Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why a Smart Watch isn't Smart for Me (or My Pebble goes Bamm Bamm)

Why a Smart Watch isn't Smart for Me 
or My Pebble goes Bamm Bamm
Well, I thought it was clever...

I still think my Pebble™ watch is one of the coolest pieces of tech gear I ever owned, and I've owned a few.
I was one of the 68,000+ Pebble Kickstarter backers. If I think of it, I'll post a picture of the back of my Pebble so you can see where it says so. Classic. I love collectibles.
So I got my watch in March after waiting, waiting, waiting - which was really okay since the Pebble people were working hard at getting all the details perfected and they kept everyone informed.
Note to Project Managers - keep your stakeholders informed of your milestones.
First of all, let me say that I really love watches. I have no idea why. It might be genetic. My Dad loved watches. My brothers loved watches. My sons love watches (though I don't think my daughter really cares). For a few years I was enamored of pocket watches, though I didn't buy any.
I never bought any expensive watches, but really liked the Swiss Army watch - which is expensive now, but wasn't when I was younger. I liked the military band on it, too.
yes, I owned one like this
For most of my growing-up life I wore a watch of some sort, though it often came off and went into my pocket when I was doing hard labor (yes, boys and girls, I did do hard, outdoor work in my life).
That changed in the early nineties, with the advent of computers. When I started sitting at a computer for long periods of time, the watch irritated my wrist, so I'd take it off while I was typing. Yes, that means my ergonomics are all wrong. Leave it be.
My in-laws gave me a really nice watch for Christmas one year and I wore it for a while. One hot summer day I wore it outside in the chemical plant where I worked. In Houston the summers are brutal. I got overheated and was delighted to come back into my air-conditioned office. I took my watch off and put it on my desk and forgot about it. The watch disappeared.
So I haven't worn a watch in nearly twenty years, up until my Pebble arrived in March. I then, once again, became a daily watch person.
It's amazing how quickly old habits return.
The Pebble is a sweet device. No, it isn't touch-screen. What it does, it does well. The watch communicates with my phone, which, for the most part, stayed in my pocket for months. If an email came in, my watch buzzed. I could glance down and see who it was and dismiss the notification. Same with messages. If I wanted more information I could pull my phone out and look at it, or simply check my mail on the computer (which is where I am most of the day now).
That worked fine at my desk, with the small caveat that my watch band still irritated my wrist a bit.
Oh, and as long as my glasses were on. There's the rub.
When I am working at my computer I wear glasses. It used to be that I could read things at arm's length from me, but my eyes have worsened in the last six years so I need my glasses to read now.
Which mean unless I had my glasses on I couldn't read my Pebble watch.
So I'd know when I received a message or email. My phone would vibrate. My Pebble would vibrate. Sometimes my headset would vibrate. I was doing a lot of vibrating.
Unless my glasses were on I couldn't read my Pebble. I'd squint and sometimes I could tell if it was email or a text message. Sometimes not.
I have to add that the many available watch faces made the Pebble a nice watch. I even changed the screen occasionally just for fun.
Nobody developed any apps for the Pebble that enhanced its usability for me. There are still a few promises for apps out there - the one that works on golf courses, for instance. That's fascinating. One that works for jogging which would prove useful
If I could see my watch.
Ultimately, my smart watch didn't fail me as much as I failed it. A bigger screen for my wrist wouldn't really solve the problem. What could fix it?
Well, they'd have to combine a smart watch with Google Glass and beam the data directly into my eyes when I look at it. I'm not sure how that could be done, but there are a lot of clever people out there and somebody would figure it out.
An expandable screen might work, but it would need to be fast. I'd have to tap it to enlarge it and view it and tap it to restore its size, or give it a three-second (variable) timer to reset itself.
A screen that was wide and extended around my wrist might be okay. It's amazing what we can adapt to, so I think I could learn to read text that flowed vertically to my line of sight. Or I could learn Chinese and do the same thing.
Along the same lines as the Google Glass, perhaps I could flex my wrist and beam the information into my other palm, like a small projector. Yes, I'm using both hands, but my phone stays in my pocket.
I've always thought a wrist device should be able to see and interpret what happens above the screen, at least to a few inches. I should be able to input information by waving the fingers of my other hand above my watch, sort of a magic-incantation version.
For now, though, I gave up on my Pebble and don't really need a smart watch. Though I was excited and pleased to get the watch last March, I haven't really missed it in the last few weeks.
My phone and I do okay without a smart watch to help us.
I still have my headphones, though, and I love those.

Until my hearing goes too.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wednesday Weekly Bits and Pieces - 30 October 2013

I also mentioned that we upgraded our iMac to OS X Mavericks. There were some issues: I needed to re-install java so that some of the games on Facebook worked (yeah, Candy Crush again!). Other people had differing problems with the upgrade. Here are some other fixes from Wired
A complete review of OS X Mavericks by ARS Technica is online now. It's an awesome review and if you have a Mac of any kind, you need to spend some time with the review.

And if you have a Mac you might want to take a look at the new Pixelmator 3.0. At least look at the cover picture. Oh, my.

You certainly might want to think about making a bootable OS X 10.9 Mavericks USB install drive.

Computers keep you from thinking, though. (Well, so does television.) Think about that.

I thought about it - a lot. I just bought a new computer - and I'm going back to a PC. I'll publish more on that in the future. I love the Mac, and maybe I simply forgot all the troubles I used to have with a PC. I'm a gamer, though, and the Mac is simply not a gamer's machine - unless I boot it into Windows. We'll see how it goes.

Sebelius apologizes for website, but says "the outside contractors that built the website never recommended delaying the October 1 launch." She does say she's accountable.

Turns out, we might not be able to keep our existing plans. I'm fairly certain I heard the President promise we'd be able to… I'll leave it at that. Sally Kohn says that some people will lose their current insurance, but will have access to better plans and in many cases pay less (emphasis mine). I hope this is true.

The current website underestimates the monthly payments for the plans, though. In this article, TechCrunch confirmed that the web site gives an estimate of $231/month when the actual cost will be $360/month. That's off by 55%, in the wrong direction. Ouch.

On the other hand, the NSA website is down (or it was - I didn't check on it). That actually makes sense to me. The NSA doesn't need their own site; they are busy reading everyone else's sites. I sort of wish they would read mine...

The WSJ has an article by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. explaining a little more about the Affordable Health Care Act.

We've misused antibiotics for over fifty years. One scientist thinks that the age of antibiotics is over. That should make us afraid - very afraid. It certainly scares me. Perhaps the coming pandemic will not be intentional, but simply the extrapolation of antibiotic resistant germs.

The World loved President Obama. After President Bush, they thought we had a real winner. The world seems to have changed its collective mind.

I don't know anything about bitcoins. I wish I did. In 2009 a Norwegian student spent about $27 dollars for some, just to see how it was done. He forgot about them. In April, 2013 he read something about them online and checked his balance, now worth over $800,000. You read that right. We should all be so clever.

If you live in the south you know how vital air conditioning seems to our modern lives. Now MIT developed a little wrist device that makes you think you are cool. I could have used something like this when we were in Rwanda, but they need to make it smaller.

On the flip side of the world, the small Norwegian town of Rjukan now has mirrors to help heat the town. Since Rjukan sits in a small valley, the enterprising people of the town put computer-controlled mirrors on the moutaintop that focus heat and light into the center of the town. Brilliant, in so many ways.

A fourteen year old multi-millionaire. All she wanted was a new car. Her folks said she had to earn the money herself. So now she has a $250 million dollar business. I sure hope she gets a nice car.

I've waited for this for over thirty years - a microwave cooler, or a reverse-microwave cooler. I don't care what you call it. It cools things. I want one.

Another thing I've looked for is a lock-screen on my phone that only shows the apps I most often use. Well, the iPhone isn't getting one, but Android phones will soon.

The Christian Science Monitor has forty tips for iPhone users. Some will be in my next book.

Detroit is going to turn more than 140 acres of land into apark. It's a great idea. The population in Detroit dropped from over two million to less than a million people and the city is bankrupt. They need a park.

Archaeologists recovered five cannons from Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge off the coast of North Carolina. Blackbeard survived the intentional scuttling of the ship, but only for six more months. More than 200,000 artifacts have now been recovered from the wreck.

Professors are quitting academia. Yet they still won't let me in.

There are some new ideas out there on how to help the world's poor - give them money directly. There are some problems, of course. This method doesn't help the root cause of the poverty. I know that, but am reminded of the story of the starfish on the beach. "It matters to that one."

If you really want to learn something about elliptic curve cryptography, here's your article! My mind did cartwheels trying to understand it all.

This is a long article on Wired, but it tells how storytelling as we know it will change. I don't think they make a case against good books, though, but they make some good points about making movies.

I think something along the lines of Google glass is the future, but I've been wrong before. Still, it's good to see that Google is letting more people in on their Glass Explorer program - for a cool $1500.

PC Magazine has a list of the thirty best Kindle Fire Apps. Since we own a Kindle Fire and I just started playing with it (after nine months) I thought I'd take a look. Not all of them are useful for me, but some are surprising. And it makes me think I need to be developing apps for the Kindle!

I wonder how the Microsoft Surface 2 compares to the new Apple iPad Air. I need wonder no more. PC Magazine did the comparison for me, saving me the cost of both devices! (Thanks, guys!) 
Of course, there's another player in town now. The Nokia Lumia 2520 looks like a contender for portable computing.

If you read this today, there is a really good deal on a Dell laptop. If you don't read it today, they'll show something else. Not everything is a good deal, though, so caveat emptor. Oh, and I'm not an affiliate! 

My buddy should be getting his 3D printer soon. He told me I could use it to print a 3D something, but I need to decide what. I'm thinking Klein bottle, but PC Magazine does have a link to some of the strangest things people have printed. Some are not safe for work, really, so beware. 

Time has a good article about smart watches (I just can't bring myself to combine those words yet). Who really wants one, they ask. I gave mine up and will do an article on it soon, but here's what Time says.
Basically, there's no market yet.

I mentioned this phone idea a few posts ago, but Time caught sight of it also. Make your own phone from building blocks. It's an idea whose time has come - if you like Legos™ (who doesn't?). 

Science fiction become reality again. Disney Research (I so wanted to work with them when I was younger) developed a screen you can feel. Right now it's pretty complicated, but they can make it work. Combining new 3D technology with simulated touch will open huge new horizons. We won't need to be in the same room to give someone a hug. You extrapolate the implications of that.

A tiny Haswell computer! I'll put the picture in, but you should know that ARS Technica will review it in a few weeks. I'm excited. Look at the picture and notice how the quarter gives you some perspective of its size. It is full-powered, too, except maybe for gaming graphics. There's a new Haswell chip for that, too and I expect big things from the Iris chip in the future.

If you love small computers, you know about Arduino. An Egyptian company developed a board for it that lets it act as a multi-board, programmable by your phone. Yeah, I want to start playing with them too.

Or go play with a PC Jr emulator. Yeah, you younger kids have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?

I'm skipping to the human side of real life now. For everyone who asked, yes, Darling's surgery went fine and thanks for asking. In the last three years she has had four surgeries, but this little two-hour outpatient surgery for her abdomen went well.
Angelo and Jennifer have a different story.  Five months after their marriage Jennifer was diagnosed with breast cancer. Angelo recorded it all in photos. If you don't want to cry, don't look at these. Jennifer died in December of 2011. 

Marie Curie and her husband were pioneers in radioactivity - in fact, they coined the word. Her papers are still radioactive.

If you don't pay attention to the movies, you won't know that Ender's Game opens in two days. I don't know how good it will be, but I plan to check it out. The trailer is a good teaser, though. I'm reading the book again…

Nine days from now is Thor, and on May 23 next year is X-Men: Days of Future Past. You can see the first X-Men trailer here.

Michelle Duggar, the mother of nineteen children (and thus a reality tv star) says she struggled with anger issues. You don't need to read the article, but I have to say of course she struggled with anger issues. She had nineteen children! My mother had a few problems with anger also, and she only had four boys! I'd cut her some slack. (It is a good article, though.)

You knew I'd send you elsewhere to look at cool stuff! This time it's the sky! Look, then look up!

Thanks for reading! See you next week!

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Nick! I don't forget, my friend ...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wednesday Weekly Bits and Pieces - 23 October 2013

Before I even start, Storybundle has a new Thriller Bundle. I've written about these folks before. As far as I'm concerned, they are a good enough reason to buy an electronic reader. You have a bit less than three weeks to get this bundle. I just bought it, and I'll post reviews of the books when I finish them. Go check them out - and no, I don't get affiliate or commission fees!

There is news in the world, of course. Something happens somewhere every day, but you can catch most of them on your own.
Yeah, I really want this coin
There are only sparse details on the shooting in the Nevada middle school. You might think I'm nuts if I tell you I do think it is End Times and Evil is multiplying across the world, but that's where I am. Give me something that better fits the data. Until then, that's my opinion. (You can have your own; that's okay with me.)
In breaking news, police in Danvers, Massachusetts have a student in custody for killing a teacher also.
I still don't believe the government should take our guns from us, but there certainly should be tighter regulations to keep guns out of the hands of children. As Darling says, though, if they want guns they'll get them, even if they just take them from their parents. (Same with drugs, sad to say.)
Fierce wildfires still rage in Australia. I have relatives there, as do many of my friends. It even looks like a possible retirement location. After all, as one friend said, the Aussie government charges a 1.5% tax for healthcare that covers everyone in the country. (In comparison, the USA charges that and it covers those 65 and older.)
Obamacare has some hiccups in the startup. For those haters out there, of course it does! It's a huge program! Everything will get ironed out - the Health Care Act is here to stay. Would you please just accept that and we can move on? Surprisingly, the person in charge of implementing the Affordable Care Act says President Obama was not aware of all the issues. Things work differently in the government than in the private sector, don't they? I'd be fired. So would my boss.
I'm hoping another department of the government doesn't have the same startup issues, though. The newest warship in the US Navy is run entirely by Linux code. I think that's a good thing. That's the last place I'd want to see the Blue Screen of Death.
The software is key, but hardware is still important. IBM is working on a computer that runs on liquid. Oh, liquid-cooled computers have been around for years; ask any avid gamer. This one, though, is also powered by the liquid. They modeled it after the human brain. Yikes!
For you gamers out there who remember Zork, The Stanley Parable might interest you. I might even give it a try. It's only a few hours of game play, but it is unique so far. I'm sure it will spawn others like it, though.
In the Houston area, the school district released a bus safety video. No, really. You should take a look - it's pretty good.
Swedish doctors are claiming that "Butter, olive oil, heavy cream, and bacon are not harmful foods. Quite the opposite. Fat is the best thing for those who want to lose weight. And there are no connections between a high fat intake and cardiovascular disease.Really. We can eat what we want. Americans do that anyway. Now Sweden says you should!
The company making Soylent is getting a bunch of funding for their product.
I talked about Soylent before, but I don't dare give it a try for myself. That problem with Day Three might be an issue for me, especially at work. Ron Licata from Wired gave it a try. His review is short, but pretty good. He says he lost ten pounds, even though that's not the idea behind the food substitute.
I follow International Living and read their reviews of alternative countries to retire in (places I can actually afford). EscapeArtist, however, gives me a little different perspective on some of the countries. Good to have different viewpoints.
There is a Michigan couple doing the same research. They are just a bit younger and more adventurous than we are. I will certainly follow their adventures!
Matteo Spinelli has a fascinating blog. One of his more recent posts made me wish I was a cracker-jack programmer. I could finally be independent of location and commuting to the office.  It's a good read, though because it bucks the standard thinking of how to make a living programming. He does open source programming.
If you want to learn to program, Bento might be a good place to start!
I might have mentioned it before, but I just finished paying my last cell phone bill to AT&T. I like smart phones, don't get me wrong, but I'm tired of the cost. I might even look into this plan for $19/month. Might, I said. Don't hold me to it.
I'm pretty disappointed. DNA evidence shows that the Himalayan yeti is a bear. I still believe in unicorns, though.

I did finally receive my results from my DNA testing at and I was underwhelmed. They tell me I have 93% of my ancestry from Great Britain and 7% from Eastern Europe. Really? That's all I get? I know that my grandfather was some percentage Cherokee, so where does that fit in? I was hoping for some confirmation of Chippewa on my Elston family side, but it doesn't look like I'm getting that either. I posted a note to a genealogy special interest group I belong to and I'll see what they say.

Now you knew I'd have to add something about Apple™. After all, they had an event yesterday! I won't go into all the details myself, but I'll provide a whole bunch of links. Other reviewers did impeccable jobs. I'll sum it up this way, though.
The new Mac OS X is out. Called Mavericks, it's free for download now. We downloaded it last night and it looks amazing, even on our older iMac. Lifehacker gives some tips on how to tweak it so it's better. And if you want to put it on a USB, this is the method they say to use.
New MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops are available now. There weren't any monumental changes, but it's hard to improve on a good thing. They did drop the price a bit; that's welcome news.
If you're looking for a server, the new Mac Pro will be available in November. It's a lot of machine for three thousand dollars.
The iPad mini now has retina display, and it costs a bit more for it. They dropped the weight of the iPad to one pound (from about 1.4 pounds) and now call it the iPad Air. Price remains about the same. I think my iPad, Gen 4 is now a classic. The older iPad Mini is still available for $299. And the full-size, 2011 version iPad 2 is available for $399. Don't buy that. Spend a little more and get the newer version, or switch to one of the many competitors surfacing in the world (pun intended). Two of the big ones are Microsoft's Surface and Nokia's Lumia 2520. You can find the Surface 2 for $449 and the Surface Pro 2 for $899, while Nokia's Lumia 2520 is $499.

So, Apple didn't announce any watches, which is okay because after using it for a few months I decided to quit using my Pebble™ smart watch (blog post to come). No new Apple TV, but that's okay because the current one is really quite good.

Here we go with the links.
And Gizmodo (thanks for the live blog of the event, guys!) has an entire suite of reviews!

Though I don't agree with everything in this article, I have to agree on one thing: Stephen King's book  On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft is one of the finest books on writing I ever read. My youngest brother mentioned it to me years ago and said it was great.
Take a twisted love triangle. Toss in a child. Make up a story. Add some pictures. Now you have a short biography of one of the world's most intriguing writers: EE Cummings. And a beautiful book. Take a look at the article.

I think Darling and I will need a vacation soon. She is scheduled for surgery next week, so I might not post anything. We'll see. In the meantime, maybe I should look at some river cruises.

Thanks for reading! God bless you all!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Open For Business

The USA government shutdown is over and the debt ceiling raised with a bill that the President signed at the last minute last night.
Nothing was accomplished except headlines.
Millions of government workers will be paid again. The folks I work with at NASA should be shuffling out of their bedroom slippers, finally taking showers and be back in the office today.
But our government failed us. They did precisely what I said they would - they voted for a measure that simply pushes the problems into the not-so-distant future. All the issues will be visited again in January.
"We think that we'll be back here in January debating the same issues," John Chambers, managing director of Standard and Poor's rating service, told CNN on Wednesday night. "This is, I fear, a permanent feature of our budgetary process."
Oh, and the bill didn't just fund the government and raise the debt ceiling. In the short, 35-page bill were a few funded pet projects too.
Are you kidding me?
Okay, one of the provisions was that there will be no cost of living increase for members of Congress this year. That's good, right? It doesn't say they won't get a raise, though.
Our government failed us. They did not resolve anything. Our country is insolvent and they play politics.

We should fire them all. I plan to. I'm not the only one.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wednesday Weekly Bits and Pieces 16 Oct 2013

We're at Day 16 of the government shutdown. I don't think our leaders are embarrassed by this. I think they are all simply posturing, except for the tea party ones, and nobody likes them except their constituents.
The debt ceiling needs to be raised by midnight tonight. The GOP could change their collective minds. Nah. Congress could raise the debt ceiling without doing anything to curtail spending. Democrats are pushing that line because they don't want to be blackmailed by Republicans. Nah. The two parties might agree to a short-term deal. Which is no resolution at all, of course, except to push the issue further into the future and put off making a concrete decision for a government going broke and out of money. But they'd wave a flag, pound their chests and declare victory. Yes, they would. They surely would. We might see no deal, and our government would essentially run out of credit. That's less likely to me, because it sounds like failure to everyone, even those who only remotely follow the news. But they might.
A company in this kind of crisis is bankrupt, and with cooked books is illegal, but we won't pursue that line of thinking. I mean, if I go there, we'd have to admit that Social Security is the world's largest Ponzi scheme, and we know those are illegal.
Oh, and in case you haven't heard yet - hello? Republican leaders? Funds for the Affordable Health Care Act are not dependent on the budget process, so we must still follow the mandates of Obamacare. Why did you use that as your pivot point?
Our budget problems aren't the only issue either. The USA has hit its borrowing limit and we're facing default - our debt ceiling.
Some sources say there might be a compromise that is acceptable, but we don't know until the elephants and donkeys start working together.
Interestingly enough, this article mentions that Republicans want a provision that "would force Congress, the president, and many other administration officials and staff onto ObamaCare without additional subsidies." Well, finally! I feel that if our government officials pass a law, they need to live within its mandates.
Foreign government officials see us pretty clearly. They know that we have been overspending since the 1970s. Why don't our own officials see the problem? More candidly, why haven't they done something about it in the last forty years?
This article lists four ways a debt ceiling crisis would impact us individually. Well, certainly expect the stock market to drop. In August of 2011, the last time we faced a debt ceiling issue, the stock market dropped over 15%. Even if you think you don't have money that will be impacted, many retirement funds are linked to stock market investments. There's a reason our personal buying power is the same now as it was in the late 90s.
On the plus side, some government sites are opening again, on local budgets instead of federal. The Statue of Liberty is available again to tourists.
Oh, and Social Security is expected to see a slight increase (less than the cost of living, of course).
We probably won't actually see a default. Unlike private citizens and companies, the government is adept at printing money when it's needed. And there isn't a single politician willing to lose his job because he told his constituents we need to cut Social Security and Medicare.  No, the government will continue to fund much of our country's expenses with money we don't have, somehow shown as income in an add ledger created by politicians, not by accountants.
For those accountants out there that would like to see the daily balance sheet for the government, here's one. Those big numbers? They are in millions of dollars. Yeah…
Some people are even more pessimistic than I am, anticipating a global recession. I think that foreign governments will simply find another currency to use as the global standard. That will hurt us, but will hurt the world less.

If you ever thought of chucking it all and becoming a dual citizen, this is a pretty simple, straight forward article detailing the pros and cons. You'd still have to pay US taxes, by the way, even if you live elsewhere.
Of course if things get really bad, you can survive in the wilderness on lizards and squirrels. This 72 year-old did, for 19 days. He probably didn't even know there was a government shutdown!
The amazing thing about the dancing bear is not that he dances so gracefully, but that he dances at all. In the Cardinals vs Dodgers game, that wasn't quite enough. Security escorted the dancing bear from the stadium.
Terrafugia says they will have a flying car in the skies in just two years. Just in time. Our roads are getting pretty bad in the neighborhood.
An eighteen foot long, four hundred pound leviathan from the depths of the sea surfaced on the coast of California. Dead, of course.
Young adult fiction is more prevalent than ever. I even think they are fun to read, and some make good movies. I guess I long for the simple days when life was too much a burden for a teenager.
You're being tracked by the government agency NSA. Or someone. Or everyone. Get used to it. Get over it. But if you can't, here's a good article about how they do it. Sounds like Young Adult Fiction, doesn't it?
Former President George W. Bush had a 95% blockage in one of his arteries. He had a stent put in last August to alleviate the problem. We don't hear much from "W" lately. He's gotten smarter and is staying out of the news.
The fifth intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (say that ten times fast) just issued a dire report. Look for the weather to change drastically, it says.
Oh, okay. I will.

It wouldn't be a weekly update if I didn't say something about Apple™! They are having another event on October 22nd, where they are expected to announce upgrades to the iPad line. I was thinking of buying a new machine, but I should wait a week and see what else they announce.
Wired says the same thing, only in less words.
Speaking of Apple, some of their phones are suffering the Blue Screen of Death with the new iOS 7. That's a little funny - make your OS look like Windows and it acts like Windows!
With only a goal of $25,000, this Kickstarter project plans to create a watch that will countdown until I die. Since today is my 56th birthday, maybe I should toss some money at that project and get one!
I might be better off with the one-minute beer cooler at the bottom of the article, though.
I'm still trying to figure out how to play my PC games and have full Mac functionality. Aside from having two different machines (both pricey, I might add), I might be able to use one machine for both purposes. This guy evaluated Parallels, VMWare and Bootcamp on a Mac. You don't need this article unless you struggle with my problem (gamer with an aging Mac and no games). I need this link!
Poor me! Such a tough decision to make! This guy doesn't say whether he had a computer during the year he lived without money. There are some interesting lessons here. I wonder if he's still living this way?
These folks choose to live on about $5,000/year. Of course, that's a choice, which is entirely different from someone who doesn't have an option. They are intentionally poor. There are some lessons here, though.
The guy who wrote this has to be from the USA. You should see some of the thirty-five things he missed about the USA. Honestly, I'd miss some of them too. What he doesn't mention (and we knew about in Africa) is the lack of toilet paper. Of course, the guy without money (see above) used strips of newspaper, but they didn't even have that in Africa!
I might want to visit Iceland. With just over 300,000 people they have more books published and read per capita than anywhere else in the world. My kind of people. Of course, it IS Iceland - I'm not sure what else there is to do there. They probably have a book on that, though.
Scott Adams was pretty successful with his book(s). Most people aren't (including me!). He talks about how he tried for success and failed, then succeeded. Clever guy.
If you're into art and love jewelry then Anna Silberstein's jewelry might interest you. Silberstein, by the way, translates to Silver Stone.
Ever wonder how a cat sees the world? Me either. This guy did, though.
There is a drug therapy that might eventually help MS patients. Science continually amazes and delights me.
Worried about gas prices? You need a motorcycle. Too dangerous (that's yes for most of us)? Then how about a three-wheeled cycle that looks a bit like a car? You have to look at the pictureIt can be yours for less than seventy grand.
Iron Man is coming closer to reality with the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS. The power pack is the problem. We don't have a portable ARC reactor.
Rumors say that Marvel is planning five new television shows. Of course, DC is expected to add Flash to its Green Arrow show as well. It's all good for viewers, I think.
Finally, I didn't get to go to New York's Comic Con and you probably didn't either. These guys did, and they posted some pictures. Some are worth looking at.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Captain Phillips - a movie review

The New York Post has an article titled "Crew members: 'Captain Phillips' is one big lie."
Okay, fine. It's the published people who write history and Capt Richard Phillips wrote the book. Hollywood made the movie. It's "based on a true story."
Is it worth watching at the theater?
Well, I think so.
I don't know why, but I'm not a big Tom Hanks fan. I mean, I like him. I can't recall a movie I didn't like him in, but he doesn't normally compel me to buy a movie ticket. There's been a shortage of film outings this fall, though, so Captain Phillips looked like a good reason to go to the movies.
Besides, it was raining outside.
True or not, I have to admit the movie had me on the edge of my seat for most of it.
The movie tells the story of the 2009 hijacking of the MV Maersk Alabama, the first US ship captured by pirates in over 200 year. It was based on "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea" written by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty.
Is it true? I don't know. According to the article in The Post, the seamen have different recollections of the events than were portrayed in the movie.
I do know that Tom Hanks is an amazing actor, and his talent is rarely displayed as well as in Captain Phillips. Barkhad Abdi portrayed Muse, the pirate leader and did a splendid job. I'm more afraid of him than I ever was of the Wicked Witch of the West. He's a good actor and I expect him to get some award for this film.
This was a tough film to watch, but it was worth it.
At the end, after Captain Phillips is rescued, I think Tom Hanks gave the performance of his career. My heart broke for the man.
Real? I don't know.
Worth watching? Absolutely, but you could wait for the DVD if you'd rather. I give it a 7/10. C'mon. Gravity was worth seeing at the theater. This one - I'll leave it up to you. I won't watch it again unless it comes on TV, but it was a good film.

Besides, it was raining.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Google Chromecast HDMI - a gadget review

If you're expecting a long review of the Google Chromecast HDMI, you'll be disappointed.
I ordered this from Amazon a few days after it was announced, on July 29.  Immediately they sent me a backorder notification. That didn't disturb me. I knew I missed the very short window after they advertised the device.
On August 9 I received a notice that the device would take longer than anticipated. I have to admit my enthusiasm had waned at this point, but I still wanted to take a look at the device and see how it works. After all, it's a geeky toy.
Amazon shipped the Google Chromecast HDMI to me on Sept 9 and I received it a few days later.
You had to wait more than a month for me to write my review, didn't you?
I'm sorry. I thought everyone had one by now. My buddy here at work just asked me what I thought of it, so whoops…

Let's review:
Easy to set up - absolutely. If the back of your TV doesn't have an open USB port (mine doesn't) you need to plug the Chromecast into a wall socket, but they send the required hardware, so it isn't a big issue. After all, your TV is by a plug anyway.
I had it up and running in just a few minutes.
A few minutes later I was watching a Netflix movie on my TV, streaming the video from my iPad. I have to say, it was a lovely experience.
Now, let me be clear. I didn't hook the Chromecast up to my main TV in the den. I don't have to. I have an Apple™ TV hooked up there (and my PS3, but that's not really relevant).
I hooked this up to the TV in my room, which, until this point, just sat there unable to do anything since we removed the cable box a few months ago. Having a Chromecast give me the ability to stream Netflix movies to the TV is pretty sweet. At $35 the price point is perfect. If I had another room with a disconnected television I'd buy another one of these things.
Any bad? Well, I'd like some other services to stream to it, but it's just a matter of time, I think. In the meantime, I'm pretty happy with it.
I know. I should have told you sooner. I'm sorry!
Go ahead and get one. You'll like it.
Google Chromecast HDMI at Amazon.

Gravity - a movie review

About the movie Gravity, one reviewer put his title as "Don't bother reading this review. Just go see the movie."
I didn't read his review. We did go see the movie.
If you haven't seen Gravity, please do so. There are spoilers here.
I think this is a powerful film.
Let's get something clear right off the bat. I think Sandra Bullock is an amazing actress. If she's in the movie it's pretty certain I'll go see it at the theater.
Not so with George Clooney. I think he's a good actor, but I won't bother buying tickets for a film just because he's in it. Darling will.
So we both expected great things from Gravity, for different reasons.
I'm a fan of space. Lord knows I have plenty of it between my ears and a growing sense of it in my memories.
When we left the movie I told Darling "I think that might be the best movie I ever saw." Please take that as it sounds, in combination with that memory comment earlier.
I really liked this movie.
Now there have been a lot of comments about the flaws in the movie. I work in the Space Industry (is there an industry in Space? I don't know). I hear a lot of technical guys commenting on how almost none of what happened could happen.
Right. It's the movies. The question is hardly ever "could it happen?" The question is "do I want to watch it happen?" The answer, I think, is absolutely YES.
Sandra Bullock deserves something for being in this movie. A Silver Snoopy maybe. George Clooney was great, but that's probably because he had the perfect role as a snarky aging astronaut (sorry, George, but you were perfect). And Director Alfonso CuarĂ³n needs some award, too, just for the sheer, raw beauty of the film.
I never thought I'd rave about the cinematography in a movie, but I have to say that most of this film had me breathless. The shots of the Earth were beautiful, though we should have seen more clouds according to one astronaut. Yeah, okay, but clouds wouldn't be so pretty.
Our Earth is beautiful, and photos from space still take my breath away.
Sandra Bullock, as Dr. Ryan Stone (yes, I even love the name - it means we might be related), suffers through a space odyssey and emerges alive and back on Earth (there's the spoiler - she didn't die).
I expected her to die, like in that shark movie I watched a few years ago where they showed the two people floating around and then the movie ended. She didn't die. She was able to pilot her way to safety, with the help of George Clooney as Matt Kowalksi, or his ghost or something.
One final word on this. Yes, I work with the parts on the Station and I get to look at a lot of pictures. Yes, I knew while I was watching the film that Dr. Ryan Stone was wearing the wrong kind of under-suit for the spacesuit. So what? It's a movie, and everyone would rather see Sandra Bullock in skimpy undergarments than in the white flannel underwear that real astronauts wear. (Okay it isn't white flannel underwear, but that gives you the general idea.)

Better than long underwear, isn't it?
I loved this movie. On a scale of one to ten, this gets at least an 8.5. I'm sure I love other movies more, but I can't seem to recall them at the moment. A must-see. Maybe even one more time for me!