Sunday, March 29, 2009

Week 7 - 100in1001

In the education category I went ahead and marked off the visual perception textbooks. Though I didn't read them in whole I got what I needed out of them and turned them back into Ben. I also gave a crossword a go but was not able to complete it, this one was from the LA Times and was unusually tough.

For technology I posted a small C++ project for converting colorspaces to serve as the small open source project. It works with RGB, HSV, and HSL and can be found here. I wrote it a while ago for RGB<->HSV but never got around to cleaning up the code and posting. I did so and added RGB<->HSL while I was at it. It's a fairly simple set of functions and I think is better than some of the other code out there for this in C++.

I have not been making much headway on the "pile o' magazines" objective because I'm really just treading water with trying to first get through recently arrived ones (especially with all these out of town trips I've taken). I'll get there one day. As usual making good progress on Order of the Phoenix.

Getting much better at getting some yoga in every day, though it's somewhat cheating because it's mostly been just Sun Salutation warm up sets in the morning. Still not getting to the gym much though. New recipe for March was a broccoli-chicken-cheese-rice slow cooker recipe that was quite tasty.

Lastly I have been hitting Drifting on the guitar quite hard and it's been easier than I thought it would be. Watching McKee play it is awe inspiring, hopefully I can get there at some point. My right hand fingers are getting rather sore from all the hammers they are having to do. Today as I was tuning back to standard after practicing my high E string broke so bad news there. I have a spare set of Elixir lights, I think these will actually make playing Drifting easier but it won't sound nearly as deep and complex. Oh well.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What an Elite Eight

It seems like NCAA basketball has gotten a lot less exciting these last couple of years. I used to wait for March with anticipation and then stay up until all hours of the night watching all the games I could. Monitoring the scores in the top corner while my heart raced over how terrible my bracket was soon to look. Those were the good old days: Cinderellas screwing up my picks, unexpected heroes like Gonzaga going deep into the tournament.

But all that seems a distant memory. It is so bad that I haven't really watched much of the games at all this year. I didn't approach the tournament with excitement and it can no longer be called March Madness because it doesn't even finish in March! I scan the Elite Eight and we have all 1, 2, and 3 seeds. How boring. Last year all the Final Four teams were #1 seeds. In the last three of four tournaments the championship game was two #1 seeds. This year is the first time ever that all 12 of the 1, 2, and 3 seeds made it to the Sweet Sixteen. George Mason's run and a No-#1 Final Four in 2006 seems to be the outlier in recent NCAA history. I'm not sure what the reason for this thinning of the heard is, but whatever it is it's a shame. March Madness is just the March Mundane these days.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Week 6 - 100in1001

Other than the usual incremental updates not much happened this past week.

Oh wait, I visited Kate and Katie in Nashville! Woohoo! Good to see those two again, shame I don't see them more often. Visited Gruhn Guitar for the second time and it is definitely impressive, along with the Gibson factory store. Good places to check out some truly unique stuff. I had half a mind to buy a mandolin while I was in town but everything those places sell are way out of my price range. Several good disc golf courses in town, Cedar Hill being the best of the ones I got to. The downtown area along the river is cool and had a couple of good meals at McCabe's and Big River. Had one awesome waiter at Big River, he sounded like he should be on a cheesy Top 40 radio station and announcing contests. I forget the name of it, but one thing is we ate popsicles at this "gourmet" popsicle stand on the way back from the Crockett Park disc golf outing. Definitely the best picture taken and describes how the trip went. That is Kate happy and enthusiastic, Katie being exacting in form and function, and me doing who knows what to provide the comic relief.

Saw the Parthenon... whose idea was it to build this thing? It's got a great (and busy) park around it for people to enjoy and the building serves as the art museum. I still can't get over the fact they chose the Parthenon and I'm not sure I buy Nashville is the "Athens of the South" as the reasoning. I'm declaring Raleigh the "Rome of the South". Why? Because I said so and it has nice alliteration! In any case it is nice to check out if you're in the city.

My only regret is not making it to any bluegrass music or the Grand Ole Opry (how about some affordable ticket prices people?!). Overall a successful trip!

In addition I finished Goblet of Fire while there and have set into Order of the Phoenix. I resisted reading these books and watching the movies until I saw Goblet of Fire when mom happened to rent it and since then I've overcome my skepticism--"it's just a kid at a British school... boring!"--and have really enjoyed the universe.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

US Automakers Still Clueless

GM to cut prices to lure back US buyers

I read the headline and I had such hope. After years of inferior products at high prices the automakers are getting it: raise your quality to the standard set by the Japanese makers and simplify your pricing. But no, these price cuts are in the form of "discounts and other promotions."

Ever since I had awareness of cars and car prices, the US makers have been pushing rebates and similar discounts; "Employee pricing" has also been a popular one in recent years. I think these are an antiquated way of tricking people into thinking they are getting a deal--as are many sales and discounts. "Hey look, they're giving me $10K off, what a deal! I HAVE TO BUY IT NOW!!!" Consumers today are much more informed thanks to websites that allow for car comparisons, resale value history, etc. etc.. A customer these days can easily use all the information out there to see what price a car is worth, not what the sticker price claims it to be. Really, we should feel insulted by these tactics.

The better way, by far, would simply to offer lower prices. There would be a small segment of people that would miss the haggling and (falsely) thinking they pulled one over on the dealer. However, everyone else would enjoy the simpler process, especially those not interested in messing with car salesmen to get a "deal" on a car that should be priced that way to begin with. It is obvious you need to try something new Detroit, you've been failing for a while now. Take some ideas that other industries and companies have come up with: simplify your line, offer quality products, and make it easy for the customer to buy your products.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Push up tip: Save your wrists!

I started the 100 push ups challenge and so far it's been, well, a challenge. I've had to repeat week 2 twice now because the first time week 3 was just too hard. Note that I decided not to re-evaluate myself at the week 3 mark as they suggest, I decided to stay in column 2. After my second week 2 I had to mostly take a week off because my wrists were hurting.

The traditional push up is not the greatest thing for your wrists so I personally would not recommend doing too many of them at a time. An alternative is knuckle push ups, but I find these uncomfortable also. I scoured the internets and many people recommend "push up bars" to ease the wrist strain. They mostly end up being bars or rungs that sit on the floor for you to grip. They end up looking sort of like the bars on a pommel horse, if you replace the pommel with the floor. To continue with this visual, you'd then lay between the bars with the bars on each side of your shoulders. Then it is as simple as gripping the bars instead of placing your hands on the floor and doing a push up like normal. The result is the pressure and weight are still on your palms but no longer are your wrists at a poor angle.

As far as what kind, you can find plenty of options at a brick-and-mortar store or somewhere online like Amazon (I think I saw some for $15 there). I have a better option though. I realized a pair of dumbbells can accomplish the same task, while also giving you a pair of weights to use with other exercises. I ended up using a set of 12lb dumbbells that I already had and they work great. Any dumbbells can be used as long as the weighted ends are large enough to raise the bar high enough to allow your fingers to comfortably slide under.

With the above solution I'm back at it and really enjoying the challenge. I'd highly recommend taking it on yourself! Just make sure you have your set of dumbbells ready...

100 in 1001 update

I started this blog partly to keep track of my progress and thoughts on my 100 things in 1001 days list. So far I've been making decent progress.

Education/Learning, Tech, Art, Entertainment: Almost nothing here.

School: Haven't really hit the "normal work schedule" thing, but that's for various reasons. This should iron itself out--one way or another--by the end of this semester.

Reading: Doing good on Harry Potter but really need to set myself to task on the magazines. Barely staying ahead of the Newsweek-each-week curve (thank goodness US News is no longer weekly... how did I do both before?).

Exercise: Yoga every day hasn't quite been happening but I've been good about sticking to Pilates and 100 Push ups three times a week. Also need to get to the gym more.

Music: Making decent progress on learning Drifting by Andy McKee. I think a grand orchestra guitar is really needed to give all those hammer-ons enough sound. My Ibanez seems to have a semi-dead note on the G string 6th fret, which is unfortunately a frequent note in Drifting. The Martin is a bit harder to play this song due to its higher action.

Organize/Home: I have my room mostly where I want it by now as far as organizing and cleaning. This will further improve with the addition of bookshelves. All pictures now on the walls so room looks even better than before. Clothes have gotten the once over also and have a box of clothes ready for charity.

Travel: Off to Kate and Katie's this coming weekend, yay!

Misc: Obviously got the blog in full gear!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Dawn

This is going to be my first "blog" entry, though I loathe to use that name. While blog, blogosphere, etc. terminology has become commonplace on the internet and even in other media, it still maintains a certain stench that my nostrils have yet tolerate. Why? Blogs are mostly garbage, simple as that.

So how is this any different? I have no idea really, I like to think I'm a bit above at least some of the riffraff and this will *not* be a diary of any sort. I'm hoping to provide insightful and concise comments from my perspective on a variety of topics and give people some info on my whereabouts and what I'm up to these days. I'm not writing about any specific topics, just whatever comes to mind in my observance of news, pop culture, etc.. It is a fine line between eclectic and rambling so I'll do my best to stay concise and focused.

What's my street cred? I'm of the Millenial generation, one of those hot up-and-comers in the world. We've also been collectively called Generation Y (very creative!), the Net Generation (snooze), Echo Boomers (ugh), and iGeneration (this i-in-front-of-everything trend makes me angry), and Trophy Kids. This last comes from the observance that we've mostly been coddled, told we're special, and everyone gets a "you did your best trophy" for everything. Other negative attributes include rampant consumerism, poor English skills due to IM and texting, and a serious sense of entitlement. I wouldn't dump myself into any of those bins, and I doubt that anyone that really knows me would either. I'm young while at the same time not partaking in everything boxed or technological just for the sake of doing it. I'm a graduate student in computer science, have a Midwestern-ish background, currently live in the new South, and all kinds of other interesting stuff that should provide plenty of perspective and insight. Enjoy!