July 19th, 2009
As many of you know, Alyssa and I are big Beatles fans and we are anxiously awaiting the upcoming release of the Beatles Rockband game. When we first saw the trailer for it, we knew we had to get it. It's one of the main reasons for our recent purchase of a PlayStation 3.
The release date is 09-09-09 (number 9? number 9?). Yesterday we pre-ordered it, and we're excitedly waiting for it to come out. Curious, I counted how many days were left. 53! How can we wait 53 days? So, like kids anxiously awaiting Christmas, we made a chain of links to countdown the days.
On each link we wrote a Beatles song. (That's how prolific they were--we wrote 53 different songs and could still go on). We'll be posting the "Beatles Song of the Day" on my Twitter feed (twitter.com/ersatzjello). Alyssa and I also hope to do a week in review on this blog for all the songs for that week--talking about our memories of the songs and how they've influenced our lives, as well as trivia about the songs themselves.
June 6th, 2009
Now that I'm a home owner, I have the responsibility of taking care of my lawn. Our house is on a corner lot and the previous owners idea of landscaping was to lay grass--lots and lots of grass.
Alyssa and I fully intend to add other landscaping elements to our yard--maybe a garden in the back with some xeriscaping in the front, but until we have the time and money to do it, I'm going to be mowing the whole lawn.
Before we got the house, I considered what kind of lawn mower to get. Being environmentally conscious, I looked into motorless (or "reel") mowers. I did a lot of internet research about the pro and cons of them, and finally bought a Scott's 20" Reel Mower soon after we found our house.
Here are my impressions after using it a couple of times.
- Not good at really long grass - When we first got here the lawn was so overgrown that Alyssa's dad joked that we'd need a bailer rather than a mower. I tried pushing my mower over through the turf jungle and it was pretty tough. Luckily, some nice neighbors mowed the lawn for us. Even so, I'm going to have to keep on top of it (about once a week) or it'll be really tough.
- Not as thorough - Motorized blades spin hundreds of times per second, so grass blades have a greater chance of getting cut. This mower's blade's spin only dozens of times per second (although I was surprised by how fast they do spin around). Becuase of this, some blades of grass might get missed the first time. If I want a completely clean cut, it takes two passes.
- Harder to push - Although not that much harder, it is more work than a motorized mower (and much more than a self-propelled mower).
- No grass catcher - You can buy an attachment, but it doesn't appear to work all that well. So far, the grass seems to be going okay anyway, but I'll probably want to invest in a rake and gather the clippings once in a while.
- Crazy looks from friends and family - My dad just about laughed his head off when I told him what kind of mower I bought. The bishopric came to visit us while I was just finishing mowing the lawn and asked, "You did the whole lawn with that?"
- Quieter - Not whisper quiet or anything, but definitely quieter than a motorized motor. I can listen to my music player without special headphones.
- Safer - Yesterday when I was mowing the lawn, Ethan wanted to come out and play. He was running around the yard around the mower and I didn't have to worry about him getting too close, or about a rock or stick getting caught in the blades and shooting out at him.
- Cleaner - Motorized mowers tend to kick up a lot of dust. Plus there's the exhaust.
- Cleaner Cut - This is just hearsay, as I have nothing to really compare it to, but reel mowers are supposed to give a cleaner cut to the grass because they actually cut the grass, whereas a motorized mower just hacks it off. Supposedly this is supposed to be better for the lawn.
- Cheaper - Although I probably could have found a motorized mower for the same price, it would have been a really cheap model, where as this is one of the best reel mowers you can buy. Plus, no gas to worry about, and maintenance is easier and cheaper.
- Environmentally Friendly - This is probably the most important reason to me. Zero carbon emissions. Zero fossil fuel consumption. Smaller manufacturing footprint.
The mover in action
All in all, I'm very satisfied with it so far. I definitely wouldn't mind reducing the amount of grass we have in our yard, but mowing it isn't that difficult and can even be rather pleasant.
January 26th, 2009
Alyssa got me one of these for Christmas and it's one of my favorite presents--ever!
Many of you might be familiar with the Staples "Easy" Button. You press it and it says, "That was easy!" It a really unique marketing ploy. However, my button is no ordinary button. It's recordable.
As a Final Fantasy fan, I really like the victory music that's played when you defeat an enemy. The victory jingle has remained basically the same throughout the series. You can listen to it below:
It just has a great feeling of a celebration of accomplishment. Whenever I was programming and had just finished writing an especially tricky bit of code, the soundtrack in my mind would play that theme to signal my triumph.
So Alyssa when got me a programmable button, I recorded this snippet on it. I hit it every time I feel like celebrating a minor accomplishment.
At work, it usually gets a smile every time I hit it. One co-worker commented that the celebration of minor victories like that really helps with productivity and job satisfaction.
Recently, my coworkers used it to play a trick on me. They changed the recording, then subtly suggested I press the button. "Was that a 'victorious' meeting?" they asked. "Not especially," I said, oblivious. "Wow, you've made it through the whole week! Great job."
"Thanks," I replied, a little puzzled by the way they were acting.
I finally pressed it and it totally surprised me and everyone got a good chuckle out of it. The person who enjoyed it most was Ethan though, who loved pressing the button again and again when I brought it home.
January 19th, 2009
I haven't been posting here recently because I've been posting a lot at a new site called Lang-8. It's a site to help with language learning.
The idea is this: post a blog entry on the language that you want to study. Then native speakers of that language will make corrections and comments. For those of you who understand Japanese, you can read my Japanese blog there.
Most of my posts are of two types--posts about Ethan, and posts about random English phrases that I hear. I figure that those who are correcting my entries are probably there studying English, so it might help them to understand some phrases. Some of the phrases I've covered are "a piece of cake" and "easy as pie", "sixes" (as in "it's sixes either way"), and "on the tip of my tounge."
I get a lot of comments of appreciation for introducing English phrases like that, but those comments aren't nearly as many as the comments I get about my Ethan posts. Everyone loves Ethan and they all say how cute he is.
I also spend time there correcting English posts. Some users are just starting out with simple sentences, and some users are so advanced that my corrections are more like opinions on usage, rather than real corrections.
Some of the English isn't technically wrong, but the phrasing is a little humorous. Like the person who referred to a friend with whom she was corresponding as a "Mail Friend" rather than a "Pen Pal" or the person who ask if I was "of the old school." I really respect everyone there for trying so hard. I wonder if my Japanese sometimes sounds as funny to them.
One thing I really like about the site is the sense of community that it creates. Because you have to comment to correct someone, you end up getting a lot of comments from people. It starts a little dialogue sometimes, which is really fun. I highly recommend the site to anyone who is learning a language. It's a great way to learn.
December 7th, 2008
We went to the Zoo Lights yesterday at the Hogle Zoo. I brought along my camera so take some pictures. Here's how they turned out.
There were standard Christams-type decorations like the three you see above (I was playing around with focal lengths and my star filter for the blue one). However, the most interesting and impressive lights were the ones that were in the shapes of animals.
I think the last one looks like a Lite-Brite creation.
I was impressed with this "Under the Sea" scene. The blue lights all around gave it a nice effect.
We saw a couple of real animals too. The most impressive was a tiger, who loudly roared into the darkness. I got a picture of him when he came down into the light, although it wasn't from the best angle.
The zoo has an Asian theme around its tigers, so they included this animal as well--the only dragon you'll ever see in a zoo.
Many of the lights had "animation" effects, which was pretty impressive too. I set up my tripod to catch each shot, then put them back together in the following pictures.
I liked the ants the best.
I took a picture of everyone there too. The last one is my "money shot" of the night. Ethan was having a great time with his Grandpa and I think I captured that moment perfectly.