Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Newspaper Comics Are Not Very Good

Just a quick rant about the comic section in the newspaper.  I get access to a newspaper every now and then and while I do check out the news, my favorite part is the puzzle section as I mentioned in a previous blog.  With the puzzles, there are always the comics. I read these sometimes and while some of them are moderately funny, others are not funny at all.

Some comics almost seem pointless and I wonder, who is writing these and why is the newspaper paying them to include them in the paper.  Not all comics are suppose to be funny.  There are those ones that are like an ongoing comic book drama.  The only problem it, they are a long story and only show 3 panes per day!  Most people don't have the patience to read a comic book even when they have the whole book.  Are there actually people that follow these series 3 images at a time?

I don't think they should get rid of comics, just make them better.  Only include funny ones.  They don't have to be the same comics and authors every day.  Or just include more puzzles and fun activities in their place.

By the way, I just posted a Dilbert comic for an example of a comic.  Dilbert is one of my favorites and usually pretty funny.  

Boating - My Experience

This past weekend, my dad and I drove up to a lake and rented a boat.  This is really the first time we have done this.  I did some research to get familiar with how to operate a boat, but I have not taken any courses on it.  They taught us the basics and before you know it, we were off.

I found it remarkably difficult to steer the boat, especially when going at low speeds and maneuvering around piers.  Once out in the open, it was much easier to control, but I was still uneasy.  I could see people easily getting into accidents with other boats, not to mention people fishing who are just parked out in the middle of the lake.

We went around the lake for an hour and brought it back in.  Getting the boat back to the exact right place was the biggest challenge.  I thought I was going to damage it somehow, but it was ok and we made it.

Overall it was a decent experience, but for the cost, and nervousness associated with it, I would not want to do it again, at least any time soon.  I would be more inclined to go on a boat tour if someone else was driving it.

I thought about it and I don't really see the big appeal with boating.  It is so much work just to get out there and what do you get out of it?  You drive around a lake.  It's a little fun.  Maybe it's something to do once in a while, but some people buy a boat and do this often.  I guess I'm just not a water person.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Puzzles: Crossword, Sudoku, Cryptoquote, KenKen

I solved my first Cryptoquote puzzle today!  Previously I had stuck with crossword puzzles and later ventured into sudoku, but today I tried out a cryptoquote just for fun.  A couple of my coworkers are really good at these, but I always thought they were impossible. 

Anyway, I gave it a shot and before I knew it I was getting several letters.  Clues kept popping up and I used logic to find out the letters.  Within about 10 minutes I had finished the whole puzzle!  It really feels good when you complete a puzzle like these.  I felt the same way when I finished my first sudoku puzzle.  I always thought those were tough until I finished one. 

I also complete my first kenken puzzle today. It was an easy one, so I didn't get too excited, but still it was cool, because I haven't done a lot of those. 

I still enjoy crossword puzzles, but I don't believe I have ever complete an entire one.  I have gotten close.

Some puzzles are better than others.  The crosswords in the daily newspaper are good.  However I have realized that some puzzles are not good.  For example, I bought a book of crossword puzzles on a whim because it was only a couple dollars and I saw it at the store.  Now I know why it was only a couple of dollars.  The puzzles are awful.  First, the patterns are almost all the same.  Second, the clues and words are just plain bad.

If you have some free time and you have not tried these puzzles, I highly recommend them.  They are good for thinking and can give you a sense of accomplishment if you complete them.   

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Good to Evil Scale

I came up with an idea a while back for a scale that would rate people in terms of good or evil.  It's basically a number line from -10 to 10 with -10 being the worst most evil kind of person and +10 being the best kind of person.  Here's a quick picture I drew up for it:
The ratings are subjective and everyone would have their own rating but this is just a fun little thing to think about.

Think about the people you know in your life that have purely good intentions.  The people who don't have a bad bone in their body.  The people that are so nice to others.  The best people you know may be a 10.  It is very difficult to get to a 10, so only a few people you know will be there if any.

Most people probably fall somewhere between 0 and 10.  This the the positive area.  If someone falls in this range they are generally a good person.  If they are close to 10, they are very good.  If they are close to 0, then they are not that good.

The negative numbers are for those who are more bad then good.  There definitely are a lot of people that fall into this section.  These are the people who are evil, mean, immoral etc.

Once you have thought about people you know, ask yourself where you would fall on the scale. Me personally, I would be somewhere on the positive side, maybe a 7 or an 8.  I try to be good but there is room for improvement as I know others who are 10's and I have a ways to go before I would reach that level.

Anyway, this is just a concept I thought I would share with you guys.  If you have any comments, leave them below.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Comcast Junk Mail

It seems every week I get mail from Comcast trying to get me to sign up again for their service.  I had comcast a while back and decide to cancel it and switch to AT&T because they have better rates and you don't have to bundle the internet service with tv. It is really getting annoying because it is so frequent and it looks the like same thing.  I say looks because I don't even open them anymore.  I just tear them up immediately.

I have looked into trying to get them to stop sending junk mail, but there does not seem to be an easy way.  A search on the internet has shown other customers who are also fed up with junk mail from Comcast.

The excuse there was that they think someone new might move in and they want the new resident to get their offer.  Ok fine, no problem, but do you have to send it every week?  People don't move that fast.  Comcast, I can tell you I am not moving for at least a year, and probably many years after that, so you can stop wasting your money on postage sending me this junk.

UPDATE 8-25-11
I decided to call the number on the last mail they sent me, after going through several menus and not have the option to choose anything related to getting off the mailing list, I decided to email them.  This again was not easy.  After browsing around the site for a few minutes I managed to find an email contact for general questions.  I requested to be taken off the mailing list.

Today I received a reply from Comcast.  It was a rather long email for such a simple question, but they did say they would take me off the list but that I might still get mail from them for the next 1 - 2 months.  We'll see.  If it keeps coming, you will hear about it here.

UPDATE 10-7-11  Still getting junk mail from Comcast.

UPDATE 4-7-15 I still seem to be getting mail from Comcast as well as AT&T every week trying to get me to sign up for new services.  It should not be so hard to unsubscribe from all of these things.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

American Ninja Warrior

I watched a new show on NBC last night called American Ninja Warrior.  From what I read, it was on another network but for some reason, they decided to show the 2 hour finale on NBC.  Basically the show is a series of tough obstacle courses designed with strength and agility in mind.  The show is from Japan and it is done in many other countries as well.  It looks like it might gain some popularity in the US.
I was really excited to see this show because as a kid, I was really good at climbing on playground, jumping around and doing ninja like moves so this is my kind of event.  I would like to try out the courses now, but I'm not in nearly as good of shape as before.

So the show starts with about 10 guys who are the top qualifiers from thousands.  They go through 4 courses. If they fall off or don't meet the time, they are eliminated.  They guys were pretty good and are in really good shape.  At the end, there were only a few guys left.  The best one got near the end of course 3 but fell.  None of them made it to course 4.  In history only 3 guys from Japan have finished all the courses so that tell you how difficult they are. 

A couple things I didn't like about the show is how there is so much emphasis on upper body strength and not so much on agility.  If they are going to call it American Ninja Warrior, they should be doing ninja skills, not just upper body strength skills. I would like to see more balance, precision, and speed based skills.  Also, how about some points for style.  In my opinion if you are specializing in ninja skills, you gotta have style.  Some of these guys had no style whatsoever and it was painful to watch.

Also, the contest was sponsored by K-Swiss.  Why?  K-Swiss has nothing to do with Ninja skills.  I know they are trying to bring back their image, but all I know of K-Swiss is ugly white shoes that  kids wore in high school 10 years ago.  They should get Nike, Adidas, or some martial arts type company if they need a sponsor.

Anyway, no matter the name or the sponsor, this is a cool sport that is bringing attention to a type of skill you don't really see in most major sports.  I hope they continue to promote it and show it on tv. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

HP TouchPad on Sale for $99

A few days ago HP decided to stop making their new tablet PC the HP Touchpad.  This is odd considering it is so new and touch screen PCs are very popular at the moment.  Apparently they thought they were not selling fast enough and that they could not compete with the Apple iPad.  This is a shame because if anyone can give Apple a run for their money, it is HP.

So as a result of this announcement, HP as well as most of the other retailers selling the Touchpad dropped the prices down to $99 for the 16 gig model and $149 for the 32 gig.  This is a huge price cut considering the tablet originally was selling for $400.

There was a furry of activity Saturday morning and pretty much all the places sold out of the Touchpads within hours.  I looked online and called a local store but wasn't able to get one.  HP has set up an email list for those that want to be notified when they get back in stock.

I wasn't really interested in buying a touch screen tablet, but you can't deny the great price that they are offering.  It's like getting a new touch screen computer for $100.  It's almost worth it even if you don't want one.

With all the news and people scrambling to get their hands on this discontinued product, HP should really capitalize on it.  It's obvious people want the Touchpad if it is at the right price.  Who is going to spend $500 on an iPad when you can get practically the same thing for a fifth of the price.

If I were HP, I might consider continuing to produce the Touchpad for a while and maybe take a hit on the sales price just to gain some market share and see what happens.  Maybe they can make the money back by selling apps for the Touchpad. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

New Music - Cage The Elephant, Adrianna, Au Revoir Simone

I realized I haven't given any music recommendations lately, so here are 3 new songs to check out.  The first one is Shake Me Down by a band called Cage the Elephant.  I discovered this band while watching Lollapalooza on the Youtube live stream a couple weeks ago.  I liked their performance so I started checking out their songs and it turns out they have a lot of good songs.  In a time where I don't listen to a lot of rock, this band caught my attention.  Have a listen:
Cage the Elephant - Shake Me Down

Next is a collaboration between a singer named Arianna and a group called Seaside Clubbers.  I don't care for the rap part, but the voice of Arianna is something special.  It's weird, I have looked her up to find more songs by her, but have not found anything else that is like this song.  The vocals are in another language and that only makes it better.  There are several remixes of this song but this is my favorite version. Check it out.
Arianna - Ich Denke Oft An Dich

Last is a song by a group called Au Revoir Simone.  It is a 3 piece girl group.  The song is kind of sad and has an electronic style.  The video goes well with the song.  I check out some of their other songs, but this is definitely my favorite.  Might take a couple listens to get into it, but its good.
Au Revoir Simone - Sad Song
Watch on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFG-cUQ1a8k

Friday, August 19, 2011

Picture Day - Photographers and Awkward Yearbook Pictures

Why is it that photographers always make you sit in a weird positions when they take your yearbook picture?  I'm sure any student, teacher or anyone getting an identification picture taken can relate to this.  You sit down to have your picture taken.  Instead of just looking at the camera and them taking your picture, they have to give you all these instructions on how to turn, where to look, how much to tilt your head, which way to rotate, sit up tall, smile...

By the time you are done following all their instructions, you are all discombobulated and sitting in an uncomfortable position that it is nearly impossible to get a good picture.  I'm sure they tell people how to sit in order to get everyone's pictures to turn out somewhat the same, but it really seems like they are playing a practical joke on us all.  Like they get a kick out of making us look weird for our pictures. 

At least nowadays, the cameras are digital and you can see your picture right away to see if you like it or want to take a new one.  But of course there is a line so you can't stay there and go through a photo shoot session, so you end op taking one of the first ones that probably didn't turn out as good as you wanted. 

Anyone else feel the same way or go through the same situation when you are getting your yearbook or ID picture taken? 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

SongsToWearPantsTo - Recommended Artist

Songs To Wear Pants To is the name of a guy who has been making original songs for people on the internet for years.  I remember checking out his website and his music years ago, but then forgot about it.  Recently someone posted a link to one of his songs and I rediscovered him on Youtube.  He is very talented and can make music in pretty much any style.  He also has a good sense of humor.  Here is one of his latest songs called Be Safe.  It is a fun, upbeat song that is extremely catchy.  Have a listen:

SongsToWearPantsTo who's real name is Andrew, also make serious songs.  Here is one called In The Sun.  The video is well done and the song is emotional and powerful.

To get an example of his funny side, here is a video of him promoting a new t-shirt design called Pants Shirts:

If you like fun music of all different styles, Songs To Wear Pants To is definitely worth checking out.  See more of his songs on his Youtube channel.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The New Yahoo Mail

If you use Yahoo mail, you probably had to upgrade to the newest version which is a lot different than the old version.  I had to make this upgrade because I still have an old Yahoo account I used sometimes.  I hate when websites change things when they worked fine before and this change is no exception.

The new mail is more difficult to use.  It's harder to navigate and there are a lot of unnecessary features and distractions.  One really annoying thing is how every time you click on a new email, it opens in a tab.  Then you have to close the tab when you are ready to see the next one.  Who thought this tab idea was a good idea for email?  We want to read one email at a time and when we are done, we click on the inbox to go to see the next one.  We don't want to have to close each email we view.

Email is a simple concept and it should remain simple.  Adding more features and that no one wants is not going to increase the appeal.  I much prefer Gmail now.  Unlike Yahoo, it is very user friendly and simple.  I already abandoned Yahoo search and pretty much all of their other features and it looks like the email is going to be the next to go.

Update: 12-21-11 Now Gmail has gone and done the same thing by updating and changing it's look and now it is bad too.  Gmail's old style was very nice and easy to use.  The new version is hard to read and navigate.  When will these companies learn to stop changing things that don't need to be changed?

Update: 10-22-13
Yahoo email continues to get worse.  The log out process takes extra long because there is no sign out button.  Instead you have to hover your courser over your name until a menu drops down which takes about 10 seconds.  This feels like an eternity when all you want to do is log out.  No to mention, now they have put a trash can right in the middle of the message title so now when you go to click to open a new email if you click on the wrong part it just deletes your email that you want to read.  This is possibly the worst location to put a delete button, yet for some reason they decided that was the best place.  What is Yahoo thinking?  Are they intentionally trying to make their email as non-user friendly as possible? 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sit Down Restaurants vs. Fast Casual Restuarants

When it comes to restaurants, my favorite kind is the fast casual style.  These are the ones that are a step up from fast food, but not the kind where someone has to wait on you.  I realized how much I don't like the formal type of restaurants on the recent trip I went on.

While driving for a while, we needed a place to eat lunch near the highway.  We pulled off at a town and found a restaurant called Big Boy.  It is a burger chain with many locations, but this was the first one we have seen in the area, so we decided to go there.  I thought it would be like a fast food place kind of like Steak and Shake or Five Guys.  I would say it is most similar to Steak and Shake, but it wasn't as good.

Right when we walked in, I noticed you have to wait to be seated. That is a bad sign.  It means 1, you have to have a waiter, and 2, you have to leave a tip.  These are the 2 reasons why I don't like these kinds of restaurants.  I would rather order food at a counter, pay for it, get it right there and sit where I want.  Instead, I have to have someone assign me a seat, look over a menu, wait for the waiter, tell them what I want, wait for it, eat, wait for the check, and leave a tip.

So basically you are being inconvenienced, waiting more and paying more for supposedly and higher quality experience.  It doesn't really make sense to me.  At fine dining restaurants, this makes sense obviously, but for restaurants like Big Boy, it's a joke. Are they trying to make it upscale?  No one wants to pay the higher cost when they are going out for fast food burgers.  Pick one or the other either fine dining or fast casual, no in between. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Andover Song - Phillips Academy, Massachusetts

I recently discovered a song and music video that was made by the graduating class of a notable high school called Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.  The song is an electronic/pop/rap song much like what is popular on the radio these days.  It was written and directed by a student named Michael Kontaxis.  The instrumental was made by fellow student Charlie Danner.

So what is special about this song?  Well first off, it is over 7 an a half minutes long.  It contains verses from several different students as well as teachers.  This means they had to organize this project to get all these people to record their verses, then put them together to make the complete song.  Not only that, they then also recorded an entire music video with all the participants on campus.  Anyone who has made a collaboration song or video like this knows how difficult it is to put together everything and make it work.

The song is very catchy and sounds like anything you would hear on the pop radio.  The rapping is better than expected given the fact that it is done by regular high school students and teachers.  Overall the song is very good, but it is not perfect.

The Youtube video has ratings and comments blocked.  This is probably because they receive a lot of negative comments and ratings.  Knowing the internet culture, this is expected.  When some kids from a prestigious high school make a rap song and put it on the internet, it is just asking for the haters to go to town on it.  This is a shame, because the song and video are very well done and should be applauded, not hated on. 

The song is a bit long at 7:54.  Most people don't have the attention span to listen to a pop song like this for that length of time.  They probably would have been better off trimming out some of the verses and choruses to get it down to around 4 minutes.  Some of the students and teachers have 2 verses each so this was definitely possible.

The song has some minor audio clipping, and some of this kids it seems tried too hard to be cool or tough which kind of makes it cheesy, but overall this graduating class did an excellent job on this project.  I'm sure it will go down in history as the theme song for the school.  Michael Kontaxis who headed this project has a bright future.  If he was able to put this together expect big things from him in the future. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What Happened to Inline Skating?

Growing up, skating or "rollerblading" was one of the most popular activities among myself and my friends.  We did traditional skating, but we were more involved in "aggressive skating".  I put that in quotes because I never really liked the term. Basically, we did grinding, ramps, and tricks.  This was early on when there were not a lot of skate parks.  We used to have to have to get our parents to drive us a half hour to another town where they had an indoor skate park.

Anyway, we used to skate every day.  This was in the mid 90's.  Inline skating was on the X-Games.  It was very popular.  I didn't realize until recently that apparently inline skating's popularity has gone down big time.  Some estimate showing it is down by 50%.  That is a huge decrease!  As I started thinking, I realized it has been a while since I saw people skating outside.  I have been looking up the topic online and have found that it is no longer in the X-Games since the mid 2000's and even the ASA association which was all about skating seems to be no more.

It's pretty sad.  Inline skating is a great sport for people of all ages.  I still have my skates and while I am not as active as before, I still break them out every now and then and go skating.  I even go on ramps now that they actually have them around.  Where were all the skate parks back in the day when we wanted them?

I know skateboarding is still pretty popular.  Those are the kinds of kids that should be inline skating, or at least try it.  I bet many kids these days are not even exposed to it and have never tried it.  BMX is still in the X-Games like skateboarding, so why wouldn't they keep inline?  I think it is time for it to make a comeback.

Update 8-8-11: I posted the question on Reddit and got some responses and discussion on the topic.  Everyone had a theory, but there was not a clear cut answer.  It looks like it may have been a combination of a few things including:

- The sport being considered uncool or "gay".
- Skates being inconvenient because you are not on shoes.
- Just a fading trend.
- Less tv exposure.

I think if the main skate companies look at these things and try to fix it, the sport can regain popularity.  All you need is a good commercial showing skaters doing cool tricks on ramps and rails, put some current music to it and air it during shows that teenage boys watch.  Sales would increase I'm sure. 

Show Reviews: What Would Yout Do, Take the Money and Run, Up All Night

The show What Would You Do has been on for a while now, but I never mentioned it here.  This is the kind of show I want to like, but it is just not good.  I love hidden camera type shows such as Jamie Kennedy Experiment and Candid Camera.  What Would You Do comes up with situations and then films how people react to them.  The problem is, the situations they set up are so unrealistic.  It seems every time they introduce the next clip, I groan and switch the channel.  I want them to have some good segements, but it seems like every one is just unrealistic or something that has been done a million times.  Even when they had viewers send in ideas, it still wasn't very good.  Sometimes there are good clips here and there, but overall, it could use some improvement. 

Take the Money and Run is a new show where contestants have an hour to hide a briefcase with $100,000.  Then investigators have the next 48 hours to find the case while the people that hid it are kept in a jail and questioned.  It sounds like a decent show.  I watched the first episode, and it was kind of disappointing.  So the investigators can question the contestants, but can't they just not tell them anything?  It seems like they have a rule that they have to answer every question. Yes they can lie, and the investigators have to figure out when they are lying, but if this is the case, they should explain it.  I doubt I will continue watching this show.

Up All Night is a new show coming out with Will Arnett and Christina Applegate.  I like Will Arnett, but right now I am kind of tired of Christina.  It seems like she has been in a lot of shows that have not done very well.  It's like the is still riding the Married With Children wave.  By the way, where is Bud?  I was sorry to see Will's last show Running Wilde got canceled before it even ended.  I will probably check this show out when it airs to decide if it is worth watching.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Formation of Life: Genetics from Sperm and Egg Question

Life really is somewhat of a miracle how a sperm and an egg form together to create human life.  This is something humans have not figured out how to duplicate artificially.  We know it is all biology but could there be something deeper behind life that we don't know about or understand?

Take this question for example.  We all have a mother and a father.  Their sperm and egg created us and our life was formed.  Now say for example, your mother never met your father, but instead married someone else.  Then say by chance the new father's sperm joined with the exact same egg that you were first created from.  This means that you still have the same egg, but different sperm.  How would that effect the result in terms of life?

We know biologically you would have half of the genetics from your mother and half from the new father, but in terms of consciousness, how would that effect you?  Would you exist as you are today, or would it be someone else.  Would you have the same consciousness, but just a different body with different genetics?  This is something we don't really know and can't really test, as far as I know.  It is very interesting to think about.

It makes you question what is life?  Is it more than just the living human beings that we know?  Does our life exist before and/or after we physically die?  There is so much we don't know about our universe.  Anything can be possible.

Monday, August 1, 2011

TV Recap: Breaking Bad, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Same Name, Big Brother, Marriage Ref

I just watched the 3rd episode of the new season of Breaking Bad and I am happy to report it is picking up.  I felt season 4 got off to a slow start, but this episode was good.  The drama is starting to build and you can tell something is going to happen.  It looks like Hank may discover something about the lab.  The expensive champagne might lead to Walt getting investigated.  One question I have about that is, if he can't spend money on champagne, how can they buy the car wash for $800,000?  Anyway, I got a chuckle out of the part where Jesse throws the money up in the air and everybody scrambled for it.  Looking forward to next week's episode.

I still feel the same way about this season of Curb Your Enthusiasm in that it has lost it's funniness.  I might have laughed once while watching the last episode.  It is ok, but either not as funny as previous seasons, or the routine has just grown old.  Still, I'll keep watching it in hopes that it gets better.

A new show has premiered called Same Name where a celebrity and a regular person who have the same name switch lives for a week.  First is was David Hasselhoff and this past week it was Kathy Griffin.  Overall the show is pretty good.  It's entertaining to see 2 people out of their element trying to live as the other does.  I'm looking forward to the episode with Mike Tyson.  He is always interesting to watch.

Big Brother is still holding my interest each week.  It's nice that it is on 3 times a week.  No other shows do that.  I was happy to see Danielle win the HOH this week.  She was the underdog so I was pulling for her to win.  It will be interesting to see what happens now the Brandon and Rachel have been nominated for eviction.  Overall my favorite house guests right now are probably Lawon, Danielle, and Adam.  I hope some of the veterans go home to even things out. 

I gave the Marriage Ref and bad review earlier this summer and I still think the show is not very good, but I have watched the past few episodes.  It is funny now and then depending on the guest panel.  I noticed it is odd how they have the stage set up with the married couple with their backs to the audience.  Also the show is so silly, yet everyone is dressed formally.  It's strange, but there is not much else to watch at that time so I usually watch it.