Slave to the Nap

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Neil's Tax Refund Wish List

Tax time is exciting for me. I always file as soon as possible because my taxes are not complex and I usually get a refund. Needless to say, I am getting cash back this year so that means it's time to shop! I've made a list of things to buy, mostly tech upgrades and all sorely deserved. Here's what I have so far:
  • AppleCare for MacLappy: normally I wouldn't buy an extended warranty but after one near-miss handling MacLappy I'm thinking an extra two years of warranty coverage isn't such a bad idea. Probably should get one for the iPod as well as I dropped it today at work. D'oh!
  • Memory upgrade: two weeks with the new machine has convinced me that 512mb is not enough.
  • New cell phone: I can't stand my current Motorola, a warranty replacement that Alltel pushed on me when my first LG died. The final straw was when I found out the stupid thing "guesses" on the Caller ID. For example, one time I dialed a number thinking that I didn't have it programmed into the address book. The phone dials and the screen reads "Calling: X" because the number was in my phone book. But I dialed the wrong number. I know because some stranger's voice mail answered. 30 minutes later, the phone rings and the Caller ID says "X Calling". It's the stranger I called earlier asking who the hell I am and why am I calling him. Apparently my Moto checks the address book and if the phone number is close to one of the entries, well then by god that's that's the number. This type of artificial intelligence is not acceptable.
  • Griffin iMic: not sure why I put this down, but for $40 might as well see how it works. And if it makes podcasting easier, even better.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Say hello to MacLappy


Oh MacLappy - how you complete me!

I finally decided to get with the program and buy a new laptop. I figured this would be a good time before Mac OS X 10.5 comes out this summer. Much as I love my old eMac (rechristened "Big Mac"), the days of the PowerPC chip are waning. Intel Core Duo is the future!

Hopefully with this new addition I'll be able to update this blog more often. One of my friends has already asked if I'm going to write a novel from my couch. Umm, yeah: a new laptop and suddenly I've become a Sex and the City character. Riiight.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Return of the iPod!

I mentioned in an earlier post that my poor iPod Mini vanished after I sent it to Apple for service. After going for months without any portable music, I broke down and bought a refurbished iPod video from the Apple Store. I'm still ticked about them losing my old Mini, but the 40% I saved over the cost of a new iPod is soothing my anger somewhat.

My little white box arrived last Friday, and immediately it was pressed into service providing musical entertainment for a friend's housewarming party. I'm switching jobs at the moment and using up some vacation time, so I've had a fair amount of time to evaluate my new toy, and here are some of the things I've discovered.

USB 1.1 Syncing is Slooooow: Apparently I didn't read the fine print before purchasing and didn't notice that the new iPods only sync over USB 2.0. You can hook them up to a computer using Firewire but it won't sync. This is disappointing, considering I have a 3yr old Mac that only has USB 1.1. The first sync took 6 hours (!) including 3 disk errors. I am not happy. I understand from reading the Apple Discussions that Firewire syncing was dropped to reduce the size of the iPod. But what about me and the rest of the Mac community that bought Mac without USB 2.0 'cause Apple was 5 years behind in supporting it? I'd would have accepted a fraction of an inch in case size to be able to sync my iPod faster over Firewire.

Scratchy, Scratchy: One of the things I loved about my Mini was that I didn't need to buy a case for it; the aluminum skin was virtually scratchproof. I've had my iPod video for less than a week and the back is already scratched. I have a case on order, but in the meantime I've been using the little sleeve that came with the iPod. Okay, I know the iPod is distinctive, but shiny metal on the back - whose bright idea was that? It seems that Apple has acknowledged that scratching is a problem with the Nano, which was just redesigned with a Mini-like metal skin. Why not do something about the flagship model? I'm sure they could find some materials that would be more durable yet still retain the signature look.

Video, schmideo: I like the video features of the iPod. I have a collection of old educational films from the 50's and 60's which are kinda fun and I thought they'd be perfect to test out how the iPod handles movies not purchased from the iTunes store. I read the specs on what the iPod would support, and all the movies fit the specs, except for the soundtracks. They were encoded at 22.5 khz, not the 44.1 khz in the iPod specs. I thought it wouldn't be too much of a problem; if anything I could see them not playing if the bitrate was too high, not too low. And I was right. Except for the constant clicking that happened when I played them on the iPod. So apparently it did matter, and now I've been trying to convert them for the iPod. Each one is less than 15 minutes long, and the conversion on my G4 takes forever. It's annoying, but again I guess that's what I pay for having "old" equipment.

That's what I think so far about my new iPod. Lest you think I'm too negative, I have to say I really enjoy my new iPod compared to my Mini. It's almost 10x more storage and I've subscribed to a ton of vidcasts and podcasts because I have the extra space. The photo storage and viewing works well so I can look at my little Zebu friend here whenever I want. (One day I'll liberate you from that petting zoo, friendly Zebu!)

So, welcome to the family, iPod Gunther. You'll be around for a long time.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

An open letter to the tagger that hit my office last night

Dear Sir or Madam,

We noticed the little gem you left on our ONE WAY - DO NOT ENTER sign last night, and after closer inspection I can safely say you are undoubtedly the world's worst graffiti artist.

Your childish attempts at this urban art form are ridiculous. How am I supposed to take you and your "posse" seriously if you tag with a red Crayola marker? It's not permanent, you idiot! Using my spit, a little bit of Scrubbing Bubbles and 5 minutes of mild exertion, I was able to wipe off EDZ 402ne or whatever you were writing. So please, stop the tagging - you're only embarrassing yourself.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Suddenly Wonderful

TGIF! Taking the day off today and I've opened my first beer of the day - 3:30 pm. Nothing better than that.

I had a phone interview today with a Chicago tech firm for a marketing position. For those podcasters out there, the company name rhymes with "BeedFurner." If you can't figure that out, then I'm sorry, you're no podcaster. Drop off your iRiver at the door and get out. As usual, I am overly optimistic about my chances. Danger, Will Robinson! I can say objectively that I think I made my case as persuasively as I expected, but I really want this job and at the moment I am way too worked up about it to focus on anything else. Danger!

The job would involve a move and, while I can shrug and say I'm comfortable with that, a little part of me is not. I mean, I've been moving across the country since I was five. Logistically, moving two states away doesn't bother me. But I'd have to give up a lot of myself if I left Lincoln. Sad to say but this old college town has its hooks in me and isn't going to let go that easily. I like having an office in a funky old house that's 6 blocks away from my apartment. I enjoy the fact that my personal office has been compared to a small conference room. And I especially like the fact that I don't have to drive 30 miles just to buy groceries. In short, I am comfortable in my gilded cage.

Maybe I'm thinking too far ahead. There is a very real possibility that I'll screw everything up and all this talk about moving and change is wishful thinking. But today was a good day, and I don't want to give that wonderful feeling up just yet.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Just watchin' the people walk by

Two posts in one day: a new record! Anyway, like I said in my last post, I was at Husker Harvest Days this week. HHD's claim to fame is that it's the world's largest irrigated farm show, and for 3 days every September a small town goes up in the cornfields of central Nebraska so anyone and everyone associated with agriculture can hawk their wares. I work for a small environmental agency that works on agricultural projects, so we've gone there for the last four years. It's been a tough show for us, because mostly when farmers see the word "environmental" they go into defensive mode and then pepper us with accusations. But this year was okay; we handed out some promo items made from corn plastic and that did the trick. As long as we buy stuff made with their corn, they're happy.

Unfortunately, the promos turned out to be too popular; we ran out on the second day and after that no one wanted to stop by our booth. Disappointing. But it did give me some time for people watching. Here's some things that I observed:

  • People will pick up anything that you put on a table: Anything. And it will always happen when you least expect it. For example, we had a signup sheet for our newsletter and I set out a pen for people to use, mostly junk pens that we pick up at other events. This time I set out one from an auto parts shop that had a booth right next to ours and was handing them out at their booth. I turned my back to open a box and when I turned back an elderly gentleman in overalls was stuffing the pen in his bag. I wanted to tell him he could have just as easily walked next door and picked up the same pen, but I'm too nice. So then I put out two new pens with Office Depot stamped on the side of them. One minute later a woman walks up, says nothing to me and takes one of the pens. What the hell? There are only two of them: WE'RE NOT GIVING THEM AWAY!!! I am obviously going to have to put a chain on them like at a bank so they don't end up walking away. Or just pick up more pens at trade shows, whatev. Conversely, it never ceases to amaze me the amount of people that will see a sign that says FREE, TAKE ONE! and then ask "Are these free?" Jeebus.
  • Graphic Tees Must Die: When did we as a society decide that we were going to stop speaking for ourselves and instead buy overpriced t-shirts with idiotic sayings on them? I'm looking at you, American Eagle. There were masses of skinny teenagers at this event who wasted their hard-eared cash on these crappy shirts, usually printed with some stupid drinking reference or sly sexual innuendo they wouldn't be brave enough to actually say to another person. The worst one that I saw said "I didn't ask if you wanted to dance, I said you look fat in those pants." Well, I said I'm gonna rip that shirt off your back and shove it up your ass if you don't get your dumbass t-shirt outta my face.
  • Some people are itching for a fight: Working for an environmental agency, I'm used to this. I've been called a communist, tree hugger, hippy, etc. and that's fine: name calling I can handle. It's the people that want to fight with you that are the most annoying. I had one guy tell me that "You're the reason that everyone pays more at the pump." Never mind that I'm a peon at an agency that has no control over the oil companies; it's still my fault. I get the most frustrated when people won't listen to you. I can talk to most anyone if they're willing to listen, but some times people don't want to hear anything that is contradictory to their ideas. I talked to another man about our policies and he was making no sense at all, digging a deeper hole with his unsubstantiated accusations, and then he just up and walks off. Nice to chat with you, sir! Other times I've talked to people and they try to "trap" you into saying something that they can pounce on and use to back their claims. I had one conversation like this. We talked for several minutes over the roar of the crowd and eventually he gave up, shook my hand and said his goodbyes.
That's what I observed at Husker Harvest Days this year. Now I'm going to go out and steal some pens, tell someone they look fat in their pants and then argue with them for no reason. It's the American way, apparently.

Hive of activity

I took the day off today since I was at an event all week, and I noticed that one of the bushes my landlords planted outside my back door has bloomed. I'm no plant expert, so I have no idea what species it is, but it does seem to be attracting the pollinating insects like nothing I've ever seen. So far, I've counted a bumblebee, several other honeybees (hopefully non-Africanized), two butterfly moths and this little beauty:

Apparently I'm not the only one that has noticed all this insect activity; a large wolf spider has moved in and has already snared one of the butterfly moths and a bee in its web. Circle of life, people - circle of life.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Fruit of my labors

Another Labor Day has come and gone. Jerry Lewis, finished with his annual telethon, has once again retired into the sunset and relinquished his hold on the airwaves. Life is good.

I always view Labor Day with a certain apprehension because it signals not only the end of summer but also the beginning of my busy season at work. So this weekend I was determined to pack in as many diversions as possible to avoid thinking about the upcoming weeks. For example:

  1. Attended the Nebraska State Fair: To those who know me, this might be a bit of a shock but yes, I did go to the State Fair this year despite my hatred of this boring, money-losing event. My loathing of the fair goes so far that one of my first acts at my job was to cancel our booth there. But this year I was given some free passes, and while I certainly wouldn't pay to see this crap, I'm not below going on someone else's dime and picking up a Deep Fried Oreo. Unfortunately, it constantly rained while we were there so no Oreos were consumed that day. Lynn and I did record some things for our next podcast, so it wasn't a total waste.

  2. Read a Book: I am a voracious reader, but I think I've even outdone myself this time by consuming The Path Between The Seas, a weighty 698-page tome on the construction of the Panama Canal. Historical essays are a weakness for me and this one doesn't disappoint. I think the most interesting fact I got out of it was that the Canal made extensive use of electricity at a time when the first factory in the US had just been electrified. It was such a potential PR boon for General Electric that they did everything in their power to make sure it would work without a hitch, and the electrical system survives today largely intact. My other book purchase this weekend was Bobby Fisher Goes to War, and I haven't made much progress with that yet. Bobby's just not a very likeable character, but I'm sure it'll get better as more of the details about his big chess match with the Soviet Grandmaster are revealed.

  3. Set up my Google Calendar: Am I the only one that thinks Google is writing some of the best software out there? First Gmail, then Picassa and now Google Calendar and the rest of the Google Labs betas - all fantastic. I especially like the multiple options Google Calendar has for getting your data out of it via iCalendar, RSS or plain HTML, which is something I haven't seen with other online calendars. I used to use iCal at home to handle my personal schedule and publish my calendars to .Mac so I could access them from my PC at work or wherever I happened to be. But the problem was that I could view appointments but not add or change them. It just didn't work for me. Now I've got everything in Google Calendar, I'm subscribed to my calendar in iCal and via RSS with Bloglines. All my bases are covered. Plus, after a bit of experimenting I found out that I could send meeting invites from Lotus Notes (terrible, terrible program) for my work appointments. My life is in perfect sync.

  4. Caught up on Project Runway: This is my new guilty pleasure. I like Project Runway because unlike the other crappy reality shows out there, the focus in on the work and not the personality conflicts of the contestants. The designer in me really enjoys seeing the process even though I know nothing about fashion. But I know what I like when I see it, and I have to say I am very pleased that Angela and her craptacular rosettes will no longer be gracing the runway.

Now for what I haven't done this Labor Day weekend:

  1. Prepared for big job interview: I have a second interview for a job on Friday and I really should be prepping myself for it, because the first round was a spectacular disaster. There was just too much going on in my life at the time and I left that interview thinking I didn't make a very good impression. Now it's two months later and they want to see me again in a group interview with the whole marketing team. How fun! I can't escape the feeling that their first choice backed out and now they're scrambling for a replacement. And I really need to get a better idea of what this job will entail. I feel like I can do the work, but don't know if I want to work there. It's an unusual situation. But I am determined to present myself better than the last time. Well, if I can get around to preparing for it.