Sunday, September 1, 2013

Killing Time at the Airport

In all honesty, the only reason I am writing this is because I need to look like I’m doing something on my laptop while charging my phone while I download Game of Thrones.  I have been meaning to write for a long time, but I haven’t had time recently.  I’m sitting across from an incredibly Irish group of older women.  All three of them had very red hair at one point; there are still hints of crimson in the now white locks.  The give away was the accent.  Between their accent and the hearing aids, I think the whole end of this terminal is listening in on how it is impossible to find jeans which are short enough and the pains of hemming pants.  I also have a unique point of view and can see that they are either practicing for a synchronized swimming routine while sitting and waiting for the flight, or they all are on the same routine to prevent blood clots.  It’s embarrassingly hard to tell - they are paddling their legs and twirling their wrists.  I imagine that these moves are equally as effective in swimming and preventing blood clots...

I just saw a guy who looked a lot like a male celebrity from a few years ago.  He went to a different gate and now I forget who he looked like - probably a good indication of how popular he ever was.

I am a quarter done with my download and I’m afraid I’m not going to get it downloaded before I board the flight.  It’s 6:00 now and we get on the flight in 24 minutes.  I’m not really pressed to get the file downloaded.  (One of the old Irish women returned from a walk around with potato chips - typical)  There are plenty of things for me to do on an airplane.  My cell phone has a wealth of entertainment options without having this show.  If I get it, I’ll for sure watch the show, but if not, I’ll probably just watch the wing.  I just realized I have a window seat.  

Another thing I just realized is that the mom, dad, grandma and baby sitting next to the Irish trio are all wearing Minnesota sports apparel.  Go Twins and Skol Vikings, but please, God, keep our seats as far apart as possible!

A guy just sat on the same bench as me - the damn thing nearly broke in two.  He swooped in like a bearded snowman-hawk (the build of a snowman and the ferocity of a hawk).

I’m really debating getting something to drink right now.  I’m pretty thirsty - I've spent the last two days either driving (not drinking so I don’t have to make stops) or moving heavy furniture and boxes.  The problem with this decision is that there’s a drinking fountain right across from the Starbucks.  A water bottle would be nice, but I am not sure it’s worth the five dollars I would have to sacrifice in order to take the water from the fountain to the airplane.

Two things just happened: the baby started crying (because, as the mom observed, “this is the first time he’s been awake longer than 3 hours”) and I have noticed that on the other side of my Galic Gals (NBC, let’s talk) there is an Asian child asleep taking up three seats.  I have no idea where his mother is, but it’s definitely not the Indian woman who is hardly sitting on the seat his feet barely are reaching.  INSTANT UPDATE: The Indian woman was just called for an early boarding and didn’t take the child with her.

We have eight minutes left until the flight boards.  You may also be happy to know that my phone has downloaded the eight episode of Game of Thrones and gained an extra 5% battery in the time I’ve been typing.  This has been a great success in my book (baby just vomited, Lord, hear my prayer).  Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Google Magic

I've been meaning to write this for a while and I think now is the time since I set up my Chromecast last night.  A tiny bit of history before I start - about 2 weeks ago, I was in the market for a usable laptop.  I had a Lenovo brick with Ubuntu, a trashed Toshiba with JoliOS and a Netbook (piece of garbage tech).  I was at the point where I was deciding between a cheap PC or Chromebook.  I was pretty certain I knew I was going to hate the Chromebook, but I found a Samsung on Craigslist for cheap, so I figured I would try it and sell it on Ebay when I inevitably hated the machine.  If you're bored, the TL:DR version is that I didn't hate the Chromebook.

To start out, I was surprised I liked the feel of the Samsung laptop.  It's an 11.6" screen, so I felt like I knew what it was going to feel like to work on because I own a Netbook (biggest regret of my life) and I've had a Transformer Android tablet.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  The keyboard is much nicer to type on than either of those machines (good enough to type this blog on).  It's quick, responsive, and spaced well.  I don't feel crammed typing at all.  The extra 1.5" of screen space make the screen much more bearable as well.  I don't feel like I need to keep the machine inches from my face in order to see everything.  For a machine that costs $250 new, the build and portability are great.

Moving on to the OS - the part I cared the most about and the part that I thought I was going to hate the most.  ChromeOS is brilliant, for the most part.  I have been using Google Docs/Drive since it's been in beta, so that transition wasn't at all an issue for me.  I think the office suite Google offers for free and online is the best free online service available.  Document, spreadsheet and powerpoi... I mean presentations are handled very well on my desktop computer.  I didn't expect them to do so well on this (what I consider) under-powered laptop.  Again, I figured it would match the performance of my JoliOS laptop.  Again, I was wrong.  The web-based ChromeOS is lightning fast.  This obviously depends a bit on internet speed, but I have never felt like I have had to wait around while the laptop loaded an app.  And this is the same for every app the Chromebook has to offer.  Even Youtube and Netflix can play at very high resolutions without a hiccup.  And finally, one thing I worried about was the memory not being able to support enough browser tabs.  That has yet to be an issue, and if it ever becomes an issue, there are workarounds for that as well.  Needless to say, I'm impressed.

A little piece of amazing that is ChromeOS is that unlike other computers which get bogged down with age, this computer will only improve.  Since everything is web-based, everytime I get an update, instead of the added features bogging my laptop down, it maintains the same speeds.  It's a brilliant system.

There are a few things I hope happens with ChromeOS.  One is that I hope they skin the browser a little more.  I don't mind everything being in a tabbed browsing window, but I think it could look a lot better.  And if each would open in a separate window instead of just a new tab, that would be more useful too.  I feel like I have to decide one thing to do at a time because of how the different windows and tabs are managed.  I'm not used to being allowed only one frame at a time anymore.  The other thing I wish ChromeOS had was the ability to sync notifications.  I use Google Voice services and every time I get a notification on my phone, my tablet, my desktop and my Chromebook get a notification as well which needs to be dismissed.  Though, this is probably an issue with Voice more than the Chromebook.

There are a couple of things I need to commend Samsung for as well.  The first being this laptop's speakers.  I've listened to a lot of portable speaker solutions.  Some are great and some are... well, you can't hear anything that comes out of them (thinking specifically about MacBooks released around 2007-2009).  This little laptop puts out a lot of volume from speakers that could easily be missed if you weren't looking for them.  The other thing that is amazing about this notebook is the battery life.  I spent the day after I bought it trying to drain the battery to see how long it could go.  I had it streaming Netflix for most of a work day and it still had about 40% battery left.  I was blown away.  I charge it during the night and still haven't been able to use it enough to even get nervous that I was going to kill the battery.  It's pretty amazing.

Another piece of Google magic arrived at my doorstep yesterday: my Chromecast.  I was one of the lucky many who ordered their Chromecast before they were sold out on the first day.  I'm glad I did.  I had a pretty packed day yesterday, but I was able to install the little guy while I was changing out of my work clothes.  That should already be a testament to how simple this device really is.  I plugged it into the HDMI port using the extender Google provided (great and necessary accessory).  I went to plug the micro-USB cable in and it wouldn't reach my outlet.  I was frustrated, but decided to try the USB ports which were closer to the TV.  Luckily, the first port I tried (on the back of my Xbox 360) worked and I was up and running.  I had the Chromecast app preinstalled on my phone because I knew I was going to get it.  The setup included me turning on the TV, selecting the correct input, opening the app on my phone, confirming the code and entering the password to my wireless network, and it worked.  Period.  That's all I had to do.  My roommate (the actual magician) came home with his iPhone and I told him to watch a Youtube video on the TV.  He connected to our wifi network and opened up a Youtube video.  I didn't even have to explain to him what to do.  His phone and youtube app adapted and literally told him how to do it.  Amazing.  His quote of the night was, "That just happened?!  That is real magic."  He tried with Netflix and the same amazement as it worked just as well as it had for Youtube.

Needless to repeat, but I will anyway - I am very surprised at how happy I am now that I've included more Chrome devices into my daily life.  Google has worked some coding magic to get everything to start working together, as it all should.  I can't wait to see where each device will go in the future and what else Google will bring to the table.

Monday, March 4, 2013

My Top 5 Music+Film Moments

Inspired by a recent post by a good friend +Aaron Rosell, I decided to write up a quick blog about what I believe are the best 5 song placements in film (I've also linked at least the song, but in most cases the complete scene is there).  Here we go - I'll start with number 5:

5.  John Powell - Test Drive - How to Train Your Dragon
Let's be honest, who doesn't wish they could fly?  This track plays as Hiccup and Toothless fly together for the first time.  I remember watching this scene for the first time and feeling about 10 years old again.  I instantly became Hiccup flying on the back of the Night Fury.  I felt the freedom of the ride, smiling about as big as anyone in their 20s has while watching an animated movie.  If you haven't listened to the soundtrack of this whole movie, do yourself a favor and check it out.
4.  Fix You performed by the Young@Heart Chorus in the documentary Young@Heart
Young@Heart is a documentary about a chorus of elderly men and women (No one is under the age of 70) who sing contemporary songs under the direction of Bob Cilman and accompanied by the Young@Heart band.  I ended up watching this documentary on TV with my mom.  She thought it was completely cute and thought I should watch it because I love music.  Without giving too much away, the group of senior citizens go through some great times and some hard times and it all leads up to the concert where this song is performed.  To this day, this music and film moment is one of the three times I have wept durring a movie.  It was a perfect place for this beautiful Coldplay cover.
3. The Beatles - Twist and Shout - Ferris Bueller's Day Off
I am a big fan of blockbuster dance breaks, and this one takes the cake in my book.  I almost included You Make My Dreams from 500 Days of Summer on the list too - but back to the song at hand.  First of all, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is, was, and will always be one of my top 3 favorite movies and The Beatles are in my top 5 of all time.  How could this not be on the list?  I think the dance break completely captures the spirit of the entire movie.  So fun - so free!  Definitely one of the bests.
2. Nina Simone - Feeling Good - Chuck S3 E14  - Link contains a spoiler (so will the description)
Seriously, is there a sexier song than Nina Simone's Feeling Good?  I got into Chuck my junior year of college.  If you haven't watched the show, it's about a regular guy who gets spy abilities through some work of technology and has to work on how to use and control his artificial powers along with two companions.  Feeling Good plays as Chuck and his attractive partner, Sara, finally (after almost 3 seasons) get together.  If you don't plan on watching the show, feel free to watch the clip.  It's awesome - borderline James Bond smooth, and the scene would be nothing without Nina Simone's Feeling Good.
1. Clint Mansell - Together We Will Live Forever - The Fountain 
I'm not certain how to even begin writing about this song.  I saw The Fountain opening day and after 7 years it is still my favorite movie.  I won't explain the story because it wouldn't do it justice.  What you need to know is it is a visually stunning and incredible philosophical and complex movie centered around the relationship between a doctor and his dying wife.  This song plays as the credits are rolling and it blows you away.  The song is played on the piano, and it's simplicity contrasts the complexity of the story dramatically.  You don't hear the song in the credits, you arrive to this song in the credits.  It will break your heart, make you smile, and frees your mind all at the same time.  Listen to the song, but be sure to check out the movie if you haven't already done so.
So, there they were - my top 5.  What are your top 5 music in film moments?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Vikings' New Stadium

To the lawmakers of Minnesota,

I agree - it would be bad news to lose the Minnesota Vikings.  Not because they may one day be a championship bound team or because every Minnesotan loves football, but because it shows Minnesotans that their elected officials cannot actually do the job they were hired to do.  It would be a poor showing if within the same twelve months the state government was brought to a near halt and because a major sports team was lost.  I would guess that if you asked, most Minnesotans would love to keep the Vikings in the state - so representatives, make it happen.

And when I say make it happen, I mean think about your proposals.  This bill would have been funded by pull-tabs.  Really?!  No offence, but in my mind, the only thing less certain than gambling is gambling on gambling.  Yes, you will probably make it painfully obvious that in gambling the gamblers are actually supporting a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.  I am sure there would be some people who would be inclined to do this just because they love the Vikings, but is that an honest attempt at finding a solution or an idea someone came up with in a hurry in order to make it feel like a bipartisan solution?

We're not talking about a minuscule amount of money here either.  The projected price is very close to one billion dollars, as you probably know.  At this price, even if the Vikings pick up around half of the cost, we're still talking about half of a billion dollars that has to come from somewhere.  We can't cut school or infrastructure - that is bad for everyone.  We can't tax more - that is bad for reelection.  So what do we do (if you say pull-tabs one more time...)?

I have a couple of ideas.  They don't involve raising taxes and they make a more fair playing field for companies in the state.  They are also sustaining sources so once the Vikings' stadium is built, Minnesota will have more income than it did before.  That being said, they aren't going to win you any popularity contests.  I think we are mature enough to admit that the right decision often isn't the most popular.

My first idea - and I know it's been suggested to the state before and defeated, is to open liquor stores on Sundays.  Perhaps I feel this will make a bigger impact because I live close to the Minnesota/Wisconsin border where if I need liquor on Sunday, I just have to drive an extra 10 or 15 minutes to get it.  Forcing liquor stores to be closed on Sunday takes away from their sales.  Note - I am not saying that we mandate a seven day doors open policy, rather, just give the stores the option to be open on Sundays.  And instead of one of our bordering states getting the tax revenue, we can have that and put it towards a new Vikings' stadium.

Another idea I would like explored is the taxing of all new online purchases.  We have great companies here in Minnesota.  Target and Best Buy come to mind when I think of large retailers born within our state.  It's not easy being competitive as a physical retailer in a world that is going digital.  Best Buy had to close many stores and had a significant number of layoffs already this year.  The problem is that when I go into a Best Buy and see a great digital camera or TV - I want it and I don't want to have to pay a whole ton for it.  One way to do this is go and buy the product online.  Even if Best Buy can price match, it's products are still going to cost between 6 and 7 percent more because of taxes.  By adding sales tax to online purchases, you are supporting domestic companies while also increasing tax revenue to an estimated four hundred million dollars (estimated by your own Myron Frans according to MPR).

Two ideas - neither universally popular, but both nearly guaranteed to increase state revenue enough to support a new Vikings stadium and balance our budget.

Thank you for considering one Minnesotan's ideas on how we can help keep the Vikings the Minnesota Vikings.

A Fellow Minnesotan