Wednesday, December 16, 2009

For those considering buying an e-book reader

This year, I bought my first e-book reader, the Kindle 2. I'd resisted buying the first generation Kindle. Despite my love of gadgetry, I try to avoid buying first-generation technology. The price tends to be very high relative to the usefulness of the technology (there’s a premium fee for being an early adopter, as iPhone buyers learned when the price of the device dropped drastically mere weeks after its initial release), and I prefer to wait for bugs to be worked out. I was a little wary about going the e-book route; I couldn’t imagine giving up the feel of paper, and I was concerned that the books I wanted to read wouldn’t always be available. Nine months after getting my Kindle, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back.

Right now, there are three primary competitors in the e-book reader market: Sony’s PRS, Amazon’s Kindle, and Barnes and Noble’s just-released Nook. While each one has some technical advantages over the other, my belief is that the storefront availability of books is much more important than any hardware differences. Regardless of how good the reader itself is, it hardly matters if the book you want to read isn’t available on it.

I’m worried that, as the e-book market itself expands and stabilizes, we might even see some publishers retaining exclusivity rights to certain devices; i.e., Publisher A will only put their books on Reader X, while Publisher B will only put their books on Reader Y. This is similar to the current videogame market, where some games are only sent to certain consoles, so if you want to play every game out there you have to own every console. Ultimately, I don’t believe this business model is sustainable for e-books, and we’ll end up with something more like the current downloadable music model, where the files you download are standardized and playable on any MP3 player - likewise, the books you download will ultimately be readable on any device.

If you’re considering buying an e-book reader (and you very well might be, as it’s one of the big sellers this holiday season) and are trying to decide which model to buy, I would encourage you to go to the device’s website and see if the last five or ten books you read are available for a specific device. The website can help with this by showing what books are available by device, but their catalog doesn’t seem complete yet. Again, I can assure you that it won’t matter how great the hardware itself is if you can’t get the books you want toread.

For the Kindle, I’ve learned that not every book I want to read is available, but there are certainly enough available to keep me reading. The advantages of owning the device far outweigh the slight decrease in availability, but those advantages may not be relevant to everyone.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Multiple readings

As a rule, I try to avoid reading multiple books at once. I'm not great at juggling multiple storylines or thought processes, and once I start a book I like to press through it as quickly as possible so I can move on to the next one. That being said, I'm actually moving back and forth between six books all at once right now:
  • Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining and Bad Attitudes... in You and Your Kids by Scott Turansky. This is one we're reading as part of a small group with some friends. We're supposed to get through one chapter a week, so it'll take about three months to get through the whole thing.
  • Choose the Life: Exploring a Faith that Embraces Discipleship by Bill Hull. Part of ANOTHER small group we're in. I'm about halfway through. It's very challenging to my long-bred idea of how to "do church," and there are elements that I find very difficult to come to terms with. But it's certainly pushing back some of my horizons.
  • The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann. This is my current "fun" book, the one I read while relaxing in bed or laid out on the couch. It's a story of post-Victorian era explorer Fawcett and his quest for a lost city in the Amazon jungle. Basically, it's about a guy way manlier than I can even conceive.
  • NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson. As a rule, I find parenting books kind of faddish. It seems to me that parenting should be a pretty instinctive thing. I don't mean we shouldn't THINK about how to parent, or that it should be EASY, but that over-analyzing it doesn't seem like the right approach either. This book documents studies showing that much of what we would consider the obviously correct approach to parenting can be wrong. This is one of the most eye-opening books I've read in a long time.
  • Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World's Languages by Daniel Nettle. This one is a tough read, so I usually only get through a chapter or so at a time. The writing isn't really superb, and many of their conclusions seem a little naive and politically-motivated, but the subject itself is interesting enough to keep me coming back.
  • Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution: A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First by Alister McGrath. This is the book that is absolutely kicking my butt. I asked a friend of mine for a suggestion about a biography of Martin Luther and he steered me to this epic tome about everything Reformation-related. I've found that I can't read it right before bed - it gets my brain spun up and I have trouble going to sleep. The problem is that the book is enormous, so it'll take me quite a while to get through it. But as a protestant Christian it's amazing to me to see the way so much of what I believe came to be.

The nice thing is that all of these except Choose the Life are on my Kindle, so I'm not having any trouble keeping track of where I left something. Hopefully I can finish a couple of these out before Christmas and get my list down to a (relatively) more manageable four books.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Flashforward Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is one of the most poorly-written books I've ever read. While an interesting basis for a sci-fi book, the execution is extremely sub-par. Sawyer writes like a fifth-grader who is telling his class about a summer trip to Disney World.

Much of the book takes place at CERN, a particle accelerator in Switzerland. Sawyer adds details about the location clearly included only to prove that he's been there, completely unnecessary details like where the fire extinguishers are located. I understand the need to include details in order to create a picture in the reader's mind, but much of the minutiae he includes is completely extraneous.

On the opposite end, the characters are shallow and underdeveloped. Many are there simply to create a structure on which to develop a plotline; we care little about where they're going or why. Ultimately they seems like a set of people who are all just wandering in different directions with no clear purpose.

Most annoyingly, the characters have a tendency to deliver long, very artificial diatribes that allow Sawyer to communicate his philosophies. Science fiction has a long history of comparing and contrasting science and theology, and when done properly it can be very thought-provoking. In this case, the practice was too in-your-face, too overt to be taken seriously. I did not for one minute believe that these characters would actually have conversations such as these.

The book was the basis for ABC's new television show of the same name. Seeing parallels between the events of the book and those on the TV show is interesting. The premise of the book itself is intriguing, but the flaws are too numerous make it worth struggling through.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English by John H. McWhorter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Since I listened to his downloadable lecture series about linguistics earlier this year, I've enjoyed McWhorter's down-to-earth but well-informed way of communicating how language has evolved. This book focuses primarily on how the English language itself has come to be, with an emphasis on how Celtic and Norse languages influenced Old and Middle English. McWhorter is good at describing rather dry topics in ways that keep the reader engaged. I suspect this isn't the last book on this subject that'll grace my Kindle...

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 - 7:35 PM

I rinse out the rest of my beef stew from the bowl and put it in the dishwasher. Ann has listened to me cry tonight for things even I can't comprehend. She understands that it is hard to deal with all the unknowns of the situation. She understands that we'll probably never know anything about the recipient, how he lived, how he died. But she knows that there was no other choice to be made. We had an opportunity, a moment in time to do something for someone else. We can't even say whether it was successful or worth the effort. But, she says, we would do it exactly the same way next time. She is - as always - right.

The National Marrow Donor Program connects people willing to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells to people genetically identified as possible recipients. The success of their work is dependent on having a large database of potential donors in order to create the best matches for those in need. To learn more go to, or consider joining the registry.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Thursday, January 15th, 2009 - 12:30 PM

Today is the first day we'll be conducting an integrated sim with the Japanese simulator for the HTV mission. I've been preparing for this sim for about a year now and am totally living on adrenaline. As the adrenaline slowly wears off, I plan to transition to caffeine. The ten-hour sim doesn't start until 3:00, but I want to have plenty of time to get ready, to mentally prepare for a long night of what are sure to be some very stressful situations. My cell phone rings; an unknown number. It's a representative from the National Marrow Donor Program. They think they've found a match and would like me to come in for further testing. I agree, set up an appointment to go to the blood bank, and hang up. Added to the stress of the upcoming simulation, it feels like too much to process right now. I file it away for later, remembering the last two times I got this call and how it turned out to be nothing. Probably won't be anything this time either.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Saturday, February 28th, 2009 - 8:30 AM

Ryan and I stand among a crowd of thousands. Somehow I'd let him talk me into participating in a 5k run with him. Anyone who knows me at all knows that running isn't really my "thing." In much the same way that root canals aren't my "thing." Later I found out that the run was scheduled for the same day as my first round of shots. I complete the race in about 35 minutes, crossing the finish line with the theme song from Indiana Jones blaring through my iPod. After a short break I go back to my car, put on a clean shirt, and drive to the clinic.

Martha is already there waiting for me. I know what to expect but I'm not a huge fan of getting shots. Today I'll get two of them. After the blood draw. And let me tell you, those two shots hurt a lot more than those tiny little needles would lead you to believe. I have to sit with her for an hour after the shots to make sure I don't have an adverse reaction.

I go home feeling a little shaky and a lot tired, but I suspect that's mostly because of the 5k. Martha will come to my home every morning for the next three days, each time giving me two more injections of filgrastim. At the end of it all, I will have received a total of ten filgrastim shots. My only hope is that it might turn me into something cool, like Spider-Man. I will ultimately be disappointed as "achy" is not, apparently, a superpower.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009 - 9:00 AM

I am, of all things, excited about a day off, especially on a Wednesday. The last couple of months at work have been very busy. I have two small children at home. The thought of sitting in a chair all day long reading books and watching movies is very appealing even if I have to have blood sucked out of my body by a large machine to get the day off. I have three DVDs in my bag (The Dark Knight, Madagascar 2, and Wanted), and I've even brought my brand-new Kindle.

My entire body is sore. The filgrastim injections I've received since Saturday have increased the amount of peripheral blood stem cells in my system, resulting in flu-like symptoms. Mostly I've just been tired and my back has ached. It's certainly not incapacitating, and nothing compared to what the recipient has been going through. But it gets old after a while, especially after the late-night simulation I had on Monday. Hot showers and ibuprofen help some, but I'm ready to have this stuff sucked out of my body so I can get back to normal.

Martha is there with the technicians. They expect the procedure to take about four hours based on my size and the number of stem cells the recipient requires. I tell them I've got at least six hours of movies so they can take as long as they need. The room is very clinical in appearance but then, it is a clinic. There are several couches and they show me to mine. Over the next fifteen minutes the technician inserts a needle into my left arm that draws the blood out and sends it through a centrifuge machine, separating out the layer of peripherical blood stem cells. Another line feeds into my right arm sending everything except the PBSCs back into my system.

Over the course of the day others come and go for treatment. A middle-aged woman is wheeled in next to me. She is clearly very sick, presumably with cancer, and is receiving chemotherapy. I think about the last time I sat this close to someone receiving chemotherapy treatment and hope her story ends as well.

I refrain from drinking very much. Once I'm hooked up to the machine there's no un-hooking so if I need to pee they draw a curtain around me and hand me a plastic bottle. Fortunately this is only necessary once over the course of the day. Admittedly the process is much simpler as a guy but handling all the equipment with one arm mostly incapacitated and the other completely immobilized takes a little more concentration than normal. Going through the process once is more than enough.

An LCD TV is mounted within easy viewing distance and the technician is happy to swap out movies as often as I want. The apheresis machine requires constant management by the technician and his company is appreciated.

We sit next to each other for seven hours.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009 - 4:00 PM

The technician takes the tube out of my other arm. It has been a long seven hours. The stem cells were not as concentrated in my blood as they'd hoped and the apheresis took longer than expected. Physically, I feel better than I'd feared I might. I don't have the light-headedness I sometimes feel after a blood donation which makes sense since they put all the blood back in. Mostly I'm just tired of being in that chair and want to go home. And I'm relieved that my contribution to this process is effectively over. In some ways it feels a little anti-climactic - a lot of effort for a small bag of yellow fluid. Especially since that fluid is basically just the extra cells I had floating around. But he needs them. In a week or so he'll receive a massive dose of chemotherapy that will kill all of his bone marrow. The stem cells they just sucked out of my body will be injected into his. If the transplant works, his blood type will change from whatever it was before to mine, AB-positive. The stem cells will begin creating new, undiseased blood and his leukemia will disappear. If the transplant doesn't work, he'll be left without a way to make blood and will die within days. I can't think of a much better definition of "last-ditch effort."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Mid-April 2009

My phone rings and I find myself talking to Martha. It's been about six weeks since the procedure and I've eagerly awaited this call. No one has ever accused me of being an optimist. I tend to plan for the worst and hope for (but rarely expect) the best. Martha tells me that my recipient is doing well. The transplant appears to have been successful and he has recovered enough to go home. Other than that, the details are sparse. There's no prognosis, no talk of how much longer he might live. There's certainly no use of the word "cured." But under the circumstances this is the best news I could've expected. I picture a frail man being taken to his car in a wheelchair, pushed by his wife or maybe his grown son. He's still weak and tired all the time but there's a little hope for his future, a chance at a few more years. Maybe.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 - 12:30 pm

My phone rings and I find myself talking to Martha again. I haven't spoken to her since I got the good news several months before. Her voice is as always cheerful, but she tells me that I might not be so happy once she tells me the news. My recipient has had a relapse and died. I'm stunned but not entirely surprised. He was in his sixties and the transplant is risky under even the best of circumstances, with about a one-in-three chance of being successful. But the last I'd heard was that he was doing well and had checked out of the clinic and gone home. I had assumed that his recovery was progressing and he was moving on with his life. Finding out that he'd died was an unexpected end to this journey. Martha asks if I want to stay on the registry. I reply that I do, update my information, and then hang up. I'm not really sure how to feel at this point, but there's work to do, so sorting this out will have to wait until later.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 - 7:30 pm

Ann and I are sitting across the table from each other. I'm amazed at how little flavor food has when one has been crying for 20 minutes straight. She'd made a delicious beef stew several days before and we are having leftovers. Even after several shakes of Tabasco sauce, it tastes like warmed-up cardboard with extra carrots. I'm somewhat stunned at the intensity of my own reaction. People I don't know die all the time. I know nothing about him, not even his real name. I don't know where he lived, what he looked like, whether he had a family. I never met him. All I know is that he was in his sixties and that he died after his disease relapsed. And yet I am mourning his passing. I wonder if these extra four months gave him time to meet a new grandchild or to make it through another birthday. Or maybe he was just sick the whole time and the treatment prolonged the suffering. It's startling how much I am struggling over the what-ifs and unknowns, and I wonder if I'll ever know more than I do now.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Written sarcasm

Sarcastic speech is an art-form largely based on body language and tone, neither of which are effectively communicated in written text. Far too often a carefully crafted biting remark is completely lost on the reader. I recently heard someone suggest that we need a font to denote sarcasm. This idea is, of course, nothing new and certainly not my own, but I offer a different take on it. Therefore in my writing I will be instituting a new standard: squiggly brackets shall henceforth border a sarcastic remark. Besides, when was the last time you used brackets for any other purpose? Examples would be:
  • I saw the report you wrote yesterday. {Good job.}
  • Your dog puked on my sweater. {Thanks for that.}
  • {I think Transformers 2 was a serious work of art.}

Friday, July 24, 2009

A wireless world

I’m becoming convinced that in the very near future, within my lifetime for sure, there will be very few products that have wires. Wireless data transfer is already very good and getting better. Things aren’t quite to the point where high-definition video can be streamed real-time over wired connections, and doing so wirelessly is still some time away. So until then, you’ll need to keep a cable running from your computer to your television if you want streaming real-time. But progress is being made, and I suspect that within ten years or so most every data transfer will be possible over wireless connections.

The big hurdle is, of course, power. No matter how great your home wireless connection, you still need to plug your laptop in from time to time. There have been some preliminary techonologies that allow very short-range power feeds via magnetic induction. But now a company has stated that within a couple of years they will have a commercial product that can supply power from several feet away. Set up a few of these in your house, and you might never need a plug again. I can imagine an iPhone, 3 or 4 generations from now, that has no external plug at all. All power and data needs would be supplied wirelessly. Now that’s the future!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Funny names of popes

  • Pope Hyginus (AD 136-140). He was the cleanest pope up to that time.
  • Pope Hilarius (AD 461-468). Despite what you'd think, he actually had very little sense of humor.
  • Pope Gelasius (AD 492-496). Known primarily for having invented Italian ice cream.
  • Pope John XXIII (1958-1963). Seriously, dude. There were 22 other popes before you named "John." Maybe it's time to come up with something new.
  • Pope Lando (AD 913-914). Lando's not a system... he's a pope.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8 Lee

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I never thought there could be a book this interesting about Chinese food. Lee's ability to relate Chinese cuisine in America to how Chinese themselves have integrated into our society had me enthralled. Her basic premise is that Chinese food is more American than apple pie. Think of it this way: which have you eaten more often? She analyzes every aspect of Chinese food: the true (and surprising) origins of fortune cookies, how soy sauce is used, where General Tso came from, and even how the ubiquitous Chinese food delivery box was developed. This book is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Asian food and cuisine, especially as both are related to and defined by American culture.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I went to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen last night. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. I should clarify what the criteria are for earning a star. One star is given for each of the following:
  • robots
  • explosions
  • robots fighting
  • military vehicles
  • military vehicles exploding fighting robots

It was actually exactly what you expect from a Michael Bay Transformers movie. DO NOT go see this movie if you want plot, depth, character development, or "good" cinema. If you want to be entertained for two hours by amazing special effects, then I highly recommend it.

I do NOT, however, recommend watching the IMAX version from the front row like I did. It was sort of like watching your TV from six inches away. My visual cortex was completely overloaded by the end of the preview.

So this summer I've seen Star Trek, Terminator: Salvation, Up, and now Transformers 2 and I gotta say I've been impressed with all of them. Well, Terminator was so-so, but the other three were really very good. The only movie left on my must-see list is Harry Potter. I don't think I'm even going to bother with G.I. Joe.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Just something to think about

Preach on, my brother. Preach on.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Failure analysis

The loss of Air France flight 447 is a horrible tragedy. I can't even begin to imagine the pain of those who lost loved ones on this flight.

From a failure analysis perspective, it's an interesting study in what happens when there is very little data available. There was no communication from the crew before the accident. It happened over open water in inclement weather, making access to the accident site difficult. Most of the wreckage has presumably sunk in water that may be as deep as 15,000 feet, making recovery at best difficult and most likely impossible. For accident investigators recovering the black boxes is critical; the chances of such a recovery are very slim.

80% of airplane accidents occur three minutes after takeoff or eight minutes before landing, so a mid-flight accident of this type is pretty rare.

With the small amount of evidence available, people have been making lots of very sketchy presumptions as to what happened. The plane was flying through a storm, but the area actually has a low incidence of lightning, far less than what you'd see over land in the continental US. Planes are actually struck by lightning approximately once every 1,000 flight-hours, but the last lightning-related aircraft accident in the US was in 1969. Planes are pretty robust when it comes to withstanding lightning hits.

Some have suggested it could've been a terrorist attack, but there's no direct evidence that this is what happened. There was a bomb threat several days before against an Air France flight from Buenos Aires to Paris, but there was no evidence the threat was real.

In most airline accidents, which usually take place over land, engineers have an enormous amount of debris and data to analyze. Forensic investigators have become very adept at piecing the evidence together to determine an initial cause. In this particular accident, the scarcity of evidence and the low probability of finding much more mean we may never have a good idea what happened in this accident. At this point, any guesses about the crash are very much conjecture - the fact of the matter is that very little is known about what occurred. There's not much to do but let experts analyze what little evidence there is and hope they can reach a decent conclusion, but I suspect that's not how this story will end.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The finer things

I am a man of sophistication, one who enjoys a good pinot noir or Corinthian leather bedsheets. But this... this is truly beyond even my own cultured palate.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


The Surgeon General has determined that exposure to excessive levels of cuteness could cause drymouth and/or nausea. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not view these pictures. Men who are pregnant should consult their physician.

I love these pictures because they really seem to capture the kids' personalities.

The Monkey is always looking around him, trying to understand how things work and fit together. He's pretty intense, and doesn't often have a lot of time for niceness and formality. He's polite, but he'd just as soon be done with the conversation so he can move on to dismantling a flashlight or digging a hole in the ground. More than anything, he wants to understand how and why, and the questions rarely stop. He is very good at reaching a logical conclusion, even when I don't necessarily want him to get there. Last night he was looking through a Star Wars book that had pictures of assassin robots. He asked what they would do if they caught us. I said they would rub peanut butter in our hair and it would be very hard to clean up. He smiled, and then said, "No, I think they'd kill us." And then it was on to the next thing...

Vanilla Bean is as sweet as they come. When I got home from work last night, she screamed and cheered for me, nearly falling out of her chair at the table in her attempt to get to me. All because I'd been awesome enough to drive home from work. She will sing and dance on cue, or without a cue. She loves to show off, and she LOVES to have your attention; her attempts to garner that attention over her brother are often hilarious of themselves.

Watch the video below, and you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about:

Dancing, corn on the cob, and a tunnel from cbalmain on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Where do they learn this stuff?

The other day, the Monkey gave me a pretty accurate description of how a jet engine works.

He also just described both an enema and a urinary catheter.

I have no idea where he learned any of it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More about me - just what you wanted!!

The rules:
Answer the questions on your blog, replace one question you dislike with a question of your own invention; add a question of your own.

Why do you blog?
I just like to keep a journal of things I think about. It’ll be interesting to come back to it over the years and see what sorts of things were on my mind. And, as for all bloggers, there’s a little bit of narcissism.

Do you nap a lot?
No, although I’ve considered taking up the habit.

Who was the last person you hugged?
Vanilla Bean on the way out the door. Imagine hugging an actual vanilla bean. Now imagine it 17.4 times sweeter. Then add a dollop of whipped cream on top. That’s what it’s like hugging MY Vanilla Bean.

If you were a tree, what tree would you be?
The kind that drops yucky sap on people when they walk by.

How many?

Have you ever had an altercation with the police?
Nope. I’m totally subject to the Man.

What was the last thing you bought?
Lunch at this AWESOME pizza place in town - La Candelara or something like that.

What are you listening to right now?
The guy in the cube next door discussing the weather. So I’ll probably crank up the Pandora soon. (UPDATE: I have since cranked up Pandora, set it to my movie-music station, and am listening to Jerry Goldsmith's score of The Medicine Man.)

What is your favorite weather?
Cold and rainy. Last Saturday was perfect. Except for the part where the car almost flooded.

What’s on your bedside table?
A clock-radio and a lamp. Oh, and a box with my laptop power adapter.

Say something to the person/s who tagged you.

If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you want it to be?
That’s an easy one: Vancouver. I’m still not sure why I haven’t packed up and just moved there.
Favorite vacation spot?
A cruise boat anywhere.

Name the things you can’t live without:
My cell phone. The Internet. Ann’s homemade breakfast burritos. If they made an Internet-connected burrito with integrated cell phone, I’d buy one.
You should put these two things together, Science.

What would you like to have in your hands right now?
The case full of Star Wars action figures that my mom gave to some poor kid. To make up for it, I’d sell one of the action figures, give the money to the poor kid, and put the rest of them in a display case over my bed.

What is your favorite tea flavor?
Earl Grey. Hot. (Bonus points if you get the reference)

What would you like to get rid of?
20 pounds.

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
That little sushi restaurant in Tokyo.

What did you want to become as a child?
Either a pilot or an astronaut. I figure I got pretty close.

What do you like better, e-mail or telephone calls?
Don’t waste my time making me listen to you on the phone. I can ignore you much more effectively by e-mail.

What do you do when you get time alone?
I have two small children - what is this “alone” you speak of?

Fathering is...

Being able to pretend it's nap-time with your daughter with the left side of your body while wrestling with your son on the right side.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

World War Z

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of my favorite movies is Contact. Besides the fact that it has Jodie Foster, I like it because it's less about alien contact and more about how people would react if we really DID contact aliens.

Likewise, World War Z isn't so much about zombies as it is about what people would do if there were a real zombie infestation. As much as possible, Brooks keeps a realistic bent to the events in the book. The infestation is presented as a highly virulent disease, and the author "interviews" people all around the world about how humanity recovered from the disease. Each story is told by a different person, from a different perspective. As a result, the reader is presented the facts exclusively through the experiences and biases of the characters in the book. It's a book that ultimately is much more about humans than zombies.

I'm not a particular fan of horror books, but if there are more of them that are written this well and executed so intelligently, I'd definitely read them.

View all my reviews.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hierarchy of toilet papers

From best to worst:
  • Charmin Bathroom Tissue Plus a Touch of Lotion with Aloe
  • Charmin Ultra
  • Cottonelle
  • Quilted Northern
  • Angel Soft
  • American hotel toilet paper
  • Wal-Mart generic
  • Japanese hotel toilet paper
  • Argentine toilet paper
  • Argentine hotel toilet paper
  • Argentine gas station toilet paper

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How to know...

When both sides of the argument can trot out so many experts presenting so many facts, how is someone supposed to both stay open-minded and make a rational decision? When both sides can scream so loudly, shake their fists so boldy, and use such strong language, how do you know which one is right? If I choose to listen and analyze, think and ponder, how do I respond to those who would claim I am indecisive or wishy-washy?

When both sides are completely opposed, and yet each one is utterly convinced that they are completely right and the other completely wrong, how are those caught in the middle supposed to choose?

If I choose to not participate in the shouting match, how do I make my voice heard over those who would choose only to shout?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s been at least 15 years since I read Jules Verne’s classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea the first time in high school. Since then I have earned an engineering degree and gotten SCUBA-certified, both of which, needless to say, lend me a new insight into Verne’s work.

When reading 20,000 Leagues, it’s crucial to be aware of the time in which Verne wrote. The book was written in 1870, in an effectively pre-industrial France. Submarines of the time were horrifically primitive by any modern standard, so Verne’s premise of a submarine that could cruise the world, completely self-sufficiently, operated solely by electricity, must have seemed like complete fantasy at the time. His idea of men wearing suits that allowed them to walk around on the sea floor was a technological impossibility. Today, of course, nuclear submarines and SCUBA gear are, if not commonplace, at least well-understood by most.

Interestingly, Verne showed a keen fascination for electricity at a time when few understood its possibilities as a power source, particularly for vehicles. Nemo’s Nautilus is completely powered by electricity, although it’s never completely explained what the actual FUEL source is. At a time when coal-powered steam engines, or even old-fashioned cloth sails, drove sea-faring vessels, the author is able to fairly accurately predict how submarines should and eventually would be powered.

Verne’s predictions for how SCUBA-gear would work are both eerily accurate and completely outrageous. At one point the narrator implies that two different plumbing systems exist in the tank, one for inhalation and the other for exhalation, and the user blocks off one or the other with his tongue, moving his tongue back and forth with each breath. I have to assume that even pre-Industrial Frenchmen had heard of check valves, so maybe I just read that wrong. On the other hand, Verne is able to describe a remarkable example of a chemical rebreather, even if some of the details are wrong

Also of interest is Verne’s perspective on nature and Man’s relationship with it, a perspective which I assume is distinctly Victorian. The characters are clearly respectful of nature but they firmly believe in Man’s dominion over it. The Nautilus itself is set forth as an example of technology allowing Man to conquer Nature. Several references are also made to the near-limitless energy resources the Earth has to provide, an interesting counterpoint to today’s struggle for long-term energy efficiency.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is absolutely required reading for any sci-fi fan. Verne set the tone for what would become modern science-fiction. A dense read, to be sure, but completely worth it if only for the insight into the mind of a 19th-century visionary.

View all my reviews.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hierarchy of Mexican food

A hierarchy of Mexican food, from lowest to highest:

  • Jack-in-the-Box or Dairy Queen 99 cent tacos
  • Microwaveable taquitos
  • Burritos sold at gas stations
  • "Mexican" food from north of the Mason-Dixon line
  • Taco Bell
  • Taco Cabana
  • Pappasito's
  • Generic Tex-Mex restaurant
  • Lupe Tortilla
  • Food sold out of a taco truck with a name like "La Mosca Loca"
  • Food actually made in Mexico

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pipe cleaners

When I was a kid and we used pipe cleaners for projects, I have to confess that I always wondered why it was called that. I mean, obviously it was used for cleaning pipes, but I thought they meant the water pipes in my house. I never could figure out how this flimsy little thing was supposed to be used for cleaning pipes.

"Ma'am, it looks like you've got a dead cat stuck in your toilet. But don't worry, I have all the necessary tools right here."

It wasn't until much later (like, mid-20s?) that I figured out what "pipe cleaner" really meant. Now I find out that they're changing the name. Ann has informed me that on two separate occasions she has seen them referred to as "chenille stems." There are only a couple reasons I can think of why they would change the name:

  • Kids can't figure out what "pipe cleaner" means. I myself am a living example of this. But who cares? That's not what it's being used for anyway. And if you're a kid smoking a pipe using material you picked up at Hobby Lobby, then you make me sad for multiple reasons. Do you think a kid is going to be able to figure out what "chenille stem" means? I'm a grownup and am not even sure what "chenille" is.
  • They're afraid of making references to pipes. Like, the smoking kind. I get political correctness. I understand that words have power and we need to be cautious in how we use them. But I doubt many kids are going to take up smoking because they made a llama out of something with a smoking reference in its name.

Although I'd be a little worried about the kid who made Aliens out of pipe cleaners, but for completely different reasons.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Extinct animals

If you've got a few minutes, this is an interesting article that includes photographs of animals that have gone extinct.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Preach on, brotha...


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jesse Cook

One of my more recent Internet discoveries (thanks, Laura!) is the awesomeness that is Pandora. This is one of those applications that really shows the power of what the Internet can be. You tell it a song or artist you like, and it goes out and finds music that sounds similar. Not just stuff from the same genre; most any online music streamer can do that. Every song in the Pandora database has been tagged with certain musical elements (based on the Music Genome Project), and the application draws from that database to play music that sounds like the input you made. I tire quickly of hearing the same music over and over, so being able to define a certain style and hear multiple artists is great. It’s the perfect place to discover new music that you would’ve never found otherwise. And it’s totally free.

Also, Pandora works through my Squeezebox, which is one of the coolest things ever. More about that in a later post.

One of the artists I found on Pandora was Jesse Cook. His music is described as rumba-Nuevo Flamenco with percussion and afro-latin influences. (And get this, he's a Canadian born in Paris. I KNOW!) His music is absolutely some of the coolest stuff I’ve ever heard. You can get a taste of it on Amazon, or just load up Pandora yourself and type in his name. Devout Baptists should probably avoid it, as you WILL want to dance.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama on Leno

Say what you want about his politics, but the guy does have a certain charm about him...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Best advice ever given

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape.
You don’t spit into the wind.
You don’t pull the mask off the ol’ Lone Ranger.
And you don’t mess around with Jim.

Thank you, Jim Croce.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Golden Buddha

Golden Buddha Golden Buddha by Clive Cussler

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
I'm always wary of books by popular authors that are written with someone, such as this initial outing in the Oregon Files, written by CLIVE CUSSLER (with Craig Dirgo). Does this mean Cussler wrote it with Dirgo helping out from time to time, or (as I suspect) did Cussler create the universe and the concept, and then Dirgo actually wrote the book itself? Regardless, this first offering in Cussler/Dirgo's new series starring Juan Cabrillo left something to be desired.

The concept itself is sound: an undercover, high-tech super-boat and its crew sail around the world performing what are effectively mercenary missions. This is Pop-Tart reading - you can consume a lot of it in a small amount of time, but it's ultimately not very filling. While I like the premise, the text itself seems somehow cumbersome. There are a lot of characters, few of whom are fleshed out enough for the reader to keep straight. The storyline itself is pretty contrived (we're meant to believe twelve guys can take on the entire Chinese military?), but I can go with that. Mostly the book just seemed like so much fluff - a lot of words for very little return.

All that being said, I understand that Golden Buddha is the weakest in the series, so I might give it one more try and see if Cussler/Dirgo (or Dirgo/Cussler) can focus the storyline and characterization a little more in the next book. Until then, I think I'll go read a Dirk Pitt book - some pure, unadulterated Cussler.

View all my reviews.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Watching Watchmen

Ann and I went and saw Watchmen last night. It is an admittedly high-quality film; the special effects are top-notch, and it's a very faithful representation of the book, which had an elaborate and very interesting storyline. It's also a very intense movie which certainly earns its R rating. This is not a movie I'd want to watch with my mother-in-law. I'm just sayin'...

If you don't know what Watchmen is, however, or have never read the book, I can't imagine that this movie would hold any appeal for you. My only draw was in seeing how the book itself was adapted for the big screen, and if I hadn't already read the book I don't think I would've been able to follow the storyline at all. Ann was a trooper and sat through all two hours and forty minutes with me, although we both agreed that I now owe her three chick-flicks to make up for it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A possible future for technology

It's been amazing to watch the steady progression of personal technology, especially over the last ten years or so. It's almost impossible to predict where we'll be in another ten - futurists have a way of being completely wrong about what's coming down the pipeline. Admit it: the types of technology we use today are completely beyond the imagination of someone living fifty years ago. I don't even know how you could describe "reading a blog on the Internet" to someone who doesn't even understand computers.

All that being said, I'd like to take a stab at predicting what technology might look like in the future. Specifically, I'm going to guess what sorts of technology my son will take with him to his freshman year of college. The Monkey just turned five in December, so he should be going to college 13.5 years from now, so I'm discussing what might be available to him in the summer of 2022. I'm going to assume that he'll have the higher-end of consumer electronics, which isn't too big a leap given his already evident proclivity for gadgets (and my tendency to be willing to purchase them).

As a point of reference, let's look at what sorts of technology were available 13 years ago, around the summer of 1996. At the time, the cell phone market was just beginning to take root in the US. I myself had a decently-powered computer (I think it was a 486) and it probably had a first-generation 3D graphics card. The first Palm Pilot was released in 1996 (although I didn't get one until late 1999); it had half a megabyte of onboard memory, almost laughable by any modern standard. All televisions were tube-based; the first flat-panel screens hit the market in 1997. The hard drive in my computer was about 500 MB in size, about 1/1000th what I have now. I'd never even heard of an MP3 file, although I was admittedly a little behind the curve on that one. The only Internet connection I'd ever used was dial-up.

Today I have almost continuous access to the Internet through my work and home computers, the wireless network at home with several devices connected, and my cell phone. The iPhone has changed the idea of a palm-held computer. My graphics card has as much onboard memory memory as that old hard drive, and my current hard drive holds 300 GB (with a planned upgrade to 1 TB). In fact, the smallest thumb drive available on Newegg, at 1 GB, costs less than five dollars. I challenge you to find a non-flat-screen TV for sale. And Stephen Colbert recently did a (quite funny) joke about how outdated dial-up Internet is.

Okay, so that's where we were, and that's where we are. Obviously much more could be said about how far technology has come, but you can surely come up with your own examples. So here are my predictions for what the Monkey will have with him when he starts college in 2022.

He will not carry a laptop or desktop. His only computer interface will be through a hand-held device, probably about the size of a cell phone. It will, of course, act as a cell phone, but it will also serve as every other computing device he needs. It will have the capability of interacting with a monitor and keyboard, probably wirelessly. He'll be able to walk up to any available workstation, consisting solely of a monitor and keyboard, and it will with little or no effort connect to his device and customize itself to his liking. He will have no other use or need for a separate computing device.

Chances are his data will not even be stored on this device, so it will have no need for internal storage. It will have an always-on connection to the Internet, and every bit of data he needs will be stored on remote servers. For example, he will not "buy" MP3s off a service; he will have a subscription that gives him access to his music, which will be streamed as required to his device when he needs it. Losing the device will be almost inconsequential; you just go buy another one, tell it who you are, and all your information is available. This sort of technology exists in a primitive form today. I use the Steam gaming service. I buy a copy of a game online and download it to my computer. If I go to another computer, I can log in to the service, download another copy of the game, and pick up where I left off.

There will be no difference between a computer and a television. Instead of waiting for a specific timeslot for a television program, the Monkey will simply be informed on his handheld device when the program is ready, and the next time he's near a monitor he can watch it through the device, again streamed realtime while he's watching it.

I suspect books will still exist as we think of them, but they will be far more rare. The Monkey will be used to reading books on his handheld or a monitor connected to the handheld. "Old-style" books will be reserved for particular needs: large color pictures, easy reference, or maybe just nostalgia.

To the Monkey, immediate access to any piece of information will be completely natural. Navigating the enormous amounts of information available on the Internet will be second-nature and he will be able to process the information in ways that are alien to me now (and probably will still be then).

Note that I'm not making any sort of statement on whether this technology is "good" or "bad." My simple point is that I think this is where technology is headed in the next decade or so. It seems far-fetched, but when you reflect on how far this sort of wizardry has progressed in the last 13 years, it doesn't seem too out there. I'll revisit this topic from time to time, but until then plan on meeting me back here in the summer of 2022 to see if I was even close to the mark.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


The Monkey spent the afternoon inventing a walkie-talkie. It has an antenna, a movable switch and (not shown in this video) a solar-powered rechargeable battery. I'm not even kidding. It also has pretty good range, as apparently it can be used to talk to people in space. Pretty impressive specs for three bucks worth of plastic.

You may have to turn up the volume... apparently my phone doesn't have a great microphone:

The Monkey's new invention from cbalmain on Vimeo.

A single tear rolls down my cheek.

The Internet - the way it used to be...

No matter what you think of Stephen Colbert's style or politics, it's hard to deny that he's a funny guy. This clip was on last night and had both Ann and me laughing pretty hard. It's also interesting to watch this clip with the understanding that my children will never get this joke.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I made this!

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Is socialism bad? If so, why?

With the election of Barack Obama and the implementation of his policies to shore up the worsening economy, I’ve heard a lot of people throw around the word “socialism.” I will freely admit that I do not understand economics; I have little education on the subject, just enough to know that it’s incredibly complex and that there are a lot of people who are way smarter than I am who still don’t understand what’s going on. So I ask these two questions in complete seriousness:

What exactly is socialism?
Why is it such a horrible thing?

People typically say things like, “Socialism will make us like France”, or worse, “Like Soviet Russia!” without really explaining these statements. Getting beyond the political ramifications of a socialist agenda, does it really make for bad economic policy? Should I expect my children or grandchildren to be standing in bread lines and buying Levis on the black market because of Obama’s alleged socialist agenda?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lite Brite

The standard modern Lite Brite ships with a small, sealed bag of 200 plastic pegs. However, if you allow a 5-year old to open the bag of pegs, and he does so with the bag upside down, and the pegs spill out onto the kitchen floor, the number of pegs will magically increase to 15,000.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dancing Queen

I've been terribly remiss in my posting lately. Things have been busy at work, the kids have been sick off and on, and Ann and I managed to get away for a cruise last week. I'll get back into the posting-groove soon but until then please enjoy this latest video of Vanilla Bean dancing...

Vanilla Bean dancing it up from cbalmain on Vimeo.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A good belly laugh

Today for lunch we had grilled bratwurst. Normally the Monkey loves sausages, but he was a little wary this time. Ann served him some, he looked at it, and said, "What's this?" I said, "It's bratwurst." There was a pause, and then he said:

"Raw horse?"

I haven't seen Ann laugh that hard in a long time.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Books for the cruise

Ann and I are going on a cruise in two weeks, sans kids (this is a vacation, not a family trip). During our last cruise, I managed to read three books cover-to-cover in seven days, so I figure that on this five-dayer I should be able to get through two pretty easily. Here's what I'm considering:
  • Joel Olsteen's Your Best Life Now. I know, I know - but here's the deal. People bag on this guy CONSTANTLY, and admittedly I do too. But to be honest, I don't really know what the guy's preaching, and it'd be interesting to know what the message is straight from his mouth. The only problem is I think I would be embarassed to be caught reading this by the pool.
  • Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope. Again, I know... but the fact of the matter is that this guy is going to be president for four to eight more years and I want to know where he's coming from without the filters of biased journalism.
  • The Last Colony. This is the third book in John Scalzi's sci-fi series, the first book of which I read on the last cruise and absolutely LOVED.

So besides these three, I'm at a loss. Any suggestions?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

16 Things About Me

Last week, T tagged me to come up with sixteen things about myself. After putting it off, here's my list:

1. I consider Raiders of the Lost Ark to be the greatest example of cinematic art ever created.
2. I have dived to 120 ft deep and climbed to the top of Mount Fuji, but otherwise I’m not really much of an outdoorsy person.
3. My favorite hobby is PC gaming, one I've enjoyed pretty much non-stop since we got our first computer in 1986.
4. If I could wear shorts every day of my life, I totally would.
5. I am married to the single most patient and understanding person on the planet.
6. I never believed the idea that kids were all that different, until I had two kids of my own who are totally and completely different.
7. I love to read. Lately I've been on a kick about polar and naval exploration and food history, although I always enjoy a good sci-fi. Unlike T, I can't handle reading more than one book at a time.
8. I am fortunate enough to work at a job that I consider to be just about the coolest in existence.
9. I will eat anything at least once.
10. I love sipping a good wine (I'm a horrible Baptist), although I probably wouldn't know a good wine from rotten grape juice if I were tested on it.
11. My idea of the perfect date: takeout Freebirds and a movie rental. Fortunately, Ann thinks that's a pretty good date too.
12. If I could choose how to die, I want to be hit by a meteor.
13. I can juggle three balls really well and three pins so-so.
14. I can't play a single musical instrument, although I'm a decent tenor.
15. I consider Lost to be the greatest television show ever made.
16. It's really hard for me to come up with 16 things about myself that anyone else is likely to find interesting.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How not to design electronics

I'm sitting here on a phone conference with some people in Japan, using my home cordless phone connected to a headset. I'm at a desk, near a charging station, and the battery on the phone is showing low power levels. I'm not moving around and don't plan to, so I figured I'd drop the phone on the charger to make sure the battery doesn't die while I'm talking.

You totally know where this is going, don't you? As soon as I place the phone on the charger it disconnects the call. The call with about eight other people, most of whom are in Japan. What kind of electronics design prevents me from using a phone at the same time that I recharge it?! Come to think of it, I can't think of any other piece of gadgetry I own that doesn't allow me to operate it while it's being charged. This is also the same phone system that doesn't let me use two handsets on the same call (which my last cordless system did let me do). So if I'm in a call and the battery is running low, there doesn't appear to be either a way to swap to another phone or to charge the one I'm using.

AT&T E1813B user rating: 5 Stars of Sucking out of a possible 5.

Oh, yeah, and they're ugly as sin.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Christmas conundrum

Ann and I have never made a huge deal about Santa Claus. When I was a kid, my parents told me the truth about Santa when I was about six, and I recall thinking that I kind of already knew it was all a big myth. I want my kids to have enough fun with it to not ruin it for the other kids, but I also don't want them to ever have reason to question the REAL Christmas story.

A couple weeks before Christmas the Monkey and I had the following conversation:

Me: "Hey, buddy, you know Santa Claus isn't REALLY real, right?"

Him: "Yeah." (Long pause). "But if that's true, then who leaves the presents under the tree?"

Me: "Well, Mommy and I do."

Him: "But then who leaves the presents for you and Mommy?"

Me: "Mommy and I leave those presents too."

Him, after another long pause: "But then you know what the presents are."

Me: "Yeah, that's right."

At this point I made a critical error. I blinked. I imagined his confused little mind, and somehow thought I would make it better by blurting out:

"Unless Santa really does it."

Him: "Daddy, you're making this ALL up."

And that was the end of that conversation. He'd determined that I had no idea what I was talking about. About a week later, out of nowhere, he asked, "Daddy, who really leaves the presents under the tree? For real?" I said, "Mommy and I do." I guess he decided that I'd told him the truth this time, because he said "Okay," and that was that.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops

Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops by James Robert Parish

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
An interesting, if somewhat dry, look into the decisions that resulted in some of the biggest movie flops in history. It's amazing how often people can see a major disaster coming and for whatever reason choose not to cut their losses while they can. Of course, this is a problem not relegated to the movie industry and I found myself trying to apply the lessons-learned from this book to my own projects. What am I working on today that I might someday look back on as being an obviously bad idea? Am I being blinded by pride or overcommitment or desire, so much so that I walk off a very evident cliff?

Parish's writing style tends to be a little dry with several sections of the book feeling like filler. He also has a very strange tendency to (over)use parentheticals - just like I did there. I can't tell whether it's a bad technique, but it tends to be distracting. And it'll be even MORE distracting now that I've pointed it out.

Also, Warren Beatty sounds like a real jerk. I'm just saying.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Random question

What mythical creature would you most like to eat? Here are a few options:
  • Unicorn. I suppose it would taste a lot like horse.
  • Dragon. Crunchy on the outside, gamey on the inside.
  • Chinese dragon: The same, but with more MSG.
  • Mermaid. Particularly good when prepared as sushi.
  • Yeti: More hair than meat.
  • Leprechaun. Best when served with a side of Lucky Charms.

Feel free to come up with your own.

Videogames as art

In the videogaming community, there's an ongoing debate as to whether games should be classified as art. Unfortunately the discussion usually comes up as a way to protect particularly graphic games, such as Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto franchise. The argument goes that since games are inherently art, they are protected by the First Amendment and thus their creation or distribution should not be limited by the government.

The idea that all games can be classified, and thus protected, as art is clearly ridiculous. Obviously, some photography is clearly art. Hardly anyone would argue that Ansel Adams' photos of the American West are anything less than artistic beauty. This picture, on the other hand, is not art:

That's a picture of my left foot that I just took. Movies provide a similar example: classics like Casablanca, high-quality animated films like Beauty and the Beast or just about anything created by Pixar would all qualify as art in my mind. Caddyshack, on the other hand - not so much. Although it is a phenomenally funny movie.

All this is to say that I recently completed a video game that I do think qualifies as art. Bioshock has been out for about a year and a half but, due to limitations with my computer, I didn't start playing it until about two months ago. Everything about this game is a testament to what games can be when they are crafted carefully and skillfully. It takes place in an underwater dystopia with an art deco/Ayn Rand-ian motif. (All screenshots come from

The art decoration is simply stunning - a world is created that is both fantastic and believable, with distinctly separate but consistent environments.

Keep in mind that the above screenshot comes from inside the game engine. This is what the game actually looks like when you play it.

I won't get into the storyline, but it should suffice to say that it is one of the best I've ever seen in a game, and rivals anything I've seen in a movie or even in most books. The mid-game twist was the best experience I've had in a game since Knights of the Old Republic.

Even the characters in the game are carefully scripted and created. The primary enemy boss, called a "Big Daddy," is amazingly realized as an overpowered drone in a deep-sea diving suit.

The world is populated by the standard shooter game cannon fodder, but also has unique personalities that you encounter and interact with that will leave you thinking about them for a long, long time.

From a technical standpoint, the game still holds up startlingly well even 17 months after it was released. The water effects are easily the best I've ever seen in a PC game, the lighting is well constructed and well utilized, and the scope of the environments is staggering.

All this is to say that Bioshock stands as a rare example of a game that clearly can stand as a work of art. Games in and of themselves are not intrinsically art, but this one truly exemplifies that careful crafting can result in a product that is far more than the sum of its parts.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The rough days are coming...

Yesterday Ann came in to the kitchen and found Vanilla Bean looking like this:

Sure, I guess it's cute now, but in another ten years she's gonna want to be doing this for real. And Daddy won't be very happy about it...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Another smiley video...

I know there's nothing worse than a blog that doesn't actually generate any NEW content, but merely posts links to other stuff on the Internet. That being said, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to show this video. The creator, Matt Harding, was sponsored by Stride gum to travel around the world and video himself doing this goofy dance - and then see if he could get other people to do it as well. The result is a strange but uplifting little video that showcases what sort of bizarre stuff the Internet can spawn. If you're not grinning fifteen seconds into the video, then you need to figure out where you left your soul.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Tea blends

I recently created a tea-blend on Adagio - Earl Grey with a hint of vanilla. I've got it on order and it should arrive early next week. You can check it out here. I also ordered a blend called "Pirate's Spice," which combines vanilla oolong, pumpkin, and rum. If this goes well, I may try some other blends as well.