Our Alaska Trip

I finished a narrative of our trip to Alaska with more details than anyone would ever care about. However, if you feel that the rest of the interent is a little too exciting, then you might want to give it a read here. You can also read about many of our other trips on my Travel page, if you suffer from insomnia. Photos from the trip up to the Northern Frontier are also on Flickr (a bit less boring).

My Google Shift

I’ve been slowly adopting using Google’s office-like tools more and more. I know, G-Mail is so last year, and it’s a bit silly to just now be talking about me getting into it. I have no real intention of just giving up my POP e-mail account or stopping my use of Outlook to manage e-mails on my desktop (I couldn’t at work if I wanted to). However, I am beginning to use Google’s Calender and Reader more and more. They both have adopted some nice features, although some further integration would be nice1

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Google Reader got a face-lift and it has really become a very nice RSS feed reader. One nice feature that Google Reader has is Sharing. Where as my Gregarious page makes either entire feeds public or private, with Google you can simply share any one item and it is added to your public share page (here’s mine), which has it’s own RSS feed. So now, you can have a link dump (like Del.icio.us or similar) built straight out of your RSS feeds. What’s more, the share page is very minimalist in design and doesn’t clash with one’s sense of aesthetics as much as many other Google web projects (kind of that Fischer-Price my-first-web2.0-project look). I have given up on Gregarious at this point and switched over to using Google Reader, although I am still waiting on some features to be integrated, such as search (yeah, I know. It’s Google and they don’t have a friggin’ search field!). Gina Trapani of Lifehacker appears to also have become a Google Reader convert and that site has tons of tricks and hacks for using it to its fullest.

Last week came the announcement of Google Docs, which is the combination of Google Spreadsheets and Writely in one place. Spreadsheets has undergone a few minor tweaks since it was introduced, but looks and behaves essentially the same. Google Docs has dropped the look and feel of Writely in favor of a more Google-like appearance (Writely wasn’t bad looking and I’m not a huge fan of Google’s Fisher-Price theme, personally). The interface is very similar to Spreadsheets now. I do wish they’d create a public share method for these as well, as it would be a great way for me to share some engineering resources (sorry, not corporate secrets, just some spreadsheets of mine I’d like to open-source). I think some copyright/creative commons integration into public documents would be a great step, if Google happens to be reading this.

While I do have a PicasaWeb account, I really don’t see myself leaving Flickr anytime soon. My Flickr account is well established (and paid for for months to come), plus I have a lot of friends there who wouldn’t necessarily make the leap with me. That’s not to mention all the practical reasons for keeping with the Yahoo! owned photo site: I can get one hour developing at the Target down the street with them and I can’t (yet) with Google. Having my online life interact with my meat-space life is a pretty big deal and makes all this stuff worthwhile at the end of the day.

Since I’m on the subject of all things Google, Jason J. even nearly had the two of us chatting it up VOIP-style on Google Talk, which you can even use a web-based version with Meebo (IM’img anyway). I still prefer Skype, even though no one else seems to use it. I had to convince JJ to install it on his new machine just so we could talk (not that it would have cost us anything over the land- or cell-lines).

It would seem my conversion to the do-no-evil side is nearly complete (and about as far as it’s going to go for sometime). Given this week’s news that Google is moving towards solar power for some of its energy needs, I can feel some of that do-no-evil myself by heating up their servers just a tad bit more.

  1. I do really like how G-Mail will pick up on address for Maps or appointment times for Calender, though. I still can’t believe that Office hasn’t found a good way to do just that (you can look up an address from a Word document, but not an e-mail? Come on! []

Aksimet Is Awesome

I know I’ve had a few short posts before about comment spam here before, and occasionally I still get some to come through. However, Akismet has done a remarkably good job of catching almost all of them, and with only a single false positive I’ve ever found (and that was because the commenter had placed two URL’s in the form field). I noticed this morning it had finally broke the 10,000 mark for comment spam. That’s some pretty smart filtering if you ask me. Spammers: why do you even bother anymore? Humans: if you ever do post something and it doesn’t show up immediately, e-mail me.

A Chilly Twenty

Today was the final twenty mile run of this season for me. I was scheduled to run it yesterday, but we had rain all day and the temperature stayed around 50°F. The run got cancelled to prevent anyone from getting hypothermia (four hours in that weather wearing nothing but a t-shirt and shorts can easily lead to hypothermia, so it was kind of a no-brainer). Now, most of you probably don’t realize just how big the Richmond Marathon training team is, but it’s around 700 people (± – we’ve had some matrition since May as you can imagine). Usually, this is divided up over four different start times, three on Saturday mornings and one on Sunday morning. To have a majority all those groups show up on one day and take off at the same time was the equivelant of running a pretty good sized road race. The main difference: we wouldn’t be out to win anything or get a t-shrirt. It was just me running with hundreds of other really crazy people with nothing better to do on a cold, gray Sunday morning1

The first twenty I ran this year, a couple of weeks ago, was what I call a P: it’s basically an in-and-out with a loop at the end. It had one pretty bad hill, but it was at about the half-way point, so not too bad. Today’s run, on the other hand, was a large loop (about a mile was retracing our steps, but that’s not uncommon). the back third of the run was along Riverside Drive, which is known to us runners here in Richmond as being a torturous series of hills. Put that from mile nine to mile 16 and you’ve got yourself a punishing run. I had some bad calf cramps in my right leg a couple of weeks ago and really did a lot of stretching througout today’s run. I was able to stave off the cramps, but both calves were mooing badly with soreness for the last five or six miles. Speaking of that portion of the run, we passed over the Lee Bridge to cross back over the James. Now, I’ve been hearing complain about that bridge (which is nearly a mile long) for the past couple of years and I never understood why. I mean, I love bridges and enjoy getting look at Richmond’s biggest and newest in the downtown area. There are great views of the city skyline from there, as well as Hollywood rapids, the cemetary, and Belle Isle. Today, there was also a cold headwind in my face that made running a 12 minute mile seem impossible. I know understand why so many runners here really hate that bridge. I guess I’ll just have to look forward to warm, breezy days when going over it in the future.

Today's running route plotted onto a satellite image from Google Maps

Today’s running route plotted onto a satellite image from Google Maps. Thanks to Coach Ron from the Sportsbackers Marathon Training Team for plotting this for us (Note: This isn’t an active map, just a .png image.)

My run took me three hours and 36 minutes, which isn’t too bad considering how much my legs were hurting towards the end. There’s a point at which you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, and that always helps me to pick up at the end. I was able to change into some pants, a dry t-shirt, and my running jacket at the end, but I’ve still been chilled to the bones since ending the run. That’s why I’m currently in my fleece jacket, under a down comforter, and typing with Angela’s very toasty iBook on my lap. Angela’s sitting here with me, also helping to warm me up a bit. I think I’ll get a cup of coffee in a bit and see about just letting my legs rest for a while. Here’s hoping that the Marine Corps Marathon (three weeks from today) sees some better weather. At least our vacation in Alaska this week will help prepare me in the event it isn’t.

  1. Actually, that’s not true. I wanted to go to my adult church class this morning and then attend worship service with Angela, but that got all messed up. For the record, though, I didn’t cause the cold rain yesterday. Just remember that, okay? []

Battlestar Great-showica

Battlestar Galactica - Main Cast

The main cast of Battlestar Galactica on the set of the Galactica’s hanger.

I just finished watching the Season Three premiere of SciFi Channel’s Battlestar Galactica. I just want to go on the official record to say that BG is the greatest show ever on television. That’s right, better than The West Wing. Better than Arrested Development. Better than I Love Lucy for all you traditionalists. Better than Seinfeld for all you comedy fans. Better than any of the Star Trek franchise for all you science fiction fans. It is the best show ever in the history of the medium of television1.

I hadn’t realized this truth until tonight, but I can say that I firmly believe it, now. The mini-series that aired a couple of years ago was really pretty good and did quite a lot to really update the show from it’s 70’s classic (yet really cheesey) stature. The first season went further and the second season even more so (particularly Season 2.5). However, after watching tonight’s episode I remain amazed.

Amazed at the shows willingness to go way beyond just a science fiction show about a future struggle between man and his robot creation (yeah, how many times has that plot line come up in science fiction?). It delves in to how fragile the individual human mind is and what we struggle with personally. It provokes its viewers with political and ethical questions most television shows simply do not have the courage to ask. It does this without forcing an answer on its audience, leaving them to judge what should be and what is. The smartest show on television right now just happens to have eight foot tall shiney robots and spaceships that can travel faster than lightspeed. It’s probably the sexiest and edgiest show to boot. It encompasses so much of what is great about good story telling and all with an amazing look and a ensemble of great characters.

I watched the mini-series when it aired and was impressed, but really didn’t follow the show that much during the first season. I watched the Seasons one, two, and 2.5 on DVD and the show has simply gotten better the whole way. Season three looks to be the best yet, so if you’ve not been watching them get them from Netflix, download them from the iTunes store, or buy the DVD sets now2. You’re in for a great time.

  1. Okay, so you think I’m completely crazy at this point, but honestly, from my point of view and considering all that this show has, I honestly mean this. Further, it has been nominated and won a number of awards in just two years, not the least of which was a Peabody Award []
  2. Or at least wactch The Story So Far at SciFi.com. []

Five Random Songs

This is blog meme from a long time ago and I’m just now getting around to posting it, even though it was old even before I did it, as at least one of the songs indicates. In keeping with the idea of the meme as I first read it, I one day just put my iPod on Random and hit play, without starting any playlist or selecting a genre. Frankly, I was somewhat surprised with what came up (as I figured it’d would be some iTrip station selectors or a podcast). This was the first time I did this, and here were the first five songs that came up:

  1. Good Grief by the Foo Fighter’s eponymous album. While they’ve virtually crossed over intot he pop genre, the Foo Fighters are still a pretty solid rock band. My only dislike about the band: Dave Grohl no longer plays drums.
  2. Hey Now from Finley Quaye’s sophomore album, Vanguard. Quaye borders on trippy, but never loses a melody in this slow-paced song. Also, his attention to detail has always been something I liked; slight changes throughout a song keep it from becoming monotonous.
  3. I Like It from the Dixie Chick’s latest album, Taking the Long Way. Yes, I do like it. I would have outdone Rick Rubin on this song by really making the final couple of choruses epic sounding, but it’s a good song anyway. These ladies are the top of pop-country, even if that’s really not their fit so much anymore.
  4. Pieholden Suite from Wilco’s much unappreciated album Summer Teeth. A melody more than a single song (as the name suggests); this one seems to be Wilco’s take on the sounds of the 20’s. Summer Teeth was my first Wilco album, and maybe that gave me a somewhat different window to view them through.
  5. Left A Slide from Son Volt’s Straightaways. Jay Farrar just behind Jeff Tweedy; the story of his career, right? Probably not, really. Farrar is experimental in his own right, even if not pushing the same boundaries that Wilco does. Like the previous Wilco song, this one might not be my top pick from this artist, but it’s still a great song from one of my favorite artists.

Just for the record, although I don’t know that it’s worth going into more detail, here was the next ten:

  1. Retrieval of You – The Minus 5 – Down With Wilco
  2. Hold Yr Terror Close – The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightening, Strike
  3. Cool Blue Reason – Cake – Prolonging the Magic
  4. Jet Pilot – Son Volt – Okemah and the Melody Riot
  5. Words So Leisured – Franz Ferdinand – Eponymous
  1. Humble Me – Norah Jones – Feels Like Home
  2. Stumbling Through the Dark – The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music
  3. Lose Something – Velocity Girl – Gilded Stars and Zeolous Hearts
  4. Punch Drunk – Uncle Tupelo – Steels Feel Gone
  5. Come To Love – Mathew Sweet – 100% Fun

I suppose I could have kept on, but at some point you have to just stop and say ‘this is probably way more than anyone else in the world cares about.’ This is about that point for me.

The Coal Men Play Richmond

Early last month, my brother, Dave, and his band mate Dave Ray traveled up to Richmond to play a Coal Men show at the Ashland Coffee and Tea House. I wasn’t sure what to expect when Dave C. told me that the bass player, Hitch, wouldn’t be able to make it. Most trios have to pay close attention to filling in the space that comes so easy to four- or five-piece bands (or larger), and The Coal Men have done a great job at this for years. However, just a guitar and drums can sound a little weak at times. I suppose the most popular line-up like that right now is The White Stripes, and the fact that they have expanded to more piano and even different arrangements on albums should suggest that they struggle with that as well.

The Coal Men Duo at Ashland

Dave Coleman (my little brother) and Dave Ray play an amazing show as just a duo, Sept. 8th at Ashland Coffee and Tea.

It didn’t take too long into their sound check and warm-up for me to realize that this was not going to be an issue. Dave Ray’s drumming is so musical and intricate that he easily fills up the space, allowing Dave C. to elaborate on melody lines or even play a instrumental solo without loosing the tune. The entire show was a lot of fun and the two sounded great in the The White Boys line-up. They did a great job of talking just enough to introduce themselves to a largely unfamiliar crowd, giving some interest to a group of people that had mostly shown up to hear a band they knew nothing about.

Epiphone Guitar

Dave’s birthday present to me during the Coal Men show (other than the show, itself). It even has been customized with stickers on the back reading 30.

The best part of the show for me came in the second set, where my brother surprised me by announcing my recent birthday to everyone. He mentioned to the audience that he and I played music together quite a lot in our younger days and how I had more-or-less stopped about nine or ten years ago1. So, in light of my big 30th birthday and the fact that he wanted me to pick back up the hobby of music, he presented me with an acoustic guitar on stage. To say the least, I wasn’t expecting that (seriously, have I just become easy to surprise in my middle age?). It’s a very attractive Epiphone six-string that has a tobacco-burst finish.

Dave Ray was able to spend some time with his parents that evening and the following day (they’re from NoVA), while Dave C. got up the next morning and went on a nice 18 mile run with me (Angela did 15, nothing to shrug off for sure). We spent the rest of the day just kind of hanging out, although Angela and I did attend a wedding for one of my co-workers. We took Dave Ray out for Indian food for dinner, since he’d never had it before but was willing to give it a shot (I think he liked it; who doesn’t like chicken masala?). That evening was spent watching Family Guy and just chilling out. They guys took off the next day, but it was great to get to spend some time with them. Of course, I always miss hanging out with my brothers and I enjoyed getting to spend time getting to know Dave Ray, as well (I hadn’t actually seen the guy in over two years, I think).

I’ve been playing my guitar most days since. I’ve been able to remember some things (mostly just chords). There’s this new thing called the internet where you can find the chord progressions to just about any song, which is handy. I’ve also sat down in front of my computer with iTunes and picked up a couple of tunes, as well. I have no aspirations of every playing for anyone else, but it’s a wonderful hobby and maybe someday I’ll convince Angela to play a little guitar-flute duet with me, just as long she goes really slow.

  1. That was never really an intentional thing, but I just never had the space for a drum set. Also, a drummer rarely has really friendly neighbors for very long. I’m really glad that Dave still has my old drum set that I refinished with his help, along with my older brother, Steve, and our friends. []