Archive for November, 2010

Thankful Part I

Someone posted on Facebook or Twitter recently that Thanksgiving was America’s way of celebrating gluttony and violence (my paraphrase). I found it a humorous insight, even if wholly inaccurate from my perspective. Personally, I love Thanksgiving. I love everything about it.

To me, Thanksgiving is a time for family to get together and enjoy one another’s company. It’s a time of reflection, to look back on the past year and recognize the things that we’re thankful for. It’s a time to enjoy some really excellent food and football that may or may not dazzle you. So, yes, there’s food and a little bit of violence involved; but, for me, food and football are nothing without the family that provides the flavor for those two activities. So, that’s the first thing I’m thankful for this season.

I’m thankful for my family. I’m glad that I’m part of a family that enjoys each others’ company and can stand to be in the same room as one another for longer than a couple of hours. We laugh together. We remember Thanksgivings past and the funny things that happened. We share inside jokes. We genuinely like each other. I’m thankful for this because I realize that not many families are like this. While we’re not unique, we may be in the minority. I love my parents, my brother and my sister; I love my in-laws. I think that’s probably pretty rare, and it makes for a fantastic holiday season.

Yesterday at the table I said that I was thankful that I don’t have any reading due for Monday. I said it for the laugh, but it’s true. I have my diploma. I’m thankful that I’m done with law school, I’m back under my own roof with my beautiful wife, and that reading is no longer required. I’m thankful that I passed the Bar Exam and that I don’t have to sit through another excruciating round of BarBri to prepare for that grueling affair.

I have a job, and for that I am thankful. The job hunting process was not at all what I expected. I thought I would have to pound the pavement, throwing out résumés this way and that, but none of that happened. A fantastic professor of mine sent me an email; a few phone calls and two face-to-face meetings later, I had a job. And I love it. I know that a lot of my classmates are still searching for jobs, and so I am quietly thankful for that with which I have been blessed and pray for my friends that they find the same.

There’s so much more to be thankful for, and I’ll continue tomorrow. God is good. It’s been a good year.

Friday Funny: Special Thanksgiving Edition

Today is Thanksgiving, tomorrow is Friday. Since it’s late already and I’m full of tryptophan, I’m going to switch the days and do Friday Funny today and tomorrow will be my Thanksgiving post. I hope you enjoy it.

Consistency Fail

I said that I was going to post each day during the month of November. I have failed in that task. It appears that weekends are my undoing. Last week I was good and wrote a post for Saturday earlier in the week, which I scheduled to be published on Saturday. Then I went and didn’t post on Sunday because we were in Waco and drove back. This past weekend I didn’t post Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Not good.

It’s not a lack of ideas for posts that’s keeping me from posting, and it isn’t a lack of time, either. Heck, the weekend is when I have the most time on my hands to post. I think part of it is that I don’t spend a tremendous amount of time in front of my computer on the weekends, so I just don’t think about it.

I do need to figure out a way to capture post ideas while I’m away from my computer, though. That seems to be where the majority of my ideas hit me. Last week’s Porsche post came when I was on my way home from work; I made a voice memo to myself with a one sentence thought to jog my memory. I didn’t end up even referencing the voice memo, though, as I remembered what I wanted to post about. I do think capturing the ideas by either writing them down or making a voice memo makes a huge difference in remembering the idea, even if I don’t go back and reference what I captured. Just the capturing act itself is enough to remind me to write about it later on.

Oh well. I’m going to keep trying, because I really am enjoying writing more frequently. I’ll try and capture my thoughts more frequently so that I can share them with all four of you. I’m sure you’re all dying to know what’s rolling around in my brain.

A Couple of Fun Apps, Part II

As promised, I’ve returned to the post I started yesterday about a couple of fun social media apps for the iPhone that I’ve been using.

Today’s entry is called Instagram, a photography-based social media app. It seems like it is somewhat similar to Twitter, but with photography serving as the foundation. When you open up the app, you’re greeted by your feed, which is your shared photographs plus the photos of anyone you’re following. You can also browse popular photographs by anyone on the service, which helps you find interesting photographers to follow. The app also serves as a camera app, allowing you to take photos and apply simple filters to those pictures to further stylize your pics. The filters remind me of the other iPhone photo app Hipstamatic, but simpler. Once you have your photograph, you simply select the filter of your choice from the bottom of the screen. Sliding your finger along the list of choices exposes more options and allows you to preview the photo through the selected filter. While there are only thirteen filters at this point, they work really well and really add something special to an otherwise mundane photograph.

Once you’ve finished editing your photograph, you’re taken to an options screen. You’re given the option to give the picture a title, and you can geotag it so that folks can see where the picture was taken; neither option is required, though. You also can connect to other social networking sites, including Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, and Foursquare. You do have to manually set the photo to share with your various social networking portals each time, though. While some may view this as a negative, this is my preferred method. I would rather tell the app that I want the photo to go to Facebook rather than it automatically updating my Facebook page every time I upload a photograph with Instagram.

One more fun thing about it is that the app can take any photo on your phone, apply the filters to it, and share on the service. It’s been pretty neat to go back to some of my older photos and see how they look with the different filters applied. All in all, this is a really solid little app that’s a lot of fun to play around with. It has me using the camera on my phone far more than I have before, and it’s also causing me to find interesting subjects for photographs. Best part about it – it’s free. Check it out, it’s worth a look. And follow me while you’re at it! My username is the same as this one.

Here are some of my photographs that I’ve taken. Enjoy!

A Couple of Fun Apps, Part I

Everywhere you turn these days, social media dominates the technological landscape. It’s become a crowded space, to say the least. You’ve got Facebook. Twitter. 4square. Gowalla. Tumblr. WordPress. Blogger. Buzz. I could go on and on. It seems that whatever your needs, there’s some sort of social media answer. Some of the majors have tried to edge in on the more niche markets, too. Facebook tried to implement the mention features of Twitter and the geotagging of 4square/Gowalla with moderate-at-best results. I hardly ever see mentions used and tagging even less so.

Regardless of the proliferation of social media outlets, I’ve found myself enjoying a few of the smaller efforts that seem to be targeted at niche areas. There are two iPhone social media apps that I’ve been using recently that I’ve found quite unique and entertaining. I’ll profile one in this post and the second in a later post, either tonight or tomorrow.

The first is Maphook. At first blush, Maphook is a hybrid of geotagging and journaling. But I think that’s a bit of a crude generalization of the service. Spend a little time with it and you’ll realize just how deep its features are. When you create a post, called a “Hook,” you’re automatically geotagging your location. You first select the category for your hook and create a title. The category option is surprisingly deep, with sub-categories to increase the diversity of your hooks. Then you write your entry, which can be as long as you like it or simply a few notes. Depending on the type of category you choose, you’ll have additional options for rating the location; for instance, if you select “Going Out” and “Restaurants” as your category and sub-category, you’ll be given additional options to give the location an Overall Rating, tell folks whether you’d eat there again, rate the price of the meal and the service. Options also exist to hook into Yelp and Wikipedia. Once you’ve finished with the main body and ratings, you can tweak the location of your hook and add photos that will be shared.

I used Maphook the most during our trip to Colorado back in September. Once you’ve uploaded hooks, you can go on the web and string them together to create a story. This feature is pretty fantastic, because the geotagged hooks serve as map points on your journey. When you share the story with your friends, they’ll be able to roadmap your adventures. I think this is the feature that really kept me creating hooks during the trip. Oh, and by the way, if you want to check it out, here’s a link to my Colorado trip story.

The service isn’t without its flaws. I had some problems with posting to Twitter, and for a while they didn’t have a way to share your hooks on Facebook directly. The service doesn’t seem to have a fleshed-out friends or follow system, which can either be a positive or a negative, depending on your perception. The story feature seems to be something you have to do from the web platform also.That being said, I’ve found the developers to be the single-most responsive and helpful group of folks I’ve interacted with in customer service in a very long time. I started following the Twitter feed @maphook and received a re-follow within minutes. They were very responsive to questions, keeping me up to date on questions I had and workarounds for problems. They’re also constantly updating the service and looking for feedback on how to improve it. These guys are committed to making Maphook one of the most unique services around. If you have an iPhone, check it out.

Ok, I know I said a couple of apps, but this post has run a little long and I’ve got to get moving. I’ll update you with my other app a little later on.

A Porsche… Sedan?

Last Friday as I was driving home from work, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a Porsche pass by me in the left hand lane. As it passed me, I looked at it and did a double-take – the car had four doors. I wondered if my mind was playing tricks on me or something. Surely Porsche isn’t leaping into the luxury Sedan market, are they?

Apparently they are. I had no idea about this, but apparently the car made its debut in 2009. To me, it looks like somone took a Porsche 911, cut it in half, and added a second row of seating and two more doors. It is a little hard for my brain to process. But then again, I still find the Porsche Cayenne tough to stomach.

What do you think?

Not Feeling It Today

I don’t feel like posting. We drove back from a great weekend in Waco (except for the game), it’s cold and raining. I don’t have a lot to say, except for this: I don’t think there’s an institution on the planet for which I have more loathing than Texas A&M.

That is all.

Grandma Moses

I acquired my current vehicle after my grandmother passed away in 2004. We were short a vehicle, nobody else needed it, so we became the proud owners of a 1992 Pontiac Bonneville. Let me tell you, this car is the epitome of a “grandmother vehicle.” It’s big. It’s silver. It has red interior. Not maroon, red. The cloth seats have that texture that only exists in cars your grandmother drives. The seat has a slight curve right where my upper back makes contact with it, and the headrest is far too low for me… But the seat is built perfectly for a 5’2” grandmother who hunches. I’m telling you, it’s the quintessential grandmother mobile. Now, at first blush you’d think the car wouldn’t last long. It was twelve years old when we acquired it, so surely it can’t last that much longer, right? Wrong. My grandmother drove it from her home to church, the beauty parlor, and the grocery store once a week. When the car came into my possession, it had 60,000 miles on it, and it was in excellent running condition.

It became the mainstay vehicle for my treks to and from law school. During that time, I decided to name the car Grandma Moses; I didn’t name it after the artist, but instead after a car a roommate of mine had in college, and the name seemed to fit this car. I thought that surely this car would not make it through law school, would it? And for a while, it seemed as though it wouldn’t. Midway through school, we had to have the transmission replaced, which I’m sure cost more than the car is actually worth. But once we got past that, I began to think that it just might survive the weekly treks between home and Waco. I also hated it for that.

While the car runs just fine and can get from Point A to Point B without too much hassle, it’s not the most enjoyable of experiences. For some reason, the A/C won’t start blowing through the main vents for about fifteen or twenty minutes. In the meantime, it blows cold air through the defrost vents; which, in a humid climate like Central/South Texas means that the windshield fogs up. One of those main A/C vents doesn’t want to stay in place; if you touch it, it will fall out of the dashboard. The passenger side handle broke one day when my cousin applied the tiniest bit of pressure to it. The ceiling fabric lining is falling down (instead of having it fixed, I stapled it in place). The car has no CD player, so I use a tape adapter with my iPod to listen to music… Only I can’t listen to music in the car anymore, because the speakers cut in and out intermittently. If that isn’t enough, there’s some crack behind the dashboard that squeaks non-stop while I drive. There’s a big crack in the dashboard from the windshield all the way to the edge near the steering wheel. For crying out loud, Grandma Moses, my Bonneville, is old enough to vote. My roommate and I used to joke that, like a train, I’d have to hit the brakes about a mile off to stop her in time and that she had the turning radius of an aircraft carrier.

But somewhere during PC I realized Grandma Moses had personality. One frigid February morning I trudged out to the parking lot at about 6:15 a.m. to head to school. As I opened the driver’s side door to Grandma Moses, the door creaked so loudly that my roommate heard it from his room in our apartment. I tried to silence her with WD-40 and graphite, but it only helped for a day or two. I realized that she was just as unhappy as I was at having to get up so early and get moving. It seemed a perfect voice for this grumpy car of mine – the croaking, creaking groan of a door that doesn’t want to open coming from a car that wants to sleep for two more hours at least. I realized that we had been in this adventure together. Cantankerous as she was, Grandma Moses wasn’t going to quit on me. She didn’t. She got me through law school, through the bar exam, and got me back home. Her flaws are numerous (I didn’t even list all of them, not even close), but she was a workhorse. She still is. Now she accompanies me on my daily treks north to work.

And yesterday, she finally hit the 100,000 mile mark. Nearly nineteen years in the making, Grandma Moses rolled over the 100K. Congratulations, you old battleship. I love you.

Friday Funny: Ainsley Hayes

In keeping with the apparent theme of the week, this Friday Funny comes from The West Wing. Ainsley Hayes (played by Emily Proctor) is the Republican who beats Sam Seaborn up on Capitol Beat (if I could find that scene, I’d post it) and is then hired by the White House. This is the scene where Leo offers her a job in the White House Counsel’s Office. It’s a pretty good indication of the character. She made several appearances over a couple of seasons before disappearing until the very last episode or two, and each episode in which she appeared was thoroughly entertaining. Enjoy.

My favorite exchange:
Ainsley: Well then, if you’ll permit me, why was I summoned?
Leo: You have an interesting conversational style, you know that?
Ainsley: It’s a nervous… condition.
Leo: I used to have a nervous condition.
Ainsley: How did yours manifest itself?
Leo: I drank a lot of scotch.
Ainsley: I get sick when I drink too much.
Leo: I get drunk when I drink too much.

Too Subtle?

If you’ve been following my attempts to post daily on my blog, you saw that the post I wrote on Tuesday was called “This Is My Regular Tuesday Post.” At the bottom, I had what may have appeared to be a somewhat cryptic message about the target of my Tuesday post. In truth, it wasn’t a secret message for one specific person. It was a modification of a quote from The West Wing (Josh Lyman saying that he’s wearing his “regular Tuesday Suit,” which turns out not to be his regular Tuesday Suit. What happened was, I finished up my post, proofed it and was satisfied, so I hit the Publish button. Once I did that I realize I hadn’t actually named the post, so I quickly hit the edit button to come up with a name. The first thing that came to mind was the West Wing quote, so I made that the title. Then, I realized that it might be a little obscure, so I left the hint at the bottom of the post. At least then those of my readers that have seen the West Wing (2 or 3 of the 4 of you) would have another hint about the origins of the title.

My wife read the post, and despite being a fellow West Wing fanatic, she didn’t catch the reference. The first time through, she didn’t think anything of it. I had her read the lines at the bottom of the post again to see if she recognized it. I watched recognition dawn on her face then fade as she realized she’d heard it, but couldn’t place the quote because it had been modified. As soon as I said “Tuesday suit,” she knew exactly where it was from and laughed with me. But, the subtle change was enough to fool her and keep her from recognizing the origin of the quote. Sometimes I wonder if I’m being too subtle, and I’m the only one that recognizes a reference and/or finds it funny.

What about you? Did you recognize the change in the quote? Vote in the poll or comment!