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Welcome to The blog of whall

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Hi, This is Wayne. This is my site, my stuff, my blog, blahblahblah. The site itself is powered by WordPress and the Scary Little theme. I thought it was cool, and I still do.

October
27
2011
12:00 pm
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Mmmmm, Pickles.

I Love me some Pickles.  Who’s with me? 

The tasty crunch of a Stacker or well cut up spears make my home-made sandwich or burger a decent bit better.  They’re good all alone, too, as long as they aren’t the “Zesty” or “Bread and Butter” kind.  I mean, who messes with pickles like that?

Have I mentioned I love pickles?

Another thing I love is pickle juice.  Now, I may have lost some of you there, with the collective “ew” I just heard across the vast reaches of InterSpace.  But seriously – pickle juice is GREAT when on a long bike ride or going for a long run.  Really, any kind of intensive exercise is better with pickle juice.  I don’t ever do those kinds of things, so drinking pickle juice is my way of bridging the gap, so to speak.

Pickles satisfy a quick snack craving, staves off hunger for a decent chunk of time, helps everyone retain more water (and who doesn’t need THAT?), and go very well with lettuce.

Oooh! You know what I just though of?  PICKLES!  Tiny diced up pickles in a big bowl of tuna fish, along with some chopped up hard boiled eggs and little bits of cheese.  Tuna is great all by itself, but when you add the saucy goodness of mayo and the crunchy awesomeness of pickles, it’s near perfection.  The eggs and cheese help it the rest of the way.  Combine it with some fresh, soft bread and, well…

*runs to kitchen*

 OMG! I found a LOLcat in my kitchen!

I guess we both had the right idea.

 

 

Like many folks out there, I love my iPhone.  And like many of those folks who currently have iPhones, I’m wondering if I’m going to get an iPhone 4S. 

So I reflected.  I pondered.  I daydreamed.  I checked available funds.  I went back to daydreaming.  I checked available funds again.  I quickly learned that daydreaming, while completely lacking in material gain, was actually quite inexpensive on the whole and could sustain me for a good while.  But, just in case, I checked available funds again in case anything had changed in that last 45 seconds I spent daydreaming.  I then went back to daydreaming, but this time, I was daydreaming about both the iPhone 4S and a lot more available funds. 

Mmmmm…..  Available funds….

I also noticed there were a lot of complainers online.  TONS of people twittering, blogging, facebooking that Apple dropped the ball.  THEY HAVE SOME NERVE, not giving us the iPhone 5 they never once mentioned or promised.  HOW DARE THEY reuse a winning design and make millions of accessories useful for yet another year?  I CANNOT BELIEVE they will only double my total internet download speed on the AT&T Network.    I believe OMGFAILLOL was typed very near the sacred words “Apple” and “iPhone,” which amazingly isn’t against United States law yet.

Me? As a proud iPhone 4 user, I’m actually kind of glad that the iPhone 4S would probably let me re-use my expensive Otter case.  I’m just fine with the 8MP camera upgrade and the CPU speed boost.  I’d be looking forward to the supposed extended battery life.  I’d be thrilled with the revamped dual-antenna and better call connection.  I’ve not used Siri, so I don’t know yet how much I’d care that it’s an exclusive.  All of the IOS 5 and iCloud features are pretty much the same on the iPhone 4 vs 4S as far as I know, so there’s not much to discuss there. 

So there I was, convinced that I needed to convince myself to upgrade to the iPhone 4S.  I just needed to convince myself to do it. 

But I paused. 

I had to ask myself — did I have enough experience to do an upgrade?  I know that for some, experience is an over-rated characteristic, but for me, I needed to make sure I knew enough to go through with it.

Interestingly enough, it didn’t take me very long to determine that I indeed had some history upgrading phones and music devices.

Lessee… That’s one iPhone 3G, 3 iPhone 3GS’s, 2 iPhone 4’s, a Windows 7 Samsung Focus and two portable music players.  Not shown: the Cingular 8525, the 4 or 5 Blackberry 8700C’s, or the dozen or so phones and gadgets from before I started keeping my boxes.

I needed more than just experience, however.  I needed to be able to rationalize the purchase.  I needed some sort of “hook” to make the purchase a necessity, not just a luxuy.

The wife’s 3GS is acting up.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.  Her phone is a piece of crap!  “3gs,” I said mockingly, in my head.  Over and over again, I bullied that phone in my mind.  I can’t believe my own wife has a prehistoric bundle of copper wires and duct tape that calls itself a smartphone.  The battery dies after just 30 minutes!  The docking port doesn’t always accept every cable!  Calls disconnect all the time!  IT’S A 3GS AFTER ALL. 

But, I quickly reminded myself, if *I* were to upgrade to the iPhone 4S, then I could give my iPhone 4 to her!  I could even make it sound really really good, like so good it would be on par as a 20th wedding anniversary present or something.  Boy am I smart!

Giddy from how smart I realized I was, I re-checked available funds again and my spirit sunk like the stock market after a jobs speech.  To add insult to injury, my brain decided to remind me that with one of the three phone upgrades available on my AT&T Family Plan, I can get a FREE 3GS replacement from the Apple Store to fix my wife’s phone woes.

Oh well, back to waiting for available funds.

There are three iPhone 4S’s available, and with the upgrade, they are $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB and $399 for 64GB.  I have the 16GB iPhone 4 now and am always bumping against the limit, so I already know I need to budget for at least the 32GB.  And with a bigger camera, I might be taking more pictures so the 64GB might be the thing to get, but with iCloud, I can store more things off-the-phone.

But it’s still 300 or 400 dollars, and that’s a lot of do-re-mi, Fasola Tea.

Here’s where you come in.

If I missed any good rationale or factors that would help convince me that this purchase is a necessity rather than a luxury, please comment below. 

If you have words of encouragement for me during these difficult times, please comment below.

If you have tips on how to deal with the time between now and when I get the funds to upgrade, please comment below.

If you happen to have any extra available funds or Apple gift cards, please comment below.

 

 

January
11
2010
2:30 pm
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One of my favorite apps on the iPhone is Words With Friends – or “Scrabble” for the copyright-challenged.

IMG_0708

I’ve always been a word-game buff, be it Scramble, Wheel of Fortune, or generic word find puzzles in Highlights magazine.

I’m guessing newtoyinc gets around the “Scrabble” copyright issue by calling it “Words with Friends” – also, astute players will notice a different pattern of double-letter, triple-letter, double-word and triple-word tiles. 

However, during last week’s pool league, Ren and I started talking about modifications that should be pretty easy to code in the app that might make it more fun for people. 

We think that when you create a new game, you should be able to select the “type” of game:

Lowest Score Wins

Self-explanatory.  Now you have to avoid the tile score modifiers, and hope the OTHER guy gets the Q, Z, J or X.  (perhaps you already wish that?).  I think this option might get more people willing to play.

Word Length Bonus

Instead of just getting the points on the letters and whatever tile modifiers you place the word on, you get bonus points for the length of the word.  In standard rules, you only get a bonus for using all 7 tiles, but it would be an interesting dynamic to also get, say 5 extra points for a 5-letter word, 10 points for a 6 letter word, and an additional 5 points for every letter after that.

Another variation of this would to be to also count appended words instead of just use of tiles out of the tray.  Now “e” + “d” are a lot more valuable!

Speed Games

Another interesting type of play would be to actually play head to head and not allow turn-by-turn delays.  You get 1 minute to play, and that’s it.  If you don’t take your turn in the allotted time, you lose an extra turn (your opponent gets to play twice).

Can you think of some?

btw #1: if you want to play me, my username is in the picture above.  Warning: sometimes I play several times in a day, and there have been times when I went a week without playing my move.

btw #2: STROBING is *so* a word!  ARGH.  Two TL’s and a TW’s, not to mention using all my letters!!!

IMG_0721

(and no, there was NO place to play “storing” or “sorting”)

This morning as Jaden and I were waiting for the bus, I popped in one of our favorite songs – Adiemus‘ Adiemus.

Note: I’ve not seen this youtube video until this morning as I was searching for something to embed.  It’s pretty cool, but the emphasis for this post is the music itself.  I recommend putting on headphones, starting it and closing your eyes.

This song appears on a CD I’ve had for a looooong time called Pure Moods

puremoods

The version on the CD is only a shade over three minutes long and this youtube version is more than five minutes long.  The CD also features Enya, Enigma, Jan Hammer, and even the X-Files theme.  Relaxation is a lot easier when this CD is playing.

This morning’s routine was different because Jaden actually woke up tired.  He’s usually chipper, early and ready to do stuff in the morning before school but today it was a challenge to get him going.  One thing that got him up eventually was the thought of getting out to the bus stop early, waiting in the car, and being able to sleep again.  I said I’d play “our song” and he immediately brightened up.

We got through it twice before that infernal bus showed up.

But it was a good time.  Man I love that song.

And that kid.

I think I’m going to quit my day job and go on the Scramble Pro Tour.

scramble-3

As regular readers of ye old blog of whall know, I recent switched from Blackberry 8700C to iPhone 3GS.  There are some major drawbacks from that move (which I will explain in more detail with a dedicated post) but there are some awesome benefits.  One of the benefits is Scramble.

Scramble is a free iPhone app/game that I learned about at pool last Wednesday night.  I love word games, word finds and word play.  I can’t believe how addictive this game is. 

Equally unbelievable is how relatively bad I am.

When I first started this game, I think I earned 8 points.  On the next game, I doubled my score to 16.  I thought I was pretty good until I connected to facebook and saw some of my friends’ scores:

scramble-4
(I’ve blurred out the names to protect the awesome. 
However, some of you may recognize the avatars)

374 points?!??!?!  HOLY COW.  Congrats, my BFF BF.

So far, I’ve gotten a high score of 116 points, and that wasn’t until I figured out I can change the grid to 5×5 instead of 4×4.  This makes a lot more words available, even if it does make selecting the letters a little harder when the screen is rotated.

The simple idea behind this game is: you’re given a grid of letters, and you drag your finger across letters to make words.  The longer the word, the more score you get.  You keep getting as many words as you can in the 2- or 3-minute time limit.

scramble-5

As with most addictive things in life like golf or blogging, there are aspects that are frustrating.  The frustration adds to the allure, counter-intuitive as that may seem.  Four of these frustration factors are

  1. Seeing other people do better than me (aka, the “competitive factor“)
  2. Seeing simple words I missed (aka, the “embarassment factor“)
  3. Having the time run out before picking all the words I already see (aka, the “anxious factor“)
  4. Learning that the English language has some stupid made-up words, probably just for this stupid game wait let me play it again because I can get that word next time and what do you mean utui is a word?!?!?! (aka, the “sore loser factor“)

I’ve resorted to blindly trying words in the hopes that they are real words, and whaddyaknow – it works half the time.  Not only is TEA a word, but so is TAE!  I’m guessing possession and memorization of the Scrabble Dictionary would be a good thing for this game. Knowing the magic 3-letter list is probably a good thing as well, and when there’s an “S” nearby, you pretty much double all the words around it.

I think there should be levels of the game – one version where you just need to know that a word exists, but another where you need to know what a word means.   And then I’d win because this would be my board:

scramble-whall
(bonus points: what total score
could you get from above board?)

Then, I found out there’s an online Facebook version of Scramble, and you don’t even need the iPhone!  I played it a couple of times and it took a little getting used to dragging the mouse around the letters instead of my finger, but it gets easy enough soon enough.  I still prefer the iPhone version for now.

I also like how the game likes to point out the obvious

scramble-one

Do you scramble?

March
26
2009
6:00 am
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Ren and Jen are disqualified from this here challenge.

Anyone else care to guess what this is, what the numbers mean, or why the highlighted numbers are so cool to me?

It’s one of my favorite things.

UPDATE: it is a 9-ball scoresheet from the APA pool league I play on every Wednesday night.

In APA 9-ball, you get a point for every ball you sink.  Each vertical column of numbers represents a game, and the numbers on top and bottom are the cumulative total for each player.  I’m the player on top, and what this shows is me going from 18 points to 46 and keeping my opponent at 22 points (ie, I didn’t let him score one point during my 28 point grab).  It also shows that I sank 28 balls within 5 turns, and that’s pretty good for me.

Tthanx all for playing along!

I haven’t done one of my Favorite Things posts in a while – harkening all the way back to my first “Favorite Thing” post about my Treasure Island Skull Mug.  And yes, it still controls my actions.

But today I want to talk about a videographicamusicalawesomitudiness.  

Man, oh Man.  I’ve been an Animusic fan for years now.

If you’ve never seen Animusic, check out their website and watch some of the DVD clips.  In short, Animusic is A) great music, B) great graphics/animation, and C) a techie’s dream.  But you don’t have to be someone who appreciates “C” to like “A” and “B”.

What these guys (well, one guy at first) did was write some songs, then write some software that animates the music in a very special way.  The video is integrated with the music, such that the music controls the video and sometimes vice-versa.  And to be more technically precise, the video is rendered “to” the music afterwards, sometimes taking months.  Either way you slice it, however, the end result is a very visually appealing combination of music and graphics.

There are two Animusic DVD’s so far, and I can’t wait for the third.  I’m a member of the Animusic Newsletter, and keep getting hints at the 3rd one, and was a little bummed it wasn’t out by 2008’s Christmas season.  I’m pretty sure I saw a Congressional Budget Office hearing where they blamed Animusic for the poor economy – had they released the DVD last year, it would have stimulated the economy to the point where everyone is enthused and animated to work harder and give more to charity.  Alas, it was not to be.

My absolute favorite Animusic Video is Harmonic Voltage.  It expertly combines Pink Floyd (guitar solo) with Depeche Mode (synth base) with an expressive and emotional energy-wave pole-dancing rocker life-form.

This clip is the last (7th) on the first DVD.  Interestingly enough, my 2nd favorite Animusic video is the first clip from the second Animusic DVD, Starship Groove.

I guess it doesn’t hurt things that the guy behind all the Animusic awesomeness is a bearded/goateed guy… get this… named Wayne.  And they have an operations and shipping facility in Austin, TX.  I gotta meet this guy!

Smallest.  Piano.  Ever.

But what we need in this world is Animusic Hero.  THAT would be totally cool – rocking out on Guitar Hero to Animusic’s music.  Seeing as how Animusic’s music is already in digital (MIDI) form, I’d think it would be easier to Hero-fy than normal awesome songs.  I had it in my mind a couple years ago that I would go ahead and make some Custom Guitar Hero songs out of Animusic’s stuff but never got that much into it.

heh, I said “Hero-fy”.  And I’m even more addicted to Heroes than ever before.  We’re 12 episodes in I think.  “Stick the next DVD in!” is a commonly shouted phrase between my daughter and I.

As I was looking through my past Favorite Things series, I noticed that they all had to do with Food or Drink:  

  • Skull Mug from Treasure Island
  • Pepsi
  • Loss Bread
  • Apple Butter
  • The Oldtimer burger from Chili’s
  • Blockbuster Online (helps me spend less time out getting movies and more time eating)
  • Akismet and “recheck queue” feature (less spam means more REAL food)

If you hang around the Wayne very much, you notice that he almost always has his SwissTool with him.  He also sometimes switches between third person and first person.  I do that sometimes.  The SwissTool is not a leatherman, but it’s a lot like it.  Yes, I am one of those people, who likes to be ready for the end of the world or a brawl in an alley with a Communist.  Or, more likely, I want to be able to fix something if it’s broken and I don’t want to have to get my GPS unit to find the toolbox.

victorinox swisstool leatherman hip sheath holster

In particular, I like the following things:

  • It’s hefty but not too hefty.  Very solid and obviously made quite well.
  • I can get at the tools without having to open it up, because they open out from the sides.  Other models make you open up the pliers in order to get to the gadgets.
  • All the blades and tools on the outside have a lock to prevent severed fingers.  I *really* like having less severed fingers.  I prefer several less severed fingers.

I only wish it had scissors.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a few of the things I can do with my SwissTool. (press the play icon below to start the flash movie)

One of the smartest things I’ve seen in a while is the WordPress “Recheck Queue for Spam” feature:

wordpress recheck queue for spam

When I first started blogging, I thought “no big deal” because I get a notification of the spam and then I go in and mark it as spam.  Seeing as how Akismet catches tens of thousands of spam comments for me, I figured I could handle the one-off’s with no problem.

But then my blog got a little more popular and there was more comment spam.  Even though Akismet still caught the vast majority, there was still some I had to moderate because it “got through” Akismet.

Then I installed the Add Meta Tags plugin, and I noticed my blog and my posts being visited more often by Google searchers, and I welcomed the new visitors.  I was impressed by how much more visible my blog was.  And of course, comment spam went up by a LOT.  Again, Akismet caught most of it but there was a noticable increase of spam going to me for moderation. 

So while I still think my spam management tasks are minor compared to many (maybe a dozen a day in my moderation queue), I was very glad to see the little link called “Recheck Queue for Spam”.  I’m happy to report that EVERY SINGLE TIME I’ve clicked it, it has 100% removed the spam and 100% left alone the “real” comments.

What I like about this spam management system is that every time someone tags a comment as spam, Akismet get smarter.  The comments that “get past” Akismet just mean that I’m one of the first to get the comment.  After a short time (minutes, hours), Akismet wizens up and when I “recheck queue” it has learned about those comments and takes care of it for me.

Yay Akismet!

wordpress and akismet are awesome

You’d think I’d be content and this would be enough.

Oh, no.

You see, I’ve also put an entry into my crontab file to automatically click the link for me every hour, so the queue automatically gets cleaned out for me and I don’t even have to click the link!  Huzzah!  I figure this way, Akismet gets smarter quicker for others as well, via the verification and removal of spam comments.  Sure, I’d probably be a better spamnetizen if I actually marked the spam as spam myself and submitted it, but who has time for that?  Hopefully someone else.

0   *   *   *   *   wget -O – -q -t 1 http://whall.org/blog/wp-admin/edit-comments.php?page=akismet-admin&recheckqueue=true&noheader=true

I started wondering why yahoo or google doesn’t offer this feature… I mean, wouldn’t it be even more beneficial in email, where you’re dealing with a much bigger influx of content, and even more value for identifying spam AFTER it’s delivered? 

Added bonus:

If you read down this far, I give you an added bonus.  The Bible says that God’s promise to mankind that he’d never again send a global flood is represented by the rainbow.  Others have said that Beer is proof that God exists.

This picture combines both ideas.

click to enlarge
(click to enlarge)

March
26
2008
5:45 am
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We were Netflix users for years.. but then something happened.

blockbuster total access

Blockbuster started offering the free in-store exchanges.  Then we were hooked.

Netflix was so awesome in a number of ways:

  1. I could always have movies in my queue so I wouldn’t forget which movies I wanted to see
  2. I could structure my movie watching (“ooh, I need to watch THAT someday”)
  3. I usually got new releases pretty fast because I’d “save” my movie ahead of time when it was in the theatres
  4. It saved me a lot of time
  5. It saved me a lot of money because I didn’t have late fees any more

But there was a problem.  We still got the hankerin for a specific movie on a specific night. Netflix didn’t help with this at all.  So Blockbuster Online to the rescue – not only do we get the above benefits, but anytime we want to return one of the movies, instead of popping it in the mail, we take it back to the store and get a free rental to take with us while we wait for the next movie in the queue to be shipped out.  This satisfies the “on-demand” movie shopping my wife and I always end up needing.

What do you do for movie watching?  Netflix? Blockbuster?  Online watching? Torrent? Movies-On-Demand?

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