Friday, September 30, 2011

A Scoop of Love

It's the unexpected things in life that usually result in the best reactions.  A nice gesture, a smile, someone holding the door for you, a surprise gift, etc.  Well today I received an unexpected gesture in the most unexpected place, the litter box!  I have the litter box scooping duties for our 4 boy kitties and this morning, here's what I received!

I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to share that special moment with y'all.  :p  It's Friday, I don't have much else to say and thought I might as well spread this scoop of love around.  Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

You'll Freak Over the New Facebook Update Coming

Check out this article on CNN describing the new Facebook Timeline option that is coming to your profile very soon and how people will revolt when that happens.  I agree with the article, since I did the trick I posted about Tuesday where you can preview the new Facebook Timeline setup ahead of time.

On my profile page it tells me that I will be converted to the new format this Sunday, whether I like it or not and it is SO different that I really don't like it just for that reason alone.   I don't have the time to go through, redesign the whole profile, formatting things, removing things I don't like, adding things, etc.  So I'm fully expecting to be completely pissed off come Sunday. 

I'm not sure of their schedule of rolling it out to everyone else, but once that starts I can DEFINITELY see a revolt/boycott happening.  At first glance it looks WAY too different than the existing setup and for general casual users that either don't post often or just lurk around, I think that might even cause them to reject the new setup altogether, no longer logging in or at least not as often. 

Since there is an alternative out there in Google+, they have to be careful not to alienate their existing userbase too much, as they may just up and leave.  I have a feeling Facebook will back off a bit on all of the changes, or at least delay the force cutover quite a while. 

It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds, but I have a feeling it won't go over very well...will see how it goes!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Buffalo Bills Beat The Patriots (contd.)

If you know me well, you're probably aware I've been on a natural high since Sunday 9/25/2011.  THE DAY THE BILLS BEAT THE PATRIOTS FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2003!  Sorry, you'll have to bear with me for one more post or ignore my post today.  I know it's a little excessive, but if you've been a die-hard Bills fan for over 20 years, you understand.

I can only say that this must be what it feels like to win the Super Bowl, not knowing what that feels like.  The Patriots are WERE the best team in our division, the AFC East, which is comprised of the Bills, Patriots, Jets and Dolphins.  The Patriots, specifically Tom Brady (QB) and Bill Belichick (Coach), are the faces of the team and as such are the MOST ANNOYING TWO PEOPLE ON THE PLANET to me when it comes to football.  They've won so many games and to me have such an arrogance to them, that you just wish that someone would inflict serious bodily harm on them!  Not like life ending pain, just enough so that they can't play or coach for quite a while so the Bills can win lots and lots!

The Bills play each team in our division 2x throughout the year, so that's a whole lot of times between 2003 and 2011 that we've played them and lost every single time.  That was 15 consecutive losses.  That's a whole lot of years to build up a whole lot of resentment.  Well all that is gone for 1 week!

And go figure, we didn't even need to hire any hitmen!  We beat them on our own!  So it brings me GREAT pleasure to present a picture of each of them, reacting to the loss that either had just happened (Brady) or was about to happen (Belichick).  You never know what each week is going to bring, so I'm enjoying the win to the fullest this entire week! 

Suck it Brady!

Yep, you're about to lose!  Suck it also!

Hopefully we win a ton more games and take the division by storm!  We play the Patriots again, but not until the LAST game of the season and boy are they gonna be pissed off! 

Lindell with the winning field goal!

Great article about Bills fans coming together from all over the place, just like our local Bills Backers!

Check out some of the great videos from all over the country of the win, I'll highlight my favorites:

Reaction from the Stadium!

Fort Worth Texas

ATL in the hause, shirts are coming off!


Denver Colorado

And of course my all time favorite, cause I was there and it captured the moment perfectly...

And for anyone that watches the games at home, here's the Shout song!  Be sure to play it every time they score and run around the house like a crazy person!  Go Bills!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to Get Facebook Timeline Now

Update:  It looks like they disabled the ability to check to see who defriended you on Monday.  If you caught this post when I originally sent it on Saturday great, if not it's no biggie anyway.  You can still follow the steps below to enable Facebook Timeline before they start to force it soon.  At first glance, it's too different and I'm not a big fan. 

I came across two articles over the weekend.  One that said you can find out who unfriended you on Facebook using the new Facebook Timelines feature that will go live either Friday or Saturday this week and the other listed the steps required in order to get the option to enable Facebook Timeline NOW, ahead of the general public, which is required to find out who un-friended you.  So click on the second link to enable it, then follow the steps in the first link to find out who un-friended you. 

Shockingly, it appears no one unfriended me.  To test it out I had my wifey unfriend me and then it did show that she had unfriended me, but no one else did, so it appears to be working.  It's a bit confusing, but once you are setup with Facebook Timeline, on the right it lists months and years.  Click on a year, like 2010 for example.  Then you scroll down to where you see a 'Friends' heading and it should say something like you made 52 new friends in 2010.  Click that link that shows the number of friends you made that year and then scroll through your friends and if any of them have an 'Add Friend' button, they are no longer your friend but they were before.    

I'm guessing that feature may go away by the time it goes live to everyone, so if you want to try it out, do it now before that option goes away!  That's just something interesting to try, but the bigger issue is how Facebook Timeline will COMPLETELY change the layout and function of Facebook.  I think with so many changes over the past few weeks and now this entirely new look and feel, that they'll get a LOT of complaints and pushback and I'm guessing they'll delay the rollout or scale things back.

Enabling the ability to use Facebook Timelines as mentioned above does NOT require you to switch to that new layout permanently now in order to see who unfriended you.  But if you would like to get started setting up your timeline now, you can.  Might as well at least take a look so you'll know what everyone is talking about when they start complaining at the end of next week. 

If you try it out, let me know what you find out and what you think of the new setup.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Buffalo Bills Beat the Patriots!

I can't quite get over the fact that the Bills beat the Patriots for the first time since 2003!  What a great game yesterday and a great day to hang with the Buffalo Bills Backers of Jacksonville!  Luckily we got there early, as there were no seats available by the time the game started.  It's such a great group of people and you really feel right at home and it's as if you're at an actual game, except no lines for the bathroom, no excessive prices for drinks and no lines heading out afterward!

If you're away from the Western NY area and a Bills Fan, find your closest Bills Backers group here!

Great win, great day and to top it off Miami is 0-3 and the Jets lost to the Raiders...I'm going to enjoy sole possession of first place in the AFC East this week!  Man it feels good to get that monkey off our back and beat them &%$* Patriots!  Billieve!

Check out some videos the wifey and I took of the win below.  I love the wifey's video, which is the second one.  You can hear the crowd quiet down just prior to the winning field goal and then PANDEMONIUM sets in.  I've watched that video about 10 times and I'm about to watch it again!  So awesome!

Also, check out the blog post from fellow Blogger Jen S and her video with the Bills Backers of Denver Colorado....great times all around!  


Friday, September 23, 2011

Hanging With Friends

Someone at work mentioned he's been playing Hanging With Friends and it's super fun!  It is basically Hangman that you play with others, from Zynga, makers of the wildly popular Words With Friends.  Try it out!  I also noticed you can play Words With Friends on Facebook, so if you don't have a SmartPhone, have at it!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

UARS Satellite Crash

In case you've been living under a rock (and that just might be the best place for you), there is a giant 6,000 lb satellite that is going to come crashing down to earth sometime in the next 2 days!!!!  I don't want to be an alarmist and say THE SKY IS FALLING, but this time it IS!  RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!!!!!!!  But never fear, FEMA is here!  And they're prepared!

Real-time Satellite Tracker
(The website was overloaded last night after being on the World News)
NASA UARS satellite status

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

RHCE Certification Class/Exam

I'm going to be taking the Red Hat Linux Certified Engineer Fast Track class the week of Oct 17th.  I'd highly recommend getting this RHEL6 RHCE Study Guide, whether you're taking a Red Hat class or not.  It's a great resource and they provide lots of end of chapter hands on exercises as well as sample exams.

The test is entirely hands on and you're given a computer system and have to perform various tasks, fix problems, etc.  Here's an exam outline if you're interested.  The test is in two parts, a RHCSA (Red Hat Certified Systems Administrator) portion which is first and 2 hours and the RHCE (Red Hat Certified Engineer) portion which is another 2 hours.

The test is difficult enough as it is, but now they will be asking you to do different things on a very different operating system, so it will be even tougher than it normally would.  So needless to say, I will be spending the next month doing as much prep work as I can. So if my blogging slacks a bit over the next month, don't hold it against me.  I'll attempt to keep things going and will probably need a diversion anyhow.  Thanks for understanding and wish me luck!

Update:  I passed!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Personal Google Search Results

I was watching How I Met Your Mother last night and Marshall, one of the main characters, was talking to the head of a company that he wanted to work for on the phone and the guy mentioned he would do a background check, credit check and Google search on him and get back to him.

Marshall ended up remembering he had a video online where he went streaking and then he made another video where he played Edward 40 Hands, which apparently is a real drinking type game.  Search online/YouTube, you can see for yourself if you'd like.

But anyway, that brought to mind that it's always good to know what your online persona looks like thanks to search engines.  I've looked before, probably several months ago and there wasn't much out there.  My Facebook page is private for the most part, I've removed the feature that makes you show up in search engines via your Facebook page and I just have some old posts out there I made a long long time ago at a job about 10 years ago when I was asking technical questions about a computer problem.

However, last night I found something interesting.  I found another perfectly acceptable human being with my name.  That was surprising, since I don't have all that common of a last name and that has never turned up before.  That got me thinking, what if someone searches for me, finds this other person and because my name isn't real common, just assumes that is me.

So, I decided to check him out a bit.  His Facebook page is pretty open so I thought I'd take a look around...seemed like a normal guy for the most part but then I found this interesting post:

"SKETCHY! Walked alone to an abandoned, overgrown cemetery on the edge of a really bad area. Went all the way to the back where a tomb had been broken open and a ladder led down into it. Heard noises coming from inside. So yours truly peeks in, holding his very expensive camera, and realizes it has been converted into a drug/alcohol den for the scum of the city. Yay - my first story in Ireland that ends with " I got the hell OUT of there before they killed me and sold my camera for heroin"

Not necessarily bad, but not something I'd be doing in my spare time.  He actually lives in Ireland right now, but he is originally from NY State, same as me, but someplace called North Port on Long Island.  That's no where near where I'm from, but since I'm originally from NY state, if someone did a quick search for me, came up to that guy and saw something about NY, they could make a quick incorrect judgment and get a negative impression potentially.  

There's not all that much you can do about someone else with the same name as you out there online, but it does bring up a good point to do a quick search on yourself every once in a while.  Initially, there were a few posts that I've done on Facebook pages that are public, some posts in an HP laptop forum with my name and things like that.  I removed all of those, just because you never know how someone would interpret what you say.  

Which brings up something else I came across the other day.  I was shocked at posts that I saw on one of our local news websites.  Their comment system utilizes Facebook comments.  People have their real names, pictures with their kids and are members of the local community, teachers, professionals, etc. and I witnessed on numerous occasions, people belittle others, flat out use racism, threaten violence, etc.   Do these people not realize others can see the comments, click on your profile and if it's not locked down, know an awful lot about them and how nasty they are as human beings?

At any rate, check yourself out on Google and go through at least the first 3 pages, clicking on any relevant links.  One interesting link on the 2nd or 3rd page took me to something called Pipl Profiles.  I clicked on my name and it brought up my Facebook profile picture as well as a list of things I apparently 'Liked' at one point in the past, including 'Unknown Drunken Injuries' which was something I remember liking for literally 1 day and I got to thinking, someone might take that the wrong way, so I removed it.  

I have no idea how that site trolls for data, but be aware this type of stuff might be out there and it's always good to try and stay ahead of these types of things.  Check out that Pipl Profiles page and let me know if you find anything unexpected/revealing there or anywhere else for that matter!  I'd definitely like to hear what you found.

P.S.  That picture at the top is NOT me.  I just scrolled up before saving this post and at first glance, kinda thought it was me, aside from the hair cut not matching.  Heh...another imposter!  They're everywhere. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

2011 Fall TV Lineup

The Fall TV lineup is upon us!   This TV Guide page has a good day by day chart of which shows are on each night for the major networks.  Here is a quick breakdown of the shows we plan to check out or DVR, with Monday/Wednesday/Thursday being the main nights.  We saw Up All Night last week, the new show with Christina Applegate about how a couple handles their new baby and it was decent.  Was hoping for a bit more, but it may be good once it gets going.  I wasn't too excited about Free Agents, but I'll give it another try. 

8pm  How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
8:30pm  2 Broke Girls (CBS)
9pm  2 1/2 Men (CBS)
9:30pm  Mike and Molly
10pm  Playboy Club (NBC)

8pm  Last Man Standing (ABC)
8:30pm  Man Up (ABC)
9pm  New Girl? (FOX)

8pm  The Middle (ABC) and Up All Night (NBC)
8:30pm  Suburgatory (ABC) and possibly Free Agents (NBC)
9pm  Modern Family (ABC)
9:30pm  Happy Endings (ABC)
10pm  American Horror Story? (FX)

8pm  Big Bang Theory (CBS)
8:30pm  How to Be A Gentleman? (CBS)
9pm  The Office (NBC)
9:30pm  Whitney (NBC)
10pm  Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)
10:30pm  The League (Oct 6th FX)

8pm  Kitchen Nightmares maybe (FOX)

8pm  Rules of Engagement (CBS)  No idea why they put this on Saturday?!

8pm  Simpsons (FOX) or maybe Once Upon a Time (ABC)
8:30pm  Allen Gregory? (FOX)
9pm  Family Guy (FOX)
10pm  Pan Am?  (ABC)

Which new or returning shows are you looking most forward too?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Home Inventory

Someone at work mentioned the other day about having a true home inventory of all the items in their home, for insurance purposes.  I was surprised that several people said that they have full inventories of the items, with a document listing serial numbers as well as a video inventory walk through.  I realized that is something I've been meaning to do as well and DropBox free online storage would be a great place to store that information, since you would want that offsite and available in case you did have a loss and needed to make a claim.

When you sign-up you get 2GB of free storage and if you sign-up through the link above, you and I both get an additional 250MB.  Also, when you sign-up, you just give your name and email and then you will be prompted to download the installer, so be sure to do that on your home PC that you use most often.  Definitely a very cool product. 

A video walk through is pretty easy to do these days.  Being able to record video on your phone you could just do a walk around the house, going from room to room, highlighting the main items.  However, it would also be best to have an inventory listing out serial numbers from TVs, computers, gaming systems, audio systems, refrigerators, etc. since that would allow you to prove the value of items to an insurance company, getting the most for your $.

I did a quick inventory with a video camera one time in the past, but it was on a physical mini-dv tape and I am not sure where that is.  That's where DropBox comes in handy.  You can just take the video inventory with your phone or camera, upload the file to your DropBox account and then it's available from anywhere, anytime you need it.  You can also store your inventory documents on there as well.  Then you are covered in case you need that info.  And the more prepared you are for a potential disaster, hopefully, the less likely you will be to actually need to use the info you gathered!  It always seems to work out that way and the opposite is also true. 

Doing this post has motivated me to get this done and out of the way now.  I just finished the video inventory of the whole house, inside and out, in 10 minutes.  Based on the default settings on my phone, the size of the file is just over 1GB.  Bigger than I expected, but you can probably decrease the quality/size if you need to.  It's currently transferring to my DropBox account in the background and I noticed by default it limits your upload speed.  You can right click on the DropBox icon in your task bar in the lower right and select Preferences and then Bandwidth and then tell it not to limit upload speed.  That doubled my upload speed right away.  It is still going to take about 50 minutes, but that beats 2 hours. 

I also wrote down serial numbers on anything electronic/large over approx $100 in value, such as TVs, Wii, laptops and even a few items in the garage, such as my Sears toolchest, lawnmower, etc.  For lesser items such as an MP3 player, I will just record the model numbers instead.  But when in doubt, include serial numbers whenever possible, as that will provide proof of ownership, above and beyond just including model numbers.  It took me about 30 minutes to write it all down myself and another 30 minutes to put it in a spreadsheet and upload it.  If you had 2 people, one reading off the info and one writing it out on a laptop, you could probably do all that easily in 30 minutes. 

I am glad that is all done and stored online!  I really thought it would take me a lot longer than 90 minutes total, but that wasn't too bad.  I had that on my personal to do list this week and I love checking things off and wiping the slate clean. 

Have you ever taken a full home inventory?  Perhaps you already have a video or documents, but never thought to put them online?  I'm curious to know if anyone else out there has done that already?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Secure Document Sharing / Storage

With all of the 9/11 coverage this past weekend and all the stories from family members who lost loved ones, that reminded me I've been meaning to make sure my wifey has access to all of our online accounts for bills, credit cards, retirement accounts, home/life insurance, etc.

The dilemma is how to securely do that.  I believe Dave Ramsey tells you to write down all the accounts and store it with a safe deposit box at your bank.  That is a good idea and that is secure, but if you have accounts that require quarterly password changes, that would require a few trips to the bank.  I also just came across this article with a few horror stories of banks actually seizing safe deposit boxes, but that is probably rare.

You could keep them in password protected files on your personal computer, but in reality files with passwords on them, like Microsoft Word documents, are easily crackable with free programs on the internet.  And if your PC crashes, or is stolen, you either lose the file or someone else has access to all of your personal accounts all in one nicely organized spot.

I did a search for encrypted file storage and found a blog post from a guy who combined two products.  He utilized a free Open Source program called TrueCrypt, which does highly secure file/volume encryption.  In addition, he utilizes DropBox for syncing that volume a free online storage account.

I tried the TrueCrypt/DropBox combo and it works really well.  You first install TrueCrypt, go through their easy tutorial on creating a secure volume and then mount it up.  I did mine very small, so that it would transfer quicker to DropBox and also because it only needs to store 1 or 2 small files.  Once your secure/encrypted volume is mounted, you can place your Word/text document(s) in that folder and then unmount the volume/folder.

At that point, you have a file somewhere on your computer called whatever you named it that appears like it's just a single file.  If you double click on the file it will not open, you would have to open TrueCrypt and mount the file as a volume/folder and of course, enter your secure password.  They recommend a password or phrase of 20 characters or more, which is what I did.  It's much more secure that way.

Then you go to the DropBox website to sign-up and install the DropBox app.  When you sign-up for DropBox you get 2GB of free storage and if you sign-up through the link above, you and I both get an additional 250MB.  Also, when you sign-up, you just give your name and email and then you will be prompted to download the installer, so be sure to sign-up on your home PC that you utilize most often.  Definitely a very cool product. 

Then once you have it installed, you add your 'file' to the list of items DropBox will sync to your online account and you're good to go!  You can either share that file out to other people or they can login to your account.  Once they have access to the 'file' they can download the file, open up TrueCrypt, mount the file up and access the document(s) after they provide the password to open it up.

By default, TrueCrypt will maintain the modify date so that it doesn't look like your file has been updated recently.  In order to get DropBox to notice a change, you have to do the following:

1. Run TrueCrypt
2. Choose "Settings" from the menu
3. Choose "Preferences"
4. Under the "Window" heading (4th one down)
5. Uncheck "Preserve timestamps of file containers"
6. Click Ok
7. Done

If you leave DropBox running on your PC, anytime you mount up the file/volume on your PC, change the documents in it and then close it back up, DropBox will automatically sync the file to your online account, so that it's always up to date.   Since I don't anticipate making a whole lot of changes once I have all of the relevant info in the file(s), I do not leave DropBox running at all times. 

All in all, it's a really slick little free solution to securely share documents/files.  I tested it out with my tech-savvy wife and she was able to grasp the concept with no major issues.  She just needs to remember the password.  I'll have her access the file at least once a month to be sure the process is fresh in her mind, so that it becomes second nature.

Do you currently have a method to securely store sensitive data and/or backup critical files online?  Do you have other methods for doing something similar?  Definitely drop me a comment and let me know!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

401K Alternative Options

I mentioned several months back, in a previous post, that I'll be keeping track of my net worth in a spreadsheet every month.  We had started the year debt free, minus the house and had bumped up our investments to the Dave Ramsey recommended level of 15% and we wanted to keep track of our progress overall.  Since we were putting more of our pay into our 401k and Roth IRAs, our bank accounts might not be going up as much or could be staying the same or going down a bit.  However, as long as our net worth is upward sloping, things are heading in the right direction. 

We started out strong, with a 2% increase in our net worth from April to May, so I was happy with our progress.  However, going from May to June, our net worth was a only a few hundred dollars more than the month before.  We had some vacation time in there and also the wifey's summer classes/books, etc, but it was still positive at least.  Luckily from June-July and then July-August, it continued the upward slope, up 3% and 2% respectively.  Which brings us to August-September.

I knew the stock market has done terrible in August, going down between 5-10% at various times throughout the month, so I was expecting a very minor increase or slight decrease.  Unfortunately, it was a 2% decrease month to month.  That comes with the territory of investing, as there are always market gyrations from week to week and month to month, but I wasn't happy about that.

By comparison, I checked my rollover 401K that I'm actively trading in a brokerage account and it was actually up a few hundred dollars instead of down 5-10% like the overall market.  I was lucky enough to sell just about everything I had in late July (prior to a weekend getaway) and had been in 98% cash and that's where I still am at the moment.  I got to thinking....I could have potentially avoided several thousand dollars in paper losses by selling similar to when I did in my trading 401k. 

Of course, it is very difficult to time the markets and for the long term, for most it's probably better to keep things where they are and continue your regular contributions, averaging down over time, however I would have liked the option to be a bit more nimble.  With regular 401K accounts, you're limited to the mutual funds available and you cannot sell right away, it takes a day or two to exit a trade and you may incur an additional fee if you've owned the fund for less than 90 days.  It all depends on the mutual fund and your 401K provider.

So I started to search the internet to see if it's possible to transfer your 401K to a rollover 401K with a broker, while still working for that company.  My initial thought was that is not possible and most of what I read confirmed that.  You would either have to leave your job or have a 'qualifying event', such as reaching retirement age.  But I emailed my contact at the contract company I work for and found out I may have another option.

She told me about an option available with my existing Fidelity 401K called Brokerage Link.  From what I understand so far, you can transfer your $ from your regular plain 401K over to a Brokerage Link account and can then actively trade stocks and mutual funds.  That's exactly what I was looking to do, but was also hoping I could trade options similar to my Scottrade 401K account.  It looks like their plan does not allow options trading, but I could keep this 401K for stock trading and use my other one for options trading, so that would work fine.

I requested the plan information be mailed to me Monday and am looking forward to the results.  The trading fees are 10.50 per trade, which is a bit more than most discount brokers, but not outrageous.

I had never heard of that option before, so wanted to share that in case you are looking to do something similar.  As always, it depends on your risk tolerance and whether or not you have the time/desire to take a more active role with your retirement account(s).

Open an IRA @ OptionsHouse Today.
If you happen to have an old 401k from a prior employer, you can transfer that 401k to a rollover 401k/IRA with a discount broker and can actively trade that account.  Options House has super low $3.95 commision rates per stock trade and they also have an ongoing promotion providing 100 free trades and they cover any transfer fees up to $125.  Great deal.

Do you have any interest in being able to have a more active role with your 401K vs a limited number of mutual funds to choose from?  Or maybe you're happy with the funds you have to choose from and are happy with the results so far this year?  Either way, I'm interested in hearing what you think!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Getjar Free Smartphone Apps

A friend of mine on Google+ mentioned that he had gotten an app called Paper Camera for free from GetJar on Friday and that was the first I had heard of GetJar.  He said the app is normally 99 cents, but free on that site, so I checked it out.  As the saying goes, if it's free it's for me! 

The site looks interesting, similar to a regular app store online and in their 'Gold Star' section, they have around 50 apps for my phone that are normally paid apps ranging from 99 cents to 4.99 for free.  Seems like a good deal to me.

I downloaded the GetJar app from the regular Android market and afterward it didn't want to start up, so I just rebooted the phone and it works fine after the reboot.  You pull up the app and  then click on the gold star tab and browse through the apps.  You can also browse through them first on their website to see if you're interested in any of them. 

I picked up Paper Camera in addition to Krazy Racers, Roller and Hockey Nations 2010.  Paper Camera allows you to add different graphical effects to pictures as you take them, similar to the picture my friend took below of his computer desk.  Pretty neat, not super useful for me, but still fun. 

Picture taken with Paper Camera

Krazy Racers is VERY similar to Super Mario Kart for the Wii and is pretty cool!

Roller is the full version of the Roller Lite Skee Ball game I mentioned a little over a week ago, which is great because I really like that game!  The full version allows you to change the table skins as well as change the ball type and no more asking if you want to upgrade every 10 or so times you play.  So all in all, it was a success.  3 paid games for free and it's all legit!

Hockey Nations 2010 is a fun hockey game with very good graphics.  It's similar to the NHL hockey games for Wii or the other game consoles.


Check it out, they provide free apps for Android, Blackberry, Java and Symbian phones.  Sorry, doesn't look like they provide free Apple apps.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Spare Bathroom Paint Update

We finished painting the spare bathroom last weekend and I have to say, I forgot how much painting SUCKS!  It's so weird, we used to enjoy doing it.  In our old house, which was larger than the one we have now, with huge cathedral ceilings throughout, we painted the whole interior.  And I don't recall it being that much of a pain.  Now, painting one very small room is just plain terrible.   I think it was mostly because of all the things to paint around; trim, mirror, towel rack, medicine cabinet, light, etc.  Plus we put down a coat of primer first, so it was really a lot of work. 

I had to remove the old dual elongated shower rod and patch the holes and that part went much better than expected, I thought that would be the hard part, but nope.  It was so not fun.  We put off our plan to do the front weekend a bit.  We just didn't have the motivation to do that two weekends in a row.  There is no major urgency, so we'll do it some weekend when the weather isn't so good. 

We like how it turned out, especially after Marla did the decorating.  She got a new shower curtain, bath mats, pictures and some decorative towels, all for under $60 at Home Goods.  And she did a great job.  It's hard to get good pictures and hard to tell there is yellow in the shower curtain, but it looks very nice in person.

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 11th 2001 - As I Remember It

On the anniversary of the terrible tragedy 10 years ago I though I would recap the day as I remember it.  I arrived at work on Sept 11th at Frontier Corporation in Rochester, NY at around 8:30am.  Shortly after getting there and getting settled in, a buddy Steve in the cube next to me said he heard on the radio a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center.  Obviously we were all quite surprised and thought that it must have been  an accident.  Looking back at a timeline, that was right around 8:46am.

We were talking back and forth and several people had acquaintances they knew that worked in one of the towers or had recently.  They were checking with their family members to see if everyone they knew was accounted for and ok.  Shortly afterwards, someone said that CNN was on in the 1st floor main conference room.  While everyone was getting in touch with family/friends and arriving at work, I went down by myself to the conference room to see what was going on. 

CNN was on the screen and the image of the first tower with the smoke billowing out from the top was on.  That's one image that is etched in my brain, as I'm sure it is for everyone that was watching the coverage.  I think there were around 15 people in the conference room that normally holds probably around 80 people.  They were spread out, sitting there quietly as I was, kinda in shock.  As I sat there locked into the coverage, wondering what this was all about, I watched live as the 2nd plane flew right into the 2nd tower.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  There were a few gasps, I think someone said oh my god and it was just surreal.  I hate it when people use that word for just about any situation, but this was truly a good use of the word.  I felt overwhelmed, in disbelief of what was happening, knowing this was not an accident at that point.  I sat there for at probably 5-10 minutes in shock.

A few more people had started to come in.  I think I went back upstairs to see if the rest of the team was aware that a 2nd plane went into the 2nd tower.  Everyone that knew someone that might be directly affected was still trying to reach people that might know more about their friends/acquaintances/family that may have been in the towers or in the general area.  I think I hung around for about 10 minutes and then went back down to the conference room.

When I came back they had news up of a fire and/or potential explosion or crash at the Pentagon.  Shortly after that I watched as the first tower collapse in a huge plume of smoke/debris.  As soon as I saw that I knew the tower had collapsed.  It took a minute or two for the dust to clear and during that time, the newscasters were not aware it had actually collapsed.  They just assumed it was part of the smoke/fire.  I'm sure they thought there was no way that was possible for the whole building to collapse.  When the dust had settled and the building was completely gone, that's when it really hit me.  I'm pretty sure at that moment I started to tear up, if I hadn't already when I watched the second plane hit live.  This was a tragedy of unimaginable scale in our own country, affecting 1,000s of workers, emergency crew, firefighters, police, etc.  How could this be happening?!

I felt sad thinking of all the people with family/friends/acquaintances, in the building, on the planes, unaccounted for, etc. and was still in a zombie state.  I believe that everyone was eventually allowed to leave early and we all went home and continued to listen to the events on the radio on the way home and were glued to the TV for the reminder of the day.  I recall seeing the people on the ground covered in debris, seeing Mayor Giuliani on TV in shock and utter sadness of what was going on.  And I also remember watching the people evacuating the city by walking out across the bridges.  

It was a day that those of us old enough to remember will never forget.  It was a day that changed our country and the world.  I'd like to think that 10 years later we're more prepared.  It may be that we're more aware of the ever present danger of terrorism and more on alert but unfortunately, those that do not agree with the American way of life and our freedoms will always look for ways to bring more terror to our nation.

Sunday is a remembrance of everyone that needlessly lost their lives as innocent bystanders, going about their daily routines heading into work for the day as well as all of those first responders who didn't give a second thought of risking their lives to save others.  And of course a special thanks to everyone past and present serving to protect our great country every single day!!

I don't think I've watched a recap of the days events since the attacks happened, but I will today.  Just previewing a few different videos brought all of the thoughts back from that day as if it was yesterday.  Here is one recap of many that are out there.  

What is your recollection of the days events?  I would be interested to hear your memories from 10 years ago Sunday. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sleepy Polar Bear

Long week so far...looking forward to on-call being over!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Amazon Kindle Tablet

With all the hype surrounding the HP Touchpad fire sale lately (by the way my 3 online orders were all eventually cancelled, so if you find one for $99 get an extra one), there has been some increased attention to tablets in general.  Rumors were that Amazon was going to come out with their own tablet and it was going to be 'hundreds' less than the iPad.  It looks like that is the case based on this recent article.

According to the article, the tablet is supposed to come out at the end of November, will be a 7 inch full color Android based tablet and will sell for $250.  At that size and price range, they're not competing directly against Apple per se, it's more a competitor for the Nook color, which is the same size and price.

One article I read said they were smart to do that, in that over 80% of the tablet market is owned by Apple, with all of the rest of the Android tablets out there competing for the remaining 20%.  If they were to go for that 20% piece of the pie, they wouldn't stand to make as much $.  Another article mentioned that as of Feb of 2011, Barnes and Noble (Nook color) claimed to have 25% of the ebook reader market while Amazon had approx 75%.  So they're trying to expand their big chunk of the pie even more.

Taken from the article referenced above:

"So why will people buy this device instead of a Nook Color? Well, beyond the deep Amazon services integration, there will be two other reasons, I believe. First, Amazon is going to promote the hell out of this thing on Second, the plan right now is to give buyers a free subscription to Amazon Prime.

The service, which Amazon currently sells for $79 a year, gives users access things like free unlimited two-day shipping, and no minimum purchases for free shipping. More importantly for this product, Prime users get access to Amazon’s Instant Video service. There will be more Kindle-related perks, I imagine."

What I don't like based on what I read is that Amazon customized the Android OS and removed a lot of the standard items like the Android Market in favor I'm sure of the Amazon App store, which is fine, but initially it will probably be very Amazon centric, until some hacker types get their hands on one and make it easier to customize.

Personally, similar to a $500+ tablet, I don't see the need for a $250 ebook reader when I have a 4.3 inch display phone with WiFi and 3G.  However, as the HP Touchpad fire sale has shown, there is definitely a huge market for Tablets as a secondary device, if the price is right.  And right now, that price is $150 or below and on eBay they're still going for around $210 and selling, so if Amazon does come out with their 10 inch tablet in the first quarter of 2012 in a similar price range, they may do very well.

Any interest in a Nook Color, Nook Tablet or Amazon Kindle / Fire?  Right now it seems a bit like device overload, but I'm sure come Christmas time they'll all sell like hot cakes.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Brostache App

I was watching the Geico commercial showing dumb things people do with smart phones where the one guy pops the bubbly, the other dude does the brostache and yet another guy plays the guitar.  I happened to search for Brostache and sure enough, there's an app for both Android and iPhone and it works pretty good.  Try it out, it's pretty funny!  

Friday, September 2, 2011

NFL Fantasy Football 2011 Breakdown

Last night I had my NFL Fantasy Draft with the guys from work.  We don't have a draft party or anything, since you have to do the draft online anyway, it makes sense just to hang at home, grab a few beers and talk smack in the chat room.  The action moved real quick this year, with the whole thing being done in just under an hour.  If you've never played before, it's actually pretty fun.  You have to pick a quarterback, and in most leagues, 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, another wide receiver/tight end, a kicker and a defense.  Then your last 4-5 picks are backups for those guys.  It helps to know some players, but you can also just click the auto-draft button and let the computer pick automatically for you whatever the highest ranking players are at the time of your picks.  So really, you don't have to know anything.

A lot of the time, auto-draft does just as good a job or better for you, especially if you're not all that knowledgeable.  So if you're asked to join a league and want to be involved to feel part of the group and it's cheap/free, you can always go the easy route and pick auto-draft.  Then as the regular season starts, the website will automatically tell you how many points each player is projected to get each week and you can just base your decisions of who to put in for that week on that and you'll probably do just as good as anyone else.  A lot of it is luck of the draw and how you do against the other team from week to week.  But it's also a bunch of fun when the majority of people at work are in the same league, so you can all talk about how you did over the weekend and can rip on each other. 

It's free to play on, but we each contribute $5 into a pool and winner takes all.  Keeps it interesting.  It turns out I clicked on something when a guy at work was asking me to try something out and I apparently created a 2nd NFL Fantasy team not knowing it and it auto-drafted for me, so now I have 2 teams, heh.  That's fine, since I have nothing invested in that one and don't know the people I'm playing.  But it will be interesting to see how I do with that auto-drafted team vs the one I picked all my players.

It's fun and if you've always been put off by it thinking that you have to spend a ton of time researching players/teams, etc. that's not the case.  You can still take part with minimal effort/time and still enjoy the interaction with friends/family.  The only time when you need to be active is later on when the players have their 'bye' weeks, which just means they're not playing that week.  During those weeks, you'll want to sit those players and put in ones that are playing that week. Or if a player gets injured and won't be playing for several weeks or the whole season, you'll want to swap them out. 
If you do want to get into it and do research, all you have to do is search for either use the player rankings right on, which is probably what most people do, or you can also search Google for NFL fantasy cheat sheets.  Various sites out there which rank the top 200 players overall, by individual position, etc.  Good stuff....I had the 4th pick overall in round 1 and don't think I did too bad.  Time will tell.  Below are screen shots of the two teams in case you're interested.  1 more week until the start of the regular season!  ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!!?

Fantasy Cheat Sheets you can printout from ESPN

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Latest Cool Smartphone Games

I like to highlight Smartphone games/apps from time to time and the latest games I've been playing on the phone are Dragon, Fly! and Diversion.  I also came across 2 different Skee-Ball type games that are pretty cool also!

Dragon, Fly!

Dragon, Fly for Android 
Tiny Wings for iPhone

Dragon, Fly is mentioned on lots of reviews as a similar/better version of a popular game for iPhone called Tiny Wings.  Basically you control a small dragon and make them swoop down on hills from the air to pick up speed, grab some items and complete a few goals on each level to get to the next level before the big momma dragon catches up to you.  It's a relatively simple game concept, but it's also a challenge to complete the goals, which will keep you coming back for more.  I've been playing that on and off for two weeks and so far so good. 


Check out the quick promo video to see what it's all about.  It's available for both iPhone and Android.  It's a side scroller, similar to how Super Mario Brothers works, except like most side scrollers on phones, your character automatically moves towards the right and you have to jump/slide/climb/fly your way thought the course.  It's by far the best side scroller I've played on the phone and definitely worth trying out!

Diversion for Android 
Diversion for iPhone 

Ball-Hop Bowling (Skee Ball)


Not quite sure why they chose Ball-Hop Bowling for a name, but I'm guessing the name Skee Ball is probably copyrighted/trademarked or something similar.  It's a free game for both Android and iPhone which is worth a try for that reason alone.  Who doesn't like to play Skee Ball right?  But from what I've read, if you want to progress much further than the main table/balls, you would have to pay for upgrades.  The physics of the game are just ok.  I've played another version of Skee Ball on Android called Roller Lite and that one actually has much better physics where you can adjust the sentitivity of the throwing motion of the ball to make it act exactly as you would expect.  That one is free also and I'd definitely recommend that game instead on the Android platform, but it's also at least worth trying Ball-Hop Bowling on the iPhone. 

Ball-Hop Bowling (Skee Ball) for iPhone
Ball-Hop Bowling (Skee Ball) for Android
Roller Lite for Android

Beer Pong HD

I also came across Beer Pong HD for Android yesterday.  It had great ratings and I just played a game and it is pretty fun!  The graphics are great, the physics of the ball tossing seems pretty accurate and the game has funny voices either ripping on you for missing or just making funny comments.  I also included a link to an iPhone Beer Pong game as well, but it's not from the same makers, so can't vouch for that one.

Beer Pong HD for Android
Beer Pong for iPhone

All in all, a good selection of games today!  Let me know how you like them and as always, leave me a comment if you have any you'd like me to check out.  Enjoy!

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