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. []