November 30, 2009

Take that, Darwin!

Somebody made a comment today that I hadn't really thought of before. We've all heard statistics about how little of our brains we use. In fact, the percentage seems lower every time they publish a new study. He (the commenter) basically said that how much (or more accurately, how little) of our brain we use disproves evolution. Well, disproving is probably the wrong word as I don't consider it ever having been proven, but you know what I mean. To me, the idea makes sense because an evolutionary process should result in exactly what's needed, and nothing more. Assuming evolution to be a logical process, where's the logic in "over-evolving" a brain that is capable of much more than we can possibly throw at it? Assuming evolution is (to some degree) a response to environment, how is it possible to "over-respond" so drastically? In almost every way, we're capable of much more than could ever be considered necessary. That's just not how evolution works.

November 19, 2009

History repeating?

Disclaimer: this is basically off the top of my head and isn't supported by a lot of "research" and "facts". And no, I'm not sure why those words are in quotations, it just feels right.

I have little experience with Apple's Mac OS, but I can tell you that it's pretty and intuitive, and not all that popular. That's not to say people don't like it, but the number of its users is fairly dwarfed by the number of other OS users (most notably Windows users).

Part of the reason the OS works so well is tight integration with the hardware, which Apple also makes. In the past, Apple reportedly toyed with the idea of making its OS compatible with other hardware but abandoned the idea. This could be chalked up to business sense, as Apple may have felt they would lose out on hardware sales by making their OS available in this way. They may have foreseen a major issue with software compatibility. Or perhaps Apple didn't want to lose some of the inherent control that comes with making both hardware and OS.

Contrast this with Microsoft, who in the beginning, was only in the software business. Microsoft was eager for their OS to be adopted by as many hardware makers as possible. Having accomplished that, it can be said that Windows has shortcomings in functionality and reliability for the sake of general compatibility. The result? Nearly every personal computer is designed to run Windows even if it isn't pre-installed, which it usually is. Equipped with Intel processors, even Apple hardware can now run Windows OS natively. Whereas Mac, unless you want to do some legally-grey-area hacking, still only runs on Apple computers.

Of course, the Mac vs. Windows article/blog post/book/rant has already been done. In fact, I've even done it. The point of this post is that I see a similar trend in the mobile phone market, this time involving Apple and Google--with iPhone and Android, respectively.

Apple reportedly worked with Motorola in the early stages of developing the iPhone, but ultimately decided to go it alone in creating both hardware and OS. The result is--not unlike an Apple computer--a beautiful device that's easy to use. But that inherent control is there. If you want a phone with a hardware keyboard, you can't get iOS on a different phone. If you don't like using iOS, you can't get a different OS on iPhone hardware. Apple even seemed initially reluctant to release a software development kit (though they have since done so and a virtual multitude of apps are available).

Enter Android. Google, mainly in the software business (technically the advertising business but the point is they don't make much in the way of hardware), has made Android open-source and customizable, making it possible for Android devices to be available from multiple manufacturers and wireless carriers. There have already been high-profile hardware releases from T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon. The only major carrier without an Android phone happens to be the one that exclusively carries the iPhone. But depending on which internet gossip you believe, we may be seeing an AT&T Android phone by Dell or HTC or both before too long.

So, what's the future of the iPhone? When it comes to mp3 players (and music sales), Apple is a dominant force. When it comes to computers, they seem to be more of a niche player. Will the iPhone follow one of these trends? A lot remains to be seen until Apple's contract with AT&T expires. In the meantime, Android is gaining popularity, and history may be repeating.

October 17, 2009

I (unintentionally) lied.

So I was all set to buy a sub-$200 HD digital camcorder, when I spotted a deal on this little beauty. It's a Sanyo Xacti HD1010, and since I had named my other choices Sammy and Kody I thought it would be coolfun to name him Zac. For just the proverbial "few dollars more," Zac has extras Sammy and Kody don't have, like a forward-facing viewfinder and 10x optical zoom, while providing the same video resolution and SDHC storage medium. The Xacti line are referred to as "dual cameras", meaning you can take still photos while shooting video and the video is unaffected. The pistol grip isn't the easiest to hold steady, so I'm working on that. For now, everything I shoot looks like a Bourne movie. My computer isn't necessarily old or underpowered, but it was designed with corporate America in mind and it isn't liking the HD video too much. Hopefully I'll have some example footage up soon.

October 10, 2009

Glad it's not my job...

I was thinking about how many experiences exist versus how many events. Take the same event that involved seven people and for the one event there are seven experiences. What started me thinking about it was remembering when my grandfather died. I knew him reasonably well and loved him but I think I focused on the fact that I was watching my mom lose her dad. My mom who obviously knew him much better than I did and had a more complex relationship with him. And my mom who I know much better than I ever knew my grandfather and who I have a more complex relationship with. In telling the story one could then pick any of several viewpoints or angles from which to tell it. A detached third-person omniscient? Or from her viewpoint? Or mine? Or her viewpoint from my perspective? That's when it started hurting my head. But it's interesting how people's experiences are different for the same event. And how their experience leading up to that event help to shape that event...or rather their experience of the event. And how the experience could've been completely different depending on when it happened. Or maybe not. Now my head hurts again.

September 19, 2009

Sketch tool

So a link from @shaymein caught my attention; it's a site that allows you to create cool-looking sketches. Here's an example from the site, which puts me in the mood for Big Bang Theory:

What's cool about all the published sketches is it basically shows how they were drawn, which is particularly interesting to someone like me, who has no artistic talent.

August 26, 2009

Cell phone cameras

I have mixed feelings about cell phone cams. I'm by no means a professional photographer, and my digital camera is nothing spectacular. But the pictures it takes are works of art compared to the pics my cell phone takes (well, that actually depends on the person taking the pictures, but play along). And people with cell phone cams are annoying sometimes. I can only imagine how much celebrities must hate them. But there's a reason they're so ubiquitous. It's handy. You have it with you. It's in your pocket. There are so many times I want to take a picture but don't have my "actual" camera with me. One such example, from outside a Faint concert:

Granada Theater

This isn't awful, but the pictures I took inside were. Some venues get a little edgy about cameras, but nobody minds cell phones. So they can be annoying but they're crazy convenient. Now if I could only keep my lens clean. I realize there will (for some quite some time) be a difference in the image quality between a cell phone cam and even a relatively inexpensive camera, but I look forward to the technology getting better. My current cell phone's picture quality is already miles ahead of my last one, and that one was miles ahead of the one before that (since it didn't have a camera).

August 21, 2009

Idea to make this more boring

Yeah I know that sounds difficult, but what if I used this to keep track of how many ounces of soda I drank a day? I'm trying to cut down, but I tend to thwart my own efforts by buying Orange Crush at the grocery store and keeping $1 bills handy to buy Mountain Dew in the morning. Mmmm Mountain Dew. Will you sponsor me, Mountain Dew? That's beside the point. Oh and I'm also addicted to Coke (the soda). Anyway, here's what a typical day (today) would look like:

Coke: 8
Mtn Dew: 20
Orange Crush: 24

Do the math and it gets depressing, especially since I don't remember drinking any water today. I'm gonna die. Okay so it's not such a great idea for this blog, but maybe not a bad thing to keep track of on a Post-it or something.

August 13, 2009

flashes of light, flashes of RAM

Was able to do a little star watching tonight, and even in my apartment parking lot in the middle of town, I saw quite a few meteors showering. There's so much sky to keep track of...many of them I saw out of the corner of my eyes, but some I saw full on with a blue trail across the night sky. Awesome, in the sense that Brother Osbeck would approve of.

I also got to play "IT Pro" tonight (as a profession, not some kind of lame computer game) for my wife's office. It was fun. I installed a new router with a similar setup to mine (Linux-based firmware upgrade). We'll see how it goes. One thing I discovered that I probably wouldn't like about such a profession: being alone in an office at night.

My wife is leaving DFW tomorrow for MSP. Her sister's getting married. I hope she has fun. I'm going to St. Louis over the weekend to say goodbye (for a while at least) to my cousin Emily, who's moving to China. She says she's gonna keep a blog, I look forward to reading it. Was listening to "The Opus" (a podcast by a friend in California) last night and he touched on John Hughes. It got me thinking I'd like to do a mix of songs from John Hughes movies and the moments they come from. Need to do some more research though, I haven't seen some of them in a while. One that particularly sticks out in my mind (besides the obligatory Simple Minds closing credits in The Breakfast Club) is the last scene in Sixteen Candles with the song If You Were Here by The Thompson Twins. Love that song!

August 4, 2009

Upcoming battle for my disposable income

I've got my eye on two competing products that should be out within the next month: the Kodak Zi8 (Kody) and the Samsung HMX-U10 (Sammy).

These are digital camcorders that shoot 1080p video onto expandable flash memory (SDHC up to 32 GB) for around $200. Both feature a roughly 2" LCD screen and one-click upload to youtube, as well as HDMI to connect directly to an HDTV (which I like even though I don't own an HDTV).

Mind you, neither of these is out yet, so this certainly isn't a review, just expressing my excitement and indecisiveness.

The case for Sammy: Samsung's product is more aesthetically pleasing to me. The body is angled, which looks cool and seems useful. The camera also features a set of on-camera editing tools. And it has animated thumbnails for easy video-selection. Both of these cams take stills in addition to video, but Sammy takes 10 MP images, as opposed to Kody's 5. It's not official yet, but it appears that Sammy is also coming out sooner than Kody, so my impatience likes it better. That having been said, Sammy seems to be getting more attention from gadget sites, while having almost nothing "official" said about it on Samsung's own web site (beyond the above-linked press release). Perhaps Samsung's tight-lipped-ness is garnering more attention from outside sources? But it leaves questions about some features unanswered: removable battery? Mic jack? Included/available accessories? Zoom? Get us some info, Samsung!

The case for Kody (made-for-TV movie title?): I think Kodak sometimes gets a bad rap because their products are made to be "consumer-friendly" and perhaps shunned by those looking for more "pro" features and image quality. But, Kodak has the advantage of specialization, concentrating more on cameras than electronics in general. Another advantage: experience with this particular style of cam. Kodak already makes the Zi6 and Zx1, which are similar in features and hardware, so you have to think they've worked out some kinks with these first two models. As far as features: Kody has an external mic jack, which I don't know how much I'd use, but love that it's included. Kody also features one-click uploading to facebook in addition to youtube, image stabilization, and includes an HDMI cable. Kodak also (even though it's (apparently) coming out later than Sammy) has lots of information about the Zi8 on it's website (linked above), including tech specs, included accessories, and accessories for purchase. One such for-purchase accessory is a remote control which seems useful for playback.

In general: I'm amazed that these cameras can shoot full HD footage for $200-ish. I realize it's nowhere near the quality of anything professional- or pro-sumer-grade, but still! That's cool! I'd like to see threaded lenses with some kind of zoom/wide angle add-on possibilities. Optical zoom would also be cool (Kody has 4x digital), but again, I realize there are limits to a camera this size at this price. Time will tell whether I become friends with Sammy or Kody (I'm sure they're holding their breath). I'll let you know (I'm sure you're holding your breath)!

July 26, 2009

"Just burgers. Just fries. Just better."

So goes the slogan of Mooyah, an up-and-coming burger joint franchise found in DFW/Houston/Austin. They probably don't say it, but the franchise is heavily influenced by In-N-Out Burger: The menu is simple, prices are good for what you get, fries are made fresh from potatoes in the store every day. You can even order your burger "Mooyah style" (echoing INO's "Animal style") or you can get the "Iceberger" (similar to INO's "Protein style"). Mooyah does offer a few more options with the black-bean or turkey burger. The store I went to also has no drive-thru, which I'm thinking is rare at INO. They use flat patties that fit the bun perfectly; on the Mooyah burger you get two of them. All toppings are free except for bacon and cheese.
I got a Mooyah burger Mooyah style with ketchup mustard and mayo, regular fries and Coke (because burger joints should serve Coke, Fuddruckers!) for just under $10. The food was out quickly and tasted good. The restaurant was packed! I would've tried a shake but I was stuffed and noticed they were made with soft-serve, so I wasn't in a hurry. The only real issue I have is I hate saying "Mooyah" so that makes the ordering a bit awkward.
I've only had the pleasure of eating at INO once, and while it's not quite the same, they at least seem to be going the right direction. I think Eric Schlosser would be pleased.

July 22, 2009

Quick reviews

So last week, Wednesday through Sunday nights I went and saw movies. I don't recommend this, or any of the movies I went and saw. Got it? But here's a few notes.

Wednesday: The Proposal (con mi esposa): I'm not into dudes, but Ryan Reynolds is hot.

Thursday: I Love You, Beth Cooper (with my mBear): This strongly reminded me of a cross between Can't Hardly Wait and Dude Where's My Car. Enjoyable. Not sure how well it would hold up to subsequent viewings though? Let's find out, mBear!

Friday: My Big Fat Greek Wedding (at Nasher Sculpture Center): It was a warm night to watch a movie outdoors. Again, not into dudes, but that John Corbett! 3U! While on the subject of John Corbett, some of the best scenes ever filmed of that guy are in the movie Serendipity, where he plays Kate Beckinsale's new-age-musician-boyfriend. Funny every time!

Saturday: Star Trek (with @ReallyIsaac): I had already seen this a few times. I have mixed feelings about it. In general, awesome. In particular, I wish it hadn't received so much "prequel" billing, because that's not really what it is. Before I saw it the first time, I read an interview with JJ Abrams about the fact that he used a lot of lens flare, and I noticed it, but for some reason this time I noticed HOW MUCH he used it. It's all over the place.

Sunday: (500) Days of Summer (with Isaac and @cookiecupcakes): I enjoyed it. Much more, in fact, than either of the people I saw it with. Again, it would be interesting to see how this one holds up to subsequent viewings. I don't know how to word this, but I like the way they handled the timeline. If you see it you'll know what I'm talking about. And I've said it before, but I love the movie poster. Speaking of which, another movie poster I love is The Time Traveler's Wife. How cute is Rachel McAdams?

So, yeah. This week I'm going to make better use of my time (referring of course to the movies, not the people I watched them with).

May 30, 2009

Hollywood is annoying (but it beats Dollywood)

I'm the first to admit it: I'm easily entertained. I'll sit through most movies one time through without much complaint (though I draw the line at Must Love Dogs). But what bothers me lately is that it seems like all the big movies have to be trilogies. Which is okay, but the trilogy is planned before the first movie even comes out? That's kinda like the studios are saying "you WILL like this movie!" or worse yet "you BETTER like this movie!" And the obligatory setting up of the next movie? Really? I like a little bonus for people like me who hang around until the credits are over but lately it's the villain coming back to life somehow or something equally lame (though, truth be told, I was giggling like a school girl about Nick Fury at the end of Iron Man and Tony Stark at the end of Incredible Hulk). That doesn't excite me for the next chapter so much as it just makes this one less satisfying. Jerks! Give the audience a little credit. Hide something that sets up a future plot in the body of the movie for those paying attention. Or make it good enough that people will want to see a sequel despite the lack of a hand-holding setup job. Or just make one really awesome movie and leave it alone. Back to the Future 2 and 3 had their moments but the original was awesome all the way through.

April 3, 2009

How many is this?

So I wonder between my two blogs how many of my entries were either (a) me wasting time or (2) complaining how much time I waste or (d) both. It's sad.

...but that having been said I'm doing it again. I don't know that I'm really an ADD sufferer or just a product of 80's TV culture or just entirely undisciplined metally but seriously it's inconvenient at times like this and it's getting old.

I used to hate it when my mom did this to me as a kid, but no matter how it goes--terribly or fantastically--in exactly one week it will all be over. So that'll be nice. But I've got work to do.

...and I'll start tomorrow. Well not start but continue's not saying much that I've started but it's something, right?

April 2, 2009

Money and time

If I'm going to stay up until 3 AM watching a West Wing re-run I've already seen, shouldn't I just buy it on DVD and ruin my sleep schedule on my own terms?

Or would therapy be more cost-effective? Plus I'm thinking therapy takes place during business hours.

March 29, 2009

Cover CD tracklist

Thanks to my complete inability to make a decision, I made like four versions of this mix depending on who I gave them to. Here's basically what they looked like:

Take On Me - AC Newman (covering A-ha)
Maybe I'm Amazed - Jem (covering Paul McCartney)
Nobody Does It Better - Aimee Mann (covering Carly Simon)
Iron Man - The Cardigans (covering Black Sabbath)
Gold Dust Woman - Hole (covering Fleetwood Mac)
Venus as a Boy - Corinne Bailey Rae (covering Björk)
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - Devo (covering The Rolling Stones)
Strangers in the Night - Cake (covering (the song made famous by) Frank Sinatra)
Personal Jesus - Johnny Cash (covering Depeche Mode)
The Passenger - Michael Hutchence (covering Iggy Pop)
The Man Who Sold the World - Nirvana (covering David Bowie)
Rock the Casbah - Solar Twins (covering The Clash)
Running Up That Hill - Placebo (covering Kate Bush)
Love & Other Bruises - Splendid (covering Air Supply)
Transmission - Hot Chip (covering Joy Division)
Baby One More Time - Travis (covering Britney Spears (sort of))
We Will Become Silhouettes - The Shins (covering The Postal Service)
She Don't Use Jelly - Ben Folds Five (covering The Flaming Lips)
Across the Universe - Fiona Apple (covering The Beatles)

I also rotated in For What It's Worth by the Candy Skins, a couple different Cake songs, and Hurt by Johnny Cash (overplayed but good). I really like Fly on the Windscreen by God Lives Underwater and SP's version of You're All I've Got Tonight but I tried to lay off since I've beaten them to death on past mixes. Let me know if you want a copy; I'll try to personalize it. Otherwise I think this has kept me from getting anything accomplished for long enough.

March 21, 2009

Cover songs

So I've been thinking about making a mix CD with cover songs I like. I thought I might give a copy to some friends so I wanted to make a proper CD cover:

It's not a real album

I wanted more of a cheesy vibe but I think I ended up with creepy.

I like covers when they're done well. Even disregarding the ones that aren't, limiting all the options to one CD is difficult. Lots of bands have had tribute CDs made for them; you could make a box set of nothing but Beatles covers (somewhere out there is an awesome bossa nova style remake of Hey Jude they used to play on an all-Beatles radio station). The Smashing Pumpkins have recorded enough to make a CD of nothing but covers. I'll share my tracklist when I finalize it, but in the meantime if anybody's reading, what song(s) would you include?

PS Does anyone have an mp3 of Kloey covering I Hear a Symphony?

January 20, 2009

Your music is my club

We probably all remember the old-school CD clubs, where you get free CDs up front as long as you agree to purchase a certain amount of CDs within a certain period of time. Columbia House switched to strictly DVDs and BMG is no longer around, but there is a new club of sorts called Basically, it's a subscription. You are charged $6.99 per month and have an online music queue. At the specified day, they charge you $6.99 and send you a CD with no additional fee for shipping and handling. If you DON'T have a CD in your queue, they still charge you $6.99. But having a CD in your queue is no big deal; I've already got a year's worth with about 20 minutes of work. The selection isn't great, but they'll always have at least one CD I don't mind paying $6.99 for. If you're a subscriber you can also buy any CDs you want immediately for the same price. Cool, huh? I think so, but I'm easily impressed. E-mail me if you care to join and I get a free CD out of the deal.

January 16, 2009

A Lame Problem

Well, it's not really a problem, but it is plenty lame. I've always been better at finding songs that I would like a girl to sing to me then songs that I'd like to sing to a girl. Am I self-centered? Or am I more picky about what I want to say then what I want to hear? I think that's it, because I can spin that. Seeing this in print, I see this is even more lame than I first thought. But I'm going to post it anyway. If you get a chance, check out "Somersault" by Zero 7. Or, if you really trust me, spend a buck and buy it (the radio edit is not for lyrics, but for those of us with short attention spans).

Also, TV on DVD is ruining my sleep schedule.