Archive for Random Thoughts

1,000 Paper Cranes

A friend of mine is making 1,000 paper cranes.

If you followed that link, you’ll see a story about a young girl with leukemia who is told of a legend whereby if a person folds a thousand paper cranes their wish will come true. According to the story of the girl, she originally was going to wish to be well, but when she got to the end she wished for world peace instead. She was buries with a wreath of a thousand paper cranes.

In all of my searching, though, I cannot find reference of the original legend itself, only mentions of people being told the legend.

I suppose the point, as my friend says, is that if you see it through, making the thousand cranes, during which you really can’t think of anything other than the wish you will make, by the end you’ll really know what your heart desires. In the girl’s case, being a victim of the atomic bomb herself, she (I assume) realized that she wanted less to get better herself and wanted more that the world would have peace and never see another atomic bomb drop.

I’ve been wondering what I would wish for if I decided to undertake the folding of a thousand cranes. I have no idea…

My friend has been keeping track of his progress on his blog.

Tagged for Five

It appears that I’ve been tagged with the latest of internet fads (some people like to call them memes, but whatever). So, I’m supposed to tell you five things that you might not know about me… damn, I’ve been putting crap on the internet since June of 1998, I think I might be out of stuff to tell… but here goes and forgive me if any of this is a repeat:

  1. After failing 5 out of 9 classes in three quarters at Southern Tech (now Southern Polytechnic), I was invited to leave. I could blame it on the girl. I could blame it on me leaving the girl after she broke my heart. I could blame it on my deciding to take a full time job. I could blame it on the lure of the student center in winter, the 25 cent cups of hot chocolate and the endless loops of Article 99 and other movies. But the truth is, despite having graduated High School with less than a 2.5 GPA, I actually took and passed 2 AP Exams which allowed me to skip several college classes and the ones I took (2 of the 4 classes I passed) first quarter where, for me, repeats of stuff I had to learn for the AP Exams. So I barely went to class and still got A’s. I thought to myself, “This college stuff is easy!” and I continued not going to class because… I didn’t want to go. So yes, my grades were actually 4 A’s (first quarter), 3 F’s (second quarter) and 2 F’s (third quarter). It was at this point my parents stopped paying for school, I was invited to transfer to another (easier) college and finally learned what my parents had known since I started pulling C’s in 8th grade: My grades weren’t bad because I was stupid, my grades were bad because I was lazy. I stopped being lazy and started making the A’s and B’s I should have been getting all along. Some lessons have a price, this one cost me 4 years of tuition out of my own pocket.
  2. I ask people to remind me of things so I will remember them without being reminded. Its really funny because if I try to remember important stuff on my own, I forget. But, if I tell someone, “Hey, remind me later to…” I never forget and don’t need the reminding. So, I’ve taken up the habit of asking people to remind me of anything I want to remember. It used to drive my wife insane until she learned to ignore anything I asked her to remind me of.
  3. My nose has not stopped bleeding since I was 11 years old. And I’m 32 now. I remember the first time it happened. We lived in Pennsylvania at the time, and we were outside clearing the snow off the drive way. I thought my nose was running, but the look on my mother’s face is something I’ll never forget. I actually thought she was looking at something behind me, and I turned around, slipped, and fell into the snow. When I got up, there was a big patch of red snow where I had fallen. There was blood down the front of my face and jacket. Most days it just bleeds a little and is held back with some light sniffling (over 21 years I’ve probably said the phrase “No, I don’t have a cold”, umm, eleventy billion times), other days I have to stuff my nose with a tissue or cotton to help it back up and clot and scab. I’ve had four different doctors look at the problem, which has resulted in two failed attempts to cauterize the inside of my sinuses and my complete and utter loss of faith in the phrase “Just relax, this will only hurt a little bit.” I have been told that I could have surgery, something similar to that which they do for people with a deviated septum or a small skin transplant, but not only do they not guarantee it would solve the problem, I have yet to have an insurance carrier willing to cover it either claiming it is a pre-existing condition or that its elective cosmetic surgery. All in all, the skin inside my nose is thin, and changes in humidity and/or temperature (you know, stuff like turning on the heater in my car or entering an air conditioned building) can cause it to crack and split. On the bright side, I have been instructed not to donate blood since if I were to have a serious nose bleed immediately after getting blood taken there could be serious problems (like passing out and death and stuff).
  4. I keep a list of all the people I’ve promised things to should I ever win the lottery. And before you start asking, I only make promises to people who ask for reasonable stuff that I think they could really benefit from.
  5. I wear both an engagement ring and a wedding ring. When I first met a girl I thought I might marry (see item 1 on this list), I came up with this wacky idea. That relationship didn’t work out. Neither did any of them for the next nine years, then I asked my then girlfriend (now wife) to marry me and explained the idea, which she loved, and we did it (sort of). Now, let me explain… Marriage, to me, has always been about two things, love and the relationship. The wedding ring, traditionally a gold ring, is a symbol of love. Gold doesn’t fade, it doesn’t tarnish, just like love. If you have ever loved someone, you will always love them, they may change and you may not love the person they become, but you will always love the person you fell in love with. Love doesn’t fade, it doesn’t tarnish. The engagement ring, to me, is a symbol of the relationship. This ring is silver. Silver, you see, if left alone, if not cared for, will tarnish, turn ugly. You have to tend to silver, polish it, work with it. Just like a relationship. You have to care for your marriage, you have to talk and work things out. The silver engagement ring is a symbol of our willingness to commit to that work. Commitment and Love, Silver and Gold. Only, it turns out the girl I asked to marry me is allergic to Nickel, which is used in about 99.99999% of gold alloys, so we went with Titanium instead, because it too does not tarnish with the added bonus that if I’m ever on a deep sea mining rig that is flooding, I can use the ring to stop a pressure door from closing. To that end, my wife and I have matching silver engagement bands (right ring finger) and matching titanium wedding rings (left ring finger).

And there you have it… now I’m supposed to tag five people, and I’m going to be mean and introduce this fad (meme) to MySpace. Kevin, Kelly, A.J., T.D., and Jason… Suck it!

The Shopping Season

Now that the holiday shopping season is pretty much over, I wanted to take a moment and share what it is that I like and don’t like about it.

One thing is fairly consistant among people I talk to is that noone seems to like going to the mall, or near the mall, or even getting on the roads at all from Thanksgiving to January 2nd. Most of this, I find kind of funny. First off, the traffic… yeah, people are stupid, but with some good Christmas tunes (or other music if you are one of those sicko people who hates Christmas songs), a watchful eye, and a zen “I’ll get there when I get there” attitude, traffic is nothing to worry about. Just always give yourself plenty of time, and know that if you are late the simple excuse of “Traffic!” is enough for just about anybody. Then there is parking… my legs ain’t broke, ’nuff said. Well, almost. Look, seriously, most of us out there are perfectly capable of walking, just don’t go shopping on rainy days and you’ll be fine. Nothing tickles me more than watching people drive around the mall looking for the perfect parking spot for an hour when they could have parked at the end, and be halfway done with shopping by now! I am literally filled with glee when I see the vultures circling the aisles. The next thing is the crowds. Now, I completely get why most people don’t like crowds… mainly it is because crowds are pushy and they get in the way. The solution here is just to not be in a rush youself.

That whole not being in a rush thing is at the center of enjoying the holiday shopping season. Number one, don’t wait until the last minute to buy high demand gifts. If you were one of those people clammoring to buy a Wii or PS3 on December 24th… you are an idiot. You should either have bought it sooner, or come up with another plan. If I ever have kids, they are going to love me or hate me, because I simply will not put up with that crazy shopper crap. If I can’t lay my hands on a high demand gift early, they’ll be getting a letter from Santa, an IOU and a substitute gift. Christmas in February! There is just no point in killing yourself for a gift. That said, this season, I had a chance to lay hands on both a Wii and a PS3, but not dying for either, I passed them on to the next person in line. I can wait (for a better bundle deal). I’m not perfect though. I mentioned previously that I was pretty sure I hit a home run in the gift giving department this year (and I did), and part of that was an in demand gift… a Nintendo DS Lite, the pink one. I didn’t act soon enough and so the pink one slid through my fingers. I had a choice to make… get another gift, or get a non-pink one. I went with the non-pink one, because the DS itself was really the gift, the pink color was just a bonus. But that was only half the home run.

See, the DS was one of those “only if” items. I had a budget, and the DS was only on the purchase list if I could manage the other gifts with enough room in the budget left for the DS. This leads to the other side of shopping, the best side: deals.

The wife, for whom the DS was for, also wanted some power tools. Now, under normal circumstances I could have only gotten two, maybe three, tools for the budget, but it was Christmas which meant package deals. ACE Hardware happened to be running one, it was a really nice 6 piece cordless toolset for about $50-60 off the regular package price. I shopped around for other deals, but ACE was the best deal, and decent quality stuff (not top of the line, because top of the line does not go on sale, ever, because it doesn’t need to, its top of the line). None of the ACEs I went to had it, and I tried to order it online, but they weren’t giving the same deal as the in-store, so I kept searching. Finally, I found one, just one, the last one. Yay! But the box was all damaged, so I asked to talk to the manager and asked him if the item had been returned. Yep, it had been. Well, I didn’t want to buy something that was broken, so I wanted to know why it had been returned. He went to pull the customer service report to see the reason stated for return, but couldn’t find it, and I didn’t want to buy it if it was potentially broken, and he didn’t want to sell it to me if there was a possibility of return since he didn’t have any more and wasn’t going to get any more… so, he gave it to me for another $40 off, a total of about $100 off the normal list price. I bought it, took it home and tested all the parts and they all worked! Yay! That left enough room in the budget for the DS and a game.

The wife managed a similar kind of deal when she got for me the Complete Calvin and Hobbes. I know the suggested retail is $150, and Amazon sells it usually for $99… but I know she got it for $68. You can’t always get these kinds of deals just filling virtual carts online.

But back to the rush… see, the most important reason to not be in a rush, is that when you do go out to the stores and malls, you are filled with the warm feeling knowing that you are not one of those crazy people who are surrounding you. I actually like to hit the mall once or twice when my shopping is done (or nearly done) just so I can sit back and watch the people. I’ve always been a people watcher, and the holidays brings out the best and worst in people. It makes for fantastic people watching.

Welcome to 2007

So, how did you ring in the New Year?

Me? I went to my brother’s house because he and his wife were having a party. I was introduced to Dead Rising, which, honestly, was just plain mean since I don’t own an Xbox 360… now I’m going to have to go buy one. And I got to witness the Wii in person… now I’m going to have to go buy one of those too. There was food and drink, and there was karaoke. All I have to say is… I rock. We watched Dick Clark count in the last seconds of 2006, and mostly we were, as always, amazed by his recovery and saddened by the fact that he’s now a huge buzzkill for festivities.

Now that it is 2007, what does that mean?

Well, it used to mean putting the wrong date on my checks for a couple months, but I’ve switched over to electronic billing for everything but my garbage collection, and I only have to pay them every three months. As with every year, despite my loathing for New Year’s Resolutions, I’m still making a couple… mostly the same ones I always make. But I figure, if I have almost a dozen friends and family who have decided to quit smoking, I think I can manage working out three times a week and eating a little less crap.

Also in 2007… I think I’m almost done with PC games. Frankly, the alure of MMOs is finally wearing off. New games just don’t appeal to me much. WoW has been fun, and I still might pick up the expansion to play around, but most games on the horizon my computer can’t play (I’m in the Vanguard beta, or rather, I got accepted but I haven’t been able to log in and actually create a character), and rather than paying two thousand plus dollars to upgrade my and my wife’s machines, I think I’ll just invest that same money into a Wii, a 360 and an HD projection TV. And hey, bonus, the new TV makes watching movies and television shows better too. The list of non-MMO PC exclusive games has practically vanished, and with the consoles you never have to worry about compatibility issues.

I’m still interested in MMOs as a theory and design, but nothing out there for the next year is really gripping me. Largely it looks like the same old grind, and if I’m going to play in a fantasy world, I’d rather be sitting around a table with a half dozen friends these days instead of staring at my monitor pushing buttons for rewards.

It looks like 2007 is also going to bring a flood of superhero books to the market. I’m guessing the successes of Hollywood and both Marvel and DC’s initial forays into paperback books have paid off enough that it seems like a new book is coming out from somebody each week. Though, the landscape is still lacking in original material. Its all book adaptations of existing characters from the comic books. Perhaps in 2007 I’ll work toward changing that and actually finish a writing project or two.

And on the business front… lets just say that aught seven is looking pretty good.

Finally, we come to the end of my ramblings and musing, and I welcome you, heartily, to two thousand seven.

Enjoy!

Another Year Over

2006 draws to an end tonight, and I’ll be celebrating with family and friends, as I hope you all are.

So, looking back, what did this year bring me?

The best thing of the year for me is easy… I bought a house. Sure, I saddled myself with a mortgage that I’ll likely be paying for 30 years, but owning a home is just… cool. I have a big back yard and I really look forward to working in it and on it in the coming years. The dog likes the yard too. The house is big… really big. I used to live in a 2 bedroom, 3 floor townhome apartment, and this place puts that thing to shame. Oddly enough, its also cheaper to maintain. My electric, gas and water bills have gone down despite the fact that I have more stuff, a larger place to cool and heat, and a yard to water. Its weird and awesome.

The worst thing of the year… that’s alot tougher. Overall, this has been a pretty good year, but in the end I’d say the worst thing has been having to watch my wife choose between leaving a job that was almost literally killing her and her best friend. Its a huge horrible mess that I won’t go into detail on, but lets just say it was bad. Hopefully next year will bring some healing here.

That’s me… what about you folks? You, if you are reading this, let me know… what was your best and/or worst thing about 2006?

I could go into a long post about events in the world, but mostly the year was pretty sad… this, however, I find disgusting. Please, don’t buy those.

The Spirit of Giving

I’ll admit, when it comes to gift giving occasions, like birthdays and Christmas, I usually phone it in. That’s not to say I don’t get the person something they want or something they need, or that they don’t appreciate the gifts, but… I usually play it safe. You like movies, here is a movie; you like console games, here is a console game; you have a wish list at Amazon, here is an item off your wish list at Amazon.

This year though, I think for a couple of people, I’ve finally managed to pull off “the good gift”. You know the one I mean. The thing they didn’t ask for, the thing they think no one will buy them, the thing they forgot that they wanted but that you remembered them talking about… and now I’m all full of excitement about Christmas morning on a level beyond the norm.

Damn, I should have been doing this all along. But I’ll give credit where credit is due… I couldn’t have done it without Amazon.

One of the problems you run into with giving gifts is trying to remember thing people have said they wanted. Usually, you don’t really think about it until the time to give in near and so the main thoughts in your head will be of stuff they’ve talked about recently. But Amazon introduced Gift Idea Lists this year. You can add a person, then add gifts to that person… they’ll even give your three recommendations for gifts based on the list (I do wish this was larger, three just seems to not really be enough). So now, not on some scrap of paper I can lose, whenever someone I know mentions something they want, I can go drop it on their Gift List and save it for when I need to buy them something.

It’ll even keep track of gift giving days for each person… so guys, sorry, but you’ve run out of excuses for forgetting anniversaries.

WriMo Results

November is a horrible month. At least it usually is for me. The holiday and other family stuff, Christmas preparations, and my job aligned against me to foul my plans.

Mostly it was the job. Thanks to the traditional December code freeze (which they introduced for Y2K and just haven’t bothered to remove), everything has to get done before then. Rush, rush, rush. Blah.

Anyway… I managed to write about 2,000 words. Maybe 3,000. Far short of the 50,000 word goal of the contest. Better luck next year.

Black Friday

It’s not just for Fridays anymore!

Seriously. The last few years, the wife and I have gone out and fought the crowds to do some shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving. And amazingly enough, we usually find some good deals. For instance, this year was a slew of DVDs for under $4 each. A few years ago, getting up at 4 A.M. was usually enough. Its just not anymore.

Yesterday, you know, Thursday, we were driving home from Thanksgiving dinner, and we decided, on a lark, to swing by the local Best Buy store. They were closed, but it was 6:30 P.M. and there were at least forty people lined up outside. Seeing as how forty people is enough to exhaust all the available Nintento Wii’s, PS3’s and every front page special from their ad, we decided not to bother. We’d just come in the morning like usual.

Right.

So at 4 A.M. we finish getting McDonald’s breakfast and head to Best Buy. There had to be easily more than five hundred people in line. The Best Buy is in a strip mall… Best Buy, Office Depot, PETsMART, and Sports Authority. The line went all the way down the strip, down the outter wall of the Sports Authority, out into the parking lot, and wrapped one time around the TGI Friday’s.

Target, on the other hand, had about twenty people in line. We went to Target.

Luckily, we didn’t really have our hearts set on any super-mega deals. We just wanted to pick up a few items at a deep discount, and we did. Score! We even went to Best Buy, after the line was gone, and managed to find all the items we wanted still available. Score again!

The only problem was the 2-pack of Ice Age and Ice Age: The Meltdown we bought… I mean, come on, who puts out a 2-pack where one movie is in Widescreen while the other one is in Full Screen. Idiots. So we need to return that. Or not. It was like $8. We might just buy another single copy. No big loss.

Jamaica

2006 has been a banner year for my family. In February, I got married. In June, my younger brother got married. And two days ago, my older brother got married. I know what you are thinking… “Dude, the title of this post is Jamaica!” Yeah, we all flew down to Jamaica and my new sister-in-law and her husband got hitched on the beach.

Well, not on the beach, but on a gazeebo thingy on a little pier like thing out from the beach. It was fairly cool.

And Jamaica itself is nothing to shake a stick at… unless you really just love shaking sticks at things, because I suppose if that kind of thing is your bag, well, just shake away, my friend, shake away. The beaches are nice, the water is warm, the pools are cool, the jacuzzis are hot, and when you stay at a Sandals resort all the food and drinks are free.

We stayed at the Sandals Royal Caribbean resort which is in Montego Bay… unfortunately it is being partially renovated at this time, so a couple of the restaurants were closed, but they have a private island, and that’s just sweet.

As always though, three nights anywhere just really is not enough time to really get into a vacation. The next one I swear is going to be at least a week.

Very Non-Idle Hands

Time magazine has run a story about the Best Invenstions of 2006.

Their cream of the crop is YouTube. Obviously the runaway success (company sold for like $1.6 billion) of it all had an impact on their placement on the list. Sharing things on the internet isn’t new, but it really has never been more easy. Consider YouTube the ultimate of the “right place, right time” set. It could never have happened five years ago.

Now… my opinions on the rest of the list…

As a proof of concept, the Horizon Fuel Cell makes me kind of giddy in a “Wow, not that is a giant leap forward” sort of way. Sure, this is just a toy, but it proves to more than just science geeks that an engine really can run on water. Awesome.

Yeah, the Tesla Roadster 100 costs $100,000, but the sheer fact that Tesla Motors put out a fully electric sports car that can do 0 to 60 in 4 seconds. Well, its just cool, and in a weird way its them finally living up to the Tesla name.

The Clever car is an ideal… its great, until that idiot in his Hummer literally turns you into a chunky paste. Perhaps one day when cities become more compact and the roads aren’t so full of people rushing to get somewhere they live too far away from. The Mark V falls into that category too, and 3,145 miles per gallon just sounds too good to be viably true unless society changes to allow such flimsy vehicles.
First to enter in on the “Duh” category, the Black & Decker Simple Start answers the question of “What if my car battery dies in the middle of nowhere?” as directly as possible. Nice.

I’ve never really been on a boat, but part of me always glorfies life at sea. I would either want an old wooden pirate ship, or a sun21. Maybe a combination of both. Oh, and I’d also need an Innespace Sea Breacher. SeaQuest DSV here we come!

My wife really needs a Loc8tor. The hovering bed, however, I don’t think anyone needs. And as cool as the concept of the Wovel is, you would just look like such a dork using it. My older brother and his soon to be wife have ruined a section of carpet in their home, which would have been prevented by the self-lifting Oliso iron.

I hate seafood, and really I had never considered that it took two minutes to kill a lobster when you boil it, but if you have, don’t worry, with the CrustaStun you can now electrocute them in 5 seconds. I imagine the lobster tank at the local restaurant to be like a miniature death row leading to the electric chair now. And while faster isn’t always better, something inside me both cheers and cringes when I read about the Moo Bella icecream machines. There is no doubt about my cringing when it comes to the pudding-like coffee espesso. But the fruit and vegetable Lotus Sanitizing System definately looks cool.

First in the “man, I wish I had that” category is the NanoNuno umbrella. Adding to that in the “man, I wish I had that as a kid” subcategory is Nike’s Macro React clothing. No, I didn’t wish I had a dress, they make shirts for men. And just as I’m getting my hopes up, they make me weep for the future with the Hug Shirt. Why is it that I imagine this being sold by Apple, it being called the “iShirt” and them adding music and videos to it?

I’m not even going to bother linking to any of the crap in the Toys section of the invention list. Its all crap. Okay, the talking mirror is kind of neat, but really if you have a talking automated house, the talking face isn’t really any better than the disembodied voice, because, honestly, unless you install like 40 of these things, what are the chances you are going to be in the room with the mirror when stuff happens? Oh, and NASCAR sucks.

The new drunk driver test that measures skin’s light reflectivity scares me just a little. Part of me is scared by the possibility of being falsely identified as drunk with it, and part of me is scared by the possibility that its never wrong. “No, Officer, I’m just a naturally dull person.” I can’t, however, say anything bad about Gardasil, a vaccine for a virus that can cause cancer. Good work. On the other hand, I’m a little weirded out by Allerca’s hypoallergenic cats, bred for your comfort. And in the “one step closer to cyborgs” bin goes Realive, a suit that helps people with muscle rehabilitation by triggering the affected arm to mimic the movements of the “good” arm. Cool stuff. In the “but can they be trusted to use it for good” category comes a water-harvesting machine that sucks clean water right out of the air.

Woodshop teachers of the world rejoiced at the invention of SawStop’s finger saving saw, when it detects that the blade is sinking into flesh, it stops and retracts, leaving the user with only a nick. People trying to dispose of bodies were not amused. Another entry in the “Duh” category of inventions that just make sense and its just so F-ing cool that someone actually invented the damn thing, the LifeLine, so that no firefighter has to simply jump and pray again when things go bad.

The military, of course, invents stuff all the time, and a few of their items made it on the list… first up is the Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (BEAR), go figure, the military invents robots and they save lives instead of ending them. Next we get the M80 Stiletto, a boat that weighs 45 tons and only draws 3 feet of water (for you non boat people, that means only 3 feet of the boat hull is submerged, so it can go in really shallow water). Lastly we get the StrawJet, a machine that takes straw and turns it into quality building material.

I really see no good purpose for the Power Flower, I mean, I think it looks ugly. On the other hand, solar cells that are so thin that they are printed directly onto building materials like this solar skin is just awesome. And the paper-thin, flexible lightbulbs from CeeLite make me hope they will replace ugly disgusting flourescent lighting in office buildings everywhere… not to mention my own kitchen.

And that is the end of their list, and this is the end of my post.