April 2010 Archives

More Gallery Images
April 24, 2010 9:28 AM | Posted in:

If you haven't checked recently, I've uploaded a few more images to the Fire Ant Gallery. Not all of them deal with dead rodents, so you've got that going for you.

Stylized image of street lamp

April 23, 2010 4:49 PM | Posted in: ,

I started to write about our trip to Houston this week, but decided I'd rather post this instead.

Photo (sort of) of a mouse skull

Debbie found the skull of a mouse in our back yard at lunch today. We (OK, me) were fascinated by the juxtaposition of delicacy and implied evil.

If the preceding image is too, um, intense for you, perhaps one that has flowers in it will be more to your liking. (The mouse was non-committal.)

Another mouse skull photo

Spring Blooms
April 18, 2010 6:59 PM | Posted in: ,

I look at the flowers on this lantana and think, "God, how do You do that?"

Photo of yellow and pink lantana blooms

Musical Interlude
April 17, 2010 10:51 AM | Posted in: ,

You don't have to be a fan of Justin Timberlake's music (I'm not, particularly) to get a kick out of the following video. It's enough to admire the combination of geekishness, musical talent, and arcane tonal implements. Oh, and cowbell. Be sure to stay with it until the keytar enters (around 4:25 or so).

Brett Domino (the head geek) will surely be an integral part of the Napoleon Dynamite sequel, if ever there is one.

Link via Geeks are Sexy

Dusk Storm
April 16, 2010 2:55 PM | Posted in: ,

We were at the end of a post-dinner walk around the neighborhood and the sunset was striking. I had no camera other than my iPhone, but that seemed to work out pretty well.

Photo - Texas Mountain laurel (stylized)

Here's a bigger version of the preceding image.

Sled Dogs
April 15, 2010 9:36 PM | Posted in:

I dare you to watch this without grinning. Dogs are so cool...especially when they're playing in the snow! [Via Neatorama]

Cruising for a New Bike
April 15, 2010 6:20 AM | Posted in:

I've recently developed a powerful lust for a so-called cruiser bike. I'm not sure if there's an official definition of the genre, but to me it's any bicycle that exhibits a combination of mechanical simplicity, out-of-the-ordinary styling, and an emphasis on comfort over speed. It's prettier than a commuter bike and less, um, focused than a mountain bike. A single-speed is desirable; fixed gear is negotiable.

Here are some potential candidates.

  • The Charge Plug Grinder meets the criterion of simplicity, with a rear hub that when mounted one direction is a single speed fixed gear and when reversed provides a single speed freewheel. You can also quickly remove the rear brake and cables to clean up the lines even more. Still, it's not the most stylish choice.
Photo of bicycle

  • The Firmstrong Urban Delux is a monstrous limo of a bike with a retro steel spring fork. I'm guessing it weighs about 80 pounds, and probably handles like a rhinoceros. But it oozes beach-cruiser style.
Photo of bicycle

  • Trek's District Carbon is an enigma. It costs almost four grand, weighs less than 16 pounds, and has high tech race-worthy features out the wazoo, like a handmade carbon fiber frame and 16-spoke aero wheels. But it's a single speed and sports a belt drive. (There is a cheaper sibling, the District, for a third of the cost, but its shiny aluminum frame doesn't match up.) This bike screams "richer than thou hipster."
Photo of bicycle

  • Then  there's the Nirve Cannibal, a bike that meets all the criteria. It's a mixture of high tech (front disk brake) and retro-nasty (3" rear tire, chopper-style chromed fork, and in-your-face graphics). Too bad it's currently out-of-stock.
Photo of bicycle

  • And, finally, for comparison purposes there's the tried-and-true Electra Townie. Most of Electra's bikes look pretty much the same, and they're really too mass-produced to be eye-catching...unless you live in a city like Midland, Texas. However, with a rear derailleur, the bike doesn't meet the simplicity criterion.
Photo of bicycle

I'd love to have the Trek but $3500 is a steep price to pay just to make a statement that most people wouldn't understand anyway. The Cannibal might be a bit too radical, and I've already got one bike that's 10 feet long so the Delux is redundant. The Plug Grinder is too utilitarian in appearance, and the Townie is a cliché.

Maybe I'll just stick with my 20-year-old Red Shred after all.

Texas Mountain Laurel
April 14, 2010 6:30 AM | Posted in: ,

The Texas Mountain Laurels are beautiful this spring. One of ours has been loaded with clusters of blooms that looked more like grapes than blossoms. They also smell like grape juice. I wish the flowers lasted longer.

Photo - Texas Mountain laurel (stylized)

Here's a bigger version of the preceding image.

My Usual Great Timing
April 13, 2010 4:23 PM | Posted in:

My new MacBook Pro was delivered last Thursday, April 8th.

Apple announced its new MacBook Pro lineup today, meaning that I got to use the new computer for almost five days before it became obsolete.

OK, that's a little dramatic. In reality, Apple didn't do much to the 13" model (which is what I ordered) except improve battery life a smidgen and put in a slightly faster CPU. Neither of those things* tempt me to repeat the almost 12-hour ordeal of reconfiguring a new computer to fit my workflow.

Apple has a 14-day return policy so I could just send it back, wait a few days, and order a new one. Or I could whine to them and they'd probably let me replace it (lots of anecdotal evidence where that's been done before for customers purchasing computers just before the new models were introduced). But I knew I was risking this exact scenario when I ordered mine, and the fact is that I need it for an upcoming business trip. I can't afford to wait a week or two (at best, I figure) to get a replacement.

So, I'm going to simply enjoy my new computer and do my best not to be envious of anyone whose timing was better than mine.

Besides, the new models will probably prove to have a flaw that causes them to explode, and who wants to deal with that?

*I do wish I had the new multi-touch trackpad, although at this point I'm not exactly sure why.

Baby Pome
April 13, 2010 6:36 AM | Posted in: ,

Ever wonder what a pomegranate looks like in its very beginning? Well, wonder no more:

Photo - tiny pomegranate

To get a sense of the scale, those are my fingers holding the branch.

Seth Godin: iPad Lessons
April 7, 2010 8:33 AM | Posted in:

This may be the first time I've referred to the iPad on the Gazette (OK, knowing how some of you are, I just confirmed this with a quick search), and I don't plan to do any additional blogging about it in the future, at least not until I get one and can then hold it out as clear evidence of my superior hipsterishness.

And even this post isn't so much about the iPad itself, as I haven't seen one in real life, much less tested one (although that hasn't stopped a disturbingly large number of people from expressing a disturbingly large amount of hate/revulsion/contempt for a small inanimate object and/or its manufacturer; really, people...Get. A. Life.). No, I simply want to point you to Seth Godin's musings about lessons other businesses, large and small, can learn from the launch of Apple's latest offering. He makes some great points about how businesses should think about their strategies and their customers. You don't have to work in the tech industry to benefit from his insights.

Heavy Sound
April 6, 2010 4:22 PM | Posted in: ,

Consider this the equivalent of a "Please Do Not Disturb" sign, as the new A/V receiver showed up a day early and I can't be bothered with trivia such as clients or work.

Here's how you know that you're about to tackle a serious piece of electronic equipment:

Photo of packing box

"At least 2 people"? Granted, it weighs forty pounds, but it sounds to me like somebody's got an overzealous legal department.

The really scary thing is that the owner's manual weighs almost as much as the receiver.

Mockingbird Recording
April 5, 2010 6:39 PM | Posted in: ,

As I sat on the front porch yesterday afternoon reading a book and enjoying the nice weather, I was aurally accosted by a loud-mouthed intruder who was so enamored with his own voice, I suspect he'd make an excellent Senator.

Just kidding. Mockingbirds are too smart to run for public office; they're more like lobbyists. Anyway, if you don't have any of these birds in your neighborhood, you may enjoy hearing one show off.

Technical details: I recorded this on my iPhone, imported the recording into iTunes, then opened it in Adobe Soundbooth CS4 where I trimmed the beginning and ending, increased the loudness, and used the noise filter to remove the, um, noise caused by the breezy ambient conditions. The resulting recording is a pretty good showcase for the bird's vocal versatility.

Gate Completed (No, really)
April 5, 2010 2:29 PM | Posted in:

I know that I previously reported that our Anti-Bunny/Tumbleweed gate was completed, and it was functional. But I still had some cosmetic details to work out, and I wasn't sure when I would get to them, or how successful I'd be, so I didn't say anything at the time.

Well, here's the actual completed version:

Photo of gate

The little coyote was created by my brother years ago and it was hanging on a different gate at our old house. I wasn't sure I could "re-purpose" it for this gate because of the mounting mechanisms, but the carbide cutter on the trusty Dremel tool solved that problem.

We think he's quite dapper, howling at the Texas star. (The neighborhood coyotes apparently agree, as they've been more vocal than usual lately.)

Overdue A/V Upgrade
April 1, 2010 4:02 PM | Posted in: ,

March was a good month, business-wise, and so I'm splurging on a new A/V receiver. This definitely falls into the category of "luxury" but it will fill several "needs":

  1. When we built this house two years ago I wired it for 7.1 surround sound. We had the four rear speakers installed in the ceiling at the time so they could be painted to match, but two of them have never been connected because our current receiver is an old-and-busted 5.1 model. The new receiver will enhance our listening pleasure by approximately...let's see, carry the one...20%. (The new box is actually a 7.2 receiver; I guess the .2 means that we could run two sub-woofers, but I have no idea why I'd want to do that. I value our drywall too much.)

  2. Our current receiver also does not have an HDMI connector, meaning that the digital HD cable signal is bypassing the receiver completely, going from the cable box directly to the display. So the picture is great, but the audio - well, not so much. Plus, whenever we want to watch a DVD, I have to plug a separate S-Video cable into the side of the TV, which looks ugly in addition to being less than optimal for picture quality. (I knew that eventually I'd have HDMI capabilities, so I didn't go to the trouble to run an S-Video cable through the wall to the TV...in case you're wondering.) The new receiver has six HDMI ports, which should pretty much satisfy our hi-def connection needs for, say, the next two decades, or until something better comes out next month.

  3. This means that we can upgrade to a Blu-Ray player if we so desire. Perhaps April will be a good month, too, although Blu-Ray machines are becoming almost ridiculously inexpensive, at least compared to where they started.

  4. And, finally, because the new receiver supports music streaming by Ethernet, I can finally see if the CAT-5 cable I had run from my office over to the A/V bookshelf actually works. Or, to be more precise, I can finally see if I know how to hook things up so that my computer will talk to the receiver and make sweet music together.
The biggest compromise I made with this selection is that Onkyo's receivers are "Sirius-ready" but not "XM-ready." But I don't have my XM base station connected in the house anyway, so I'm not anticipating that to be a great loss.

What I am simultaneously dreading/looking forward to is disconnecting everything from the old receiver and trying to get it all plugged into the right places on the new one. And, because of the "cascading upgrade" effect, I'll have to do this multiple times, as I move the old receiver into another room to replace and even older one, and move that even older one into a room without one at all.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2010 is the previous archive.

May 2010 is the next archive.

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