Family: Just a couple of vacation pix

>> Wednesday, February 28, 2007

We were at Disneyland a couple of months ago, and here's a few of the best photos. Since I'm on the subject, I'll mention a nerdy anecdote about Disney photos: They've gone digital with their Disney PhotoPass, which I totally support. The way it works is this: In prime photo spots, you'll find an official photographer who'll hand your your PhotoPass (if you don't already have one), and snap your family's picture. All the photos get stored on an account which you can access online from home, later, or at certain kiosks in the parks.

Naturally, they want you to buy their prints which are fairly expensive, but with the online service, you get to see the photo at a size that's worthy of sharing online with friends and family. If you're technically proficient enough, you can also figure out how to get print-worthy photos from their online service! I was able to do this, although it's VERY cumbersome -- they've programmed their graphics service pretty well to make it so. All it takes is some manipulating the querystring to change the zoom level, and a little Photoshop work; I had to take nine zoomed-in pictures at 320 x 240 and patch them together to get what I achieved.


Series Watch: Heroes, now with even more flavor!

So I caught up with Monday's issue last night.  I'd like to lead in by saying how much I really appreciate the way that KARE11 has implemented online episodes for Heroes.  I don't know if they have any other series that they're doing this for, but this is exactly the right format for rebroadcasting episodes online.  At first, it was a little laggy in fullscreen mode, but apparently they've fixed it.  Now, you can see the full episode in nice quality fullscreen with just a minimum of commercials.  The commercials are very tolerable.  In fact, regular shows should be shown with these kinds of ads.  (If you're unaware, it shows an ad for one company where normally it would show two minutes or more of random-ish ads)

Anyway, back to the show.  While last week was amazingly good, this week was even better.  I turned the screen off while thinking how fantastic the writing was for this time; this kind of feels like when one of your favorite books is made into a movie and they've kept it true to the storyline.  That's the kind of good that I'm talking about.

It's very easy to compare it to Lost right now, since when Lost first started, it seemed like an amazing roller coaster ride of plot twists and mysteries. But it also compares to the current episodes of Lost in that whereas Lost seems unable to reveal answers to the audience, Heroes dishes them out in extremely filling and tasty portions while giving you new mysteries as dessert. 

Some of the cool, new noticeables were: 

The symbol that the Haitian wears as a necklace is the same as the tattoo which psycho-mom's alter ego has on her shoulder.  It's been easy up until now to just write Jessica off as essentially a really lame superpower that was coincidentally not unlike schizophrenia, especially considering that she's attacking good and bad with no difference between the two.  I've held the Haitian in a good light up until now, but what's this strange connection?

Hiro's dad seems to be in charge of this evil corporation; something I wasn't quite expecting once he and his daughter left back to Japan.  It just shows that Hiro is more tied into this all than he thinks, and it'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Where does Linderman fit into all this?  This character has been very central to many of the plots going on, yet why haven't we actually seen him?  Does he work with this corporation somehow??

All these questions and more next week -- same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!


Family: Things our daughter says...

>> Tuesday, February 27, 2007

When she's upset with us, specifically not wanting to do something, she says, "Ya ne budu druzhit."  It's so cute that it's hard to argue with her; it means, "I'm not going to be friends (with you)."  I'm not exactly sure where she picked up on this little phrase, but I absolutely love it.  It's probably from this little Russian doll that they brought back from Ukraine on the last trip.  What is its name... Niki?  I think that's what she calls it.  Anyway, it says phrases like "Ya tvaya padrushka" ("I am your friend") and "Davay padruzhit" ("Let's be friends") - so our daughter is probably applying a little learning logic.  Anyway, it's worth remembering.


Stuff I use: (Might use...) Zpeech

>> Friday, February 23, 2007

Proving that no idea is unique, I stumbled across a site the concept of which I had thought up myself, a couple of months ago.  Zpeech aims to provide any website with a message board of their own.  I really like this concept because there have been numerous times when I've stumbled onto a company's product website that LACKS any real support by the company itself.  In cases like this, it would be especially nice to have message boards by default for which end-users can discuss (or complain about) a company's products, to the point of suggesting solutions to peoples' problems when the company itself can't seem to bother. However, Zpeech, in my opinion, isn't ready for prime time, because it's little more than a cross-platform, website-based chat engine.  Because of that, you can't categorize the site's discussion, so there go the hopes of talking about a specific aspect of the site in question.

Stepping back and going reflecting a little on the internet itself, it seems to me that there needs to be yet another overhaul in the way that people communicate with one another.  Perhaps a massive message board/forum could be built into the browser itself, thus unifying how and where people discuss things.  Perhaps not; it's quite a far-fetched idea, I suppose.  But as it stands, many people have blogs or accounts on "social network Z" or whatnot, but there is no way to harmonize the discussions and topics that are written and re-written hundreds of times across the lot of them.  Something should be done, but I'm not sure what. :)


Family: We are what our parents were, what our children will become

>> Thursday, February 22, 2007

Have we become what our parents planned for us to be? Most likely, we haven't! When does anything ever truly go according to plan -- we are, after all, only human. But how alike have we become our parents? I was staring - well, glancing - into the mirror today as I walked past and thought to myself how amazingly I looked just like my grandfather on my father's side. I mean, lose a little more hair and gain twenty or thirty pounds, put a scowl on my face, and I'm him.

It's not really fair to imply, however, that he was a grumpy, old man; he wasn't - there were definitely moments of happiness with him, and it warms me to recall the times when I saw his smile. Those were the times when you could feel his pride in his family. The scowl I mention is more of a reflection on AN attitude in his life that is simply easily remembered from the times that it happened. His temper was, admittedly, pretty short. I can feel it in myself sometimes, the urge to blow a gasket about whatever annoys me in the tiniest bit and just sulk. Or maybe that's just another aspect of being human. But I can try. I can choose to be good-natured because that's how I want to be remembered. That's how I want my children to grow up to be.

I look around and see the ways other parents raise their children; the foul language they drop so casually in front of their young ones to pick up -- which they do, as if it were shiny, gold coins, they pounce on such exciting words... the poor habits, the less-desirable friends... all of it is an open book to our children, of what they will become once they are our age. If you ask around, people everywhere want things to get better; they want children to respect their elders... they want people to hold positive attitudes.... they want all of this, but they don't stay the path themselves.

It starts with you, and it starts with me. Be who you want your children to be.


Series watch: Heroes, what you've been wanting.

>> Tuesday, February 20, 2007

This week's release was spot on, and here comes my thoughts, spoilers included. While yes, we saw the inevitable loss of life due to, and gain in power by, Skyler, and unfortunately Simone leaves the show... what didn't this episode have? Perhaps... perhaps it could have been better had Hiro and Ando been on-track for their storyline in the previous episode, but that's a minor compromise, considering that Hiro dumped Ando and is back on track, himself. He's finally wising up, and perhaps he'll soon realize he doesn't need a sidekick/partner, sword, or anything else to kick butt and take names. Get going, Hiro! Follow Peter's lead! On a side note, about this distraction storyline, I have no clue how Gustafson (the agent from whom Ando stole the bag) found AND knew that Hiro was in on the deal, but I'm willing to let that go because he's gone.

It looks like the tables have turned, finally, on all fronts with HRG, Claire's dad -- and it's about time. He and the Haitian are bested by Peter (woo hoo!) as he totally takes control of his powers... (Speaking of Peter, his role this week was probably the most satisfying, especially because we are given proof that Peter can now duplicate the powers that Skylar has stolen. That was something I was musing over the moment those two ran into each other.) Claire confronts him with the truth... AND he's cornered by this new "team" led by the introduction of Hana, the hacker-type hero.

Sweet stuff.


Gaming Exercise: Move over, Wii

>> Monday, February 19, 2007

The headline of this article is a bit misleading; the Wii - for whenever I might find one on the shelf for purchasing, as that hunt continues - is far more realistic in the realm of purchasing.  However, I can see the awesome health benefit and would love to have a Virtusphere.  Imagine a human-sized hamster ball propped up on a stand that allows it to roll in any direction without moving, and you've just imagined the Virtusphere. 
However, their website says absolutely nothing about purchasing one online or through any kind of store (at least from initial glance, that's what I got), so it's probably one of those "If you have to ask, you can't afford it" kind of prices.
As much as a holodeck would be really, really cool; this is probably going to be the closest thing to it that we'll get in this lifetime.


Family: Meals are planned by the parents, not the children

>> Friday, February 16, 2007

That's part of the basis for this blog entry I read, which goes into great detail although it uses some family-unfriendly language once in a while in order to do so.  I decided I'm not actually going to link to it because the emo-whiny attitude of the 30s-yr-old author is too negatively apparent in it.  But there are some good points nonetheless; in a nutshell she decries the do-everything-to-please-the-child methods of many modern parents.  I exhibit similar tendencies, sometimes, when I don't feel in the mood to put up with the tantrum, but fortunately for our family, we eat in a quite healthy fashion most of the time by default.  We do not even buy the sugary, pasty kiddie treats that make babies grow into picky, whiny adults.

That is where the problem is more easily solved; just don't purchase the offending foods in the first place; it's easier to not give the sugared cereal to your son or daughter when you have no choice in the matter.


Stuff I use: Yoono

Along the lines of my recent synchronization chat, I have finally settled on using Yoono for my bookmark managing.  I do realize that Google bookmarks has something like (or perhaps exactly like) this, now, but I'm used to Yoono and it does everything automatically, or nearly so that I hardly notice the difference.

Yoono synchronizes your bookmarks to their server online.  Then, from any computer you work with, you can auto-synch your bookmarks (or Favorites, if you're working in IE).  It's almost entirely seemless; only once in a while do I find a popup from Yoono saying that I need to choose whether to merge or replace bookmarks.  Additionally, it comes with a StumbleUpon-like toolbar that will suggest a website that you don't currently have in your list, when you ask it to do so and tell it which site you want to find similar ones for.  I've used that a few times and found some fantastic resources out there.

Finally, it also lets you share your bookmarks rather easily; you can just give your bookmark URL on the Yoono homepage to someone else and they can browse around to their hearts desire.  If there are any bookmarks you want to keep private, you just mark those as non-synchronized and they will not be shared.  There's perhaps a lack of privacy in the sharing, sure, but I don't travel to sites I wouldn't want to share, anyway.


Series watch: Lost, on Fate

>> Thursday, February 15, 2007

Last night's episode, more than anything, says to me that the mystery behind the show is about manipulating fate.  We know that the Island experiments were set up in an attempt to change the numbers in hopes of saving the world.  Considering Desmond's supposed-yet-probable trip back in time, combined with the less-than-coincidental bus accident shown in Juliet's past, we can see that people ARE able to manipulate fate to some degree. 

Desmond left us while showing his current belief that fate cannot be changed; he thinks that no matter what he does, somehow Charlie is destined to die.  But let's think about this; the show has revealed that some know that the world is destined to be destroyed, right?  How is this show going to end?  Sure, it might end with everything being destroyed, but chances are that things will work out to be mostly happily ever after, otherwise you're going to wind up with huge masses of angry fans.  So, if the world can be saved, then Charlie can be saved.

Other than the polar bear painting in Penny's father's office, I think that about sums up the episode.  Not a whole lot revealed other than that yes, they can change things and make them right.


Family: Bedtime

>> Wednesday, February 14, 2007

In our family we don't have an awesomely rigid schedule for the daughter's bedtime.  All the experts, books, friends, and family say you should, but somehow we haven't really ever caught onto it.  However, we're coming around.  We have to put up with the fussing and fighting now, of course, but it's happening. I feel a little like one of the families from SuperNanny (although definitely not as dramatic/bad as shown there).  Having to continually put her back in bed because she believes she needs us by her side.  In the end she breaks down and will settle for pretty much any kind of compromise.  We're sitting just at the doorway now as she nods off, and will keep moving outward until she's grown past the need.


Series Watch: Heroes

>> Tuesday, February 13, 2007

While last week's offerings were really delicious, I left the Heroes table this week with some bad aftertaste.  "Run!" might have better been labeled, "Run through the plot holes!" as I felt there were some inconsistencies in the storyline.  First off, psycho-mom is just a lost cause.  I'm guessing that the writers perhaps wanted the viewers to feel some kind of empathy for one of the badguy characters, because that's all she's really turning out to be.  I'm personally still struggling to really figure out exactly what her power is.  They keep modifying its abilities as the show progresses.  Now, apparently, both sides of her personality can be physically present at one time, with no rationalization, as evidenced when Niki and Jessica were talking to each other in the stairwell.  Strange.

But worse than that, Jessica's motivations have now shifted 180 degrees with no justification at all.  Whereas originally she was doing whatever she could to protect her son, now she's just doing whatever she can... just because.  Looking between the lines, I suppose there was some way that Jessica could have somehow made a deal with Linderman to get her (Niki) out of jail, but frankly they should show that happening.  To not show it makes Jessica seem inconsistent.

And how could she possibly have tracked Matt and Linderman's ex-employee after having left the elevator? There is no way she could have known where they went; for all she knew, they were still inspecting the diamonds.  Weak.

I always enjoy seeing Missi Pyle in action, the role she played in Hiro and Ando's distraction seemed downright stupid.  Her plan of action to get this bag from the government agent is to sit and wait, crying, for someone to come along and help her ?  Again - weak.  And Ando's arguments of how his ideas are always deemed stupid while Hiro's aren't -- hold on, Hiro was trying to save Charlie's life .  How does that compare to stealing a bag?  Hiro should have dumped Ando the first time through Vegas.

And finally... that Sylar showed up in Manhattan at this next victim's house, after having been off in Texas trying to hunt down Claire... it seems ALSO weak.  Why would he give up trying to get Claire when she's right there?  MAYbe he felt threatened by the Kenyan guy, but wouldn't he just feel he'd found another target, instead?  Sylar doesn't seem to be the kind that feels any doubt in his abilities.

Overall, I felt this week's episode only hobbled along.


Hunt the Wiimpus

>> Monday, February 12, 2007

So, this weekend began my hunt of the great white Wii... I woke up early this Sunday and stopped at Best Buy, before they were open, but found no one waiting and decided to return later.  I came back in about an hour and a half, went inside, but found absolutely no sign that anyone was even interested in a Wii (meaning no one was standing around waiting for one... no one had one in their cart, and so forth).  Naturally, none were on the shelf, either.  SO, I left and decided to check Circuit City.  Just as I pulled up, two guys walked out of the store with the last ones. 


No store can keep these things in stock!  (Though I saw a handful of PS3's, as can be expected...)


Stuff I use: Orb

I installed Orb this weekend, after having bookmarked it about 10 months ago.  I don't know why I waited for so long!  It is awesome; it hooks into all of your media on your always-connected/always-on PC, and allows you to stream it to anywhere you want, including your data-connected phone!  This, to me, and if you have a data-connected cell phone, is an iPod-killer; why carry an expensive MP3 player with you when you can access ALL of your songs at all times?  (true, you wouldn't be able to use it in certain situations such as onboard an airplane, but still... the abilities of this are amazing.)


The World of Synchronization

>> Sunday, February 11, 2007

What kinds of things do you need to synchronize? For me, I would ultimately like to synchronize selected files between my desktop and work PC's. Then, I want to synch my daily information such as appointments, contacts, notes, and tasks between both of my PC's, plus Gcal + Gmail, and my PocketPC / PDA phone. Finally, I want to also synch other select files between my PDA and both of my PC's. I've almost got everything going properly, and here's how:

For computer-to-computer syncrhonization, I've currently got two tools in utilization, although technically I might only need one. The first one that I set up came along with my purchase of FTPVoyager: Scheduler. Essentially, it runs a specified FTP process at a requested time. This requires a little more knowledge than just installing the program; you'll need to set up your own FTP server somewhere (or have one hosted for you), and then you'll have to go through a little trial and error to make sure your synchronization settings are just right. But I keep this around because I like the one-way syncrhonzing that it offers. Say I download a file while I'm at work and want to be able to access it later from home. I've got an extensive "download" directory on my home server, for archiving everything I've ever been interested in. But I don't want to bother having the whole thing stored on my work PC as well. So, anything I save at work gets copied home automatically.

I have since been introduced to FolderShare, a free across-the-internet file sharing/syncrhonization tool that has recently been purchased by Microsoft. It has even more potential, and I really enjoy using it, as well. This provides you with automatic, two-way file synchronization of any directories or files you so choose. In addition, you can also create a shared folder to which you give other FolderShare users read and/or write access. I like this because of the side bonus of being able to create a communal, photo screensaver. Just point the default My Photos screensaver to one of your Foldershared directories, and viola! Now you and your parents can update each others' list of pictures that show on the screen while idle.

In the past few days, I've also noticed GigaTribe, which touts privacy/encryption for file sharing, but I don't see that it's so much of a synchronization tool. In the past I've tested FolderMatch, and Microsoft SyncToy, but they didn't measure up to what I needed - they were too manual in operation.

In trying to set up Outlook to Gmail synchronization, which I have not truly achieved yet, I attempted to test the "holy grail of synchronization" but found it to be far too bothersome both to set up AND to run, plus it requires a purchase I didn't want to make (because I didn't want to pay for such a cumbersome process.) So, I'm still on the lookout for a way to do this. I have hopes that somehow the Google API will be modified to allow services such as Plaxo to automatically synch, because they do such a great job of the things they do already.

As for getting things to my PDA phone (which by the way if you have a regular cell phone, Plaxo (the non-free version of it) does offer a synch service for you), I use the default ActiveSync in addition to a practically-free third-party app called MightySync. This particular program is important to me because it allows me to synch up files/folders from my PC specifically to the memory card on my PocketPC, something that ActiveSync does not do by default. I like MightySync, even though I have found reason to fault it from time to time, such as the "unkown errors" that it sometimes shows...


Stuff I Use: Plaxo

>> Friday, February 09, 2007

Plaxo - I like it, even though it doesn't have the ability to synch with Gmail contacts*. Plaxo incorporates the Jajah plugin into Outlook that makes calling your own contacts super-lazy, er, super-easy. I like that. It annoys me that in order to remove duplicate contact entries in their database, you have to subscribe to their Platinum service, but I suppose they want to make some money, somehow.

* Synching with Gmail: Nothing has that (yet?) because it's a problem with Google's API for Gmail. (I tried setting that up once, as I found some website claiming to have done it. Looks like they did, and I almost had it working, but it's SUCH a pain that it's not worth it. All I want is to store my contacts/calendar/tasks/notes locally on my computer using Outlook so that they can auto-synch to my PDA cellphone, and then something to synch to Gmail so that I can use all that online, anywhere, with sharing capabilities. We should already have this ability, don't you think?


Series Review: Lost

>> Thursday, February 08, 2007

So, welcome back, Lost. You're looking pretty good. Where are your spoilers, for those who haven't watched you yet? Oh, here are a few...
While they didn't address the "whole mystery" of the island itself, it does feel like a satisfying serving of episodic questions and answers. What did we find last night? Brainwashing, a la Clockwork Orange... So what's with the that? I'm not sure the purpose behind that, but obviously Karl was a regular member of the Others and has at some point decided to leave. They really don't like letting anyone leave of their own accord.
A much-needed escape back to the original island... At one point while watching the show, I thought to myself, "If Sawyer and Kate don't get off this second island, that'll pretty much end it for me." Although I knew that they would, having seen clips of them chatting with everyone else again, it was still important for closure that they left in last night's episode.
The revelation that Ben is even more controlling than we might have thought... how many besides Juliet are being held on the island against their will? She definitely had a strong desire to leave the island, as evidenced in the way she helped Sawyer and Kate to escape. However, why she made Alex stay with her didn't make much sense. Juliet could have somehow claimed ignorance of her getting away. That Alex is Henry's daughter isn't so much of a suprise; obviously she would have grown up as someone's adopted daughter. But of course, that still doesn't explain why the Others wanted her in the first place.
Overall, a welcome step into a lengthy season finish. I'd like to know about the sky turning purple...


Games I need to play

>> Sunday, February 04, 2007

Gamecrush lists some games that need sequels. I looked at this list and saw a bunch of games that I've never played (except of course for Double Dragon; everyone who's anyone has played that. Well, okay, you younger gamers out there have an excuse).

I especially want to try Psychonauts and Beyond Good and Evil. These two particularly caught my attention when they were first released, but like so many games, they fell victim to the onslaught of "other things to play" that is the rule of the day, nowadays. Back when Double Dragon was around (and earlier), everyone had a chance to play the best games, because there were just so many games to go around. But with the plethora of interesting things to try for the four main platforms, things just get lost.

Which isn't always a bad thing, though; now, you can spend far less of your dough on even the best games, as long as you wait a few months (or years, sometimes) and pick up your titles from the bargain/used bin. It's not all bad.


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