Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lost in Translation

After living here a year here are the new words and phrases we have heard. Which is funny because outside of the soda/pop/coke controversy everywhere we lived on the west coast really didn’t have any different words. (New York is a “soda” state)
waiting in line = waiting on line
garage sale = tag sale
shopping cart = shopping carriage
stroller = pram
purse = pocketbook
freeway = thruway
hoggie, submarine sandwich = wedge

Monday, September 29, 2008

Privacy on a Blog?

I guess everyone has to decide how much information they want about themselves floating around on the Internet. For me, having this journal on the Internet has helped as a motivation for timely entries. I’ve been doing it for just over 3 years now and have averaged about a post a week. (Now why anyone would want to read it? That is harder to answer.) One thing that people ask though is why I use initials instead of names. I think a perfect example just happened in the news.
The current Republican Vice-President nominee, Sarah Palin, somehow had it exposed in the news that she was using a yahoo email account. (I won’t get into the legality of using a private email address for official government purposes because this is not a political blog.) It only took a couple of days before the account was taken over by a college student and everyone was looking at her personal family pictures and reading her business mail. The point was there was no hacking (or cracking) involved. The person used publicly available information on where she had met her husband as the security question to reset the password.
So moral of the story. If you are going to put personal information on the internet such as birthdate don’t link it to your name. Also, don’t use real information for security questions; but that’s another story.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Being a Patron of the Arts

Since we live so close to NYC family and friends like to visit. (...and if I know you, then you are invited because I do like people visiting.) Anyway, L.’s cousin came to visit and bought some friends and were going into the city every day. On Saturday we were planning to go into the city with them to go to MOMA (Museum Of Modern Art).
I got pretty far in my art degree before switching over to computers. Part of it was higher pay, but the main reason I switched was that I hated the idea of working and slaving at my craft to become better but die penniless because some talentless hack was in the right place at the right time and got by on using the word “juxaposed” to describe all of their work. (This is true for everyone I have talked to in art, architecture, writing, dance, music, movie, or any other artistic industry.) The reason for this side tangent is someone had given me some painting canvases and I had some ideas in my head that I felt I could learn some things from Van Gogh’s style.
I had heard about a Van Gogh exhibit that was coming up at MOMA but when I looked it up, it was not opening up until the next day, Sunday. However, if you were a member of the museum then they were having a preview that day. So, $120 membership for me and my wife gets us in and $5 tickets for our visitors. Or, we spend $20 a piece, and L. and I spend another $20 each to come back and see the Van Gogh exhibit when it does open. In this case it was cheaper to get more, plus we now had something to do during the boring winter months.
Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists, but you have to look closely at his paintings. He uses thick brush strokes but the paint is pre-mixed before going onto the brush. Seeing his artwork in person is also very different then pictures since it has a 3D quality with the paint being so thick. A lot of other people like Van Gogh too so even the member preview was busy. However I like standing to the side of the painting (where no one else is anyway) to get the full depth sense of the paintings. Later when it was a little less crowded I enjoyed staring at the painting while walking past it to create a motion parallax effect that made everything in the painting move and really (yes really) seem alive. L. said that I had my signature ear to ear tooth showing grin the whole time we were there. So, yes, I think it was worth the money to get the membership.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Building a Digital Lifestyle

The cobbler’s children have no shoes. I’ve always liked this saying as I can relate. Working with computers every day I try to avoid having none of the computers in my house working. Right now I am in the process of trying to do an upgrade to our home network.
It all started with the phones. We bought iPhones last year, then upgraded them to the new iPhone this year. (At a profit actually since I sold the old ones unlocked on eBay.) With the new phones they could synch calendars between them if you bought a hosting service from Apple. I made the plunge with the justification that I would also use the web hosting. (I am well aware that clicking on entries in the history wasn’t working.) That is the reason for the new look. (If you have been following along). Being able to have our address books synched between our phones and home computer is such a time saver. I don’t know how many times we lost new names or addresses because they would get overwritten.
The next goal was having a home server that holds our pictures and music. So far this has been trusty little mac mini but it has run out of hard drive space and I would really like to have all the important files mirrored onto another hard drive. This means a bigger computer. With a larger case to hold more hard drives, why not copy our movies onto the computer also. This was my downfall that I have been trying to achieve since we moved from Oregon. I installed linux and MythTV and could never quite get them to work reliably enough to take over for the Mac Mini. Then something, I am guessing an electrical surge, knocked out the power supply, motherboard, and one hard drive and they had to be replaced. I replaced the parts but linux did not yet support a lot of the new hardware. I thought Vista Media Center would be mature enough to give me the “just works” solution. However, my best guess is that Microsoft does not want their media center to compete with the cable boxes they sell so media center does not support digital TV, argh! (unencrypted QAM, which is odd since come February and the analog signal is turned off there are a lot of people yelling for this.) Not to mention the headaches I’ve run into with simple things like registration codes and DRM. I would have tried Mac OS X but Apple does not support any TV signal. I guess it is still a dream to have a reliable computer that can handle TV, video, music, and pictures.
...sorry kids, no digital convergence for you.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Niagara Falls

We wanted to go to Niagara Falls before the "bitter cold" of winter set in. So even though we had just gone on a road trip the last week, what is another road trip? This one was more spontaneous with us just doing a quick pack (Our weekend bags still had everything but the clothes) and driving though the night. The agreement was that I would work on the laptop while L. drove. I finished and she was tired so we switched and I drove until about 1AM before getting tired. We found a Ramada, which we thought was a reputable chain, but the place was kind of shady. We were tired and I guess that is the price of spontaneity.
The American side of the falls seems deserted. The city of Niagara Falls has had a lot of buildings torn down so there are a lot of green fields and the buildings left full of empty space.
We found parking and walked over to the island in the middle (goat island). My first impression was that I thought the falls were taller. I realized it was because of the perspective of being on top of them. The sound made up for the difference though. We were told by our waitress at breakfast we had to go to "Cave of the Winds". It ended up being our favorite thing to experience. They give you sandals and a poncho then we took an elevator down to the falls level. From there we walked the platforms that take you around the splashing rocks at the bottom. The water was splashing everywhere and a few of the platforms had water flowing over them. The last platform was supposed to have the same wind and water force of a hurricane. It was strong but fun enough that L. and I stood on the platform a second time after we caught our breath and re-secured our clothes under the flimsy ponchos. It had been sprinkling lightly all morning and the water from the falls felt warm in comparison. Of course when we were done we were still pretty wet from water dripping down our necks and flying up our arms so we decided to head back to the car.
We had brought our folding bikes to ride around so we decided to ride across to Canada. Only problem was we were not aloud to walk our bikes on the pedestrian path and there was no emergency lane so we took up one of the bridge lanes. The toll booth worker took our $0.50 each so it must be pretty regular. It was slightly strange to go though customs while seated on a bike.
In all reality everything was close enough together we didn't need our bikes but it made it fun. We rode to the "Behind the falls" building which looked interesting. We took an elevator down and a tunnel was dug back behind the Waterfall so you could see the back side of it. Outside of being very loud it was not as awe inspiring as it would have been had we just not finished the "Cave of the Winds".
We rode our bikes back and got a hotel on the Canadian side so we entered the country for a second time in a few hours. (I'm sure that is going to put us on a watch list or something.) It is pretty obvious that this place is set up for honeymoons since our hotel room was more the honeymoon suite with the whirlpool tub and everything.
Niagara Falls city on the Canadian side is heavily touristy. (It looks similar to "Universal City Walk" or "Downtown Disney" in California) It was also strange that the US and Canadian dollar are at parity right now. We enjoyed a good dinner, and the display of tourism (Why there needs to be so many spook houses is beyond me) then walked down to the falls to watch the colored lights on the falls at dark.
The next morning was a six hour ride home. It made for a very good weekend.