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Thursday, June 30, 2005

I now know why USPS is always late

I was a bit groggy this morning and managed to leave for work without my cellphone. Talk about feeling naked, feeling out of touch. So of course I had to leave the office at 11:00 to run home for "lunch" and grab it. On the way back I got stuck behind the worlds slowest moving USPS delivery truck. Now when I say slowest moving I mean 10 MPH and not an iota faster. At first I thought it was looking for an address or a place to park and was willing to be patient. But it kept plowing ahead, taking every turn I needed to to get to work. After following it for nearly a mile I finally found an opportunity to take a turn it was not and escape it slow slow clutches. REALLY NOW I know the US government is a slow moving organization, but does that mean it's delivery trucks need to go 10MPH down city streets with a speed limit of 35 MPH?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

So busy

Things have been busy. I mean seriously busy in the life of Sparky. Things have been crazy at work and I've been pulling more hours than I would normally care to. The economy is picking up and it's taking some extra hours to keep up with things. I'm hoping it calms down soon - that or I start to make some serious bank to make up for the extra effort. Last weekend was Seattle's gay pride parade and Brien and I went up with Skype. Aside from that madness I did very little aside from work and play with Second Life. What with keeping up with work, my Gear Live blogging duties, and balancing Brien and Skype I just haven't had time to blog on Sparktoblog much.

Nor do I have time to do so tonight.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Busy, bad, and behind the times

The last two days have kind of sucked. I had some failure problems with my Powerbook and ended up basically losing a day to it. Yesterday I got to work at about 6:30 in the morning because I'm behind in my work and have to catch up. I get there to discover the problems and end up having to go home and back up what data I could to swap out some things and then reinstall tiger. Once I finally got all that done I got back to work and was there until they had to take down the servers a at almost 8:00 at night for some maintenance. Luckily I'm good about backups, and I'm pretty much back on track now. I'm still behind, but so long as I keep on working some extra hours I should be caught up and back on track in no time.

Anyone who has not checked out the Second Life really should. It's a virtual burning man of sorts and a very user supported/created environment. I'm impressed with it so far and am looking forward to having some more time to more fully learn it's scripting environment and start creating some content for it.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A big weekend

A lot of stuff happened this weekend! Things started out on Friday night with Brien's actual birthday. I took him out to dinner and we had a pretty good time. He ended up going out till all hours of the morning (about 7:30 in the morning actually) but I stayed home to rest of up the big party on Saturday.

Come Saturday morning I got up bright and early and went in to work for a few hours to catch up on some things. Following that Skype and I went for a long walk and waited around for Brien to wake up. At about 3:00 in the afternoon he finally stirred and we went up to keep him company while he got ready and got some coffee in him.

Dinner at the Wasabi Bistro was a bit of a disappointment - nobody showed! Everyone was either drunk from the Fremont Fair, or had been in an auto accident, or something. Brien and I had a quiet (but for him drink filled) meal, then we drove over to Fremont to collect up some of the Fremont Fair victims and drag them down to the Merchant in Pioneer Square.

The Merchant is an unfortunate little club with (at least on that one and only night I'll ever be there) bad house music, and a worse crowd. There is something particularly annoying about drunk straight people and more-so when they are the type that is drunk and at a club at 10:00. Luckily Brien didn't want to hang out there too long and we all headed to the Noc-Noc.

The Noc-Noc was really not my type of bar, but was actually pretty fun. It's a pretty gothic little place, but had good music. Watching the goths dance was pretty fun, and by that point Brien and the rest of the crew were pretty hammered so as the designated driver I had plenty of entertainment. I got to watch torpid floggings at the next table, while our crew laughed and drank till last call. Brien got pretty hammered (and I do have to say I might be slightly to blame for that) and when things wound down his roommate and I poured him into my car and I took him home.

The next day brought a couple of things: Fathers day, my first blog post going live (and later in the day my second) on Gear Live, and an afternoon with Mikba and Cyns on their deck with a very hung over Brien. They had gotten a giant salmon and were cooking it on the BBQ when we got over. Most of the afternoon was just talking while Skype frolicked in the back yard with another puppy named Jackson.

I kind of wish I had a weekend from my weekend. I'm pretty tired going into my week today and am going to have to make sure I get a solid nights sleep tonight!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Beating the allergies the hard way

Today was somewhat miserable allergy wise. Even taking the drugs my doctor had given me I was pretty stuffed up all day and sneezing for most of the morning and afternoon. I finally took some over the counter medications just before my workout and that helped. The over the counter stuff makes me quite drowsy but I can deal with that on a quiet night at home like tonight.

The most exciting news of the day is I'm going to be making my first foray into group blogging shortly. I'm going to be joining the crew at Gear Live for a while. If I can keep up with it and things go well I might become a permanent blogger there. Not to fear - I'll still be posting my mindless drivel here, but I'll be funneling most of my more technology oriented thoughts and reviews that way. If I post something that I'm particularly excited or proud about I'll have to link to it from there. My first post should go live next Monday so keep an eye out over there!

Electro prefunk

Well in wake of a few crappy events I'm feeling good about myself, and keeping a positive outlook. At this point I really don't care if my identity is stolen as I have talked to my bank and a few other resources and they have put measures in place to help protect me and ensure that should something bad happen I won't be held liable for it.

I'm taking it all in stride and life is going well. I've had a few allergies today, but other than that it's been a very upbeat and productive day. I'm very pleased that life seems to be going my way again. Tonight after I work out I have very little on my agenda and I'm looking forward to having a quiet night at home with Skype. I'm going to plunk down in front of the TV and get some quality relaxation in!

I've been quite into Electro/Funk/Early 90's music in the last couple of weeks. I've downloaded quite a bit from eMusic and am quite happy with it. Two albums everyone should check out are "Ambienisim" and "Funk Electric", both compilations with excellent taste and style.

I'm strongly considering trading in my Zen Micro for another iPod. I love the Zen, but always had a soft spot for the iPod. The reason I got rid of my original iPod was because of how much I hated iTunes for Windows. The iPod really is the best media player out there, but if you have to use horrible software to get music on and off of it then the whole thing is kind of pointless. Now that I've used iTunes for the Mac I'm very impressed - it's a much better implementation and is calling out for me to get an iPod to go with it. I would run out and do it now, but I can't afford it right at the moment what with all the drama going on. I'm thinking of selling the Zen Micro and then seeing if I can sell my old TabletPC for a couple hundred dollars to get an iPod and build back up my savings a little bit.

Monday, June 13, 2005

And then it got worse

So the weekend was actually pretty fun for the most part. I played with puppies, watched movies, and in general was a bit of a couch potato. Two friends of mine - Adam and Scott - came by at one point or another and relaxed with some content.

The bad news is that I was opening my mail from Saturday and discovered something from Citibank. As we all know they have some serious IT issues and have such bad practices as making unencrypted backups and sending data to credit reporting agencies on unencrypted data tapes. Unfortunately a few weeks ago one of those tapes was "lost" and has yet to be located. That tape has over 3 millions loan victims personal information and payment history on them, including name, address, birth-date, social security number, and their entire payment history with Citibank and all of the credit information that Citibank has in it's location.

The bad news is that the letter I got from Citibank informed me that one of my loans (most probably my mortgage) was acquired on the back end by them and I was now a customer of theirs. The worse news is that my information was on the tapes that they "lost". So now I get to go running around checking my credit report once a month for the next five years to ensure that nobody gets a chance to commit fraud or take out loans in my name. I've dealt with identity theft before, and it's not so much a risk of losing money - it's a risk of having your credit rating trashed and losing oodles of your time.

*sigh* I'm going to look around and see if there is a class action suit or something I can join. I really blame Citibank for this - what financial organization is stupid enough to snail mail unencrypted client data? I mean seriously - did they not think something bad would happen at some point? If nothing else I hope this catches the eye of the Federal Credit Bureau and they start making policies about what responsibilities a financial organization has to it's customers to protect their personal data.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Mother Mother come again

The last two days with mom have been fun. We haven't done anything too terribly exciting, but it's been nice to just hang out with her and Monty and catch up. I've been seeing Mom a lot more in the last couple of days than I normally do.

After a quick breakfast they just headed to REI then back to Walla Walla while I sit here in my living room, watching music videos by Chris Cunningham and chill with Skype. I've been impressed by this boxed set - there are a lot of very cool music videos and short films in here that are hard to find in other places.

Last night I think I managed to hurt myself working out with Tres. My neck is quite painful right now and I'm trying to relax and stretch to make it feel better. I'm hoping that with a few days of relaxation this weekend everything will get better.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Of all the luck

So here I sit in the SafeLite Auto Glass shop waiting for them to clean out my car and replace the passenger window. Unfortunately I have to pay for it out of pocket as it's cheaper than my deductible. I'm suddenly very thankful for having an EDGE phone so I can at least get online and be somewhat productive. The connection is too slow to get any real sort of work done, but I can at least monitor email and chat to keep from dying of boredom.

I'm really starting to think our condo building has a bad apple in it. Our building is broken into about six times more often than the surrounding neighborhood according to the cops and the insurance company. I suspect that there is someone in the building letting their "associates" in and taking a cut. To add fuel to this idea is the fact that only the more "well off" individuals ever get their cars broken into (regardless of if they drive a nice car) so someone is telling the thieves which cars are most likely to have stuff in them. Luckily I've been keeping nothing of value in my car so it's not quite as bad - but it's still an inconvenience.

I'm trying to figure out how we can start combatting this problem. We have discussed various security methods and none of them seem to be a perfect solution. There are problems with alarm and camera systems, and a neighborhood watch program just does not seem like it could be effective. I'm brainstorming ideas of ways we could make the garage more secure - ideas anyone?

Not MotherF*#$@#@%$ again...

So it has happened again. For the 3rd time in less than two years my car has been broken into. Luckily this time I had a new car with immobilizer technology so they were unable to steal it (they just left wires dangling from trying to hot wire it), but did smash my window in and steal my gym bag. I called my insurance company and it's cheaper to fix than my deductible so I guess I just get to suffer on and fix it myself. *sigh*

Luckily they managed to steal nothing but my gym bag. It had a $5 lock and about $40 worth of my sweated out gym clothes in it. Good riddance - they can take it. I'm just glad that unlike previous times there was nothing of real value in the car. Of all the bad luck. At least my mom is coming into town tonight so I have a light at the end of what's shaping up to be a REALLY bad day.s

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Suddenly going my way

Today started out boring and normal. I woke up very early and ended up dragging my tired ass to work at around 6:30 so I could get extra work done. At lunch Scot and I went to Charlie's and I had what I had assumed would be my sinful meal of the day. I had a hamburger and salad and was quiet content.

During the afternoon I managed a few recruitment projects then headed to the gym to work out with Tres. By the end of the day I was quite tired and pretty much spent all my energy on working out my legs. After driving home I had some soup then went for a walk with Skype. Upon getting back I decided to drop in on Red Line to grab a croissant. When I got there I discovered to my delight that they had a double whammy of daily specials: the goodness and their new asparagus chipotle salad. Neither of these specials is remotely low fat nor good for my diet, but they are probably two of the best things I've ever had to eat so I had to trade in my modest plans of a croissant for a dose of artichoke heart goodness blended with the bold asparagus salads rich cheesy chipotle dressing.

And then I realized how good the world could be when you have a happy puppy, good food, and a special on Nova about ancient archeology!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What's in your bag?

So as oft as I am to scoff at blogosphere memes here I go bowing to one. A lot of people I know have been posting their "essentials" and listing the current contents of their bag. So here goes:

  • 15" Powerbook G4 - you really can run your life out of a bag these days!
  • Power adapter for the Powerbook
  • A Logitec Mx900 Bluetooth Optical mouse - If only Apple would swallow their pride and include a second button on the trackpad so I wouldn't have to carry around my own damn 2 (well technically 9) button mouse.
  • A Sandisk Cruzer Mini 1gb flash drive - every geek should own a thumbdrive
  • Sandisk 6 in 1 PC card adapter - why didn't Apple include an SD slot on the Powerbook?
  • Sandisk CompactFlash to PC Card adapter - The 6 in 1 sadly lacks the card type I use the most
  • 5 blank CD's - Like a boy-scout - always be prepared!
  • 2 blank DVD's - prepared for anything!
  • A 2 foot long USB extension cable - this thing comes in handy more often than I care to admit
  • HP 4355 Pocket PC - What parts of my life that I don't run out of a laptop I run out of a Pocket PC. With the thumb keyboard, bluetooth, wifi, and decent battery life its the perfect email appliance. It's in a leather slipcase which I use as a wallet to store my credit cards and identification.
  • Cingular Sony Ericsson S710
  • Power adapter for the S710 - Just realized I got a phone with a good battery life so I could avoid this. I guess I get to leave it at home!
  • Logitech Mobile Freedom Bluetooth Headset - You read the review so you know how I feel...
  • Creative Zen Micro 4 GB MP3 Player Black - gotta have the tunes!
  • Sony MDR-EX71SL Earbud Headphones - amazing little earbuds for my Powerbook or mp3 player
  • Etymotic ER-6 headphones - After some hard thought I'm leaving these at home from now on
  • 12 business cards for the consulting company I work for
  • 8 Sparktography Design business cards
  • A parking pass for my building at work
  • Printed resumes of two candidates I was working with. Not sure why these are still in there
  • My keychain with car, condo, condo building, work, work building, mail, and storage locker keys
  • 2 allergy tablets - thank god for Zyrtec
  • 4 Advil tablets - You never know when a headache will jump out and beat you over the head
  • 2 nutritional supplements
  • A tube of lip balm
  • 3 pens - 2 black, 1 blue.
  • 3 poop scoop bags for walks with Skype

Now I'm going to break the mold of the meme and add my own bit of special magic to it. Here is a list of software for my Powerbook that I can't live without (at least until I find something better!). I think this is far more appropriate as I use the bag primarily to carry my laptop and pretty much run my entire life out of a laptop these days.

Adium - The most amazing multi-network chat client I've ever used
BluePhoneElite - Now that I have a bluetooth phone I use this almost exclusively for call management
Ecto - the XML-RPC blogging tool I'm using to compose this post
Firefox - the worlds most flexible browser
Imageready CS2
Opera - the worlds fastest browser
Photoshop CS2
QuickLink Mobile - the software used to get my Powerbook online with my phone via bluetooth
TextWrangler - not quite as cool as Textpad for Windows, but damn close
Thunderbird - I run my life out of email, and my email out of Thunderbird

So there you have it - my life in a nutshell. The tools, toys, and gadgets that make my personal brand of madness possible!

--Update--
After reading through this I'm slowly working at ways of consolidating. Once I set it all out and looked at it I realized just how ridiculous this all is.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Better than ever before

Today is shaping up to be a pretty damn decent day. There are a lot of allergens out there in the air this morning, but thanks to some strong anti-histamines my doctor gave me I'm managing to survive a lot better than I had been on Friday. I already have three interviews lined up for today so this week could end up being even busier than last week.

Yesterday was fun and activity filled. In the early afternoon I went to a park to watch my friend Elliot set up a shade structure he designed for an upcoming outdoor music festival. I brought Skype and he got to play with some other dogs there at the park. Afterwards we headed over to my friend Mark's place in Bellevue. I picked Scott up on the way and we met up with an old co-worker of mine, Keith. Some food happened, some puppy romping happened, and Skype got to play a little bit with Mark's son Sean.

After I just went home and took it easy. Brien came to watch Family Guy then after American Dad finished up I just went to bed. I slept surprisingly well last night and was ready for my day today!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Fat and sassy

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Daniel's Broiler can really do steak right. Brien and I are sitting in a food coma on my couch watching pretty content pass across my screen. I had a glorious blue rare filet mignon smothered in blue cheese and boy I couldn't be happier. It's been a while (six weeks to be exact) since I've had a fatty meal and I must say at this point I think I've earned it.

Friday, June 03, 2005

End of a long week

I'm certainly glad the week is over. Today sucked. Sucked balls. Big hairy ones. Today mostly centered around my allergies, and a lack of relief. Luckily with a little prodding, some heavy medication, and a lot of patience and rest I've managed to finally get half comfortable. I went home early from work to pick up my prescriptions from the pharmacy and take a nap.

This week was pretty good at work. There was a lot to do and I was really busy but I managed to get a lot done. I haven't made a deal in a little while but I have a lot on right now and have a good feeling about the next couple of weeks. Hopefully I can get a couple of things to drop.

In tech news it looks like Apple is getting ready to drop a new line of powerbooks next week. I'm kind of pissed off because this means that I just spent a lot of money on something that is already out of date. There is a lot of speculation flying around as to wether the new powerbooks will be based on the G5, or an x86 based processor. I really hope it's an IBM chip - as expensive as they are the G4/5 line of chips kick Intel's ass performance wise. The only way that I can see that as a good move is in terms of battery life.

At my friend Randy's recommendation I'm giving Opera another try. So far I'm quite impressed. I don't like that it's not FOSS like Firefox, nor do I like that it lacks Firefox's open plugin architecture, however I have to admit to being impressed. It's really fast and so far seems quite stable. I'm going to try it out for a week or so and figure out if it can meet all of my needs. Something about paying for a browser makes me quite unhappy but if it means a fast configurable browsing experience then I'll consider it.

Shortly Brien will be home from work then we are going to settle in for a quiet evening of movies. After my week I'm all about low key, and what with the allergy medication doping me up I'm pretty excited about the thought of doing fairly little this weekend. Aside from Daniel's tomorrow I really don't have anything on the agenda.

Logitech Mobile Freedom bluetooth headset review

So given that I now have a new bluetooth phone I figured it was high time to get myself a good bluetooth headset. I read a number of reviews and compared different models. There were a few that appealed due to their geek factor (the Jabra Bluetooth BT800 Headset in particular because of it's screen and ability to dial phonebook entries) but given that they all got panned for poor audio quality or extreme weight I decided to look for something a little more practical. After reading extensive reviews of about 15 different headsets I settled on the Logitech Mobile Freedom Bluetooth Headset given that all the reviews were consistent in their praise of it's audio quality and comfort factors. Now that I have it I figured I would add my own review into the merry fray.

When I got the unit it was entombed in the standard plastic casing that requires near military levels of might and force to open. Luckily I have an implement designed for the job and made quick work of opening the package to reveal the headset, instructions, and an A/C charger. As per the instructions the first thing I did was plug the charger into it and let it sit for four hours. The charger itself is well designed and fairly small. The plugs are rotated 90 degrees from a normal plug and the brick is narrow enough to plug it into a power-strip without blocking any other outlets. The adapter has a decently long cord with a small plug that fits neatly into the backside of the headset.

While it was charging I took a moment to read the manual and look at the actual headset. It was a little larger than some of the others I've seen, but just as light. It has a very simple interface - a toggle switch for adjusting the volume, and an "action" button for turning the headset on and off as well as taking and rejecting calls. The action button is actually an LED which can turn red or blue to indicate various statuses. Although the simple user interface prevents some really advanced features it does make using the unit simple. You really only need to hit one button to do anything (aside from muting - you press and hold the volume button for a second to do that) and it's pretty intuitive in figuring out what you want to do.

Once the unit was charged I paired it with my phone. This process was surprisingly simple - I held the action button for 10 seconds until the light started flashing red and blue. This put the headset in discoverable mode and I just had to tell my cell phone to add a new device. After typing in the pre-selected password they were instantly paired. Now whenever I turn the headset on (pressing the action button for four seconds) they instantly pair and the headset automatically goes into headset mode.

I also paired it with my Powerbook. Unfortunately that broke the pairing with my phone so I won't be using it very often with the powerbook. For users who are looking for a good VOIP headset this might be an ideal solution. OSX fully supports the headset profile and when it was connected routed all sounds through the headset. I did a quick recording test and it did indeed pull audio in from the microphone as expected. After that experiment I re-paired the headset with my phone and started some audio tests to determine the sound quality.

The main selling point of the Logitech Mobile Freedom Bluetooth Headsetin my mind is its amazing audio quality. I called several people in a number of different situations. First in a quiet room with no air movement. I then turned on some music quietly in the background. Finally I went for a drive and tried the headset with the air conditioning off, on, and then finally with the drivers window open. For all but the final test wit the window open the headset sounded fantastic for both ends of the call. Some of the people I was talking to said it sounded clearer than when I was using the handset held up to my face. With the window rolled down (and the headset on the window side of my face) there was a little wind noise, however it was still possible to hear me - something that no other headset on the market could muster to my knowledge. With its 7 hours of talk time I could see using this for a majority of my phone calls!

Overall impressions:
I'm impressed and would give the Logitech Mobile Freedom Bluetooth Headseta 9/10 rating. It's quite usable, has incredible sound quality, and is comfortable enough that I can wear it for hours and nearly forget that it's there. The only two things I can mark them down on would be that the unit is slightly larger than some of the competition and that you can only pair the headset with one device at a time. I would find being able to pair it with two or more devices incredibly useful given that I have both a bluetooth laptop and cell phone. Well worth the $50 on Amazon.com!

Friday come again

Somehow even though this has only been a four day week it has seemed longer than most weeks. Don't get me wrong - I'm not necessarily complaining - I've gotten a lot of stuff done and it's been one of the more productive weeks in recent history - I just feel very tired at the end of it. I suspect that my sisters graduation is partly to blame as I never really got a chance to have a proper weekend, I also suspect that another contributing factor is that I've got tons of work to be doing right now and have been working longer than usual days.

All that aside this is shaping up to be a fun weekend ahead. Tonight after Tres and I work out my good buddy Scott is coming over and we are going to enjoy some fine food, fine drinks, and a few good movies (I'm still trying to decide which movies would be most fitting). Tomorrow I have big plans for Daniel's Broiler with some friends to reward myself for 6 full weeks of working out and to celebrate Jake's new corporate whoredom.

On a side note yesterday I got myself a Logitech bluetooth headset and I've been playing with it. I'm working on a quick review and you can expect to see it in the coming day or so.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Unwelcome energy

It's strange - in the last couple of weeks I've been more and more energetic. I attribute this to working out. A nice side effect of all that is that I'm needing less and less sleep. The problem is that I keep waking up early. This morning I woke up at about 5:30 and couldn't for the life of me go back to sleep. I guess it's good and all, but kind of annoying. I ended up getting out of bed at about 6:00, showering, walking Skype (nice long walk too!) and then just heading into work. It's weird getting here at 6:45 - it's dead silent. The only sound is that of my keyboard softly clicking as I type emails to clients. The coffee brews slowly and I drink it.

It could be worse.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Getting back into the swing of things...

The past two days at work have been fairly run of the mill. I've been waking up early and coming into work earlier than normal - yesterday I got here at around 7:00, and about 7:20 this morning. Normally I would take advantage of that and leave a bit early, but we have been so busy that I've been staying a bit late if nothing else just to try and stay on top of things. After taking 4 days off it's hard to get back into the work swing of things and feel productive.

Life has been keeping me busy after work as well. I'm still on a major workout kick (and getting more and more into it) and have really started to see results. I'm just hoping that I can lose the rest of my body fat soon so I can stop always being hungry. I've been spending a lot of time with Skype as well and I'm sure that's something he has been appreciating. Brien and I have seen each other quite a bit. Things are still going slowly, but I really think that is for the best.

Tonight promises to be a standard workout followed by a non-standard evening of dinner with Ken. Aside from that I've got some more work to do on a few projects that I have going on. I'm still working on some writing, and as well have a lot of photos from the graduation left to process.