Friday, November 30, 2007

< a href="Greeting from Bowling Green, OH" >

Does life get much better than having a Sean Connery look-alike ("Penis mightier!") teach you Dreamweaver web design on dual-monitor Mac Pros in a buildling full of glowing, self-aware, high-powered computers?

Nope, not much.

Hanging out in Bowling Green this weekend, learning Dreamweaver and picking up some tips on HTML and CSS, all-the-while enjoying the ability to drag a window across two screens of real estate. This is living.

The above photo isn't what the BGSU Mac Labs really look like, but they give an idea. I'm bringing my camera tomorrow just so I can show them.

But being offsite for learning new knowledge (that's a Dr. Renner term for those that had him) is always a blast. I've found that it gives me the opportunity to talk shop (read: dork stuff) with other human beings, and actually have them understand what I'm saying:

ME: So have you tried the new Dreamweaver after Adobe shut down GoLive.

SEAN CONNERY-ESQUE GUY: Yes, and I've found Dreamweaver is a much better product, although the license won't let me install it on a PC, even though they're both Intel-based.

...and so on. People back at the office would have blood squirting out of their nose after my first sentence. Here, people understand me.

Our class was scheduled to go until 5 p.m. today, but with just me and a lady from Toledo taking the class, we sped through in record time. It's 3 p.m. now, and we've been done for a half-hour.

Tomorrow I'm hanging out with Sean Connery-esque again, and we've had a lot of fun so far. He's a retired business owner who fell in love with computers and decided to spend the rest of his life teaching other people how to use them. He does Office stuff, and Adobe stuff, and says he's catching the Mac bug. I, of course, had plenty to say after that.

I guess it's just refreshing to get away from the everyday and feel like you're still in your element, you know? I could really see myself doing what Sean Connery-esque (his real name is Marek, which is totally cool) does for a living.

But anyway, Andrea and Annie and I are all going out to dinner tonight, right after I purchase some BGSU merchandise (even though, in my heart, I'm more of a Toledo Rockets fan), and then I'll hit the hot tub and wake up to another Waffle House breakfast tomorrow.

Over and out from Ohio.

Monday, November 26, 2007

On good design, and good hard drives.

Maybe I'm a dork, but the instruction manual for Seagate's excellent 500 GB "FreeAgent" external hard drive is a hoot.

I originally bought one over the summer - $100 for 500 GB is a heckuva deal - because my former external hard drive was a piece of crap. It had Firewire, but that's about all it had going for it. The Seagate's hefty 500 gigs would be more than enough space to back up all of my Macs, with room to spare, and the plug-and-play USB is a cinch to use.

So when our network drive at work (the one that held every file ever created by our marketing department) took a dump, our IT department suggested we get an external drive to back up our M:Drive.

Previously, I had been backing up our files on to CD-ROMs, but that's a slow process, and you can't fit much into the 700 MB on the disc. When our network drive crashed, we had to recover files from individual CDs, and my co-workers couldn't all use the same CD at the same time. It was a hassle.

Enter the Seagate. I recommended it after having such a good time with mine: its throbbing orange light mimicking my own sleeping iBook's, its sleek form factor, the way I keep it plugged into my Airport wireless network at all times, accessible from any room in the apartment - plus you can't beat the cost.

Smart people backup their computers, as my experience at work showed. I've been lucky at home: I haven't had to recover any files from my backup plan. No lightning, no acts of god, no thefts - but that doesn't mean I don't backup on a regular basis. Carbon Copy Cloner makes a full, bootable copy of my hard drive, and Apple's own Backup application makes incremental backups of my music, documents, and personal settings. If - Don forbid - something were to happen, I could make a full restore of my entire system.

It's not Time Machine, but it'll do.

When I got the Seagate, I couldn't help but giggle over the design choices the manufacturers made. A little sticker that says "hello" keeps the little cord baggies closed, and when you first open the box a message tells you "If only this box held as much content as your FreeAgent desktop drive." It's the little things.

But the manual is my favorite. It tells you, confidently, that "This won't take long," then keeps track of how many seconds it takes to set the components up. Taking everything out of the box and packages? Thirty-nine seconds. Plug the thing in? A minute. Plug the USB cable into your computer? A minute eleven. The entire thing, according to Seagate, shoudl take 1:36, and its pretty accurate. "Please enjoy" the manual concludes.

How fun!

Good design is not only a joy to behold, but communicates effectively - and, if we're lucky, with humor. The manual does both.

Now I get a spanking-new FreeAgent to play with at work. I'm going to name it "M:Drive 2.0" because I'm a dork like that, and one teammate suggested we burn incense and say prayers to it, just for security's sake. I think it's a great idea.

All hail FreeAgent.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Random thought for 11.21.07

So, what would Pat Robertson - you know, the guy who said Hurricane Katrina was fit punishment for the U.S. - say about the drought in Georgia?

Shrimp Quest 2007.

It's already 7 hours after Shrimp Quest 2007, and I'm still having trouble cleansing my mouth of shellfish slime.

We had lunch catered at work on Wednesday, and I learned that the Oak Tree would have a shit-ton of peel-and-eat shrimp on hand. After learning what was on the menu, I stretched, drank multiple glasses of water, and prepared myself to set the world record for shrimp eating.

The world record for shrimp eating (9 on the list) has already by set - by some guy named Erik Denmark - and equals four pounds, 15 ounces of "spot shrimp" in 12 minutes. Well that was nothing. And I'm not a fancy guy. My goal was an easy-to-remember five pounds of shrimp eaten over the course of my lunch hour.

Some have held contests where the shrimp count is the most important record, but there could be a few Sea Monkeys in that "record-setting" collection.

I've been fooled by other "all you can eat" promotions, but this one I was actually able to see - a giant platter with 10 pounds of shellfish.

There were complications. After having an allergy incident at a local restaurant over the summer (involving delicious ahi tuna and a trip to the emergency room), I was nervous about the undertaking. But a half hour before I started lunch I sampled one of the shrimp - just to see if anything would happen. Nothing did happen, thankfully, but it's funny how the mind can play tricks on you. The whole half hour before lunch I felt phantom pains, and phantom blushes, and phantom choking sensations. It could've been that my brain recoilled in horror at the thought of five pounds of dead seafood sitting in my stomach.

The brain can be tricked, and the stomach can be made numb. I had work to do.

Here are my notes on the attempt:

0:05: Lunch is prepared. A sandwich, some tomato soup, and a little more than a dozen shrimp, plus a cup of dipping sauce to help the little beauties go down. Still no effects from the trial shrimp. All systems go.

0:07: A Diet Coke may complicate things. Carbonation in the stomach = less room for seafood. Will test results.

0:08: No time for diet coke. Must concentrate on eating.

0:12: Next batch of shrimp on plate - all is well. Stomach is protesting the speed, but tongue is thanking me for the taste. These are quality shrimp.

0:16: Sandwich half gone, leaving more room for shrimp.

0:19: Co-workers bugging me with conversation. [Something scribbled out, won't post here] The march continues.

0:24: More than a third of the way through, but progress is slipping. Thoughts of the poor Eskimos displaced during the raid to fetch these fine shrimp developing into mad glee at smashed igloos and fleeing Inuits for the benefit of this delicious lunch. Other news: the soup is tasty.

0:27: Drifting in and out of consciousness. Restless leg syndrome looks like an acceptable consequence of today's attempt.

0:35: No way to describe the gustational noises erupting from my stomach. Hallucinations coming on strong now. Maybe a pound or two of shrimp eaten by now. Will I ever make it? And will that flying clown ever land to eat lunch?

0:45: Only 15 minutes left. Attempt almost aborted seven minutes ago after another co-worker joined me in the shrimp eating. Thoughts of using the plastic cutlery as weapons if things ever get heated. Beads of sweat are dripping into the dipping sauce. No matter. It will help the shellfish slide down.

0:52: Seven minutes since last post. Co-workers are suspecting something, what with the slimy drool and bug-eyed despair that shows on my swollen face. Is the allergy there after all? Have I made out a will? Is this digestive Armageddon?

0:53: Like clouds clearing after a rainy day, my thoughts are becoming clearer. The shrimp may actually be digesting, though how there's any room for such activity is beyond me. The brownie I just ate is at war with the shrimp. The shellfish have the numbers - things could get ugly. Co-workers are avoiding me.

0:56: Marching two by two, hurrah. Hurrah. The saints go marching in. Shrimp salad. Shrimp stew. Shrimp stir-fry. *Burp* What's rosebud? Is everybody happy? I want everybody to be happy. I know I'm happy. Ah, that tastes nice. Thank you. Et tu, Brute? The earth is suffocating . . . Swear to make them cut me open, so that I won't be buried alive. I am not the least afraid to die. Do you hear the rain? What was that sound? Adieu, mes amis. Je vais la gloire.

0:58: Fever, vomitting, diarrhea: they're starting to sound like a blessing.

0:59: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

There was dabs of horseradish and bits of discarded shell on my notebook. I'm assuming I didn't complete the task, but no matter. It's the attempt that counts, right? I've learned that the original record setter is now dead, probably because the human body wasn't designed to digest more than two pounds of shrimp on any given day.

My co-workers found me in a slump on the floor of the breakroom. Before I cashed out I was babbling something about dead eagles and the turkey being the legitimate national bird, but not before I had made a mess out of my teammate's workstation:

I learned, above all, that I'm not allergic to shrimp. And that's good, because a world without shrimp is a world I don't want to live in.

Besides, this was just a warm-up for Thanksgiving. And there's always next year.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On making bread.

It's a magical thing, to make your first loaf of bread.

After reading about how easy it is, I couldn't help myself. Making my own home-made loaf of bread would be this weekend's project.

I followed the recipe's directions to the T, with a few left-turns here and there. For instance, I used a bit of brown sugar and some honey in place of the five teaspoons of plain sugar. Also, I found downing several cups of coffee in the process helps the mind focus on step-by-step instructions.

The recipe ended up making two more loaves than I was expecting, but that gave me the chance to give one away as a present and to take one to work tomorrow for lunch.

Watching the dough rise is an amazing process, but not a new one for me. After all, watching a giant metal bowl mix an entire bag of flour at Hometown while making pizza dough was all the experience I really needed. The yeast-y smell, the sticky dough - it brought back a lot of memories.

Letting the dough sit also gave me time to tackle other projects around the apartment, and listen to "A Prairie Home Companion."

But at the end, it was a beautiful finished product. And, together with the homemade chicken noodle soup I made for Thursday's dinner party, it made for a heckuva dinner.

Now I have all kinds of ideas about the type of bread I'd like to make. I'm a wheat/grain kind of guy, so I'd like to add some more fiber and flavors to the mix. Also, maybe try some dessert-style loaves.

It ended up being a fun, lazy-Sunday project. I always seem to have more time for cooking in the winter (and maybe more of an appetite, too), so I can imagine making more with a big pot of chili or something.

In the meantime, it's another check on my always-wanted-to-do list.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Nov. 1, 2007: Newton syncs with iMac

Sometimes, geek dreams really do come true.

First, some background: I bought an Apple Newton - the first PDA ever invented - almost a year ago, just to play around with it. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to sync it to my Macs. The Newton uses an old serial cable that no one uses anymore.

Then I found a serial-to-USB adapter, but then the Newton's batteries ran dead, with no hope of recharge. So I bought some Sanyo Eneloop pre-charged batteries, and have finally been having some fun with the MessagePad 110.

And for the past few days, I've dug the adapter out and tried syncing it with my laptop and my iMac - with no luck. Then, tonight...

Whala. There it was.

The technical stuff is a little complicated, but long-story-short, I messed around with the hookup settings late tonight and finally, my Newton and iMac are talking.

It's a shame I have to use OS 9 to do everything (my iBook doesn't like the adapter), but now I can do anything, like add events to my Newton calender:

Or names and contact info to my address book:

But the point is, now I have my circa-1993, pre-iPhone organizer up and running:

Now, what to do with it?

That's almost a non-issue. The point is, I got it running, and can control it with other means rather than the handwriting recognition software.

Who needs an iPhone?*

*Last sentence was a joke, totally not serious, made by author who was up too late working on his dorky, obsolete pet project while dreaming of midgets in rainbow jumpsuits doings lines of coke off iPod Nanos. Disregard. Carry on.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

November goal.

It seems the guy that runs The Simple Dollar seems to have had the same brainstorm I did: dedicate the month of November for getting something accomplished.

For instance, I told myself that if I do a certain number of things each weekday over the course of the month - workout, do something productive for 15 minutes, and meditate - then I would reward myself for the accomplishment. My reward?

An iPhone.

I actually made a little chart where I can put a check next to each thing. I gave myself four weeks, and two out of the four possible items each day (aerobic, weights, meditate, 15 minutes) to accomplish, and my goal is to get at least 40 checks over the month (at least two things per weekday = 10 checks per week x four weeks = 40 checks). Nice and easy, right?

If I do three things in a day, it ups my average for those days I don't get much accomplished. And weekends are just gravy: anything done on weekends just goes to the pile, but I don't make it a point to get much accomplished on weekends. Those are ALL mine.

Trent over at Simple Dollar has no extra spending on food and merchandise (except for the holidays), tackling a few to-dos around the house, and writing so many posts to his blog. I liked those, so I'm stealing his "to-dos around the house" item. That'll get added to my 15-minutes-a-day check. Check? Check.

At the end, three weeks from now (I'm on my second week), if I have 40 checks total, I'll allow myself to purchase an iPhone - probably around Christmas or after Apple's January World Wide Developer's Conference, when new iPhone stuff will be out. I'll probably spring for the refurbished 4 GB model, since its only running $299 now while supplies last.

To do all this, I'll have to keep focused, use my time wisely, actually get something accomplished on weekends to make up checks, and have friends and family hold me accountable.

So you, dear reader, can help - just leave me a comment every now and again asking, "Have you done your checks today?"

If it's Sunday, don't bother. I'll be watching football.