Monday, October 31, 2011

Weekend Recap

This weekend we got a bit of a cold front.  Although, it is nothing like I've seen from friends in the North East that have been without power, tree limbs down, bad snow storm, etc.   Our temps dropped from the 70s/80s to high 60s and mid 40s for lows.  No complaints here, it feels great in the sun.  I grabbed a few pictures from NE news sites, it's crazy up there in areas like Albany, Boston, much of Pennsylvania, etc.  Way too early for that crap. 


My mom and aunt arrive Wednesday of this week and are staying for a week, sorta.  They head to Tallahassee Friday-Sunday evening to visit their sister.  I'd say they were behind this cold weather, as usually my mom does bring bad weather with her, but on Thursday it starts to warm back up into the mid 70s and low 80s, so that will be good.

We didn't do a whole lot this weekend.  We went out with friends to our favorite Italian place Enza's and the owner helped bring out our food and remembered we had been there a few weeks ago and remembered what I had and she must have seen that I wrote a good review either on their Facebook or Urban Spoon/Yelp and gave us one of our desserts for free.  That is such a rare thing to have such good food, great service from all of the wait staff and go the additional mile to have the owner come around and greet everyone.  And prices are good as well.  We'll definitely be back again soon.

Then we spent most of Sunday deep cleaning.  With 4 kitties there will always be a tumble weed or two of kitty hair that will decide to roll by even after a good cleanup.  Other than that we watched a little bit of the Georgia Southern football game, unfortunately they didn't win and the wifey let me out to go watch the Buffalo Bills shutout the Redskins 23-0!  Woot!  And the Patriots lost to the Steelers, so it was a great day all around.  And to top it off, Gators lost and Tebow sucked up the joint, so tomorrow we won't have to hear about how great Tebow is and all that at work tomorrow.  I want to see him succeed like everyone else, but it will take time.  

This week a friend of mine that I worked with at my last job starts as a contractor with my group in my current job, so that will be fun.  It's funny, one of our other friends that worked at Bank of America just took a job on Friday back at where we both first worked, so lots of people moving around.  It's a small IT community here, so lots of people bounce around from place to place.

But that's about it...Have a great start to the week and Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Best Scary / Horror Movies

With Halloween on Monday and the weekend upon us, I thought I'd talk about some of the great classic scary/horror movies for this time of year.  When I was growing up in the early 80s the main movies that I remember being on TV this time of year were all of the Friday the 13th movies, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Poltergeist and Nightmare on Elm Street.  To a lesser extent I recall some of the classics being on as well, like The Omen, Rosemary's Baby, Carrie, Cujo, The Shining, The Exorcist and Amityville Horror. 

Some of the most memorable for me were Poltergeist, Nightmare on Elm Street and Amityville Horror.  I'd say over the years, I've probably seen Poltergeist at least 5 times all the way through.  It really was a very elaborate movie special effect wise and was pretty ground breaking for the time.  Who can forget the melting faces part, creepy monster coming out of the closet and of course the phrases "They're here" or "Go into the light Carole Ann". 

How about "1, 2, Freddy's coming for you 3, 4 better lock your door...9, 10 never sleep again" from Nightmare on Elm Street and the noise of his claw scraping against metal. 

And one specific thing from Amityville Horror has stuck with me to this day.  All the bad things that happened in the house were all at exactly 3:15am in the morning.  Anytime I wake up and look at the alarm clock in the middle of the night, I'm hoping it's not 3:15am, but many times it has been exactly 3:15am.  Fortunately for me, nothing bad has happened...yet. 

I like scary/horror movies and I watched a bunch growing up.  Some of the ones I enjoyed from that time frame that are not mentioned above were The Wraith, Maximum Overdrive, C.H.U.D., Alien, Re-Animator, Dr. Giggles, Leviathan, They Live, Candyman, CreepShow and Evil Dead.  My favorite from that time frame was Evil Dead 2!  Bruce Campbell, the main character, was/is one of my favorite actors and that movie was a great mix of over the top scary/gore effects along with hilarious one liners from the king of one liners. 

Another one of my favorites was Pet Cemetery, but that was more in college.  The college TV station always had this dial-in voting to get your favorite movie played and after coming back from the bars, everyone on the 5th floor in our dorm always used to vote for that one and we probably watched that one, or parts of it over 20 times.  Gage, the little boy coming back from the dead was one creepy little dude. 

In the 90s we seemed to have a bit of a lull.  We had a bunch of movies like Scream and I Know What you Did Last Summer, but overall I don't recall a lot of great scary/horror movies from that time.  House on Haunted Hill was pretty good.  1999 brought The Blair Witch Project and while that one was tough to watch with all the jumpy camera movement and all the pre-hype, that kinda ushered in a rebirth in horror films. 

What really got things going for me was the Ring in 2002.  That is one of my favorite scary movies.  The 2000s also brought the Saw series, Hostel, The Grudge and a funny instant classic, Zombieland.  I haven't seen any of the Paranormal Activity movies, but I hear 3 is getting some good reviews. 

What movies do you remember watching around Halloween growing up and what are some of your favorite scary movies?  Planning to watch any this weekend?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Contract Killer: Zombies!

With Halloween around the corner and us recently getting into the series The Walking Dead, a show about Zombies taking over, it's timely that I came across the free game Contract Killer: Zombies!  We really like The Walking Dead show by the way.  There were only 6 episodes in the first season and only 2 so far this season, so it's real easy to get the prior episodes and catch up! 

The game has real good graphics and it's free for Android and iPhone.  You assist the other characters with various missions, but your main role it to blow away the Zombies while they do the majority of the work.  Give it a try!  BRAINS!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tampa Weekend Recap 2

We got up Sunday and noticed two new cruise ships in port, the Norwegian Star and Carnival Legend.  We were not aware there was more than 1 cruise ship that departs out of Tampa, so that was fun.  We could see them from the room, but we weren't sure which ships they were, so we decided to have breakfast and walk down there to check them out.  We then took a walk from there over to Harbour Island, which was just a short walk over a bridge from the Channel Side area where the cruise ships were.  It was a nice walk, we took a few pictures along the way:

Norwegian Star view from the room
Carnival Legend view from the River Walk

Norwegian Star from up close, lots of balconies

Norwegian Star

View of Marriott/Embassy Suites from the bridge

Harbour Island

Carnival Legend from Harbour Island bridge

A restaurant called Jackson's Bistro

Replica pirate ship


In front of the hotel

After our long walk, it was just about noon and time to check out.  We had built up a bit of an appetite on what I think was a bit over a 2 mile walk and we were now ready for The Taco Bus!  We had heard about it from some friends that went recently and also saw it either on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and/or recently on Man vs Food.  It is really good stuff!  Well worth it! 

The Taco Bus

Other side of the bus

One Pollo Verde and one Fish taco, rice and beans

Chips and fresh Guac

We then headed down the road towards I4 to head home.  Just prior to I4 we passed the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and decided to turn around and check it out.  I knew that was in the area, but never really knew exactly where it was.  Parking is free and the casino is actually pretty large.  We spent about an hour there, the wifey played some slots and I played some electronic roulette and unfortunately did not come out winners, but it was cool to check it out.  Too bad Casinos aren't smoke free though. 

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

The check in desk

Cool looking guitar

One of the bars with cool flickering flames on the wall

We then hit I4 and headed back home.  It was fun to just kinda wing-it on the way home and cool to have stumbled upon the Hard Rock unexpectedly.  It's great to have so many things to do within a 3 hour drive.  We were real close to stopping at Downtown Disney as we drove by, as Mickey was calling the wifey's name, but decided to keep on going to get back in time to do the lawn mowing, school work, etc. 

It was a fun, action filled 24 hours and we're looking forward to our return to the Tampa beaches area for Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tampa Weekend Recap


We headed over to Tampa around noon on Saturday and returned around 5pm on Sunday, so it was pretty much just a 24 hour trip, but we packed a bunch in and enjoyed the time there as always.  Of course 2 of our children did not want us to go, as you can see above.

We stayed at the Embassy Suites in downtown Tampa, right next to the arena and it was a great experience!  Last time we were at the arena we stayed at the Marriott across the street, but the Embassy Suites was way better and cheaper as well.  All the employees were very friendly, the hotel was great and free breakfast was yummy also.  We had a 2 room corner suite on the 17th floor with fridge and microwave, which I believe was a free upgrade since we just paid for a regular room.   The cruise ship in port Saturday was the Carnival Inspiration, we took that cruise a few years ago.  Here are some pics:

View from the glass elevator

View of the arena from our bedroom, Carnival Inspiration cruise ship 'whale tail' showing

View from the other window in our entry room

View of the suite

View of the Marriott that we stayed in last time from our hotel atrium

View of the Carnival Inspiration heading out to sea Saturday around 4:30pm from our room

The main purpose of the trip was to root on the Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey team over the Tampa Bay Lightning.  A few Buffalo Bills Backers were also heading there and we saw them at the game in the row in front of us and one section over.  Unfortunately, we didn't have much to cheer for.  The Sabres didn't score at all and the Lightning scored 3 times, so that was a bit of a let down, but it was still fun to go to a game and it was a pretty packed house, which was good to see.

My favorite part of the game was getting to walk down to the glass close to our section to get some pictures of the practice.  Being that close to the action was great, with just a thin, but luckily very strong, piece of glass in between us and the players.  When they were taking shots on goal and the puck bounced off the glass right in front of me, it was insane.  I have no idea how the glass does not break, it's so fast you can hardly see the puck and the noise is like a gunshot when it hits.  It was very cool to be that close.  Here are some of my shots:

Up by the Lighning sign there is a 'new' huge pipe organ and person that plays it

View from our seats

A few guys heading in my direction

Ryan Miller in action

Close up shot of goalie Ryan Miller

That doesn't seem very fair, 20 on 1  ;)

Free concert outside after the game
All in all we had a great time and the fans there were friendly and we had a great time, despite the lack of anything to cheer about.  There were a ton of Buffalo fans, as is usually the case for the Bills anytime we've been to away games in Jacksonville.  We checked out the band outside after the game for a bit and then headed back to the hotel.  As we've said before, we really love Tampa and all the activities we've done there and be sure to stay tuned tomorrow for some more pics of what we did on the way home. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) RHEL 6

I'm super psyched, I passed the Red Hat Systems Administrator and Engineer exams for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 last Friday!!  It is a very tough set of exams and you have to pass both in order to get the Certified Engineer certification.  They are 100% hands on exams.  It's so difficult because there is so much content in the course objectives that could potentially be on the test and you have to cram it all in just in case.

About two weeks prior to the exam I started in on this RHEL6 RHCE preparation guide that I picked up from Amazon and it was a very good resource and I'd highly recommend it.  It was difficult to motivate myself to get started on the book, but once I started I went through the whole book, quickly scanning over what I already knew and spending more time on new material.  It was very helpful to go through the end of chapter exercises and sample exams provided by setting up VMs on a test box like they recommend.  One quick thing to note, the book has a section on creating your own RPM package from scratch, but that is no longer in the RHCE objectives list

If possible, it is also helpful to take the RH300 Rapid Track course, which is a 4 day instructor led course.  However, it's a pricey class, so if someone else isn't paying for the class, don't think that you can't pass the exams without taking the class.  I think you can definitely pass both the RHCSA and RHCE exams by utilizing only the book as long as you go through the book cover to cover and do all the exercises/sample tests.  It certainly will help to reinforce the material in the study guide by going through the class, but it's not an absolute requirement. 

One quick tip, the instructor tells you multiple times prior to the exam to be SURE to reboot your VM multiple times during the exam.  The more the better, time allowing.  That way if you have a problem with a particular section you know what to spend your time fixing.  If you wait and reboot at the end, you may have no idea what the particular problem is.  Definitely good advice because two people in my class that took the exam did not end up rebooting at all and failed and they found out afterwards their VM did not boot.

So my best advice would be to get the book and go through it cover to cover, be sure you know what is on the RHCE objectives list and get some rest the night before the exam!  Good luck and definitely drop me a comment and let me know how you do!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Weekend Recap

Well, it was a picture perfect weekend weather wise!  Low 80s for a high, mid 50s for lows and clear blue skies!  We headed to our favorite restaurant, La Nopalera Friday night, hit up the beach on Saturday and hung out with our fellow Buffalo Bills Backers on Sunday.  Good times! 

I also did a bunch of prep work over the weekend for the training class I will be in this week and due to that class and the studying I'll need to do in the evenings, probably won't get to updating the blog much this week.  I should have planned my blog vacation this week instead of 2 weeks ago, but wasn't thinking ahead. 

If you don't hear back from me, have a swell week!  This coming weekend we're heading to Tampa to watch the Buffalo Sabres play the Tampa Bay Lightning!  Lots of the Bills Backers will also be making the trip and a bunch are in the section next to us and a few in the row in front of us, so should be a great time! Here's the view from the section just to the left of where we will be.  We decided to go with the good seats, since this is the only game we'll be going to this year.  Go Sabres!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Adding a Favicon to Your Blog

My sister and fellow blogger Jen, let me know about adding a Favicon to my blog today.  I was not familiar with the term, so for anyone else not familiar, it's the little icon that appears in your browser tab/window when you have a webpage open.  For example, this tab has a big B for Blogger as I'm typing this, my Gmail tab has a big M/mail folder icon and the image at the top contains some other recognizable examples.  

I got started by searching for .ico icons online, however quickly found that the larger cool ones were over the 100KB size limit for Blogger.  I added a plug-in to Photoshop to try and shrink them down, but couldn't get the plug-in to work.  I asked Jen how she got hers there and she used this site here, where you just pick an image file on your computer and it will convert the file over to .ico format and you can download and add it to your blog. Much easier!

So if you don't have an image that you want to turn into an icon, I recommend you go to Google Images and search for an image, go to this site and convert it over and then upload it to your blog.  The image file needs to be under 150KB to work on that site, so shrink it down to size with your favorite image editor if needed.  Remember, this is a very small icon, so no need to get all fancy. 

Blogger has a new option on your Layout page where you just click the Favicon button and upload the file.  If you're using Wordpress, this may help.  I just updated mine.  In order to see it, be sure to clear your browser cache, then go back in.  It's probably best to keep your favicon the same for the most part, so someone can easily identify the tab/window with your blog/website.  Enjoy!

4pm Update:  Thanks for the suggestion Jen, I changed my icon to a Palm Tree with a sun setting.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ticketmaster Interactive Seat Selector

If you haven't been on in a while, you might be surprised at the changes if you're in a City where you can now pick your seats at various venues around town!  We've been on there a bunch lately and noticed they just added that ability here in Jacksonville about 2 weeks ago.  I was getting tickets to Jeff Dunham and about 30 minutes after I got our tickets, that system went live. 

I just happened to check back to see how quickly tickets were selling and that second time I went in, I could have picked the actual seats I wanted, as opposed to just being able to pick best available when I did it just as they went on sale.  I was a little bummed out, but either way the tickets were still floor seats, I just like the idea that I could have picked the exact seats.  I usually prefer aisle seats, so that is a really cool feature since normally you'd have to call or go in person to do that. 

It's odd though.  I just checked and found several events at our Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena and several had the interactive seat selector option and several did not.  Everbank Field, where the Jacksonville Jaguars play, also has the pick your own seat option for all the games.  So I guess it depends on the venue and the event, but I for one think it's a big step forward.  Finally we get something 'convenient' for that insanely high convenience charge we've been charged for as long as they've been in business. 

If you're wondering, upcoming events we'll be attending are:

Buffalo Sabres vs Tampa Bay Lightning in Tampa in a little over a week; Go Sabres!
Queensryche in November
Jeff Dunham in Feb
Cirque du Soleil - Michael Jackson in March

Here's what it looks like if you don't have it enabled yet:

What do you think?  Would that make you any more likely to want to go to an event? 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Man vs Food Rochester, NY Oct 19

Check out Man vs Food, Rochester NY edition on Oct 19th!  Looks like he'll be at Sticky Lips BBQ, some place called Campi's and NICK TAHOU'S (Home of the Garbage Plate!).  For any of you that have asked what a garbage/trash plate is, hopefully he will do a good job of explaining it to the masses!  I'd recommend setting the DVR to record it, the program is on Travel Channel at 9pm.  It is the 'NASCAR' episode, due to it being recorded when there was a race at Watkins Glen about 2-3 hours away. 

Here are the details from the local online newspaper in Rochester:

"Local foodies might want to catch the Oct. 19th airing of ‘Man v Food Nation’ starring host Adam Richman as he visits three Rochester-area eateries.
Richman invited NASCAR’s Joey Logano to take on Sticky Lips BBQ Atomic Bomb challenge, a plate full of nearly five pounds of food.The challenge was so tempting, that I took it on last summer for $20. Check it out: Man v. Food Nation; Food defeats Todd.

Richman reportedly also made stops at Campi’s and Nick Tahou’s.
If you don’t know, Richman is the host of Travel Channel’s popular ‘Man v. Food’ series. He started off by tackling the challenges himself, but now enlists the help of locals for the food challenges.
We’re working on more updates before the show airs. But if you’re a fan of food, and eating in extreme ways, you’ll want to tune into the Travel Channel (cable channel 40) at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19.
I could tell you if Logano completed the challenge, but I hate to ruin the ending."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lenovo Thinkpad E520

I noticed a slight burning plastic smell coming from my Toshiba laptop last week.  I wasn't sure if it was about to die or just a passing thing or what, so I spend a day searching for potential replacements just in case. 

The guys at work told me to quit messing around.  If I'm going to get another laptop, make it a ThinkPad or a Mac.  I don't have the desire for a Mac and the ThinkPads are usually as pricey as a Mac, but I did agree with them.  If I was going to get a new laptop, it was going to be a ThinkPad of some sort.

Much to my surprise, Lenovo (formerly IBM's PC division) has some new ThinkPads that not only offer exactly what I'd be looking for, but the price is about 1/2 what they were for a comparable model the last time I checked!  I was pretty psyched.

The main specs of the E520 for $469 are as follows:

  • 2nd generation Intel® Core™ i3 processor
  • 4GB of DDR3 memory
  • Genuine Microsoft Windows® 7 Professional 64-Bit operating system
  • 320GB hard drive
  • HDMI and low-light sensitive HD camera
  • Upgraded spill-resistant keyboard with numeric keyboard
  • Large multi-touch touchpad

One of the big things for me was that it's the 2nd generation version of the new Sandy Bridge processor from Intel that has very good performance, but also greatly extends battery life.  Battery life is 6 hours with the standard 6 cell battery.  In addition, it has all the other standard features of laptops in this price range, but also has HDMI output to hook the laptop to an external monitor or TV, the hard drive is a faster 7200RPM drive, it has a faster eSata port to hook up an external drive and also has the integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 graphics chip.  It's usually better to have a separate discrete video chip with it's own dedicated memory, but as far as integrated chips go, from what I read this one will actually allow you the ability to do some light gaming as well.

Also, it comes with 1 - 4GB memory chip and it's only around $25 to add an additional 4GB chip, for a total of 8GB of memory.  That's insanely cheap and would be well worth the upgrade  It also comes with an anti-glare screen, which is good if using it outside or in high light situations. 

IBM ThinkPads were always the most reliable laptops used anywhere I worked.  I have two very old ones in my closet that were no longer needed and after more than 15 years, both still power up and on one the battery actually still works for about 5 minutes.  Now that Lenovo took over the IBM PC division, I'm not quite sure if the reliability of the ThinkPad is the same as it used to be, but at that price level, it's comparable to just about every other laptop out there and it would be well worth the risk to find out. 

Needless to say, I was hoping my laptop would actually die the next time I started it up, but no such luck.  It's been running fine and I haven't noticed the strong smell of burning plastic again, so I won't be needing to place an urgent order just yet.  However, if/when that time comes, I would definitely purchase this one for sure.

I thought I would include this post in case anyone was in the market for a new laptop.  Of all the ones out there in this sub-$500 price range, this seems like a really great deal.  I haven't been able to find any ThinkPads in stores locally, but if it came down to it I wouldn't have a problem ordering one without laying my hands on it first. 

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