Friday, March 30, 2012

Rooftop Gardens Part 1/2

I'm into things that are well designed. The Fish House by Guz Architects appears to be just that to my eyes.

 I Might Move in Even if it Only Has Medium Speed Internet

 Could Use a Bigger TV

 A Pool with Palm Trees in the Middle?  Fantastic.

 I Swear the Grass is Greener There

 We Could Have a Picnic on the Roof

You can find more pictures of the place here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Little Literature Won't Kill You

but it's likely that worms will play a role in the decomposition process.

Shockingly, I read the following to a man in his sixties the other day only to be told by him that he had never heard or read it before.  That the following is apparently not part of the common culture of all people literate in English bothered me enough to reproduce it here:

The text in the image above is, of course, "The Conqueror Worm" by Edgar Allan Poe.  I really do think that these five stanzas deserve to be more widely known since they are incredibly well written.  To help achieve that end I combined the text with a stock photo in a handy downloadable .jpg format.

The photo used in above image is from the stock section of

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Don't Forget to Wear Green

Going Green

Today is the day when guys typically put on a T-shirt with a shamrock printed on the front, girls put on a green top or accessory and Starbucks employees wear the same apron they do every other day.  A lot of green beer will be drunk today, which means it's time to watch this:

For those of you who have been following this blog 
since last December, I hope this isn't getting old

Apparently, I was wrong.  It's too early for us to watch this.

Clean Sheets and Dirty Girls Guide to St. Patrick's Day Drinking

An episode of Archer that premiered this March introduced me to the concept of the Green Russian, which consists of absinthe and half and half.  If you're hosting a house party, you might want to work on the proper mixture before the festivities begin because a traditional White or Black Russian relies on the deliciousness (why didn't spell check underline deliciousness?) that is Kahlua.  Simply replacing that with absinthe sounds awful.  In any event, here is way I mix my Las Vegas drink of choice, a White Russian:
4 oz. vodka 
3 oz. Kahlua
Splash of half and half

Monday, March 12, 2012

Roku Instead of Time Warner Cable

Cutting the Cable TV Cord

Time Warner Cable charges too much and provides too little service to their customers.  So I cut ties with them.
I failed to include the peasants screaming in vain at the 
gates of the evil Time Warner Cable castle.  Also, I realize
that these scissors are gigantic.

I don't like signing multi-year agreements for anything because the company I'm dealing with has less incentive to care about the service they are providing.  Years ago my nearby Gold's Gym was taken over by Bally's.  The physical location and all the equipment inside the gym remained the same but the management changed for the worse.  Instead of paying for a gym membership every month, Bally's insisted that I sign a three year membership deal.  Because the gym was close to my high school and a lot of my friends from school used that gym I decided to continue my membership.  Of course, when it came time for me to leave and go to college Bally's refused to close my membership until I could show them written proof that I was moving out of the city and away from their gym.

One of the guys I knew in high school signed an agreement with Bally's on a Friday afternoon.  On Saturday, he got a speeding ticket that cost him several hundred dollars.  He called Bally's just hours after getting the ticket to explain that because of the money he would need to spend paying the ticket, he could no longer afford to pay them.  Bally's did the classy, understanding thing: sent a collection agency after him to either get the money or ruin his credit.  Yet another reason I don't like multi-year deals.

In December, the entertainment fund was raided to purchase a new high definition TV to replace the massive, ancient standard definition 32" set that was inherited from my Grandfather.  When I took Grandad's set to the dump, I learned that it weighed 160 lbs.  Right after the guy at the dump took it and weighed it for their records he accidentally allowed it to topple over smashing the screen to bits in a gloriously loud burst of broken glass and cracking wood (yes, my previous TV was old enough that it had a wooden frame).

In December of 2011, once I got the old TV out, I needed a new cable box capable of outputting a signal in high definition to replace the existing standard definition cable box.  I packed up my cable box and drove it over to the evil Time Warner Cable store.  The three bloated and partially decomposed bodies hanging by loops of coaxial cable at the Time Warner Cable entrance were a bit of an off putting sight.  Massive black vultures pecking at the bodies flew off their perch atop a sign reading "Disgruntled Customers" no doubt startled by the sound of my car.
True Story

I found the situation inside to be even more disturbing.

A Time Warner Cable employee sat behind the counter sucking at the severed end of a femur.  "Marrow?" he offered holding up the other half of the femur to a female employee who had just returned from a backroom, which I would swear was filled with nothing but flames.

Between sucks on his bone, the guy behind the counter at the cable company told me that because I still had four months on a two year contract, I could rent a new HD cable box and but would have to keep the current standard definition cable box, which is now worthless to because it doesn't offer any connectors that match up to the new TV.  I looked at the guy in disbelief until both he and his female manager explained to me that they couldn't simply exchange cable boxes without me having to pay a $150 fee to break the contract.  I offered to give them the old box but they didn't even want to take that insisting that I would have to drive back to their office in four months when my current two year agreement expired to return it.  To explain my options more clearly she opened the door to the flame room and pointed inside.  So, the old cable box would have to take up space in my home unused and gathering dust.  None of this was explained to me when I called Time Warner Cable ahead of time to discuss the process of switching cable boxes.  In fact, the Time Warner Cable representative I spoke with over the phone said I could simply bring in the old cable box and switch it out for a new one.

Roku Comes Into My Life

Because I officially dislike the service provided by Time Warner Cable, I bought a Roku XD and canceled cable TV service.
Looks Good Enough

Connect Roku to TV
I found that setting up the Roku unit was very easy.  I plugged in an HDMI cable (which really should be supplied along with the Roku unit but, unfortunately, was not) to the Roku and the other end into the TV.  Then, I entered the password for my home WiFi network, which is *************, to connect the Roku unit to the internet.

Setup Roku Channels
Once you have your Roku unit plugged in to your TV, you have to set it up with what they call channels, which are basically feeds from video content providers that have been coded for display on a Roku player.  Netflix, Crackle, Hulu Plus, Disney, the major sports networks and a few other content providers have setup their own channels for Roku.

Netflix Comes Built In
Access to the Netflix library of content is really my goal in owning a Roku unit.  The way I see things, $7.99 a month for access to the Watch Instantly library of Netflix content beats paying more than $100 each month for hundreds of cable TV channels that somehow never have anything I would like to watch displayed on them.
A monthly charge of $8 is lighter on my wallet than $100+ for cable

The Verdict - Pros

At the time I compared prices and features in December of 2011, Roku was the only device in the greater field of internet to TV players that would output video in 1080p.  Perhaps someday Apple TV will get with the times and figure out how to output 1080p.

The Verdict - Cons

YouTube worked with Roku just fine in the past.  Sadly, sometime before I bought my Roku YouTube stopped playing nicely with Roku and now Roku refused to play YouTube content.

Roku has a MicroSD card slot on the back of the device I purchased.  Unfortunately, the unit doesn't allow me to save a video to a MicroSD card using my computer, plug it into the Roku unit and play back the video.  The slightly more expensive model of Roku, called XS I believe, has a plug that will allow one to attach an external hard drive and play back video, which I would have bought if I had to do it all over again.

TL;DR: Roku is a quality Netflix player capable of outputting video in 1080p, which is available for less than $100.  If I had to do it all over again I would buy the Roku 2 XS instead of the XD because the most expensive model can playback video from an external hard drive.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Math Problem

Math Time

Recently, the following math problem was posed to me:

What that chicken scratch above shows is a problem I have not yet been able to solve.  By what formula can one determine the area of the space in between three circles of the exact same size touching each other in the arrangement shown above? 

The area in the middle isn't a straight edged triangle, it's a three sided space with each side having a curve that somehow relates to the diameter of each circle, I think.

I'm going to keep thinking about this.  If anyone has any thoughts on the subject or could point me in the right direction I would appreciate it.  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Windows 8

Windows 8

On the evening of February 29, 2012 I installed Windows 8 and started playing with Microsoft's latest operating system.  At 3:30 a.m. I finally shut it down and got some sleep.  In the days between then and now I've been using Windows 8 in place of sleep to the same degree.  Below are my initial reactions, which focus on these super exciting topics:

  • Metro hasn't Replaced the Desktop, Just the Start Menu
  • Upgrading from Windows 7 was a Breeze
  • Metro Isn't Terrible
  • Transferring Files Looks Fancier
Can you stand the excitement?

Metro hasn't Replaced the Desktop, Just the Start Menu

The fact that the desktop environment looks virtually the same and that Metro has only replaced the Start button menu really wasn't obvious to me when I first began seeing images of Windows 8 in action.

Upgrading from Windows 7

The process of upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 8 was as smooth as freshly waxed skin.  After briefly waiting for the redness to go away, I found that all of my settings and what little data I kept on my computer (I backed up and removed almost all of my files before the update) made it through the upgrade with no problems.  Only one of the applications I had installed on Windows 7 refused to work once I upgraded to Windows 8 and the updating software made me aware of that issue before I committed to the upgrade.  Since I had only used that application once several months ago, I didn't think twice about losing it during the upgrade process.

Windows 8 - Missing Start Button / The Metro Interface

I had serious doubts about the wisdom of Microsoft for their decision to get rid of the Start button in favor of the brightly colored Metro interface.  How will office workers adapt to having their beloved Start button disappear?  Will IT departments bother to adopt this software if it will only cause them to be flooded with questions about basic functionality?  Shouldn't Microsoft create separate operating systems for tablets and PCs rather than force a touch screen swipe style interface on PC users? 

The Metro interface can be accessed in the same place the Start button used to be.  Pressing the Windows button on your keyboard or moving the mouse to the very bottom left of the Windows Desktop and left clicking once will pull up the Metro Interface.

I Still Don't Like the Bright Colored Boxes.
Customizing the Colors and or Adding Custom 
Background Images is Outside the Scope of this Post 
but may be Covered Later.

I was highly skeptical about the Metro interface before installing Windows 8, but now that I've used it for a little bit I'm completely comfortable with Metro.  The scroll wheel on my mouse slides the interface back and forth nicely.  I also tried playing with the interface without the scroll wheel and found it was most comfortable to use with the arrow keys rather than clicking holding and scrubbing the slider which is all the way along the bottom edge of the screen.

A quick right click will bring up an option to make all of your applications visible.  I do find it strange that selecting this viewing mode brings up icons for each program instead of the style of boxes that appear in the image above.  I'm no Khoi Vinh but when I design a user interface I try to make it consistent. 

The rest of the functionality of the Start button appears when moving the mouse over to the right edge of the screen.

Windows 8 - Transferring Files

The file transfer window got a bit more fancy in Windows 8 compared to previous versions of Windows.  Here is a screen capture of the window during a file transfer:

The horizontal line bounces up and down as the speed of
the transfer shifts and the green graph shows the history of the
speed of that transfer.  Fancy.

Towards the End of the Transfer The Window Looked Like This

I wish the built-in options for transferring files between two folders that contain files with similar information were more elegant.  Certainly Windows came a long way in Vista, if I recall correctly, when the functionality of selecting to replace, don't move or copy and keep both files by adding a number to the end of the file name was helpful.  What I would really like to see is an option for copying and keeping just the newer and/ or larger file to be built-in.

Update March 7, 2012, 1:56 p.m.:

I was wrong in writing the paragraph above.  Windows 8 does include options to intelligently combine two folders with similar files.  See:

Yeah, I do have a folder with photos of awesome foods.


I'm about to wrap things up with this post so don't let the door hit you on the way out.

I Would Constantly Fight the Urge to Crumple this Up and Trash It

This paper airplane doorstop is made out of plastic and at only $8 including shipping to my address here in the United States it's tempting.  Here is the link to the online store where you can buy this designer doorstop.

TL;DR: I geek out about Windows 8.  As usual, you could read the material in bold to get the gist of what I'm saying.