Friday, December 16, 2011

Some People's Kids

A couple of quick work rantings here...

For those of you who don't know, I currently manage a self storage facility, which is really a lot better than it sounds.  But sometimes the people who I have the privilege of dealing with make it seem, well, less good.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago, some lady called just before closing and ask what our smallest unit was and its price, then ask if we had a "State Farm discount".  When I said no, she promptly hung up.  Strange.

I have never in my life heard of business offering a State Farm discount.  AAA or AARP, maybe, but State Farm?  Now, to be fair, there is a large State Farm Insurance office just outside of town, so maybe she is used to getting special treatment for working there, but I don't really see that as being very realistic.

And then just now an older (sounding) lady called and asked if we were still having the storage auction that we had planned on.  Normal, reasonable question, because we are holding one tomorrow, but they sometimes get rescheduled or cancelled at the last minute for various reasons.  For this reason we maintain an email list for people who are interested in coming so they don't come to an auction that isn't happening.  I asked her if she was on our email list and she said she didn't think so I offered to add her to it.  She said okay, but when I got to the email address part, she goes, "Oh, I don't have an email address."

FACEPALM
I don't know about you, but when someone asks me if I would like to be on an email list, I assume there might be the requirement of, oh, HAVING AN EMAIL ADDRESS to complete that interaction!  

It's folks like this that make me sad and fearful for the future of America, nae, the world, because these people breed.  

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Björk ("Byerk") is super strange

So, I'm really easily distracted.  I was reading a Lifehacker article about something and noticed a cool picture on the io9 cell of the Gawker spam in the footer which led to a rundown of "10 Debut Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels That Took the World by Storm", some of which I think I'd like to read.  Someday.  And really just the two most sci-fi / lease fantasy ones: The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester and Neuromancer by William Gibson.  

Supposedly there has been talk of a Neuromancer movie project for years, but nothing has ever come out of it, according to the comments.  One director people seemed to be excited about though was someone named Chris Cunningham.  Apparently he is a semi-famous director who worked on movies like A.I. and such.  

But anyway, someone posted this cyberpunkish video of Björk "All is Full of Love."  that he made.  It is super strange.  I'm pretty sure the robot tries to touch herself at one point.  


Now that I think about it, I'm not sure who's weirder - Björk or Cunningham.  Although I must admit that I have no clue as to the underlying meaning / message of the song or accompanying video.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I was on TWiT's AAA! ...Kinda

Yesterday I was featured on All About Android #22, the TWiT network's weekly show about, well, the Android smartphone ecosystem!  Okay, not me in the flesh, but my question was read and answered on the air, and it was one of the best nerd moments of my life.  And of course, because it's TWiT, it's on video.

Let me set this up for you.  I've had my first Android phone, a LG p999 Optimus X2 / G2x on T-Mobile, for about four months now (since May '11), and I really dig it.  But lately I've been getting pretty annoyed by some of its quirks and decided to root it so I could get full control of and do a good backup in preparation for a change of some sort.  Having not gotten the OTA update to Gingerbread from T-Mobile, I was all ready to load the CyanogenMod ROM, but then I got a little freaked out by a warning about my phone being unrecoverable if something went wrong.

So, after reading the XDA forums for way too long, I decided to write to the all-star crew of All About Android and see what they had to say about it.  I remembered that Leo had a G2x (and apparently still does), and hoped that they could help me out.

What I got was way more than I could have hoped for.  A three minute walk through of exactly what to do for my situation, from the man, Leo himself.



(If you want to see Eileen read my slightly wordy question, start here.  And of course, watch the whole episode from the beginning for some really good stuff.)  

So there you have it.  I'm saved by the TWiT AAA team and Leo Laporte and now I've got a plan on how to attack my phone and put a sweet aftermarket ROM on it.

Of course, now I hear that you can force the update to 2.3.3 from T-Mobile, but I have a feeling that would undo my root, and at this point, I'm feeling pretty confident about just jumping right into CyanogenMod.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Republican Primary So Far, and Why We Might Be Screwed

The Atlanta Wire, not known for its conservative leanings, had A Brief History of the Republican Primary So Far posted recently that is actually a very reasonable breakdown of the revolving door of media infatuation with the GOP's most recent presidential hopefuls. They chart the beginning, middle, and if applicable, end of each candidate's moment in the limelight, complete with Google analytics to back it up. Pretty nifty and worth checking out.

And here's why the Republican party is kinda screwed, at the moment: all of the candidates that the media has been in love with for more than a week or so are crazy. Trump, Palin, Bauchman, Perry -- they're all a little off their rockers on one thing or another.

And the actual crazy one, Ron Paul, is being ignored like he's not even there! I mean, the guy nearly won the Iowa straw poll, less than 200 votes behind then-sterling Michelle Bauchman. But Paul is boring and consistent with his message of isolationist and anti-war stance,which I think the press (and most of the Republican electorate) got bored with about five years ago. While Paul has some very valid points and concerns, he is about as unelectable in a national race as Mel Brooks would have been in the 1960s.

It seems like the only semi-viable candidates at the moment are the Mormon ones. Jon Huntsman is my current favorite, but he needs to learn how to run a campaign; and Mitt Romney is still attractive in that executive-experience and really-good-hair kind of way, but neither are garnering much positive attention right now.

Oh well, the GOP race got started way to early and there's still a year left before anything meaningful happens anyway, so I suppose I shouldn't get to worked up about it just yet.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Broke and Hungry

I'm pretty broke.  As in, my income is less than my expenses and has been for a while, and I'm nearly out of savings.  Hopefully a couple things will change in the next couple months to help fix that, but for now, broke is the status.

But I still have to eat.  I don't exactly have high nutritional standards (I've eaten a room temperature can of store-brand soup three days a week for the past four months), but I can't eat ramen noodles too often or I want to poke my eyes out.  Yeah, they're cheap, but they taste cheap, they're devoid of all nutrition, and eating them more than once a week makes you feel like a poverty case.  I'm also not an athelete, nor do I work out much, so I don't have the caloric or protein requirements that some people do.

So, inspired by a post from a friend and an MSN Money article I found via Lifehacker, I'm going to share some of my tips on how to save at least a little bit of money and still eat at least decently.

  • Don't go to McDonald's.  I know the Golden Arches beckon, but you're going to end up paying $7 for 1,000 Calories of unhealthiness.
  • Spend a lot of time at other people's houses.  Eventually they'll feel obligated to feed you.  ;)
  • Date someone who works for a restaurant.  Sometimes there are leftovers or messed up orders than just need a good home.  Like a to-go box and then your belly.
  • If you're always running late in the morning, don't hit the drive-thru and drop $5, keep a box of Slim-Fast handy and slam one on the way to work.  For only having about 200 Calories, they do a decent job of fending off the hunger until you have time to regroup.
  • Buy bananas.  They're cheap, nutritious, they've got a built-in handle, and the thick skin means organic is a waste of money.
  • Make coffee at home.  I use a Clever Dripper almost every day.  Yes, it takes a few minutes, but so does driving to a coffee shop, parking, waiting in line, ordering, paying, waiting again, and then getting back on the road.  I even bought a whole bunch of the paper coffee cups and lids that coffee shops use and take that instead of a mug that I'll probably loose.  Not exactly "eco," but at least it feels like a coffee shop experience.

    Also, if you're watching your weight, black coffee or tea is basically devoid of calories, while a Grande Mocha has at least 200.  
  • Get off your high horse and shop at Wal-Mart for at least some things.  Yes, they're a gigantic corporation, but they employ a lot of people and pay their taxes, just like everyone else.  (Plus, they're basically free of union influence, if that matters to you.)  Their massive size enables them to get screamin' deals on some common items, but don't just assume they're cheapest on everything - Safeway and King Soopers are sometimes better, just check the ads.

    Food "staples," like oatmeal, yogurt, eggs, etc are generally cheaper at Wally World, and non-food necessities, like TP, dishwasher detergent, etc, can trim a few bucks you can spend on better food.
  • Figure out what you can eat a lot of or what you can eat often and try to find the raw materials in bulk. My favorite items are pasta, oatmeal, eggs, peanut butter, and pretty much anything involving broccoli.  Not really anything that you can get in bulk, but the big can of store brand oatmeal is always less per ounce than the smaller packages.
  • Buy things that keep while they're on sale and stash them in the cupboard / pantry / stack in the corner.  Remember about what's there, and supplement them with the fresh or perishable stuff when you're looking for that night's dinner at the store.
  • Your freezer is your friend.  A big hunk of cheese isn't that much more than a little one, but it'll spoil if you just leave it in the fridge.  Cut it up and freeze the part you're not going to eat right away.  Also, frozen veggies are usually a better deal then fresh, and their texture and nutrients are better than canned.
  • All that being said, just buying the cheapest crap you can find isn't really going to help your body or mind.  You should also figure out what you need to or are willing to spend a little extra money on to feel better.  I noticed that when I buy cheap bread, I need to eat a lot more of it to feel satiated; so I've started buying the redorkulously expensive Ezekiel bread that's in the freezer section, because it actually has some food value and fills me up.  
Of course, I don't follow all of these tips all of the time.  I get lazy and buy a frozen pizza sometimes, and I still go out to eat, and out for good coffee, but keeping this stuff in mind does help save a bit here and there.  


Now here are a couple of my fave cheap meals...
  • Oatmeal.  I have a hard time getting bored with the humble oat.  It's just so versatile.  For breakfast I often do hot oatmeal with brown sugar and some combination of peanut butter, fruit (bananas or blueberries are the best), bacon bits (the real kind, not the weird little crunchy ones, and yes, I said bacon), raisins, walnuts, etc.  Water or milk, 4:30 on half power in the microwave.

    For a cold breakfast, half a cup of dry, rolled oats with a little tub of yogurt it the shizz.

    For a savory switch, make oatmeal and stir an egg, some soy sauce, and salt and pepper into it.  It may need to be re-nuked a bit to cook the egg all the way, but it's pretty tasty.  Bacon is also a good addition, as always.
  • Grilled cheese.  You can't go wrong here.  Bread, cheese, condiment of your choice, butter on the outside (or in the pan, if you prefer), and BAM, lunch.  Or dinner.  I like to make mine with a little piece of lunch meat and mustard inside, then fry an egg over-easy and put it on top.  The egg, meat, and mustard kind of simulate a fancy French sandwich that I can't pronounce.  Pesto is a nice touch, if you've got some handy, but there are infinite possibilities here.
  • Crazy-ass peanut butter broccoli noodle concoction.  I can't find the actual recipe, but here's the basics: Japanese noodles (buckwheat, maybe?), broccoli, cooked chicken or tuna (canned is good) or raw or cooked shrimp, peanut butter, soy sauce, cider vinegar, something spicy.  Cook the noodles in boiling water and when almost done, add the broccoli and shrimp, if you're using it, and cook or warm through.  Meanwhile, mix the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, and spicy stuff in a small bowl (gently microwaving or heating on the stove helps combine everything).  Drain the noodles and add chicken or tuna if you want that way, then stir in the peanut sauce.  There ya go, nutritious and delicious.  Adjust seasonings to taste, of course.  

I hope this gives you some good ideas, but you know your body best, so don't deprive it of anything it needs.  Hopefully cheap food can be fun and healthy, too!  Got anything to add?  I'd love to hear it.  

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Les Paul's Birthday Google Doodle

Even though Les Paul passed away in 2009, he will always be remembered as the father of the solid body electric guitar as well as multi-track recording.  Plus, he was one heck of a guitar picker!  For what would have been his 96th birthday, Google has unveiled probably their coolest interactive Doodle yet - the electric guitar doodle.  After the fact you can probably see a picture of it at Google.com/logos, but you'd better hurry up and and try it out now!

You can just aimlessly pluck strings with your mouse pointer, or you can use your keyboard for a bit more precision   Here's a link to me slowly tapping out "Happy Birthday" - http://goo.gl/doodle/hfQh.  Not sure how long the link will last, but it's pretty nifty while it does!  (My version of Happy Birthday is played "5565 887 5565 998 5508 8876 440898")

Also check out LesPaulonline.com and the Wikipedia entry on him.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rainy morning

Just a quick post to try out a couple things. First, posting from my new phone, the G2x, using the Blogger app, and secondly posting a picture edited on the phone with the Little Photo app.

I have a feeling the picture might be oriented the wrong way, but we'll see!


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Rice Pudding is Awesome

(And so are digital cameras with good lenses and great exposure control.)  

Seriously, why don't I make this more often?  Probably because it takes 45 minutes to cook, and when I'm hungry, I'm usually hungry now.  Plus, I'm usually running late for something and don't have that kinda time to mess around making amazingly tasty, custardy rice pudding.  But it's totally worth it when I do.

Here's the recipe from Erica G. at Allrecipes.com:

Ingredients
3/4 cup uncooked white rice
2 cups milk, divided
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
In another saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup milk, beaten egg and raisins. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and vanilla. Serve warm.  Makes four servings.

And here's what I do differently:

  • There's no good reason to use two pans.  Just cook the rice and then add the other ingredients to it.  (I know that you're only supposed to use 1-1/2 cups of the cooked rice, and 3/4 cup uncooked can yield a bit more than that, but it turns out just fine.)  
  • I used short grain rice - supposedly it makes it a better texture than if you use long grain.  You could go all healthy and use brown rice if you wanted, but it wouldn't taste the same.  
  • Speaking of cooking rice, I use Alton Brown's method of heating the dry rice in the pan for a bit and adding the right amount of boiling water to the hot rice.  Really kick starts the cooking process.  
  • It might not be necessary, but I temper the egg mixture with some of the hot stuff from the pot before adding it.  I also add a little cream to the milk at this point, if I have any handy.  
  • I prefer Craisins to raisins in this recipe, but you can really leave them out or just use whatever is around.  
Sooo good.  But it is super rich, so pace yourself!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Blog = Domain (Finally!)

As you may or may not have noticed, I finally got my ol' blog moved over to my own domain!  Phew, what a struggle that was.

The process of transforming my "Steaming Pile" blog at http://mnthomp.blogspot.com into "Matt's Maunderings" at www.mnthomp.com is mostly complete.  I need to make some changes to the theme / CSS - pull the title a little closer to the top of the page, move stuff around on the side bar - and add some content - the "about me" page, my photos, feeds, resume, etc. - but it's coming along nicely.  Steaming Pile still may have been a more appropriate name for what I post here, but it doesn't sound very professional or adult.  Although, when you think that I started this whole thing in 2005, it isn't so weird.

***
...So, I thought the process of transferring your Blogspot blog to a domain that I bought through Google and have Apps for Your Domain running on would be easy, quick, and simple.  I was wrong.  Turns out (obviously, in hindsight), that if you have the "Sites" service running on your Apps account, then you can't publish another site on top of it, because sites.mnthomp.com and www.mnthomp.com both point to the same place.  Duh.

Luckily, after a bit of digging (not simple) and some poking around with the domain management setting of my domain host (not easy), it all falls into place.  As soon as the DNS records update (not quick).  These two webpages were invaluable in helping me sort it all out: The Blogger help page "create a subdomain through eNom" (since "www" is actually a subdomain) and the post "Another blog is already hosted at this address" at The Real Blogger Status blog.

This still leaves me with a small question in the back of my mind.  My Apps account and my Blogger account are not the same.  How did Google let me put a Blogger blog attached to account A on a domain that is attached to account B?  I mean, I did have to change some of the domain settings that you shouldn't be able to do without access to both accounts, but they were not major changes.  So could I just start entering random domains into the custom hosting box and see of one takes?  Not sure how that would turn out, but I'm not gonna find out, either.  I'm leaving well enough alone!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ch- ch- ch- changes... (to the blog)

...Turn to face the strange!

Okay, well, not that strange.  I just figured that, with a few other recent changes in my life (that may or may not appear here), it was high time to update the computerized version of myself.

I started with my computer's desktop.  I've never been able to leave well enough alone, including the look of my computer.  I've tried Samurize, putting html on the desktop, dual monitors, aftermarket Windows themes, and the like, but now that I'm down to one monitor for a while and pretty happy with the desktop slideshow feature and most of the Aero chrome of Windows 7, I decided to give Rainmeter a go.  Here's the result (for now / click to make it bigger):
It's the Elementary 1.2 skin, just rearranged a little.  The guy who made it did a great job, but I had to shift stuff around to get the clock and weather where I wanted them and add a "D" drive to the system monitor.  The little buttons at the top-right are from somewhere else and control Winamp.  Something is amiss with my Winamp install, or something, causing the song title not to show up, so I just left Winamp in "Windowshade Mode."  This lets me control the volume, too, which is nice.  I found the desktop image at Simple Desktops.

Now I'm going to move on to my blog / website.  As of this writing, if you go to www.mnthomp.com, you get a  really stupid looking page I through together with Google Pages.  It does what it needs to, I suppose, but it's pretty lame.  My plan is to move my "steaming pile" blog to mnthomp.com, since even though the blog is still kinda lame, it's to a lesser degree.  We'll see how it goes.  (I'm using this mashable article as my guide.)

Also, I went hiking yesterday, which was fun.  Would have been better if I were slightly better prepared for the snow and ice, but still good for the first one of the season.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Oh, NPR

You're still "National Palestinian Radio," aren't you?  I thought you had changed for the better -- moved towards the "center," if you will -- over the last couple of years.  Apparently it's all been an elaborate liberal hoax. 

As a relatively regular NPR (KUNC, more specifically) listener, I am well aware of their biases.  The editorial content is obviously to the left, but the straight news coverage has gotten much better than it was in the past.  The slant still shows up in the choices of stories they choose to cover and the depth / airtime each one gets.  Just how many puffy human interest stories can you throw into an hour of programming and still consider it "news?" 

Maybe it's more of a DC / East Coast bias towards that kind of thing that us out here in the West just aren't enlightened enough to understand. But with today's firing encouraged resignation of National Public Radio's president and chief executive, Vivian Schiller, and the accelerated resignation of their head fundraiser, (unrelated) Ron Schiller, over statements he made to a conservative activist, it's pretty clear that the liberal bias started at the top and trickled down.  Reaganomics style.  ;)

If they just could have kept their mouths shut over the Juan Williams thing last fall and quietly lobbied to keep their federal funding, it's likely none of this would have happened. 

Speaking of "public" broadcasting, -- NPR, PBS, etc -- what exactly makes it so public?  Other than the fact that some small portion of our tax dollars funds it, what makes it all that different than most other stations?  It's not commercial free, as they would like you to believe.  There are plenty of underwriting sponsors who have their copy read allowed several times an hour.  It's not public like a park where anyone can join the party.  It's a huge broadcasting corporation, just like CNN or Fox News.  So-called "community" radio is the closest most people can get to having their opinions and musical choices on the air, and they're in way more financial trouble than your local NPR affiliate station.  I'm still not sure that public broadcasting should be defunded though, if only for the sake of those local stations.  Maybe a little reshuffling of assets is in order. 

All of that being said, I will still probably be listening to NPR as I drive to work most days.  Partly because I don't need to hear about Denver traffic when I'm driving around Northern Colorado, partly because KUNC has got to be one of the best run NPR stations around [in spite of one unfortunate recent event], but mostly because I know enough to see the bias - and raise it some common sense. 

Monday, March 07, 2011

Remixes and Realizations

I'm not even going to mention how long it's been since I've blogged.  Whoops, I just did.  Oh well, moving on...

I'm totally obsessed with electronica remixes of vaguely folkish music.  And apparently YouTube is the only place to discover them.  Take this one for instance:

It's The Twelves remixing Fleet Foxes "White Winter Hymnal," and they're both kinda mainstream (as well as completely awesome).  This track was featured on The Twelves' BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix from Dec 18 of 2009, so it's likely available elsewhere.

However, I would have never found this gem if it weren't for the 'Tubes, and it is a beautiful work, worthy of radio time:

Some producer called Maffiss totally reworking the haunting, auto-tuned, vocal-only, four-line Bon Iver track "Woods" into some danceable awesomeness.  Looks like you can legally obtain all of his remixes for free at http://maffiss.bandcamp.com/.

Speaking of Bandcamp (the website, not the horrible joke from American Pie), there's some pretty good stuff on there.  Like Apple Juice Kid.  Look him up.

*

I've realized that I do need to actually work out a little bit, because as much as I love dancing, and as much as I do it (couple times a week, not as much as I'd like, usually), it doesn't really do much for your anaerobic fitness level.  I also realize that I'm probably never going to go to a gym again and I don't plan on buying a bunch of free weights, so I need something to do that doesn't take much (any) equipment and is a little broader than my usual crunches / push-ups action.

A few weeks ago I came across an article on Lifehacker about J.P. Müller's My System.  First published in 1904, it was apparently the Victorian version of South Beach - effective, but controversial.  Also, it's not a diet.  It's a 15-minute, zero equipment, core-strengthening routine that, even though it's 107 years old, seems pretty effective.  I found several scanned copies on the interwebs and decided to skip the intro, etcetera ("Why Be Weak?") and go straight to the workout, which is broken down into a five-week build-up to the ultimate 18 exercise routine on week six.  I'm on week two, and I can totally feel it in my "flanks."  I think I need to supplement it with extra push-ups to really get what I want out of it, but it's going pretty well.  [Also, apparently someone else was similarly inspired, but they decided to put it online.  www.mullersmysystem.com]

*

Along similar lines, I also have realized that my diet is in serious need of some help.  I think my daily caloric intake is somewhere around 1800, including a couple hundred worth of booze, usually, when it really should be closer to 2600, with less alcohol.  [Not that I am worried about my drinking, or even that I drink that much, average of a drink or two a day isn't bad, is it?]  Today I had some hot chocolate, some cereal, some ridiculously tasty oatmeal**, one slice of salami, and some "apple nachos."  Now it's 8pm and I would rather head out the door to go dancing than fix anything to eat.  I suppose I'll have a cookie and see if there's any free pizza available at Avo's when the kitchen closes.  And a beer.  Beer counts as food; it's basically bread.

But yeah, like I was saying my diet needs some improvement.

**Ridiculously Tasty Oatmeal:  So, a very nice girl, who has the shift after mine at Everyday Joe's, has gone through a lot in the realm of eating and being healthy.  She was anorexic and addicted to exercise, and therefore really unhealthy.  I don't know if she even weighs 100 pounds now, seeing as she's a pretty small girl and still extremely active, but she's apparently significantly healthier than she was.  Anyway, we were working together last week and somehow oatmeal came up in conversation.  I mentioned that I liked bacon in my oatmeal [you'll laugh until you try it], and she mentioned that she puts peanut butter in hers and loves it.  I had never thought of putting peanut butter in my oatmeal, but I love peanut butter, and I love oatmeal, so I figured I'd give it a go.  Oatmeal, brown sugar, peanut butter, a little jelly, enough milk to float it all, and five minutes in the microwave at half-power, and damn if that wasn't the yummiest thing to come out of that box in a long time.

Ya know, I think I may have some more of that before I go out dancing after all.  I can get there at nine instead.  Still not a balanced diet, but I'll worry about that another time.

*

There's more news, like the job I got, my constant truck tribulations, the super awesome balboa weekend, etc, but that may have to wait or be skipped.  Watch my twitter if you're really interested in what's going on day to day.