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Dave's BLOG

Updated: 2018-03-06T15:34:28.922-05:00


The iPod Touch/Android Shakedown!


I bit the bullet and got an Android smartphone a while back, and figured I'd use this page to sort out what I like and don't like about it, as compared to my old iPod Touch.The PricesMy Android is a Samsung Intercept. I got it for around $200, and a 300 minute/month, unlimited data plan for $25/month from Virgin Mobile. My iPT was around $200, and last I looked, Apple wanted around $200 for an iPhone, then $70/month at a minimum for the cheapest voice and data plan (through AT&T, was it?). Yeah, in this case, Virgin Mobile spanks AT&T, especially considering how little I use the voice side of my phone. Heck, AT&T's data alone was $40/month. Sheesh. So yeah, base price is about even, but Android plus Virgin Mobile beats the iPhone pretty easily.The Actual PhoneThe unfair comparison here is that the iPT doesn't have a phone. Android wins! (Wait, what?) Well, the Android let me combine two devices into one, and let me stop carrying my plain old phone. And that's been very nice.OTOH, my old phone, low-tech as it was, was quicker to dial. Unlock the keypad, punch a couple of buttons (for speed dial) or the actual phone number, and you're talking. With Android, you unlock the screen, start the phone app, scroll around to find what you want, it's clunky. In that way, I kinda miss my old phone, but I doubt the iPhone would be much easier than Android, at least from seeing others with their iPhones.Other Unfair ComparisonsMy Android has a GPS and camera. My iPT is an older generation model that doesn't have either. Android wins! (Hey, stop that!) Actually, I've used the camera maybe two or three times, and until I feel like pretending that I'm a photographer again (it happens every two or three years), I don't really seem to be messing with it much.The Android GPS is tolerable, I guess, but the software leaves something to be desired, (i.e. I can scroll the map to look around, but can't select a point on the map as a new destination), and it's not hard just in driving around to get it to give obviously bad driving directions. (I'm getting a stand-alone GPS for Christmas; we'll see how much better that is.)The HardwareHere's where Apple shines, and the fanboys can gloat. (Hi, Andre!) The Intercept has a smaller screen and thicker body, while the iPT is noticeably larger. +1 for Apple.Also, not sure whether it's the Intercept's processor or touch screen or what, but where the iPT may be slow or pause on 1 out of 20 interactions, the Intercept is sluggish maybe half of the time. I was playing with my iPT for the first time since I got my Android, and it was VERY nice not having it lag on just about everything. While that's probably not Android's fault, Apple gets another +1 for homogeneous hardware that just works.But the Intercept gets kudos for having a keyboard. If you're reading stuff on the iPT, it's nice, but putting input INTO one is a bit tedious. I've sent maybe a dozen emails from it in the couple of years that I've had it. I've sent that many via the Intercept in the last couple of weeks, as well as had SMS conversations with folks, and it's just NICE! +1 Intercept!And while usually Apple just GETS hardware, my Intercept came with a wall plug USB adapter. +1 Samsung, (even though I'm actually only using the wall plug on my bedstand to keep my iPT charged).The O/SThis gets subjective. In a nutshell, iOS is simple, Android is more powerful. And as a geek, I often like powerful over simple. But not always.Okay, some particulars. With Android, I can connect to a machine on my network via SMB, pull an MP3 file down and have it show up instantly in Android's music player. It takes a little geekery (I probably lost some of you when I said SMB), but it's possible. It's also possible to see exactly what's on my SD card, and move things around if I want.Neither thing is possible with iOS. With iOS, you load songs via iTunes, which doesn't run on Linux. So I need to borrow Wife's Mac to put things on or take things off of my iPT. Silly, but simple. Apple assumes A) you aren't running [...]

Drink Recipes


Dave's Fuzzy Comfortini

I think this is my own creation; I've had a few too many to recall. But don't blame me if you like it too much. Equal parts:

* Vodka
* Peach Schnapps
* Southern Comfort

Shake over ice and consume, slowly.


This one's simplified from a Sandra Lee Food Network video:

Equal parts:

* vanilla vodka
* chocolate liqueur (i.e. Creme de Cacao)
* Baileys Irish cream liqueur

Shake over ice and serve in a martini glass.

Lola's Margaritas

* 1 can frozen Minutemaid Limeade Mix
* 2 cans water
* 1 cup tequila (or more if you want to taste the tequila)
* 1/4 cup triple sec or cointreau (orange liqueur)

I prefer Sauza Gold but Jose Cuervo is OK too. I'm not a fan of most white (the clear) tequilas. And of course the 1800 and other top shelves are always better but VERY expensive. Hope this helps...Lola

Dell Fail


This is a gripe post, about Dell. The short of it: I'm not going to buy anything from Dell again.

The (hopefully not too) long of it: For Christmas, I bought two laptops. I ordered them from Dell, via their online sales chat interface. The salesman offered me a deal where if I got the two laptops, I'd get Windows 7 free for them, as an upgrade. I said okay, a couple of weeks later got the laptops, and went to the link to upgrade, where I was told that my laptops didn't qualify for the free upgrade.

I called Dell several times, talking to various support-folk and managers, and they basically all said "too bad, so sad, don't care, goodbye". (Except for the girl in sales that I talked to, who was much more friendly, and actually apologized that she couldn't be of more help.) That the original salesdude screwed up is understandable; it happens. That nobody could be bothered to look up the chat transcript (after repeated requests from me to do so) to see that it was promised, and make it right, is just a sad way to treat customers.

So yeah, no more Dell for me. Caveat Emptor.

A Vase


So I'm playing with Blender some more. This time, I went through a beginners modeling tutorial I found at (See below for the link.)


The tut had me shape the vase, then apply an image as texture to both the vase and the floor (for the floor, I used an image I found via Google Images). Then it gave a simple lighting setup, that I copied. A little ambient occlusion and anti-aliasing for good measure, and you get the image shown here.

Pretty neat thing, that I could follow everything the tutorial was doing (including the things that weren't where the tut said they'd be, due to 2.42/2.49 differences), without frustration. Part of that is due to it being a better tutorial than some I've tried, but part was both my growing experience with Blender, and a better, "lets just play" mindset to it.

Putting the time in, and it's all in how you look at it. Two lessons I'm learning these days.

Oh yeah, about the tutorial. The link at was broken, but Google found it at this address instead. And the tut was written for Blender 2.42, so there are changes. But anyway...

Growing Digital Grass


Okay, this is a small thing, but I liked it, so I'm gonna talk about how I did it. Nyeh.

Wife wanted a grass border for her blog. I poked around in Gimp for a while, learned a bit about paths, thought I'd do a half-dozen blade-shaped paths, create brushes out of them, and stamp a grass border. Learning about paths took up my mental energy last night, and I quit and went to bed.

Tonight, I thought about using Blender, and googled "blender grass". I found this tutorial that shows how to grow grass using particles. I followed it, mostly, but found a couple of twists. One was that using a Spot lamp didn't do too well for my purposes, as I wanted to scale the image down and repeat it, and the color variations didn't match too well on the sides. Second was that just scaling the plane from side to side skewed the grass blades, and scaling it on X & Y thinned out the particles too much.

So I changed the lamp from Spot to Sun (I accidentally tried Hemi, which looked awful), and instead of scaling the plane, duped it, ending up with 3 planes side-by-side, which looked much better. Changed the background to white, rendered, and saved the JPEG.

Then loaded the JPEG into Gimp, scaled it down a good bit, widened the canvas, and grabbed a chunk of grass that I wanted to duplicate. As I rect-selected it and hit copy, I just happened to notice that a brush was created from that selection. Very cool! So I switched to pencil mode, and "stamped" a row of grass, cropped it down to wide and not-high dimensions, and put it up on her blog.

FWIW, I grabbed the daffodil image (with CC permission) from Flickr and used Gimp on it as well, to create the image border and title text.

Yeah, having fun with graphics!

[Edit: Oh yeah, the border! Assume a Creative Commons-BY-SA license. Gimme sec, I'll figure out how to add it to the image...]



Grrr, Apple fail!


Apple just released an upgrade to the iPod Touch's OS. While it's free for the iPhone, it's $10 for the iPod Touch. Minor annoyance, that, but I suppose I can cope. After all, I'm not paying $700+/year for phone service, so I'm still saving money. So I fire up the iTunes store on my iPod. Not there. Not anywhere. Gotta go to iTunes to get it.

A little background: I run Linux. Apple doesn't like Linux; no iTunes for me. So that's my first complaint from back when I got my iPT: can't use it without iTunes, can't iTune w/o Win or OS X. Grrr. So I borrowed the iMac at work, and got my iPT turned on. From then on, I get most of what I listen to (i.e. podcasts) via the iPT's wireless connection. Plus I loaded up on free apps from the app store (The Weather Channel, Last.FM, Twitterific, etc.)

So then I wanted to put some videos onto the iPT, and broke down and started running Win XP in a virtual machine to be able to run iTunes. That worked well enough, and using Handbrake let me rip my DVDs into a format that the iPT can play. So far, so good.

Now I want to upgrade my O/S. I go to iTunes, and it says it can't install the new O/S until I upgrade iTunes to 8.2. Grrr, again. Okay, I upgrade. And I reboot. (This is Windows, after all.) Now can I upgrade? Okay, it downloads the upgrade, announces that it's backing up my iPT, announces that it's upgrading my iPT, then gives an error message. Something about an unknown error, go to this web page for more details. The details say to reboot Windows. I do so.

And now Windows doesn't see my iPT. At all. Doing a lsusb in Linux shows that it's plugged in, but Windows doesn't see it. And the iPT gives the original "I need iTunes" display. I reboot Windows a couple more times, with no luck.

Okay, fine. Since I got my iPT, we got a MacBook for Wife. I figure that if it doesn't work on Win XP, I'll plug it into the MacBook. MacBook sees the iPT, sees that it's hosed, restores the old O/S (2.2.1, I think?), then sees that I've purchased the 3.0 upgrade, downloads it again w/o complaint, and installs it, leaving me with a pristine iPT running 3.0. Success, perhaps?

I take the iPT back to my Win box, where my backup resides, and plug it in. It sees the iPT now, and gives me the option to load it up from the backup. I'm getting hopeful. I restore, things are looking good. Well, sort of; it's missing a few of my apps, but they're the ones I never use (SSH,, etc.) I'll deal with that later.

But all of my podcasts are gone. Maybe 60 or 70 eps of various shows that I've downloaded. A much larger Grrrr! So I'm done with messing with this Win XP VM. I plug into the MacBook again. And...

It proceeds to erase all of my apps! WTH!? Why on earth would it remove my apps (and their configuration) without giving me the chance to either stop it or validate them or something?! This is seriously bogus! And when I quit cursing Uncle Steve's lineage, and go to restore them, it knows that I've "paid" for these free apps, and offers to let me download them again "without paying". If you knew they were legit, why the !@#$ did you erase them to begin with? (And yes, I had logged in on the same iTunes account on the MacBook as I had on the Win box.)

All of this seems to be in the interest of Apple not letting me copy stuff that I own to places that they don't think I should copy them. Or, to rephrase, all of this seems to be Apple assuming that I'm a criminal and taking steps to punish me before I can prove myself innocent.

Feh. I'm wondering more and more what Android devices are out there, or what the state of Linux on the iPT has gotten to. This is *NOT* what should happen to someone playing by the rules.

Computer Treadmill


I spent the afternoon getting a new treadmill, for the purpose of making us a computer treadmill combination. Turned out, it was dirt easy.

We bought a ProForm Crosswalk 480. At slow speeds, it has a nice, quiet motor, and at Sears, it was only $500 or so. Initially, I was looking for a model that we could take the display off of, but the more I looked at this model of ProForm, the more I realized that we could just do away with the vertical bars entirely. The 480 has a cable that comes out the back of the unit, and the display (once removed from the upright stand) lays flat on a shelf (see the picture below), making it ideal for what we're doing.

We've had an Ikea computer desk for a year or more, and I forget the name of it, although I couldn't really find it on their website, so they may not make it any longer. From their current catalog, it looks a lot like the Fredrik line, as far as being adjustable, with the smaller shelves and all.

So the short of it is that we assembled the treadmill without the upright bars, connected the cable coming out of the treadmill to the display panel without threading it through the upright bar, and just put it on the lower shelf. We adjusted the height of the desktop to suit Wife (and although it's probably not optimal, 8-yr-old Daughter can use it without complaint, as seen below), and we're off and running. Or rather, walking.

Oh yeah, and since we don't need any features on the treadmill itself besides having it let you walk, we got away with a much cheaper model. Big win all the way around. Especially when you consider that a "properly made" model, (like the Steelcase Walkstation, for instance) costs 7-8 TIMES as much.


Weird Guitar Hero Problem


About a week ago, we started having a very strange problem with Guitar Hero 3. The guitar controller would work as far as going through the menus and starting to play a song, but once the song would start playing, even though we could see the fret buttons being pressed on the screen, strumming would only very rarely cause the note to play, and after a very short time, we'd fail out of the song.

My first thought was that it was a bad guitar, but strumming worked fine to move menu selections, and the fret buttons worked fine to select menu options. I thought it might be the Wii controller, but the same thing happened with both controllers. My son wanted a 2nd guitar anyway to go co-op career, so we got a brand new guitar, and the same problem happened with the new guitar as well.

The solution happened to be that we needed to delete our save data. My guess is that Son was goofing around with unlocking cheats, and corrupted the save file just enough that it gaffed the program when a song was playing. Or maybe it had nothing to do with him at all. But with a new save file created, it worked just fine again.

Hope this helps somebody.

Bad Words


We were watching a show called Kitchen Nightmares last night as a family. We told the kids that sometimes they say bad words, but that the show bleeps them out, and that's what they should do.

Well, halfway through the show, somebody says something bleepworthy, (I forget the context, even). Daughter, 7, pipes up, "I know what word he said, and it starts with 'S'." We cringe. Where's she been hearing THAT from? Okay, Sweetie, what word did he say? Go ahead, you can say it this once.

Her reply?


Ahhh, I love our kids.

Yahoo! Maps


Okay, first, I'm a Google fanboy. I use Google mail, search, Earth, Blogger, and (until now) Google Maps. But as a result of playing around with Yahoo Maps (as a result of placing my Flickr photos onto maps), I'm really thinking Yahoo's winning my heart for online maps.

Both Yahoo & Google maps let you type in a zip and get there quickly. But Yahoo's maps have some neat extras. 1) They mark county lines. 2) They have townships more clearly marked. (I think Google has these, but they're not as obvious.) 3) The most cool thing: when you pull up a map, you can enter a type of business and see all of that type of business on that map. (After playing around, I think Google maps will do something similar, but it's extra clicks away, and usually takes you away from the current map when you click it.)

In typing this up, and making sure I've given Google a fair shake, the two sites aren't as different as I was initially thinking, but I'll still give kudos to Yahoo Maps for making locating a business feel much easier (even if it's only a little bit easier) than Google Maps. (And as a dig to both, both had the pharmacy closest to my house, but neither of them had it placed on the map anywhere NEAR where it actually is.)

Getting TV


Yeah, I just admitted in my last TV post that I use BitTorrent (along w/Netflix and iTunes) to download TV shows. My justification is that they're shows I could be taping off broadcast channels and cutting the commercials out of (or fast-forwarding through) myself, or getting on Netflix as a whole season, anyway.

But I'm also looking for better alternatives. I got excited recently about, offering online TV free-of-charge. Then I tried it out, and found that their software doesn't run on Power Macs or Linux, which is all we're running these days. Harumph. Of course, Joost's downside is that they won't let you FF through the commercials, which unless the commercials are highly tuned to my interests, and much more brief than the 20-min-per-hour of broadcast, I'll just go back to Netflix, iTunes or BitTorrent anyway.

The other alternative I keep hearing about is the combo of a-la-carte cable/satellite and PVR. I keep hearing that regulations or something prevent it from happening, and the current FCC guy is in favor of it, but I'm not really holding my breath, or certain that it would bring me back to the fold, either.

Anyway, none of my current three options are optimal. iTunes costs too much per episode, Netflix essentially makes you wait a year to watch a whole season at once, and BitTorrent isn't seamless or automatic enough (plus, I hate almost all of the tracker sites). What I'd love is a $20/month, commercial free, (peer-to-peer is acceptable, I suppose), DRM-free, merging of Joost and iTunes.

Anyone? Anyone?

(Footnote: Miro is an open source Joost, with an expanding offering, but without the forced commercials, not much in the way of big-network offerings. Still, it's worth keeping an eye on, maybe.)



Used to be, I was strongly anti-TV. Rots your brain, I'd say. You lose IQ points, I'd say. I formed this opinion back in the late 80's, I think, when the height of TV fare was Dukes of Hazzard, Hee Haw and Dallas.

Even in recent years, we had satellite TV, but I'd still fire off "rots your brain" comments, due to the horror of commercials. I'd watch whatever my wife would have on, up to the first commercial break, then wander off and do something else. Or reach for the remote and mute that sucker. Kids shows (SpongeBob, Fairly Odd Parents, etc.) were tolerable, as there was only one break to mute/suffer through, but only barely tolerable.

Probably the best TV watching I did during all that time was Mystery Science Theatre 3000, which I'd tape (remember VHS?) and watch later. 2 hrs compressed to 1.5 or so.

Then I found the triple combo of iTunes, Netflix and BitTorrent. All three have solved the commercial problem, making it safe to wander back into the living room after the kids have gone to bed. But then I noticed something else. At some point in the last decade or so, shows got better. They actually became worth watching, (some of them anyway).

I'm not saying I don't have problems with them. Characters still drink and smoke and sleep around and do mean things. But at least the shows I'm watching these days have some depth, some creativity, something to hold my attention. (The current list, in order by my favorites: House, Heroes, Lost, American Idol, 24. Wife also watches/watched Bones, Grey's Anatomy, Prison Break, Alias.)

I hate to hear myself saying it, but I'm liking TV again.

Do, More Than Study


I tend to want to learn it all, right now. I pick a hobby-du-jour and go out to find all the websites and all the books I can on it, and read like mad, to try to learn as much as I can as fast as I can.

This time around with photography has been different, though. I spent the first month doing nothing but take pictures, reading very few webpages, and no books. I have questions, to be sure, but I'm letting them simmer. And after the first month, instead of running back to study-mode, I decided to just expand a little bit, from "just taking pictures" to planning a little bit more of what I'm going to take, (in some cases by trying to copy the ideas I find in others' photos), and leaving the study for after Christmas (when perhaps I'll get some gift certs for some books, hint hint).

And what I'm finding is that as I'm doing, I'm building up some much more meaningful frameworks in my mind, making some of my early questions fade away as irrelevant, and causing others to become much more well defined. This way, (mind you, I'm guessing here) when I do go hit the books, what they're saying will have some nice, appropriate mental structures to fall into, rather than under my old system, where I throw everything at a wall and hope some of it will stick.

I'm so very curious how this experiment will turn out, that I'm quite enthused to leave the books shut for now. (I'll keep ya posted...)

What I'm Learning


There's a zen saying that from one thing, you can learn 10,000 things. Here are some non-photographic things I'm learning from photography:

I will run out of ideas. I will also get more.

Newness wears off, but there's still joy to be had in the doing. More joy, potentially, than exists in the newness.

The simple things you do at the beginning don't really box you into one certain path. In fact, nobody really pays attention to the simple things you do at the beginning.

It might take more than a minute's thought. Corollary: there's always another way to do it. The sweetest fruit isn't necessarily the low-hanging fruit, and you're not going to jump to the top of the tree in one bounce.

Don't be afraid to copy (other's ideas, anyway). In fact, this is probably the best way to get going.

Similarly, from cycling:

No pain doesn't mean no gain. It might mean slower gain (or not), but might mean I'll stay with it, too.

Enjoy the doing. You'll never get anywhere, let alone get to all the fun places those with experience seem to be, if you don't enjoy the doing along the way.

The Mind is a Garden


"... the time which was left to him ..., he devoted to work. Sometimes he dug in his garden; again, he read or wrote. He had but one word for both these kinds of toil; he called them gardening. 'The mind is a garden,' said he." -- Victor Hugo (from Les Miserables)

A Glorious Day


On Twitter, @antonyjohnston said "it's a glorious day when major retailers are competing for the right to boast the largest DRM-free catalogue...", and included a link to Apple's boast. Amazon is apparently making the same boast recently, and I and others are wondering where stands in the "biggest" queue.

I couldn't agree more. It is indeed a glorious day, and it's a sign that an industry that can appear so completely clueless at one point can actually turn around and have a clue, in less than a lifetime.

Now we just need to have folks competing for who can support copyright reform the most.

Lost Weight!


Okay, I've mentioned this everywhere else I live online, might as well do a recap here. As of this morning, I'm at my goal weight of 180#. (I was 179.5# on Monday, but it bounces around day by day, as you'd expect.)

The grand total is 35 pounds off, from 214 on Jan 2, 2003 to 179, four and a half years later. The last 10 pounds or so came off over the summer, as a result of continuing low-carb and doing more with cycling several times a week. As far as low-carb goes, I continue to love eating this way, and when I eat more carbs (i.e. that pizza lunch earlier this week), I feel it for a day afterwards, and it feels bad. Call it the carbs, call it a mild wheat allergy, however you look at it, I'm perfectly happy to avoid large amounts of carbs.

Having the weight off feels great, too. I certainly feel more energy now versus 2003, when I had trouble going up a full flight of stairs without feeling it, (and heaven help me if I was carrying my then-3-yr-old while climbing). I'm not Mr. Macho now, but it feels great to be in better shape.

Of course, now comes the challenge of keeping it off. My new goal is to be at 180# (or a little less) on 1/1/2008, i.e. make it through the holidays. I'm thinking that if I keep doing what I've been doing, but just add a little snack mid-afternoon or at bedtime, I should be able to stop losing weight, and keep where I am. Regardless, I want to keep paying attention to it, and keep exercising. (That'll be the hardest, as winter approaches, and I'd rather be riding outside than exercising in the basement.)

Copyright Promotes Creation?


Maybe I'm a little slow on the uptake, but I got to thinking again today about why we have copyright. The constitution says "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;" and I'm okay with that. I'd prefer the "limited Times" actually be limited, and the current term doesn't seem at all limited to me, both in how long it is, and in how it keeps getting longer to prevent anything from falling into the public domain.

But then it struck me. It says copyright is to promote progress. Typically that's interpreted to mean that copyright is intended to encourage creativity, by allowing creators an exclusive market for their creations. Now will somebody please tell me this:

How on earth can I be encouraged to create something more, 70 years after I'm dead?!

Copyright term currently extends to the life of the author plus 70 years. I'd personally prefer a copyright term (preferably registered, but that's another topic) of, say, 20 years plus a 20 year renewal, but I suppose you could make a case for life-of-the-author.

But how, pray tell, can I be encouraged to create something more, after I'm dead? How can granting copyright privileges to my heirs encourage me to continue creating (beyond the grave)? Is it seriously a problem that we wouldn't have 80-yr-olds continuing their art if they didn't know that their grandchildren would be allowed to fight over the proceeds?

If copyright didn't exist, I agree that creation could suffer. Creators would need day jobs, most current full-time creators would create less, and some wouldn't create at all. But in my view, requiring creators to come up with something new every 20-40 years seems like a reasonable balance between giving them opportunity for compensation on the one hand, and allowing for public ownership of created works on the other (think Beethoven, Shakespear, etc., that nobody needs permission to play with).

Yes. I want copyright reform.



Okay, so I have a zillion hobbies. Back a month or so ago, Wife wanted a new, smaller camera, and I went through a hobby-du-jour moment of wanting to take pictures. I put it off, as I have these moments fairly frequently, but as the topic persisted around our home, I had something come to mind.

I had been perusing photo groups on, and had found one called Project365. The idea is that you take one (or more) picture(s) a day, and post it to this group, every day, for a year. No more and no less than one picture from each calendar day, no taking 7 pictures today and uploading them one at a time for the next week.

It was an approach that I'd never really tried before. Taking one picture takes mere seconds (if you have the camera in hand, or a minute maybe if you don't). Knowing that you can only post one picture means you have *zero* incentive to take all of the neat pictures you can think of, because you can only post one from a given day's shooting. You have to spread it out over a long time.

So I'm currently somewhere around 40 days into this. It's been an interesting process, and I'm learning some interesting things (which I'll post shortly). And 365, here I come.

(My photo page, FWIW, is here.) Does Audiobooks!


I've been on for a while now, and am still enjoying it, getting to explore a host of new music for a very reasonable price. Imagine my surprise, then, when I went onto their website a week or so ago, and saw that they're now offering audiobooks.

It's a separate subscription and a separate price, but for $10/month, you can download an audiobook in MP3 format, completely free of DRM. (Which means I can copy it and listen to it on any of my computers as well as my MP3 player, which doesn't do DRM, thank you very much.)

As I'm not terribly literate, I can't really say much about their selection, but in half an hour's looking, I found plenty to pique my interest. I've pulled down Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters so far, and have them in my queue along with my podcasts and Librivox books, and while something tells me I shouldn't be quite this excited about this, I've got a queue of books that I want a year or more long, and I'm really planning to enjoy this service.

The Tyranny of Lists


I've noticed a pattern with me and lists. If I have a bunch of things to do, I'll make a list. So far, so good. It helps me get it all out of my head, so I'm not spending so much energy trying to remember things, and gives me that energy to focus on doing.

But then I'll do the first things (i.e. the most interesting things) on the list, and the remainder will sit idle for weeks/months/until I lose the list. I've noticed that the longer it sits on the list, regardless of how worthwhile it is, the less I want to do it, (or perhaps, the more I feel like I'm being nagged by it).

So I'm trying something new. First thing in the morning, I'm making a list of what I want to do that day. If there's something truly important that doesn't get done, it can be carried over to the next day, otherwise I just erase the list at day's end, and start over. So far, it's been great to have a fresh start every day, and it's been nice to spend a few minutes thinking about what I really want to do with the day.

Tools are meant to serve us, not us serve them. Harumph!

Working Fire


Another book I finished not too long ago was "Working Fire" by Zac Unger. Every so often, I go through an "I wanna be a fireman when I grow up" phase. This time around, I picked this book up from the library.

While "Working Fire" was much too profane for my taste, it gave (in my uneducated, non-fireman's opinion) a very good picture of life as a professional Oakland, CA, inner-city firefighter. I came away from it still wanting (perhaps more than ever) to be one of the ones that goes to help, but I also know now more than ever that I'll never be either a professional or an inner-city firefighter. My hat's off to those who to, though, to be sure.

Koi... Mil Gaya


Saw my first Bollywood movie this week. (At three hours long, I watched it over a few mights.) It was quite different from American fare, and quite refreshing. ("Bollywood" refers to the film industry in India, if you didn't know.)

Imagine taking a screenwriter from the 40's or 50's, with all of the optimism and innocence of a movie like "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" or "The Sound of Music", add Indian actors and actresses, make it with modern film equipment, and you've got "Koi... Mil Gaya", (which, from the subtitles, translates into "I've Found Someone"). The characters are simple and stereotyped, but fun. Nobody takes themselves too terribly seriously, including the screenwriters. You see the plot coming a mile away. But what a refreshing difference! And it's just amazingly beautiful, all the way through.

Thanks, Netflix, I've already queued up its sequel!

Mere Christianity


Finished reading C. S. Lewis's "Mere Christianity" recently, and I'm impressed enough to have added all the rest of Lewis's books to my reading list. While I can't say I learned anything particularly new, he explained a variety of religious subjects more simply and clearly than I've ever read before. He stayed within what he considers points agreed upon by all of Christianity, and while there were a few things (as a Latter Day Saint) that I disagreed with, on the whole it was a very enjoyable read.



One of the things I apparently missed blogging about over the winter was that we got a new dog. If you read back to Feb '06, we had tried this before, and it didn't work out too well, but this past Feb, Wife went down to the local Humane Society to look around, and saw Missy.

Missy, they said, is a cocker spaniel/poodle mix, a cockapoo, or spoodle. (I can't say I like either name; a cockapoo sounds like a bird, and spoodle sounds like a pasta dish.) She's sort of a light beige, with poodle-like curly fur and a spaniel's soft, pretty, floppy ears. I love playing with her ears, and it's funny to go see my sister-in-law's dogs, which are both at least twice Missy's size but have ears 1/3 of Missy's.

She's usually a pretty good dog. She gets a bit protective of Daughter and Wife when Son is around, and has nipped at him a couple of times, but overall is pretty laid back and mellow. She's also nipped at Daughter and one of her friends, and we're not at all sure what either of those were about, or whether either was provoked in any way. But overall she's pretty calm and relaxed.

She gets a bit riled up at the kids' bedtime, running from room to room, doing laps around the bed, and so on. She also loved to "wrestle" with me, biting/chewing (lightly) on my hand and letting me toss her around. I'm the only one who will let her do that, though; Son and Wife aren't interesting in the play-biting in the least, and Daughter would rather play fetch and pet with her. (One of these days, I'm going to get a picture of her chewing on me, and call it "Biting the Hand that Feeds You"...)

Wife (or kids, over the summer) usually walk her during the day, and I get to take her out at night, around the block. It's gotten to be a routine thing that I really like, seeing our neighborhood through all seasons and weather, getting a glance at the stars and moon (or the clouds).

Like most dogs, she prefers people food to dog food, and we usually give her a little something at dinner time, but at least 3/4 of her food is her own stuff. She'll still beg somewhat, but usually doesn't make too much of a fuss. She will come running when she hears the cheese drawer in the fridge open up. I'll often throw her bits while I'm making up my eggs-n-cheese in the morning. She was really bad at catching them at first, but with some practice, she's gotten pretty good.

And perhaps most importantly (to me, anyway) is that she's not so much of an early riser. I've heard lots of folks talk about needing to get up right away to let the dog out in the morning, but she's usually content to pad around the house until 9 or 10 AM before needing to go out.

All in all, having a dog (or at least, having our dog) is a pretty good deal, and I'm glad we got Missy.