of the house so we headed into the city to get haircuts. Originally the plan was to just take Devon in his car seat/stroller combo but after thinking seriously about that for the past week I decided I must be freakin' insane since the entire contraption must weigh like 40 pounds. There was no way in hell we'd enjoy navigating the stairways of the city public transportation system with that thing.
So Thursday evening I hopped over to Babies 'R Us to pick up an umbrella stroller. I wasn't planning on getting one so soon but what the hell. This thing is pretty awesome and ideal for city travel. Relatively lightweight, relatively easy to collapse/deploy, and highly maneuverable. It worked pretty darn well during our outing today. It also has variable incline positions so that we can change the angle closer to vertical as Devon grows.
Devon's turning out to be a relatively easy baby to take out on afternoon excursions. He doesn't fuss much and is very quiet. The toughest part is finding secluded spots to breastfeed him while out in public. That is if he'll even feed. He seems to be pretty easily distracted so feeding him in public is always a pretty short endeavor as we figure it'd be easier to feed him once back in the car or at home. So he can go for pretty long stretches without food if we're outside. He'll complain a little but once the stroller starts moving he quiets down.
Finally spring-like weather is upon us here on the East Coast. Past winter has been a bit schizo. If it wasn't dead of winter cold it was beginning of summer hot. This recent chunk of days has stayed at a nice and cool 70 degrees although a bit wind at times.
Didn't realize spring was also the season for pine cones. Just never paid attention I guess. And didn't know they clustered like this on trees. And this was on a relatively small tree too.
Despite Apple's switch to Intel processors and the existence of programs like Parallels that has proven to be a big step up from the old Virtual PC days, I still prefer to keep an actual PC around for .NET development purposes and whatever else might pop up that I can't or don't want to handle on my MacBook Pro. With my ol' PC desktop getting a bit long in the tooth, it was time for an upgrade.
After spending a few weeks researching components with our IT guy at work, Phil, who was also in the mood to build a new system, I spec'ed out a unit that was as small, quiet and reasonably powerful as possible without breaking the bank. Small form factor (SFF) PCs have been around for a couple of years now but I've never paid much attention to them since they were generally underpowered and underequipped, a necessity because of their size (or lack thereof). But advances in computer technology marches on of course and with Intel's breakthrough in processors that run with less power and heat than the previous generation Pentium 4's, good SFFs are pretty viable now.
Those of you who pay attention will realize, wait a minute, you actually set up a BYO system with an Intel chip? *sigh* Unfortunately, yes. I used to be an AMD proponent and preferred the Athlon series over Pentium just because. David and Goliath type thing. Didn't hurt that the Athlon series was actually very good. Unfortunately, AMD hasn't been keeping up with the Joneses lately and they've got absolutely zip right now that can compete with Intel's Core 2 Duo line. If they had, I would have gone with them again. Unfortunately, in this case, pragmatism prevailed and I stepped over to the Dark Side.
What I eventually wound up with was a nice, sleek, compact and quiet desktop system that churns out more than enough power and performance for my current and future needs. I eventually wound up not building the system myself since Phil's a master at this kind of stuff and it was fun to watch him do his thing. He really knows how to layout a clean and relatively uncluttered interior. So the specs are:
I love all the Silverstone products. The case, power supply and heat sink makes an awesome low noise combination. Even though this setup only has 2 fewer fans than my old tower, they're more efficient and lower speed so comparing fan noise between the two is like night and day. The case comes with one intake and one outtake fan only. The intake one pulls double duty as it's actually attached to the hard drive cage so it draws in air from outside which then gets pushed over the drives. There's a hole for another output fan which I filled with an Arctic Cooling 80mm PWM fan which is practically silent. The last fan is actually the 120mm fan in the power supply. The thing that's most cool about the Silverstone combo is that because of the smaller amount of space you have inside, the CPU heatsink doesn't have it's own fan sitting on top like most do. Instead, when installed properly, the top of the heatsink sits right under the bottom of the power supply with just the tiniest gap inbetween. So the power supply's fan doubles as the heat sink fan. Very, very cool. Works awesome with a relatively low-power, low-heat processor like the 2.13Ghz C2D. Not sure how well it'd work with the top end C2D though.
The SST-PP03 short cable set was also invaluable in this case. The default cables that come with the power supply were meant for regular-sized ATX cases so in a MicroATX case like this is way, waaayy too long. The short cable set really help a lot in this case where interior space is in much shorter supply.
But with case fan noise pretty much at a minimum, the components that make the most noise are actually the Raptor hard drives. The crunching sounds they make while accessing/writing is pretty noticeable. Guess that's the price you pay for speed. Oh and I guess the optical drive is pretty loud when it's spun up to max speed. But that's rarely used so not a big issue.
We only ran into a few nigglin' issues while getting everything up and running. Took us awhile to get Vista to work since the P5B-VM DO motherboard is so new that the current BIOS didn't support it well. A later beta BIOS release fixed the issue but since it's beta, it has its own issues as well. But at least Vista is running. Not that I run it much anyway. Since Visual Studio 2003 doesn't work on it, I'm still running WinXP SP2 as my main OS. And the second ongoing issue is that the over-clocking capability of this motherboard seems to be pretty crappy. I've only been able to up my CPU to 2.27Ghz before the machine refuses to POST. There's something odd about that. Will definitely have to research it.
But overall I'm quite happy with this setup. My old desktop has now been relegated to pulling server/data storage duty and is sitting monitor-less next to my entertainment center in the living room. The high-speed fan noise doesn't bother me as much down there. And now our study is a much quieter and cooler place with this new unit. I'll try to keep this one cleaner on a more regular basis but no promises. ;-p
As for Phil, he wound up building his SFF around a Thermaltake case and with top of the line CPU and graphics card and eventually also turned to water-cooling. He's such a nut. ;-)
I recently discovered another use for my Sony PSP when hanging out with Devon on the bed. He was having a grand ol' time rolling around until I put the PSP down in front of him and slightly within reach. He immediately fixated on it and tried to grab it. Unfortunately for him the PSP is too slippery for his infantile grasping skills so I was greatly amused watching him grab away at it futilely. Now him trying to grab it wasn't the interesting part, babies'll try to grab anything you put within arm distance. It was when I moved the PSP completely out of reach that the cooler stuff started.
Basically, Dev's starting to figure out how to crawl forward. Right then and there. Prior to tonight the best he could do was move backwards involuntarily and that's only cause he would push himself up off the floor with his arms so hard that some of that motion would inch him back. Anyway, tonight he would tuck his arms further under his chest and then sorta inch himself forward. Then, a few minutes later, he would actually dig in with his feet, stick his butt in the air and push himself forward. This wouldn't work all the time. Sometimes he'd lose his balance and wind up on his side. He hasn't quite figured out that he should coordinate the two motions but I guess that'll come with time.
But apparently he really wanted the PSP. I'd start off by putting it just slightly past his reach. He'd dig in with his legs and push forward and run mouth-first into the bottom of the PSP. Then he'd bring his arms out to try to grab it and in doing so, just pushed the PSP farther away. Repeat. It was great fun watching him.
Eventually I positioned it so that he could finally latch on to it and what does he do? Gave the screen a tongue bath. Then tilted the PSP onto its side and proceeded to try to gnaw on the edge and bite off the analog stick. That's when I decided that was enough fun for the evening and regained control of my PSP. ;-p
And people say the PSP is useless. =p
What??? Mooooiiii..... with an iPhone??? Say it isn't so.... Yeah yeah, came as no surprise to anyone. Anyway, just throwing up some pics now, commentary later.
So I've been putzing around with the iPhone for a couple of days now and for the most part, I'm loving it. Mainly because the UI is just so easy and fun to use. For what it can do, it does it very well. It's obviously missing a couple of features here and there but the majority of them are software related so hopefully they can and will be resolved in the future. It's obviously been reviewed all over the place on the Interweb so I won't bother going in-depth but basically it's one slick gadget that Apple put out here. There's a reason why every single Apple Store I've been to have had a healthy-sized crowd gathered around the iPhones on display; fondling, poking and playing with them. The UI just entices you to do something with it.
As for the much-maligned EDGE network, all I have to say is that I'm coming from an unlocked Palm Treo 650 running on T-Mobile's GPRS network. Safari + EDGE beats Blazer + GPRS into an unrecognizable mess. It's no contest. EDGE speed is perfectly adequate for the times that I use it, namely during my commute where I'm not exactly in a rush anyway. I did notice today that AT&T runs a couple of WiFi hotspots throughout Manhattan. It would have been nice if the iPhone cellular plans also included free access to those spots. Safari still needs a little bit of work though. I find it chokes on pages with a lot of data, like my My Yahoo page. And would be nice if they put in more plug-in support.
The much-argued-over onscreen keyboard works a lot better than I expected and I was pecking away at it at about the same speed as my Treo keyboard in less than a day. The trick is to not get too hung up on if you're actually typing every letter correctly and let the predictive input do its thing. It's pretty accurate for the most part. The lack of tactile feedback isn't as big of an issue as people seem to like to make it out to be as the visual feedback is effective enough. The only thing that still gets me is the location of the key that switches between alphabets and numerals/symbols which they stuck in the lower left hand corner. I'm used to the Shift key being there (it's located above this keyboard-switching key on the iPhone) so I often wind up switching the keyboard when I just wanted to switch cases. But besides that, I have no problems typing with two hands on it. Not exactly two thumbs though, more like my left thumb and my right index finger. Hey, whatever works.
While the look and feel of the UI is very nice and polished, it does feel like the iPhone was rushed to market a bit as there are some things missing here and there from the functionality. Nothing critical and probably addressable through download-able updates but somewhat off-putting at times. Like no copy/cut/paste. Or no Reply-To field in Mail. Or no To-Do List. Hopefully a lot of this minor stuff they'll be able to remedy soon.
Oh right, and the earphone plug. So far this has been the only "What the hell?" moment for me. As far as I can tell there's absolutely no reason for them to have made it as recessed as it is. Major pain in the ass. Then again maybe I'm just pissed cause I just sold off 2 earphones that DO work with it (V-MODA Vibe and Etymotic ER-6i) to get one that doesn't (Etymotic ER-4p). Argh. And the Belkin iPhone Headphone Adapter is crap. It does its job but it also sticks out a good 2 inches which is aesthetically horrid. I'm hoping Etymotic comes out with a new set of earphones that will work with the iPhone. Or maybe release something like the announced Shure Music Phone Adapter. V-MODA already has the Vibe Duo made for the iPhone which has a microphone but mysteriously lacks any controls.
Despite my overall fondness for the iPhone, I occasionally feel like I need to take a step backwards in time and pick up a Palm PDA to supplement it. The Treo's a bit too bulky to carry around with the iPhone so will probably try to get rid of that and pick up a cheap T5 or TX. That'll probably hold me over until Apple finally resolves some functionality deficiencies. Mainly for SplashID, which I've become so heavily reliant on as my second storage brain. I haven't looked at Palm's PDA line in years and was somewhat surprised that the remnants are about 2 years old. Apparently the standalone PDA market really is dying a slow death.
Walking to and from the bus stop in my community, there's a patch of grass along the way that sprouts mushrooms annually. Usually when the weather's been humid for a few days. I always found it rather interesting because the mushrooms will be different shapes and sizes and they only come up on that one patch of grass, nowhere else. And they typically won't last for more than a day. Wonder if they're edible. =)
While Devon's bottom two teeth have already grown out, his top two are just coming in. So even at this age he still considers his mouth his primary exploratory sensory organ. While at Grandma's today he managed to get his hands on my lens cap and he just absolutely went to town with it.
We got him a dedicated teether/rattle a couple of months ago which saw infrequent use. It's not that he didn't like it; it just seemed like besides drooling like a madman, he wasn't particularly bothered much by his sprouting teeth. But he loved the lens cap. I guess it's cause it had all these ridges and a few different textured spots. But he'd munch on it sitting, then would sprawl out and munch, then back to sitting and munch, and then sprawl out again, etc.
At least he's finally chosen something of mine that I don't mind him mouthing. Prior acquisitions include my PSP, my console controllers, and my iPhone. Actually I don't really mind him salivating all over the aforementioned items except for my iPhone. That I'll usually take away from him once he starts edging it towards his mouth.
He's definitely using the cap as a teether though as I got it back with a bunch of new tiny nicks on the inner edges. Ah well, at least it's another weapon in our arsenal that I can pull out to keep him occupied when out and about. ;-p
As anyone with kids will know, taking them on a plane trip can be quite the experience. Well, we figured if we were going to do it, we might as well do it big so Devon's first plane trip was a 17 hour flight across the world. And that's just counting the actual flight time. Door to door we were out a good 29 hours. We weren't quite prepared for the worst, but we weren't totally unprepared either. Thankfully, Devon passed this test with flying colors.
My biggest concern was what effect the changes in atmospheric pressure would have on his ears when the plane was taking off and landing. Apparently zero. Completely unfazed. Erin didn't have to breastfeed him during those times and he seemed more interested in watching the flight attendants scurry about doing their jobs and looking out the window during takeoffs and landings.
Things were made easier for us as he basically followed his regular sleeping schedule even in completely new surroundings. Since our flight took off around 10:30pm and then they gave us a meal once we hit cruising altitude, he got to sleep relatively late but then he was pretty much out till we refueled in Anchorage, Alaska. He slept a little bit then as well since the stopover was extended for an hour and then he slept a little more after the meal they gave us after taking off from Anchorage. So he was pretty much awake and a handful for about 6 hours. Which isn't so bad. We kept him occupied with toys that we had brought along and he had fun chatting with the old couple seated behind us. The worst part was trying to eat with him around as he'd want a taste as well or he'd dig through the food on the plate/bowl and chuck them into our laps. But overall, smooth sailing all the way. Hopefully it'll stay that way on the return flight home.
unless it's crustaceans. Not for the very, very soft-hearted.
on ruining the environment with gas guzzlers. Was wandering around the Eslite bookstore yesterday and ran into these awesome, modular wood cars in their little children's toy section. Erin mentioned she had seen them online already plus that they were for older kids (3+). But I think Devon would have fun with them since he likes cars and things with wheels.
But digging around on the Interweb about the brand revealed an interesting article on the beginnings of the company that documents the perils of navigating the Chinese/foreigner business relationship. Written back in February of 2005, this predates the huge lead-laden Chinese toy recalls of earlier this year which is the only thing that gives me slight pause when it comes to actually purchasing these toy cars since they are still manufactured in China.
Even if Devon can't appreciate them now, I could still start stockpiling/collecting them now for when he's of age. Especially those limited-edition models. ;-p Just hope Devon doesn't lose interest in wheeled toys by that time.
I don't recall seeing these when I was working in Taiwan back in 2000 but I noticed them this trip. This one was taken on one of the outer walkways connecting the multiple buildings making up the large Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Hsinyi New Life Square complex across from the Warner Village. I noticed another one in a much older department store building located across from the main Xi Men Ting shopping area entrance so apparently this type of building evacuation has been around for some time now. Wonder how effective it is.
Seven. Seven long years I've waited for the chance to burn my intestinal linings with ma la delicacies once again. Nothing on the US East Coast can compare from what I've heard. This is from one of the 2 Kaohsiung branch stores of Old Sichuan, one of the 2 best ma la hotpot places in the city. Reservations required, you get an hour and a half to shovel as much eh... "dark tofu" and other hotpot goodies down your gullet.
at our most recent "vacation" in Taiwan. It wasn't really a vacation vacation as we didn't really do any touristy stuff. I guess that's the problem when our reasons for returning the last time and this time have been major events in our lives (marriage and Devon's first birthday) and the time between each visit is so long (bit over two years) so the majority of our schedule has been taken up with being treated to lunch or dinner with relatives and friends. Not necessarily a bad thing but we're pretty much fed up (pun intended) with it after 2 and a half weeks.
Our latest culinary conquest earlier tonight was the second of the two best mala hotpot places that I had mentioned in my earlier post. I figured since we probably weren't going to be back for another 2 years that we should try both before we left this time around. Named "Tripod King" for their unique, rustic-looking brass hotpots, they were quite yummy as well. I couldn't really tell the difference in the mala portions between them and Old Sichuan but Erin liked this one better. The restaurant itself seemed a bit classier than Old Sichuan and I found it pretty amusing to see that the waitresses here would do an old-style deep bow (butt up, 90 degree angle) towards us every time they came by for anything. Took our order, bow. Brought a dish, bow. Answered a question, bow. Brought another dish, bow. Removed a dish, bow. I really felt sorry for their backs. But they're definitely a good place to gorge yourself silly in even though they did politely kick us out after an hour and forty minutes. =)
Anyway, just some random musings that have crossed my mind during the past few weeks:
Damn, just noticed that I haven't posted in a bit over a week. Probably won't post anything substantive until I finish transferring all my 2007 photos (~140GB worth) onto my external backup so I can clear out my MBP drive for this year. You would think it'd be something easy like dragging and dropping my iPhoto Library folder to my external drive but no, nothing in technology's ever that simple. For some unknown reason my external drive doesn't seem to like one-time transfers of data greater than ~12GB. More than that and it just craps out. It doesn't disconnect from the MBP, it just becomes unresponsive. Can't unmount it, can't do crap except do a hard reboot of my MBP. So I have to manually copy over data in bite-size chunks. *sigh*
Anyways, hope everyone had at least a good 2007 and best wishes for the new year! =)
So at the end of my last post about earphones for the iPhone, I wished that Etymotic would just get off their hineys and make an iPhone-specific pair of earphones already. Last week, thanks to a certain someone, I was clued in to the answer to my prayers: the Etymotic hf2, announced and released during the MacWorld Expo. Given that Apple's announcements during the Expo weren't awe-inspiring enough to make me throw my wallet at Steve Jobs' feet, I ordered one (right in time too since they're currently out of stock).
And it arrived today so this will just be a brief post on my impressions of the audio quality between the hf2 and the previously reviewed ER-4p and V-Moda Vibe Duo. Between the hf2 and Vibe Duo, the Vibe Duo's bass production is far meatier and sounds more expansive but it overpowers the mids and highs to a noticeable degree. As expected from an Etymotic set, the hf2 has sparkling clear highs and mids and because of its ER-4p and not ER-6i pedigree, the bass is more than good enough (for me at least) but you don't feel it like with the Vibe Duo.
The usual caveat to getting that "good" bass with the Etymotics still apply. The earbuds need to be sealed pretty well in your ear canal. Oddly, even though the hf2 comes with a triple-flange rubber tip by default like the ER-4p, the widest flange seems just a bit smaller so that you need to really cram the thing into your ears to get a good seal. Something that I'm already pretty used to but others might find it a pain in the ass.
Between the hf2 and ER-4p, I think the ER-4p still sounds just the tiniest bit better but it's very close. I'll also be looking further into this later.
I'll comment some more after I kick the hf2 around for a few days but right now, I'm lovin' it. =)
In his currently short life, Devon likes the following: Mommy, wheels, balls, and cars. While at Toys 'R Us, he wasn't interested in the bikes and toy cars because he could get around faster, he just wanted to touch their wheels. Even while sitting in this car he was directing me to push him around to the other cars so he could touch their wheels. Bit of an odd one. ;-p
Devon received this Wheely Bug as a Christmas gift but at the time he had no clue what to do with it and pretty much ignored it. A month or so ago he got around to flipping it over and playing with the wheels underneath. Starting a week or so ago he's made a few attempts at trying to crawl onto its back with no luck. Today I helped him into position and he thought it was a rocking horse. And then he tipped it head over heels and face-planted into the carpet which was hyyyysterically funny but which made him cry. But at least he went right back to it after being consoled by grandma. Eventually he'll figure out how to play with it. ;-p
Late last year, Erin decreed that we would donate a small amount (split equally amongst the 3 of us in the family) to charity every month. Something to do with karma. =p So I dutifully looked up some worthy causes online and submitted our donations.
Unfortunately, that seems to have exposed us to a flood of charity spam mail as we've been receiving a steady stream of donation requests since the beginning of the year. And they almost always come with a sheet of address label stickers pre-printed with your address on them. Which I guess would be nice if I actually mailed stuff out to people a lot these days but I don't. So we wind up with a nice stack of address labels that we'll probably never use.
Another common tactic is to include a nickel in the donation request mail and requesting that you send back the nickel along with a donation. One questionable organization even sent a dollar. Kind of like a shame tactic I guess. And I do feel bad about keeping the nickel but we simply can't donate to every single organization that asks. Or if we did, we'd be donating like $5 which is just dumb. But I do try to eventually donate something to the organizations that I deem worthy. Usually when I get one of these mailings I'll first check to see if it's for a cause that's already covered by some organization that we've already donated to. Unless they're for a well-known hospital or local (state-wide) charity, I toss those that don't pass this initial check. Next I hit Google to check if the organization has been accused of any shady behavior. Those that fail that check get tossed as well. The rest gets added to the pile on my desk.
When the first of the month rolls around, I pick 2 out of the pile to assign Erin and Devon's allotted amount to. My personal allotment is tied to the WWF as I had set up a recurring monthly donation with them. Since Devon can't actually donate personally (being 15 months old and all), the organization I wind up donating his portion to is one where I can specify that the donation is "in honor of" another person, Devon in this case. Usually they'll send a thank you letter addressed to Devon and Erin will file it away.
I would much prefer it though if these organizations stopped sending us mail. I guess my name and address has been put on a mailing list out there somewhere but I'm not sure how I would go about getting it off. Right now it's not too annoying yet but if it escalates I may have to go and figure it out.
Devon achieved another "first" during yesterday's unseasonably warm weather. He went out for a walk with us sans stroller. I wish Erin had brought the TX1 so we could record him toddling around cause it's just insanely cute. I had to put him back on the sidewalk a bunch of times cause he'd get distracted by every single car that came by. Eventually he got tired of the walking and wanted the Mommy Carriage to bring him the rest of the way home.
For those of you who I haven't contacted directly already... =)
To practice for the presidential elections later this fall, you can cut yer teeth on this "Battle of the Babies" contest:
And vote for "Devon C." =) 7th row, third from the right. Theoretically it's one vote per email address so if you have multiple email addresses, feel free to vote multiple times. ;-p And remember to click on the link in the email that's sent to the address to confirm the vote. Many thanks! =)
Despite the cloudy and chilly weather, we took our new bikes along with Devon's new bike seat out for a test run around the neighborhood. As expected, Devon kicked up a massive fuss when we were putting his helmet on but once we got moving he forgot all about it. Mostly. =) But he seemed to enjoy the ride and the bell on the handlebars gave him something to do.
So about a month ago, I decided to take Erin's suggestion that we get bikes seriously and we started looking. She had been saying she wanted to take bike rides with Devon when the weather got better since this past winter when she spotted this baby/toddler bike seat. Originally this was supposed to have been a relatively quick process. But as Erin would say a few weeks later, "I should have known this was going to happen after the whole aquarium debacle." Obviously not her exact words. ;-p
So on Mother's Day I took the family out to a local beekeeper that I found online. Erin's suffering from massive seasonal allergies and I had heard that taking a teaspoon of honey daily for a year or so would help desensitize the immune system to pollen. Can't be off the shelf stuff since they undergo a treatment process that removes any extraneous matter. And it would preferably be from a beekeeper close to the area so that the trees and plants would be the same. But anyway, a few photos of that will be posted in a later entry.
But on the way to the beekeeper, Devon decided to take his noon nap and since Erin is loathe to wake him during naptime, we wound up just driving around the area for awhile. Besides seeing gigantic $2 million dollar homes, we came across an alpaca farm. So obviously we had to stop on the side of the road and take a few snaps. Unfortunately I didn't have any lens longer than 70mm with me at the time.
And unfortunately they had just been sheared apparently so we didn't see them in their full glory. But this curious fella was nice enough to come right up to the fence to take a closer look.
As regular readers may have noticed by now, I have a tendency to shoehorn the highest capacity hard drives into my MacBook Pro as soon as they're available. So I was pretty psyched in March when Samsung announced that their standard height (9.5mm) 500GB notebook hard drive was shipping. But apparently they were talking outta their ass cause even now, no one has actually seen the damn thing. Unless apparently you live in France.
But, late last week, our IT guy pointed out this link to me where a Brit actually went and installed the thicker (12.5mm) Hitachi 500GB notebook hard drive into his 15" MBP. So, being the fearless, cutting-edge techie that I am, I got one too. And I also picked up an external Firewire 800/Firewire 400/USB2/eSATA case for the ol' 320GB drive that was soon to be no longer numero uno. Actually it's a good idea anyway to pick up at least one external drive case that supports Firewire because the transfer speeds just crushes USB2. Saves a lot of time when having to clone hundreds of gigs worth of data between drives so the price premium is worth it over the super cheapo USB2 only cases.
So late last night I cloned my existing drive using Carbon Copy Cloner into the new 500GB and this morning I swapped the drives. The only difference between what I did during the install and what the Brit did is I didn't have to move the remote sensor and catch light leads to the side. I left them on top. Most likely because I didn't use the rubber band strips on the bottom like he did (I just put in a layer of plastic). I wasn't worried about padding on the bottom because with the extra height of this drive it's pretty much an exact fit so no worries about vertical movement. The layer of plastic I put down was just to prevent the hard drive from sitting directly on the metal bottom casing.
But everything actually worked without a hitch and I was up and running in minutes. Only issue is I have to reinstall my Windows partition because I don't think CCC can clone Windows partitions (I may be wrong since I didn't actually try it). But at least I have over 100GB+ of free space again after being down to about 7GB on my 320GB drive. I may still wind up getting the Samsung anyway (when they finally decide to sell it in the US) to use as a main backup where it'll be a direct clone of this Hitachi so in case of catastrophic failure I can just quickly swap and be back in action.
Still not ready to swap out my optical drive for another hard drive though.
Typically there are two schools of thought when it comes to umbrellas1.
1. Buy the cheapest ones possible. When it inevitably breaks, just buy another one.
2. Search for the most wind-resistant umbrella possible, cost be damned.
One of our investors at work is a believer of the first school. A bit over a year ago he showed up to work with a big box of dirt cheap, plastic, black, throwaway umbrellas for communal use. These umbrellas would literally fall apart upon opening. A child could bend the stem with one hand. But when facing a commute home in inclement weather with your own umbrella at home, it was better than nothing.
Personally, I've been following the second school for the past 2 years or so. My previous umbrella is this Brookstone one which actually worked pretty well. It had a pretty large 54" inch canopy yet collapsed down to a manageable size. Until one particularly wind-blown day when one of the ribs snapped like a twig. Even crippled it still works although one panel flops around like a fish outta water.
Earlier in the week, these Senz umbrellas caught my eye. Besides looking like the F-117 stealth fighter, I was intrigued by the claim that it won't invert under adverse wind conditions because that's pretty much the main thing I hate about umbrellas. So I ordered their mini folding umbrella which arrived yesterday. Now the mini is supposed to survive only 40mph winds (not 70 like their regular sized version) but it's also not as peculiar-looking as its larger brethren. It's not particularly impressive looking compared to other umbrellas. The ribs look fragile so I'm definitely interested to see how it'll actually perform come crunch time. Comes with a lifetime warranty though so that's something going for it.
And then Devon got his hands on it...
1 Ok, there may also be people who eschew umbrellas altogether but I've only seen one person who does that (or used to) on a regular basis. ;-p
Bit the bullet and picked up a used Lensbaby 3G and macro kit to play around with. Everything's manual so it'll take some time to get used to. And it'll probably be doubly tough to get shots of Devon with it since he's not gonna stay still long enough for me to get everything set up for a proper exposure.
Since we got our bikes earlier this year, I've taken a couple of rides over to my old high school, Hanover Park. Back then, HP was rather different physically from other high schools that I had seen because instead of one large, multi-story building, the classrooms there were split up into a whole bunch of one-story buildings arranged around a huge expanse of grass along with one main (also one story) building that housed the administration offices, auditorium, library, cafeteria, band rooms, and a few other miscellaneous classrooms and the gym in another separate building. So moving from class to class required venturing outdoors which I thought was quite refreshing. It was my understanding (which could be incorrect), that the reason HP is so spread out was because it was built on rather swampy land. So they couldn't build one huge building for fear of it slowly sinking into the earth.
Since I graduated oh so many years ago, I've revisited the campus a couple of times and pretty much nothing had changed. Until this year. Apparently they've gotten some funding and are using it to connect the individual classroom buildings together two by two. I'm not entirely sure what's to be gained by these extensions besides I guess, locker room space (which was at a premium even in my day) but it seems to be a major undertaking. I believe there's some other modifications being done around the gym area but that wasn't as apparent to me exactly what they were doing there.
Now HP's mascot is and has always been, the hornet. Which back in the day I didn't think too much of. As far as I knew they were like bees but less hairy and more efficient stinging machines. That is until this article over at 8asians brought to my attention the Japanese giant hornet. Which is one impressive-looking, and totally badass flying insect. When 30 of these things can systematically annihilate a 30,000 member strong European bee colony in 3 hours without taking any casualties, you know they mean business. But then again, those European bees are just mindless drones. Not like the native Japanese bees, who have developed a way of defeating their mortal enemy by enveloping them into a "bee ball" and giving them one hell of a fever. But of course it's we humans who get the last laugh. Despite killing around 40 of us a year, we eat their young. Deep fried or as "hornet sashimi." Yum! =p
So yeah, I have a new found respect for hornets and hopefully I'll never run into one of those Japanese ones in my lifetime. Or any of those other 4 "most horrifying bugs in the world" either. Ugh, I get the skeevies just thinking about them.
Got up bright and early this morning at 6am for the Apple iPhone 3G launch. Was thinking that I had probably gotten up too early but figured I'd go and drop by the local AT&T store for a look. Got there a little before 6:30 and there was already 20+ people in line. Was prepared for the wait with my trusty ol' PSP. Thank god the weather had turned super nice the past few days instead of massively humid as it was early in the week. Still, by the time 9am rolled around the sun was beating down on our backs like crazy. Or maybe it was just cause we'd been lounging around out in the sun for 2 and a half hours already.
By the time I was ready to enter the store, we already knew that the 16GB models were sold out (which means this particular store only had ~20 16GB units to start with) so I was resigned to picking up an 8GB. They were taking orders for the 16GB for delivery in 7-10 days though. If there is one good thing I can say about the painfully slow purchase and activation procedure, it's that it helped me get the 16GB that I had intended. This particular AT&T store had more employees on hand than computer terminals so the employee helping me and I were just standing around waiting for a computer to open up when I watched a FedEx guy stroll in with a hand truck full of boxes. They were taken into the back room and I asked my guy to check if they happened to be more iPhones. And they were. Bunch of black and white 16GBs. So I was much more psyched than I was just a few minutes ago. Incidentally, the white iPhones look really nice.
After I paid for my new phone and service, I had to waste another 40 minutes hanging around while my guy tried to find a computer that could actually activate the phone. To no avail. By this time the Apple servers handling the activations through iTunes had presumably crashed so nothing was going through. Company policy was that all iPhones had to be activated in store before leaving the premises but since that was no longer possible, they just gave us our iBricks and told us to try to activate them ourselves.
So I stepped out of the store at a little after 10am, 3 and a half hours later. It took another 4 hours before my phone finally activated and sync'ed up with my iTunes. My first impression: "Mm, it's an iPhone." ;-p Not really a massive change from the original. The glossy plastic back is just begging for a case and I hope CoZip comes out with their polycarbonate back case soon for the 3G. The side buttons are now much easier to detect by feel and the speakers do sound louder and no longer seem completely muffled if you hold the iPhone at the bottom.
Nothing majorly different with the new 2.0 OS either (besides the ability to purchase/download and install new apps. Haven't gotten around to really digging into the App Store and checking them out yet but a few standouts that I've noticed so far include Remote, midomi, Twitterrific and Exposure. Is 3G that much faster than EDGE? As far as I can tell with the limited testing I've done today, it does seem faster but I'm not 100% certain on how appreciably faster it may be. I'll probably have a better feel for it after a few days of regular commute use. GPS functionality makes location mapping much more accurate now obviously but I haven't but it through its paces yet either. Oh, but being able to geotag your iPhone photos is pretty cool.
Apple's new MobileMe service was finally up (sorta) this afternoon as well so being a long time .Mac member, I set up the push sync'ing for email, contacts and calendar. First notable thing it did was wipe out all my contacts that were already in the phone so I was contact-less for an hour or so before MobileMe finally figured out that it should start sync'ing stuff between my MobileMe account and my iPhone.
So was it worth it? Jury's still out as far as I'm concerned. I still need to call up AT&T customer service to see if I can somehow rejigger my iPhone account and Erin's normal account into one family plan again like it was with the original iPhone. Right now I'm signed up for the lowest priced individual iPhone 3G plan. Considering I had sold my original iPhone last month for more than the subsidized cost for the iPhone 3G, it didn't really hurt to upgrade as far as the phone's up-front cost is concerned. Anyway, as I've only had this thing for a day there's still a lot more futzing around to be done. I'll post more impressions in the upcoming days/weeks if I remember to. ;-p
Yeah yeah I'm still waaaay behind on Devon's gallery but I just wanted to put these few up right now. =)
Whenever he does anything that he's proud of, he'll clap for himself. It's funny and cute as hell but I just pretend that it's nothing special so it doesn't get to his head. ;-p
What is it? I have an important phone call to make.
Not the best composition (darn short tree) but the moment would have been lost if I got into a better position.
Apparently he loves dirty gardening tools. Who knew?
All right I want to go in now...
Dev's been a bit under the weather this past week, coming down with a fever and then an odd rash (leading us to believe it might be roseola) which made him rather clingy and ornery. But then I process photos of him when he's having fun like the one above and that makes memories of the bad days disappear quickly. =)
So recently I was able to get my grubby mitts on a black MSI Wind. WTF is a MSI Wind, you say? Why it's only the best EEE class laptop available (somewhat) today. Which may or may not be saying very much since a new model of this laptop class seems to pop up every couple of days. =) Weighing in at a svelte 2.6lbs and packing a 10" backlit LCD, 1.6Ghz Intel Atom processor, 1GB RAM, 80GB hard drive, built-in 802.11b/g and 1.3MP webcam, and most importantly (pay close attention now you wanna-be subnotebook manufacturers) an almost full-sized and correctly positioned right shift key, this lil' plastic wonder rocks and rocks hard. Did I mention it was black? =)
But it's not all hugs and kisses. The trackpad could have been made larger and the single clicker below is a bit too thin and too close to the bottom edge of the case. Apparently something happened between the older batch of Winds manufactured and the newer one (of which mine is part of) where the trackpad chipset is no longer from Synaptic (much to the surprise of even MSI support) so the Synaptic drivers that came with it doesn't recognize the trackpad properly and some functionality is crippled (like scrolling). Personally I never scroll using the trackpad so it's not a big deal.
But besides that, so far everything about this cheapo notebook is pretty superb and it works perfectly for my use: having a small, long-lasting (battery-life-wise) computer downstairs that I can surf around with while watching the boob tube. Originally that role was fulfilled by an ancient Apple Powerbook G3 Pismo that I had picked up off of eBay a few months back. But the Pismo has one fatal flaw: it's processor and video card aren't powerful enough for today's video so no Youtubing and such. The Wind and its Atom processor handles video with aplomb. Watching Quicktime vids at 720p resolution works fantastic but it's chop-chop city when we tried to run full HD 1080 vids on it.
The backlit LCD on this thing is superb. Much, much better than what I was expecting for something of this price. LCD technology has definitely come a looong way in the past few years. The 6-cell battery lasts possibly a good 4-5 hours. I haven't extensively tested battery life but from what I've experienced so far it's been pretty good. They sell a model with only a 3-cell battery for $50 less that shaves .3lbs off the weight but it's better to spring for the 6-cell as the 3-cell only gives you 2-3 hours worth of charge.
The only other niggling concern I have is regarding the potential longevity of this machine. When I was installing another stick of 1GB RAM, I wasn't particularly impressed with the sturdiness of the internals. Cramming so many electrical components and boards into such a small package makes for pretty confined quarters and it was a bit amusing to see some circuitry board flexing underneath my hands while I was pressing down on the RAM chip to seat it.
Plus it's also annoying that you void your warranty just by opening up the case. They have this "your warranty will be void if removed " sticker right over one of the screws on the bottom of the case that you have to break in order to get to the screw. And the sticker itself is annoying as hell. Not only is it not the easiest thing to remove, it leaves a sticky residue that you have to wipe off separately. I hope MSI comes to their senses and modifies their policy like ASUS did for the EEE. They already did so for their units sold in the UK so it's mystifying to me why it's still in effect here.
Anyhoo, the MSI Wind gets a two big thumbs up from me. I wasn't expecting too much out of it truthfully but it's turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise. I've so far kept it running the stock XP Home that it came with but thinking about replacing it with Vista, making it the sole Vista-only machine in the house. Crazy people around the world have crammed other OSes into it (one guy is quad-booting XP, Vista, OS X AND Linux) but I don't feel the need to be that adventurous with it. But if you're looking for a cheap and light, take anywhere laptop to use for lightweight computing activities (word processing, email, web surfing, music listening, video watching, etc.), then this one's for you.
Took a few days off last week to take Devon and his cousin on a trip to Amish & Hershey country. Kids had a blast, adults were exhausted. ;-)
Gazing out the window of the train at the Strasburg Railroad. It's an old-style coal engine so he was scared by the belching smoke.
Rocking and relaxing with Mommy after dinner outside of the Hershey Farm restaurant. They serve a really, really great Grand Smorgasbord dinner. I'm not usually a big fan of buffet-style meals but I was pleasantly surprised by their food.
Taking a quick breather in-between runs down a slide at Zoo America. The longest slide he's been on by himself.
Devon spent a good 15 minutes here in the Hershey's Chocolate World store moving candles around. He'd move them from one shelf to another or stack them on top of each other before finally putting all of them back on the correct shelves.
Hand-holding any lens > 100mm is always a challenge and the AI Focus mode on the 5D seems to be pretty unreliable and/or slow (or most likely I just need more practice) but every now and then you hit one that makes it crystal clear why the 135mm is such a beautiful outdoor portrait lens. But still have a lot of work to do on my technique.
Alright, the following are some shots taken with the D700 starting from ISO 200 up to ISO 12800. High ISO noise reduction in camera was set to low, photos shot as RAW, converted to DNG before importing to Aperture (since Aperture doesn't support D700's NEF yet) and then converted to JPEG via Adobe PS3 with no post-processing besides some auto-contrast/color/level if I thought it looked better with it. No noise reduction run on these (my regular photo workflow includes a pass through Noise Ninja at the end). Clicking on the photos below will display the full-sized JPEGs which may be a couple megs in size so you have been warned.
Devon, who pretty much ignores me these days when I'm taking photos of him, took an odd liking to the D700's shutter sound. I suppose because it was different from the 5D's that he's been hearing forever now. So the morning this shot and the following two below were taken was different because he would stare right into the lens with a goofy smile and then not move until he heard the shutter go click. Then he'd giggle and continue doing whatever he was doing.
We first came across this tabby late yesterday afternoon while riding around the neighborhood. Devon followed it around for some time and wanted to touch it but we wouldn't let him because we figured it was a wild/stray. But I found it odd that in the midst of being followed the cat suddenly flipped over onto it's back in the middle of the sidewalk for a few minutes. Thinking back on it now I think he wanted to be petted. But it was also rather bold as we saw it venture right in front of a Samoyed puppy as if to check it out (the puppy was being restrained by its owner) before wandering off.
Actually we had encountered this tabby twice before. Once wandering around the riverside pathway by itself and another time it was actually being walked (on a leash even) by its owner which was a first for me. Although during each of those encounters, I don't think I realized that it was most likely the same cat. But earlier this afternoon, while Devon was playing in the playground, the tabby shows up again. But it stays outside of the playground and another family with two kids are paying attention to it. Devon's trying to get to the tabby but is restrained by the fence surrounding the playground. So as everyone in the vicinity is focused on the tabby, the father of the other family tells me that this tabby is usually here around this time waiting for its owner to come home (the bus stop is right next to where we are). I was pretty amazed to say the least as I've never heard of a cat doing anything like that before. I wonder if the owner just lets it outside in the morning and then brings it back inside at night. And it doesn't run away. So it's a cat that roams around freely without running away, but also doesn't mind being walked, and is apparently rather bold and sociable. I don't believe I've ever heard of a cat like that before.
Anyhow, after we let Devon out of the playground, the cat's still lounging around in the area so Devon started following it around again. At first the cat would keep moving away but Devon kept tracking it down so eventually it just gave up and flopped onto the ground to continue its wait. So Devon got to stroke it and pet it and push it and grab its tail.
He was pretty happy after that. =)
We were originally scheduled to visit Sesame Place this Saturday but the remnants of Tropical Storm Hanna squelched that plan by making Saturday incredibly humid from morning til about mid-afternoon and then dumping like half a foot of rain from mid-afternoon til well into the evening. Fortunately, Hanna was in a hurry to clear out of the area and in its wake came an absolutely gorgeous day: sunny and high in the mid 80s. So we headed on out.
As per his usual modus operandi, Devon was initially shell-shocked upon arrival. Was afraid of pretty much everything but there were a few play areas that he was fine with. After lunch and an hour-long nap though, he was in a much better mood. Still afraid of some things but was much more easily coaxed into not being afraid than in the beginning. But I think overall he had a lot of fun. The areas he enjoyed he really enjoyed and it's always fun to watch your own kid having a blast.
Sesame Place is actually a pretty ideal amusement park for little kids. It's small and everything there is geared towards the little ones so you can spend a pretty nice day there. Most of the rides were still too scary for Devon though so I'm hoping he'll have more fun next year when he's older. Half of the park is water-oriented so go in your bathing suits. Today wasn't as crowded which was great as we had heard it could get insanely busy at times. Plus it's a relatively shorter drive than going out to Dutch Wonderland. A little over an hour since it's right across the NJ/PA border.
So it was a tiring day for lil' Dev. Saw and experienced lots of new things and got a new lil' stuffed Elmo and Elmo ball. It's really a shame that when you grow up, you forget most of what you've experienced as a kid. Oh well, guess that's why I'm taking all these pictures. ;-p
So Devon got a care package from Erin's brother and cousin yesterday. A bunch of little Tomica cars that Devon proceeded to baby for the rest of the day. Even when he went to bed he wanted all the cars with him. And Erin got a few books and CDs she had requested. Me? Well, I didn't ask for anything. But when I got home, Erin handed 4 little boxes to me and said, "Here, these are for you." WTF??? I mentioned to her ONCE that a cosplay café had opened in Kaohsiung before we went back for Devon's one-year birthday last year. Didn't even mention it when we were actually back in Taiwan. And I'm not even a figurine collector. Well, except for the Gundam Fix Figuration stuff but that's not even remotely close to this. *sigh* I guess I'll eventually get around to opening them. ;-p
It was remarkably easier this year to get Devon into his Halloween costume than last. He didn't even complain about the cap even though it was too small for him so Erin had to tie it down around his ears and under his chin. Apparently telling him we were going out to get candy made a difference. ;-p
Just a few shots of the aftermath of Devon's first trick-or-treating expedition. While taking him around, we would tell him to take only one piece of candy per house which he actually abided by surprisingly enough. But we weren't very strict about enforcing the rule if the homeowner offered him one or two more and he wasn't about to refuse either. ;-p
His favorite candy is still the lollipop. Although overall he's not a big candy eater. He loves unwrapping them, taking a lick/bite or two, and then handing the rest to Mommy or Daddy so he can tear open the next one. So after a while we left the hard candy items out for him to explore and hid all the chocolate.
There was one particular household (unfortunately I forget which one otherwise I'd make sure to go back to them every year) that took Halloween very seriously. They handed out an orange Halloween-themed packet that contained two candy bars and a small jar of Play-Doh. Good thing this stuff is now made out of wheat cause Devon did take a few licks. ;-p
Personally I'd completely forgotten about Play-Doh but the distinctive smell brought back memories. And Devon seemed to enjoy it after I started showing him all the fun things you can do with it. =)
Work's been busy and will remain so till the end of the year so posting will probably be light for the remainder of the year. Well, not that it was that frequent to begin with. Anyway, just thought I'd throw up a few current shots of Dev.
During the weekends we'll take Devon out and about while we run errands; mostly grocery shopping and the like. Occasionally we'll still be on the road when we run into his afternoon nap time in which case he'll sleep in the car. These two shots were taken right after he woke up to find himself alone in the backseat since Erin had gone grocery shopping. So he was waiting for Mommy to come back. Taken with the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G.
I reclined the driver's seat back to have a better shot at him and he liked grabbing onto the head rest to get a better forward view.
Following two after dinner shots were taken with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4.
Buying sippy cups for him early on was a complete waste as he disliked them and basically learned how to use a straw and then drink directly from a cup pretty quickly. Being a baby, he'll still spit out stuff for unknown reasons which is pretty annoying but since most of the time it's just water, we're not too upset. Plus we figure he'll figure it out eventually that getting yourself wet isn't an entirely enjoyable feeling.
So the long-awaited Canon 5D Mark II has finally hit the streets. Well, trickling to the streets is more like it. Despite having preordered at 4 different places, none of them came through for me. But luckily a tip on FM helped me snag one from a relatively unknown store in the city. A store which just happened to be across the street from where I used to work years ago.
Won't delve too much into the hardware in this post but suffice to say, it's nice that the 5D body has finally been updated to match the rest of Canon's current lineup. I'm most happy with the high rez LCD and auto sensor cleaning. The new button layout I've seen since the 40D/50D so nothing new to me. The auto ISO functionality I think is a bit mysterious as I can't tell sometimes why it chooses the particular settings that it does but I guess it's a start. The AF is, as expected, about on par with its predecessor but does seem to be a bit more accurate in lower light conditions. Hard to really say since I haven't used the old 5D in awhile now. But what I was really interested in was the image quality. Namely, can I now shoot in the ISO 1600 to 6400 range on a regular basis without a second thought like I can with the Nikon D700.
So a few months back I was alerted to a few photography lectures and workshops that Canon was running. Decided to sign up for the "Flash Demystified" workshop with Bob Davis since I figured it was high time I actually learned how to use my flash. Unfortunately, by the time I had decided to sign up, the workshop was already full but I was waitlisted anyway. A few weeks back I got an email saying that I was in. So, on a brisk Saturday morning I made my way into the city to join 15 other lucky individuals to learn and practice our flash techniques. Well, in my case not really techniques, more like just fumbling around and doing a lot of "well let's see what happens if I set it like this."
Not having ever been to a workshop, I was pretty surprised to discover that we'd be shooting models. So this was turning out to be an interesting experience already. ;-p Thankfully, the models knew how to, well, model which made my life easier cause I really suck at asking people how to pose for me. So anyway, here are some shots that came out all right (and a few not so good) from the time spent there. But it was definitely quite an experience and I did learn a lot. Namely that I really need to practice shooting more often cause I was making mistakes left and right.
Hope everyone had a rockin' New Year! Mine was very low key as my lil' one came down with his first cold of the year. Whoo hoo! =p Ah well, we'll make up for it in the future. =) Anyway, I figured it'd be a good day to start out my own 365 Project and see how far I can take it. Might as well put all this equipment to some use. ;-p But since I'm an ol' married and toddler-beholden fogy right now, this may be a pretty short project as my daily and weekend routines are pretty well, rote. But I'll give it a shot.
I'm hoping this will help me get over my photo-taking shyness when I'm not with family. I carry a camera around with me pretty much daily but always feel self-conscious when it comes to actually taking it out to shoot with. Which makes no sense since the majority of my daily life is spent in NYC which is overrun by camera-toting tourists. Oddly, once the camera is out and I start clickin', the feeling goes away but I find it tough to actually get to that point. So we'll see how it goes. Plus this will force me to pay attention again to the scenery that I pass by day in and day out and I guess anyone who takes a look at my project will get a glimpse of the stuff that I see on a daily basis. Which is the main reason I like going through other people's 365 projects. So anyway, wish me luck and while this isn't really a New Year's resolution or anything, I'll try to stick to it like it is one. =)
So this morning I have Devon in my lap at my desk and he's rummaging around like he normally does. He grabs the little Kagami figure (thanks, Lee) that's sitting on top of my KVM switch and throws it to the floor causing it to separate from the little stand that it's usually on. I pick it up, give him a brief scolding and put it back in place. Devon moves on to the loose lens caps lying around on the desk.
A little while later, he picks Kagami up again so, using my "I'm giving you warning" voice, I tell him he better not throw her or else he'll be in big trouble. He holds on to her for a few seconds, and then indicates that he wants to get off my lap and onto the floor. Once on the floor. he separates Kagami from her stand and then neatly places her and the stand on the floor pretty much exactly where she had landed when he previously tossed her. And then he shoots me a "Well, I didn't throw her" look.
I couldn't help but laugh.
This past weekend we took Devon to his first Easter egg hunt at Hamilton Park. It was an interesting day for all of us as Erin and I discovered that we should not tell him beforehand what we would be doing later. Cause if it sounds exciting enough to him, he has no problems skipping his afternoon nap time in anticipation. And it's not like we upsold him on it or anything. I just casually mentioned that we'd go looking for eggs later.
The day I took these photos was notable because it was the first time Devon actually decided it was ok to wear my sunglasses for longer than 2 seconds. Actually it was the first time he let me seat it on his face without balking.
And he really likes 'em. Previously, whenever he would see them, he'd tell me to put them on. Now, he takes them from me and puts them on himself. I think it's time to get him his own pair of sunglasses. =p
Devon received a backpack for his first birthday from his aunt and we didn't break it out until recently.
As is the case with most toddlers, they love new things and this backpack was no exception. We loaded it up with a few of his current favorite toy cars while he added 2 CDs, a change purse and a plastic clip and headed off to dinner and then an after-dinner riverside stroll.
At first we were afraid he had already outgrown the backpack without even having worn it once but that turned out to be an unnecessary fear. It's not the largest of packs but it's pretty darn cute.
Devon was quite happy to have a new bag to carry his items around in. Of course he hasn't quite worked out how to wear it without parental supervision but we're working on it. ;-)
after Apple announces something.
Well I was in the midst of typing up a long-winded, rambling, and highly-sarcastic jab at the new iPhone 3G[S] price complainers when Gizmodo beats me to it. Oh well, guess that's why they're the experts.
As for myself, yes I pre-ordered. No I wasn't lucky enough to get the low noob/out-of-contract price but I wasn't shafted with the high end price either. On top of that I have a non-smartphone-inclined wife ("It's too big and I barely need a cell phone much less a smart one.") which means the proceeds of my existing 3G sale let's me get the new one for even less than AT&T's lowest price. Of course it would have been nice if I could have gotten AT&T's lowest price first which means the 3G sale would have actually made me some money but... not complaining.
So, I'm psyched to check out the new camera on the 3G[S]. Extra speed will be nice but the cam is what it's all about for me.
So, during the time that this blog was down, we took a trip to Taiwan. Our Taiwan trips seem to pretty much fall into the same pattern over the last few years: lunch/dinner with relatives, lunch/dinner with friends, lunch/dinner with old coworkers, wandering around department stores, paying an amount that I would never even consider paying in the States for a haircut, and a trip to the dentist. During our last trip, I traveled light when it came to photo gear. Packed just a Nikon D80, a Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR, and a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 in a Crumpler Sinking Barge backpack. Also used a Crumpler 5 Million Dollar Home bag for everyday use. This time, I thought I'd be a masochist and bring more gear.
To that end, I settled on the following kit:
And all I've got to show for it are these lousy photos. ;-p
Obviously there were some much better days than others (I'm nowhere near the level where I can crank out stunning shots every day, unlike some other photographer's projects that I've run into throughout the year) but overall I had a good time doing it. Frankly I'm surprised that I actually completed it as there were quite a number of days where I was still scrambling to find something to shoot at 11:45pm. ;-p
It's going to feel a little strange not having to come up with something every day but I'm not sure if I can turn off the bit of my mind that's constantly on the lookout for an interesting view. This project has scarred me that much. =) I decided not to continue this year with the 365@50 project as I definitely feel the need for a break. But I may start dabbling in The Daily Shoot every now and again.
Anyway, I would definitely encourage anyone interested in starting a 365 project of your own. It definitely won't be a cakewalk but doing it in the company of others (even virtual) can help a lot. I'm not sure if there's any real words of wisdom I can pass along to those in search of inspiration during their projects except to peruse the works of others and when all else fails, go macro. ;-p
Ah yes, and lest I forget, Happy New Year everyone! May your 2010 be full of memorable moments. =)
One of my absolute favorite anime series of the last two years is Tentai Senshi Sunred. Two seasons of short (~10 min.) episodes packed with hilarity that's right down my alley. The series is basically about a slacker ex-Power Ranger (Sunred) and his "mortal" enemies: General Vamp and the evil monsters from his local chapter of the evil organization, Florsheim. However, the monsters all have day jobs and fit into society like regular people and Vamp makes a better neighbor than Sunred does.
Despite each episode being only about 10 minutes each, they're able to throw in a couple of themed skits throughout. One of the main ones being "General Vamp's Quick Recipes" which is pretty self explanatory. So I figured what the hey, it's a new year, I might as well give 'em a shot. So tonight I made recipe #1: Simple Tarako Spaghetti.
I wound up using thin linguine since that was the only pasta we had on hand. And topped it off with a bunch of shredded nori pieces (that also had dried bits of tarako in it). Turned out quite well although I've already been a fan of tarako spaghetti. But it's really quick and easy (4 ingredients and 15 minutes of your time). Definitely something even Sunred could make. ;-p
The shredded nori I used is quite good by itself as well. We polished off the rest that came in the little packet. Most of the time you'll find nori in rather large sheets and packs but since it's not something we usually eat, I managed to find this smaller packet in the rice toppings section of our local Mitsuwa.
So General Vamp's Quick Recipe #1 certainly lives up to its name. Quick, simple and tasty. Probably not the most nutritious of dishes but it will fill an empty stomach just fine. I give it an 7 out of 10. =)
After last week's successful attempt at Vamp-sama's Simple Tarako Spaghetti, I got ready for recipe #2.
Now this one I wasn't looking forward to at all. I'm not a fan of kimchi for starters. And I'm even less of a fan of jyako. But we always have a package or two of jyako in our fridge since Erin loves frying them up with some scrambled eggs as a calcium supplement for Devon. So I bit the bullet and bought a small jar of kimchi from Mitsuwa. The plan was to just make a small portion in case it was as un-palatable as I was expecting. I do love sesame oil though so it at least had that going for it. ;-p
Pretty much zero preparation is needed for this dish. Frying up the jyako in the sesame oil was heavenly (again, LOOOVE sesame oil) and then dumped in the kimchi. Stir fried in our little wok for a few minutes before dumping in some water. I think adding enough water to cover the kimchi is way too much water so next time I'll be adding much less.
As for the final result... Surprisingly, this dish was really good. Goes awesome with plain rice. Couldn't believe it. Polished off the entire portion I had made and was left wanting more. I think if you wanted to meat it up a bit you could probably throw in some thin pieces of pork instead of or in addition to the jyako. But yeah, I was pleasantly surprised at how nicely this one turned out. Final verdict, an 8 out of 10. =)
As I mentioned in my previous post on smartphone-compatible gloves, I had ordered one of the new iPhone Glove by Dots Gloves which was backordered for a couple of weeks. Surprisingly it showed up quicker than I was expecting so I got to try it out for the past two weeks in this wonderful NYC winter weather. =p
This new lambswool style feels a bit thicker and stiffer than the old knit version that I previously had. Might soften up after age and more frequent use. Something I noticed immediately was that it felt snugger in the fingers than before. Also, there seemed to be a good amount of extraneous thread and knit inside that my fingers would keep getting snagged on when putting them on. So I turned them inside out to check it out.
What you're seeing in the photo above is the point where the palm and fingers connect. Not having owned wool gloves before, I'm not sure if this is normal with them or not but you can see the one big red loop in the center and two smaller silver loops to each side. And if you look closely you can see two thin red threads running horizontally across along the top underneath the loops. These were what my fingers were encountering whenever I put the gloves on. I wound up yanking the thin red threads out but left the loops all in. Overall it seems like rather shoddy handiwork to me but as I said, I have no other similar gloves to compare them with. Plus, once you get past this, it doesn't affect the overall utility of these gloves.
So, how do these gloves work? Basically the same premise as the Agloves. Silver coated fibers act as conductors between your flesh and the touchscreen. The difference here is that they only weave these fibers in to 3 fingers on each hand (thumb, index, middle) instead of throughout the glove as with the Agloves. As can be seen in the photo above, the silver threads seem kind of sparse compared to the Agloves but they work all the same. Because it's a much thicker glove though, response time seems to be a bit slower and precision takes a hit as well. Still able to work with a touchscreen quicker than the old metal dot version though but not as nimble as with the Agloves.
The one advantage that it has over its predecessor and the Agloves is that it's quite warm. Provides excellent protection against the cold. So when it hit sub-30 degree (Fahrenheit) temps here, these are the gloves I pull out first. So, as predicted, these new Dots Gloves have replaced the old ones as my go-to really cold weather gloves. The Agloves is still champs when it comes to responsiveness and precision but these new Dots Gloves are a good compromise between cold protection and utility.
For pretty much the last decade my main computer has been a laptop, starting from the gorgeous Powerbook G3 Wallstreet, through the titanium Powerbook G4s, and then the aluminum and unibody Macbook Pros. I pretty much figured that I was done with owning Mac desktops as the computing power of laptops seemed to be sufficient for my use and I placed more value in the portability of laptops. That is until I purchased a Nehalem Mac Pro in September of 2009.
Since the Mac Pro requires no small financial commitment, my initial hard drive configuration for it consisted of one Hitachi 7200RPM 1TB drive. To that I added a Western Digital 10,000RPM 300GB Velociraptor and a Western Digital 5400RPM 1TB Caviar Green drive. The Velociraptor was partitioned in two and served as my boot drive; half went to MacOS X, the other to a BootCamped Windows 7. The faster 1TB drive was my main data drive and the green drive served as my Time Machine backup.
My price trigger when it comes to purchasing backup hard drives is $100. At the time of the Mac Pro purchase, that price slot was taken up by 1TB drives. When 1.5TB drives slipped below the $100 line, I bought one to use as a new Time Machine backup drive. At that point, all four of the Mac Pro's internal 3.5" hard drive bays were filled. I then replaced the 1TB data drive with a Seagate 7200RPM 2TB drive as I discovered 1TB wasn't quite enough to cover a year's worth photo & video. This setup worked quite well and remained unchanged until recently when I decided that it was time to bring a SSD into the fold.
I've been using a 128GB SSD in my unibody MacBook Pro since early 2009 so I was well acquainted with the speed advantages. I was hoping that waiting another year+ would bring prices down but alas, that was not to be. The SSDs have gotten incrementally better but they're still locked in to the same price slots as before. The other issue was also where to install the SSD as all the internal bays were full. To that end I had been keeping an eye on the OWC Multi-Mount solution which provides brackets that allows you install combinations of 2.5" or 3.5" drives in the usually free second 5.25" bay that's situated under the optical Superdrive. So my grandiose plan was to pick up a Multi-Mount along with their 120GB Mercury Extreme Pro SSD and pair my existing Velociraptor to it. The SSD would become my sole MacOS X boot disc and the Velociraptor would be dedicated to Windows. I would also add a new 2TB Caviar Green drive to use as my Time Machine backup since that had also recently slipped under the $100 mark.
However, I forgot about one thing: there was only one free SATA port internally. I needed two. The 2009 Mac Pro comes with 6 bays: 2x 5.25" and 4x 3.5", and it has one SATA connection for each bay only. I suppose I could have followed the same route that I had done with my MacBook Pro and removed the SuperDrive but I really didn't want to have to do that. And oddly enough, OWC doesn't have an existing solution to this issue. I chatted with their tech support and the only solution they could come up with was the rather expensive Sonnet Tempo SATA E4i PCI-e card that adds four internal SATA ports. However, besides the price, another issue killed this option dead: namely that hard drives connected via this card are not bootable.
So, I dug around some more on the Interwebs and discovered MaxUpgrades and their MaxConnect system. The MaxConnect system allows you to install up to four 2.5" drives in one of the 5.25" bays. The bracket it comes with isn't as nice-looking or as flexible as the Multi-Mount solution as it only fits 2.5" drives while the Multi-Mount can take either 3.5" or 2.5". But if you're only looking to add two 2.5" drives, the MaxConnect system also comes with a 2-port "bootable" SATA PCI-e card along with the requisite cables to get everything attached and running. Plus the price was quite reasonable. I first contacted them to see if they by any chance were willing to sell just the PCI-e card and cables since I didn't need the bracket but the answer was "no." So I bit the bullet and bought the set.
Cailyn originally had a tentative birth date of June 13. June 15th if we went by her ultrasound checks. We were expecting her to be early since we kept hearing that later children often arrive earlier than the first. But like her brother, she wasn't quite ready to make her début yet. ;-p Erin's doctor was all ready to send us to the hospital to be induced on the 13th because apparently Erin was already about 4cm dilated since the weekend. But Erin, having not exactly the most painless of births the first time around, wasn't exactly gung-ho about the idea. So we waited a couple of more days to see if Cailyn would be willing to come on her own.
Erin had another morning checkup with her doctor on the 16th and not much had changed. Erin had the odd contraction every now and then but nothing imminent. Tired of the waiting, we agreed to head over to the hospital for induction. Checked in at a bit after noon. Not much seems to have changed at Hackensack University Medical Center which is good cause it was already pretty nice to begin with. Because Erin was already semi-dilated, they just started her off with oxytocin. Erin had a different doctor this time because the one that delivered Devon retired from obstetrics after Devon was born. So this new doctor was much more lenient in the use of Epidural and basically said Erin could get it whenever she wanted to. Which was music to her ears and she got it done a few hours into things when she felt she didn't want to have to deal with the pain anymore.
About 5 hours after we had checked in, the nurse checked the dilation, said it was about time and went to get the doctor. Once the doctor came, the entire birthing procedure was a lot more relaxed and quicker this time around. It was just the doctor, nurse and me. I had to help again with pushing her left leg out and keeping her head up during the pushing. But it seemed a little unusual because we would just make small talk while waiting for each wave of contractions to begin. And since there was no pain, there wasn't any screaming. =p So overall, very quiet and low key. I think it was on the 4th or 5th wave (3 pushes each wave) that Cailyn decided to show herself.
Despite the much quicker and easier procedure this time, birthing still remains a rather bloody and messy process. =p I think obstetricians get a kick out of getting the fathers to look at what's going on during the delivery. "Look, look, she's got a lot of hair!" "Good job, look! Her head is out!" As I noted in a tweet afterwards:
And it really is. The miracle of childbirth will never cease to amaze (and scare the hell outta) me. ;-p Come to think of it, I don't understand why anyone would want to film their kid's birth. Seriously, no one wants to watch that. =p
Anyway, thankfully, everything has proceeded as well as can be so far since then. Devon looooves his little sister and if he shows any jealousy to the attention that she gets from us, he at least doesn't take it out on her. Grandpa's got a couple of new bruises though. ;-p The two siblings do look remarkably alike as babies though. I assume that will change when she grows. One difference that was very apparent though since Cailyn first emerged is that she has my bone structure while Devon is more like Erin's. She has really delicate and long limbs and fingers and just might wind up being taller than Devon in the future. She's relatively low maintenance for a baby right now, crying only when she's hungry or needs a change. Nothing has really upset her yet to the point where she would cry for longer than a few minutes. But we're all happy to finally have her in our family. =)
So, at pretty much the very last month of the year, my better half decided that a trip would be required to end the year with a bang! After a few days of frantic scouring of travel sites, an itinerary was procured for the entire family, grandparents included. We would basically be flying out right after Christmas and spend 3 days in San Diego and 3 days in LA with an extra day capping both ends lost to travel time. This was not exactly the best laid of plans. To begin with, airfare is astronomical around that time of the year. Even more so when you're booking less than a month out. =p And it turned out to be pretty much the most annoyingly eventful "vacation" I've ever been on. What happened? I will proceed from the beginning and start with the bad stuff:
Well this project is taking a lot longer than I originally was planning. Blame it on my well developed sense of procrastination. =p But anyway, after an almost 2 year hiatus, I'm back with Vamp-sama's recipe #3.
This particular recipe is definitely super easy. Doesn't even need the use of fire, just a microwave. For awhile I was hesitant to try it because I'm not a fan of raw egg. I know the idea is that the egg gets "cooked" a little bit when it comes in contact with the noodle when you're mixing everything together but since you don't really need to heat the udon up all that much, you're still pretty much eating raw egg. The only other issue I had when throwing this together is that I didn't defrost the udon noodles enough before microwaving them. So the udon was still stuck together afterwards and broke apart into chunks instead of individual strands.
When everything's mixed up together, it's actually not that bad. I over-soy sauced it this time so it came out a little saltier than I like but otherwise it's pretty good. The only other problem with this particular dish is that one package of udon is pretty damn little, especially for an American-sized appetite. And with the lack of anything really of substance to it, it doesn't do very much to satiate hunger. But I guess you can't really beat it in terms of simplicity and low cost. Final score, 6 out of 10.
After last week's simple udon recipe, this week's recipe #4 is even easier, requiring just a toaster.
Not too tough to toast a piece of bread, slather it with mayo and layer a couple of slices of tomato on top. I did it w/a slice of tofu bread and Kewpie lite. The mayo and tomato makes a nice combo and I like the taste but as with last week's recipe, not particularly filling.
So for my second slice I added a couple of slices of prosciutto that I had lying around in the fridge. Could also make do with ham (or any other sliced meat of choice). Prosciutto may be wasted on this particular recipe though since the mayo tends to dominate the distinctive prosciutto taste. Anyway, final score for the original recipe: 6 out of 10.
In anticipation of a family outing to a Great Wolf indoor water park, I once again began pondering what to use for photos in an aquatic environment. In the past I had tried out waterproof compact cameras from Nikon and Olympus and found them lacking. Furthermore, we don't visit water parks often enough to justify putting down the $$$ for a camera that would see use at most once every few years. And they would find little use in a non-aquatic environment too since my phone has pretty much picked up all the photo duties that a compact had at one point years ago. One time I tried to make do with my iPhone in a "waterproof" zip bag. Which turned out not to be so waterproof so you could imagine what happened then. I had also tried out a LifeProof nÃ¼Ã¼d case with my iPhone 5 and unfortunately I don't recall at all how useful it was in action. At least I didn't wind up with a drowned iPhone. That, I would have remembered. Again, not something we use too often.
For the past year or so, I had been slowly becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the pixel density of computer monitors that I've been using for the past few years. As can be seen from last year's desk photo, I've accumulated three 24" displays over the years: an Apple Cinema Display flanked by two Dells. But after being spoiled by the high PPI displays on the cell phones and tablets of today, the low pixel density of the displays from yesteryear were starting to grate on my eyes.
For the past couple of years, my workhorse commute in-ear headphone was the Sony XBA-3iP, packing 3 balanced armature drivers and a built-in, full-suite (playback & volume controls) smartphone controller/mic. The reason I liked it was because it was one of the few, if possibly the only, 3-driver in-ear at the time that had a relatively small casing and didn't require being worn w/the cable looped up and around the ear. I absolutely HATE wearing headphones that way mainly cause the cables never stay in place for me. It was a pretty good pair of in-ears, not the absolute best reviews, but good enough for me. Unfortunately early last year the volume control broke. But since everything else about it was still good I continued to use them, until towards the end of the year when I finally started thinking about finding a replacement.
Embarrassingly enough, by that time I had completely forgotten exactly what was broken with the Sony headphones. Just that it wasn't 100% functional thus, I should replace it. So I wound up picking up a pair of the dual-driver Puro Sound Labs IEM500s for a dirty cheap price on eBay only to eventually realize much too late that the reason I wanted to replace the Sony was for the volume control, which the Puro had none to begin with. *facepalm*
But I liked the Puro well enough to switch to it as my main in-ears. After awhile though, GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) started nipping at my heels so I started looking for yet another replacement, this time with volume controls. And so I ended up with the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear. While this had all the functionality I wanted, I wasn't completely sold on the sound signature. So back to browsing on Amazon again for another pair that had a sound more in tune with what I like. And that's how I came across the 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones with In-line Microphone and Remote. I had never heard of 1MORE before but the reviews on Amazon were really good and the price was insane for a triple-driver. At about the same time, Grado apparently decided they needed some of my money as well and released their new iGe. They were priced the same so I figured I'd do a comparison to see how they would fare against each other.
So that's what this post is ultimately about, a 4-way in-ear headphone comparison. Before I get started, I would just like to make clear that I am in no way a full-fledged audiophile. I don't inspect every detail of headphone specs or look at/compare measurement charts or whatnot. I don't even know what much of the specs even mean. I just plug in the headphones, crank up some tunes, close my eyes, and listen. I can distinguish between highs, mids and lows and possibly make out differences in soundstage if I concentrate hard enough. But I can't wax poetic about the quality of each sound range. As for how I tested, since I use these primarily during my work commute, I just plugged them straight into my iPhone 6S. No amp. I'll also comment a little about the physical aspects of each pair of headphones. So, with that out of the way, here goes nothing.