12.31.2007

XBox Live Connection problems

This is getting bad. XBox live has had service problems for the last 10-14 days. That's a lot of damage to a brand, and damage to a product offering that bills itself as "live." XBox dead more like it.

The XBox 360 has differentiated its offering, and gotten customers used to the connected benefits of the XBox 360. Without it, what do you have?

12.29.2007

A most excellent Christmas

Christmas always spills over a few days after the 25th, and I basically include the 24th-27th as "Christmas." It takes a couple of days to try out new gadgets, put toys together, clean up, and basically get the house to feeling back to normal. The Christmas Tree went out this morning so I guess Christmas is officially over in the Reagan house.

This year Amy and I did not spend as much as we usually do, and the result was fewer presents to open all the way around. I think we both agreed this was a better way to go. We did our typical Christmas eve church service, but this year we added something fun that hopefully starts a new tradition here - we bought a Lego Christmas train (it was 50% off at the lego store in Bellevue), wrapped it, and put it under one of our smaller trees for the kids to open the day before Christmas. We put the train together that night, grabbed our existing Lego train track and built a layout around the tree, and let the train run around the living room. Very cool.

Normally Amy and I wrap the boys' gifts after the kids go to sleep, but Monday I took the boys out for a hike and lunch, and Amy stayed home and wrapped presents. Made the night much less tiring.

Spencer was more excited than usual this year. About 11pm Monday night I went to check on the boys to see if they were asleep, and sure enough Spencer was still awake. "Dad, I opened the window a little bit so that I could hear Santa!" Kids are funny... and smart.

The whole Santa thing clicked for Garrett this year. "Santa came! Santa came! Santa came!" in his typically cheering style.

Within an hour we were done. Amy made Monkey Bread for breakfast, and for dinner we enjoyed some most excellent prime rib from a butcher shop in Issaquah (Fischer's Meats). The meat was as good as our favorite place for prime rib ever, Hesston's back in Indiana.

I didn't take much time off work but did a little. Got to put together some Legos and Erector sets (I hate those now as much as I hated them when I was a kid) with the boys.

No pics to speak of, just an enjoyable time of year and looking forward to 2008.

Amazon Kindle Review

Ok, I don't own an Amazon Kindle yet, but my neighbor got one the day before Thanksgiving (like two days after the product was announced). He works at Microsoft, go figure he was able to get one before me :)

And I wouldn't call this too much of a review... just wanted to jot my thoughts down for others as this is still a pretty rare product.

Anyway, he brought it to our Thanksgiving gathering and showed it off to me. I was really impressed overall with its capabilities.

The Amazon Kindle is about the size of a "regular" book, and thus fits nicely in your hands. The eInk display is excellent and exactly as advertised - easy on the eyes, easy to read. The user interface takes a little getting used to, but once you are used to it its pretty intuitive. It has "next page" and "prev page" buttons on the side of the unit within reach of your thumbs. And its scroll bar is separate from the actual page display - it looks like a mercury thermometer. There's a dial to scroll up and down. Again, takes some getting used to, but once you have the hang of it it works nicely.

The ability to search the downloadable book library is easy to use and fast, and navigation through the titles on the devices is easy as well. And in addition to books you can subscribe to newspapers. My neighbor already had the WSJ and Seattle Times on it, and navigating through both of those were easy.

It also provides a web browser, and while not overly impressive it would suffice nicely for web browsing while traveling - as good as Microsoft Windows Mobile, with the down side that sites probably aren't going to render specifically for the Amazon Kindle browser.

The one complaint I had was the amount of time it takes to render a page. Upwards of a second by my calculation. Doesn't seem like a lot, but I expected it faster and I expect users do as well. Oh yeah and the design was, well, uninspiring. But that's ok for me. I don't buy products for cool design, I buy them for their functionality.

I can see myself getting this soon. As soon as enough book titles that I want are available :)

12.28.2007

A horrific tragedy close to home

Carnation is about 6 miles from our house, and I like to head there for biking - my favorite destination, in fact. Evil reveals itself in many forms, including the murder of a 3 year old and a 6 year old (among others) in Carnation.

12.26.2007

In about half an hour...

Purdue will kickoff for a rematch against Central Michigan in the 2007 Motor City Bowl. Excuse me if I am not excited. Excited about seeing Purdue play, sure, but bowls were out of control 10 years ago, and despite everyone's complaining about it, it has only gotten worse. These watered down games for two teams that aren't bowl-worthy is really getting old.


32 bowl games. 64 Teams. That's over half of Division I (or FCS or whatever its called now). It's really the equivalent of a 13th game, only nobody is allowed to schedule it until after Thanksgiving, and with some exceptions (Boise State, San Diego St, Arizona St, Miami) the game must be played on a neutral field.

A couple weeks back I counted up the games on Jan 1 or after and if I remember right I counted over half the bowl games are after the new year. So, basically, you don't even have to have a top 25 program to get a "prestigious" invite.

The result? The bowl games have been watered down. They used to be fun, and to be sure there are some fun matchups I am looking forward to next week. But those are the exceptions.

Purdue shouldn't be invited to the Motor City Bowl. Invite some team from Texas or Florida or California who's fans would be excited about any bowl game. Let them come in, spend some money, and have a good time. I hear the game is already going to be a record crowd, but I suspect that's from the CMU fans looking forward to the opportunity to beat a team from a major conference.

12.24.2007

Merry Christmas to all!

I'm not sure when it became ok to say "Merry Christmas" again in public, but glad to see the pendulum swing away from the politically correct and back to American culture. So, Merry Christmas everyone!

12.23.2007

Why do I even bother with Best Buy?

There was a time (probably 15 years ago) when Best Buy was just that - the best place to get deals on stuff. Amy and I lived there in the early 90s.

Best Buy went out of vogue for me about 10 years ago when they moved away from being a discount electronics store and opted to be more like Sears. More profitable for them, I'm sure, but that took away the whole reason I shopped there - great deals. Still, I end up there from time to time, and each time pretty much assures me a measure of disappointment. And their bait-and-switch lawsuit a few years back certainly didn't surprise me.

I remember the time I had a camcorder and in my hands and I had asked a salesperson for a digital camea, but the salesperson would not shut up about their extended warranty. Instead of getting me the item I was ready to purchase, he insisted on knowing why I didn't want an extended rip-off, er, warranty. I ended up walking out of the store.

I have plenty more Best Buy stories, and today's story is pretty tame by comparison, but it doesn't grok the question... what are they thinking?

So I am looking for a present for, um, Amy. Yeah, it's a present for Amy. Electronics. For Amy. Got it? Maybe she'll believe it when she opens it. It's for her. Really, it is. Honest. So I wasn't happy with the price on Amazon, but if that was the best price I could find I was going to order it and have it here by Christmas. I mean, I didn't want Amy to be disappointed.

So I start shopping around online and find out Best Buy is having a sale on it. $20 cheaper than MSRP. Cool. Can I do in-store pickup? Yes? Cool, better yet. Amy will have her present by Christmas. Really, it truly is for her.

So I order it online, and I get a confirmation email this morning stating yes they have it and it will be waiting for me. Just show up with my receipt. Cool, what could be easier?

Argh. Damn Best Buy. So they do have a line for online pickup. One that isn't moving. For 15 minutes. And it finally occurred to me (yes, it really did take 15 minutes for the light bulb to go off) "WTF am I doing in this stupid line when I can get the damn item off the shelf?"

So I tell Spencer I have an idea and we get out of line, I am sure to the joy of the now 10 or so people behind me that apparently also ordered online. I wander over to an aisle, take a look and the huge pallet of items and think "wow no wonder its on sale." And I also note they are selling for MSRP in the store (remember, Best Buy no longer has good deals). So I pick and item up, and shop around a little. I find a movie for Spencer, tell him no we aren't buying any video games today, and finally head to the checkout. I am the next person in line, look back at the online pickup line, and note that it still hasn't moved. Fun.

So I get to the register, and ask whether they match their online prices. Good, they do. Then I tell them I've already made a purchase online and can I just go home. No, to do that I have to go wait in the online pickup line. No thank you, just ring me up please, and I'll cancel my other order.

So, I get my item, at the price I wanted, and if I didn't waste my time with online pickup, I would have been in and out in no time. And now I'm taught don't bother ordering online from Best Buy :)

It still leaves me scratching my head why they are ok with such a had experience for online pickup. I guess they figure they have your money, why bother ensuring a good experience?

12.21.2007

Ride the SLUT

Yes, that's right, you too can Ride the South Lake Union Trolley. And apparently I will be able to in a couple of years as Amazon is planning to move to South Lake Union.

They even have t-shirts.

Man, I cannot wait for the jokes to flow in to the comments section on this one... first one with a joke about Amy gets a free beer on me.

A good article...

on the upcoming Savage vs. CAIR battle. Should put this on Pay-Per-View.

12.20.2007

I can't believe...

... that there are still people that doubt than mankind (and more specifically the US) is making Earth inhospitable. Especially so-called "experts".

12.18.2007

Our 2007 Christmas Pictures

After a couple of postponements due to family illness, we were able to get to the studio on Saturday and get our Christmas pictures taken. Some really good ones turned out, and I scanned them in with our crappy scanner. Amy had the honor of donning our most prized and valuable material possession... our autographed Barry Sanders jersey. Man I wish the Lions hadn't changed from Honolulu Blue and Silver. Those were great colors.

Originals can be found at the gallery.







Can't wait until Brenda starts quizzing me on the Seahawks jersey.


This last one was fun... Garrett decided to start "getting" Spencer's face... Spencer is defending himself and Garrett is getting a kick out of everyone's reaction.

12.16.2007

A philosophical question...

do I have to wait until the end of the game to complain about the Detroit Lions' performance? Or can I complain about it before the first half is even over?

Sheesh, what a second half of the season. Six straight losses. And the next two weeks don't look very promising.

12.10.2007

I love NHL Center Ice

Ok, I'm hooked. Should have subscribed years ago. But, it's an expensive package ($149/yr) to just try out, and Directv never gave me a free trial, so I held out a while. Finally tried it this year, and I am so hooked. With the NHL expansion in the west it seems I can always get a late night game, and of course great to be able to record the Wings when they play.

I have two complaints about how NHL Center ICE manifests itself. First, because the games are also usually shown on one of the local Fox Sports Net packages, I don't have a way to tell Directv to "record all Wings games" because it tries to record the local channels - there's no way to filter by channel. Poor user experience design.

Second, they also don't give an indication on the NHL Center Ice channels which feed the game corresponds to. If I want to watch Red Wings at Nashville, I get two channels for the game. But it won't tell me which feed is the Detroit feed and which feed is the Nashville feed. So its a crap shoot on whether I get the Detroit feed or not.

And hockey in HD rocks. By far the best sports experience in HD. Very hard to watch hockey in regular definition anymore. I'm spoiled.

More insight into my work...

Scott Adams must work with me

12.07.2007

I really hate the abuse of the First Amendment

Freedom of speech in this country includes an individual's freedom and right NOT to listen to something.

The latest talk show personality to start crying that "My Freedom of Speech Rights are Being Violated" is Michael Savage. Now, I like the Savage Nation - great radio show and glad I get to hear it on my ride home when I work late. But stop whining about free speech. The government is not pulling your advertisers, the advertisers are choosing that themselves. Go ahead and sue CAIR, but stop whining about free speech. This is not about free speech, and it is as damaging to claim it is as when people pull the "racism" or "sexism" card without merit.

That said, this is the danger in the Bush administration's including CAIR in its PR activity. CAIR has ties to terrorism (Google it for a litany of references); heck, even Sen. Barbara Boxer has distanced herself from CAIR for that reason. But, to the uninformed who maybe get a glance at the political situation around Islamofascism, the US government's implicit support for CAIR lends credibility to CAIR.

So, when Sears, OfficeMax, Wal-mart, AT&T, etc get a letter from CAIR to pull their ads from a radio show, a quick surface glance implies CAIR is a group to be taken seriously. Don't get me wrong... those companies are as guilty of not doing their homework as CNN was in their recent Republican Presidential Debate.

Normally I would boycott those companies pulling their ads... but I don't shop at any of those places anyway!

I wish Savage the best of luck in his lawsuit. Unlike most lawsuits I see, this one I believe is justified.

A reason for hope

Online articles such as this one give me reason to hope and yet another reminder that the world is not as what the mainstream media would have you believe.

I'll pontificate on this later, but will tag this as "US lunacy" because I 100% agree with the author's statement that the US has to stop allowing the wrong voices speak for the American Muslim community.

12.05.2007

My Heisman Ballot

Tebow (51 total TDs... SEC rushing TD records... wow)
Brennan (career NCAA TD record)
McFadden
Daniel
Ryan

12.03.2007

The best thing about Directv...

... is that even though you record something, you don't actually have to watch it.

I'm talking about the Lions game, of course. I can't remember the last time I've missed a Lions game since having NFL Sunday Ticket. Talk about coming full-circle in a matter of four games.

I guess this 0-4 streak is a simple reminder that Millen and Ford are still part of the Lions' organization...

A lot of snow, then poof!

Starting Saturday afternoon and finishing Sunday morning we got about six inches of snow here. Then it warmed up enough on Sunday for rain all day and night. By this morning the snow was all but gone (and per my previous post the melting snow plus "heavy rain" made for a lot of flooding).

The kids did get out into the snow on Saturday, sledding down the hill with our neighbor. On Sunday, Spencer and Garrett each pulled me outside to make a Snowman and a Snowfort. Never built a snowman in the rain so that was a first. Good thing I had my raingear from REI.

Good thing we grabbed our tree Saturday morning before the snow hit. Was a beautiful morning in the valley and that manifested itself in every resident of Snoqualmie Valley heading out to the Christmas Tree farm to cut down their choice tree. We spent more time waiting in lines in our car than actually finding and cutting down a tree.





Nice shot of the Cascades in the background




After the hunt




Garrett insisted on having his shades




In the snowstorm




Any hill will do


Unlike the Lions no crashing for Garrett


Our Gingerbread House has become a Christmas tradition

I think this is a cool use of the Internet

The USGS makes its river sensor data available online, so that you can check the flow and level of your favorite water entity (in my case its the Snoqualmie River). Up 10 feet in 21 hours. Damn. Wonder what Snoqualmie Falls looks like right now...

12.02.2007

I don't see any other option...

Ohio State is a given for the NC game. They played Illinois, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan. Kansas played Missouri and Texas A&M. So, for a 1-loss team, OSU is in.

Hawaii is undefeated, but the toughest team they played out of conference was Washington. Not a bad team, but their other OOC games were very weak. Boost the schedule if you want to play for an NC. (Actually I feel the same about Ohio State, but at least they played in a decent conference).

So it really comes down to LSU and Kansas (Georgia falls behind LSU in any comparison). And I have to give LSU the nod. Their two losses were OT games. Not bad.

So OSU and LSU in the NC game.