Conversations with a 15-year-old, Draft and a new computer

Conversations with a 15-year-old

While watching a coffee commercial with Penelope Cruz:

Me: “Hey, it’s my girlfriend Penelope Cruz.”
Megan: “You sure do think you have a lot of girlfriends.”
Me: “Well, Penelope Cruz is one of my few top girlfriends.”
Megan: “Few top girlfriends? Whatever, dad. Her eyes are weird; it’s like she’s looking at two different things at the same time.”
Me: “She’s just bedazzled by my cuteness and doesn’t know where to focus.”
Megan: “Right. She can’t even see you.”
Me: “But she knows.”

NSA wiretaps

The Guardian broke a story last night about the National Security Agency’s program to mine information on millions of phone calls on Verizon’s cellular network; essentially, the government is farming information on phone calls made for every person in the country.

There was an interview with Glen Greenwald, who wrote the Guardian story, on MPR today over lunch; the interviewer asked him if he was worried whether the NSA’s phone-tapping program would be able to play a role in identifying the source who leaked him the information; he simply responded “I don’t want to talk about that,” and the interview ended.

And now it’s out that the NSA also are similarly mining Internet data; no surprise there. Story on CNN.

This is what happens when you allow the government to expand its powers because “I have nothing to hide.” Because eventually you can’t possibly have anything to hide. “Privacy” doesn’t mean protecting secrets that you don’t want anyone to find out; privacy means you have a right to lead a life that is none of the government’s business. It’s hard to imagine “we have the right to secretly collect information on every single one of your communications and store that information indefinitely for whatever reason we see fit” should be legal.

New computer update

Last week, I upgraded my laptop at work; I traded up from a 2009 MacBook Pro to a screaming fast new Retina-display MacBook Pro with 16 gigs of RAM and a 500-gig SSD. Seriously. Screaming fast.

For the first time in a very long time, I feel like I have a machine that performs near the speed that I think. I haven’t had to wait on anything; I want to do something, the computer responds. There’s no hesitation. I don’t wait for anything to load. I just decide I want to do something, ask the computer to complete a task and it’s done.

Honestly, I’m probably overestimating just how fast this new machine given what I have traded up from. My 2009 model was being overworked to the point that I was estimating spending somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-45 minutes every day waiting on spinning beach balls. In the few days I’ve had this new computer, I haven’t even seen a beach ball — let alone wait for a task to complete to necessitate having to watch one for a countable segment of time. Because that was starting to drive me absolutely insane.

New tool: Draft

The Internet is awesome, and there are always fun new toys to discover. Today’s fun new toy is Draft. Draft is a Markdown-enabled web-based writing platform; it also has added a media player with some very clever keyboard shortcuts for navigating playback for helping with transcriptions.

I used Draft for the first time this afternoon to transcribe audio from an interview I did this morning. It worked like a dream. The controls for controlling the audio were incredibly intuitive and easy to use, and it made for probably the smoothest transcription I’ve ever done.

Draft is like a lot of web services in that it has a fully functional free account, with some added features that require a subscription. I am already using two Markdown environments — Day One and iA Writer — and I’m not sure how Draft would replace either of them so I doubt I’d be in the market for the paid version. But I’ll dive right for it when

The only hiccup I encountered when using Draft was that it didn’t natively play the .WAV audio files that are generated by Evernote’s audio-recording function. I had to export the audio from Evernote, convert it to an m4a in QuickTime so I could put it into Draft.

LEGO Shellraiser

I picked up a LEGO Shellraiser on eBay for Helen; it was a no-minifigs auction that didn’t include the turtles or Dogpound’s van, so it was pretty cheap.

We finally got it built this morning, and it’s a pretty disappointing model. Visually it looks very cool, but functionally it’s quite poorly designed. The mechanism that is supposed to allow the wheels to raise for sewer mode or whatever mostly just collapses under the weight of the vehicle, and it creates a serious structural problem with the windows; the support beams for the wheels don’t allow enough space to build adequate support for the windows, which are attached only by a 2×1 brick. So the slightest pressure will collapse them. The frame for the roof also isn’t sturdy, so pushing the wheels up to use the whee-raising mechanism as intended usually just shoots the entire support pillar through the top of the model. It’s a cool-looking vehicle, but it’s screaming for a redesign.

“In chaos, there is opportunity.”

“In chaos, there is opportunity.”

Those were the words of Minnesota State University, Moorhead President Edna Szymanski earlier today in a press conference where the Dragons became the first school to pounce on this week’s college hockey apocalypse as an opportunity to make a name for itself (Moorhead’s official release is here).

Moorhead first announced it was exploring the possibility of adding ice hockey in the spring of 2009, but at that time really didn’t have a viable conference home to join. The WCHA was, at that point, full, and publicly deflecting Bemidji State’s desire to join; that wasn’t an option. Travel costs would have made the CCHA impossible, and the CCHA was in the midst of proving it couldn’t care less about the fate of smaller hockey programs by allowing Wayne State to fold and giving the stiff-arm to Alabama-Huntsville’s formal application request. So, really, even if Moorhead would’ve had the money in 2009, they had nowhere to play.

All that changed this week when the WCHA blew up like the Death Star.

The conference dropped to five members for 2013-14 when the five breakaway schools poached Miami University to form the NCHC, and will likely make quick work of the Northern Michigan application to get back to an NCAA conference-legal six members, while also further plundering the CCHA and making that conference’s prospects for long-term survival look pretty bleak (unless they start pillaging Atlantic Hockey for expansion members, which could happen). Bruce McLeod, the commissioner of the WCHA, has said his ideal WCHA has eight members – that leaves Moorhead staring down the barrel of two open slots in its dream conference and, in fact, probably the only conference affiliation that makes any financial sense if they’re to get hockey off the ground.

It’s a tremendous opportunity – for Moorhead, if they can pull it off, but also for the schools that splintered off from the WCHA and CCHA to form the Big Ten (along with Penn State’s expansion program) and the NCHC. If Moorhead can get its money together, launch men’s and women’s hockey and get itself into the WCHA, then this sport-shattering conference realignment will have allowed college hockey to expand by two programs in one year. That is huge for a sport that has seen more programs fold than start in the decade since I’ve been, directly and indirectly, following college hockey as part of my job here.

It also gives the Big Ten and NCHC no small portion of moral high ground. They’ll be able to – rightly – say “Look, you may not like what we’ve done, but these moves have directly and indirectly led to the creation of two new programs — and you all have said you wanted college hockey to grow again.”

I hope Moorhead’s efforts are successful. It’d be fun to have another program in the state, they’re a natural rival with BSU in our Division II sports, and they’re in a part of the state that has a college hockey void. They have a lot to accomplish before they green-light it, but the next three months will be fun as the college hockey world watches to see if they can pull it off.`

Grand Update for July 23

So, I haven’t been blogging much lately; things have just been busy at home and I haven’t put in the effort to post anything. Summer tends to be a busy time in the house with Megan visiting, so there’s less “free” time to sit around and come up with stuff to write about, and I’ve been busy at work so not really able to carve out much time there either. Anyway, enough with the excuses; here’s a catchup episode for the key events that have occurred since last we spoke.

• Comic reviews at The Terrordrome
I’ve had an opportunity to write a couple more comic book reviews over at The Terrordrome. You can read them here:

I’ve now reviewed issues in three of the five series IDW Publishing is putting out on G.I. Joe each month; I have yet to officially tackle “G.I. Joe: Hearts and Minds” or the new “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” series. I’m kindof getting into a groove with the main series, though, and I hope I get the opportunity to continue reviewing those. We’ll see what the guys who run The Terrordrome want me to do for them.

• Fourth of July
Yes, it’s been that long since my last update; I have missed basically the entire month of July here. Our Fourth was great; we hit up Bemidji’s water carnival, which means a rare chance to dramatically overpay for fair food like cheese curds and gyros, and Helen got to ride some rides. Both girls got a chance to do this bungy-bouncing thing, where they were attached to cords and got to jump pretty high up in the air on trampolines. We have pics and videos of them and I’ll try to dig them up off of Mel’s camera.

For the fireworks that night, Mel got a random call from her good friend Rachael, who wanted to know if we had plans. Her dad was out of town fishing, so she and her mom were looking for company on their pontoon boat. Mel jumped at this chance, so we spent several hours floating around on the water, and when it got dark our boat was positioned as close to the fireworks, which here get shot out over the lake from a position on the south shore, as the county sheriff would allow us to be. It was pretty awesome; we were so close to the firework that we could see the ignition plumes of the second-stage boosters for the big ones. Definitely a fourth to remember; Rachael and her mom were awesome for giving us a chance to tag along with them.

• Grand Marais trip
A couple of weekends back, Melissa and I took the family for our first trip out of town as a five-person family. She and I had a chance to go to Grand Marais, up on Lake Superior’s north shore, last year for a co-worker’s wedding, and had such a great time we decided we’d go back for a straight family vacation with the kids this summer. We reserved a cabin for the second weekend in July all the way back in January; even working that far in advance we got the last one. We timed our visit with Grand Marais’ annual art festival, your typical arts-in-the-park type thing where you can buy all varieties of handmade jewelry and carved, painted animals, etc. Cool stuff, but I think in my entire life I’ve spent less than ten bucks on the “stuff” being displayed by the various craftsmen at art fairs.

We had a great time; the cabin was cute and pretty much what you’d expect from an $80-a-night rent-a-cabin. We had a great time; the kids had a great time; and we had some really good food while we were out there. Mel found this beautiful ring for her right hand so she picked that up, and I bought matching $1 rings for me and all three girls at this rock-polishing stand and told the girls it was “so we can all remember this weekend and how much fun we’re having.” Megan then dropped hers the next day, and since it was made out of a rock it shattered everywhere. She felt pretty bad.

Neither Mel nor I have dumped our photos from that weekend yet; I’ll get some of them up on Flickr once we do. We’re already talking about the possibility of going back next summer. It really was a great weekend.

If we do return, about the only thing we’ll do differently is pack food. Food in Grand Marais is *ridiculously* expensive. For example, we went to this place called “The Pie Place,” thinking it’d be cute to have some pie after lunch. One slice of pie was $6.50. Making it a la mode added another $2.50. We were not pleased with this. So instead of pie for everyone, we got two pieces a la mode and four iced teas, and ended up dropping almost $30. We did not leave a tip; we figured they had bled enough money out of us. The pie was good, but not significantly better than what we could get by dropping $13 on an entire pie at Perkin’s.

That’s the big stuff since my last update. I’m going to try and get back into the flow of this, if not next week then definitely for August. This is Megan’s last week here; we’re planning a trip to take her to her grandma over in North Dakota next week, then are going to drive down to Minneapolis and hopefully hook up with our friends Justin & Darren. We’ll also likely be doing some school shopping for Helen, who’s getting perilously close to being a kindergartener.

Random Musings for May 28, 2010

Just realized I hadn’t managed to post anything so far this week, so I’m fixing that. It’s been a busy week and I just haven’t thought to pop in and post anything. So, in recap fashion:

• Helen’s done with soccer practice
Helen’s final soccer practice was last night; she’d been going Tuesdays and Thursdays for the last four weeks, and we missed two practices because it was pouring rain. Helen had fun with it, but I’m glad it’s over; Mel has been going to the gym, so my evenings were “come home from work, get dinner ready for Helen real quick, get both kids ready to leave, be at soccer practice by 6, get home by 7, eat late dinner with Mel, finally stop for the day around 8.” It was fun, but it got tiring in a hurry.

Still, Helen had fun with it. She had some typical 5-year-old issues with not paying attention and wanting to either do her own thing or join in with other kids who were goofing around, and she really wasn’t all that interested in playing hard or chasing after the ball, but she had fun and got to run around and sweat a little bit – which was really all I was hoping for.

• We started another PS3 game
On the recommendation of a friend, and through the fortuitous timing of the closure of the video store here in town that another of our friends manages, Mel and I have started playing “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” for our PS3.

• Megan arrives tomorrow
Tomorrow I get to make the trip to southern Minnesota to pick up Megan for her all-too-brief summer visit. She’ll be here through the end of July. Unfortunately, due to her little hacker actions on her mom’s iMac, my “welcome to Minnesota” duties will begin by confiscating her iPhone and Macbook for a month. Good times. She’ll survive. 🙂

Going to try and get an early start and do some shopping before I pick her up. Targets: Nordstrom Rack in Maple Grove; TJ Maxx Home Center right off 494; Dick Blick Art Supplies on France; lunch at Taste of India in St. Louis Park. Probably won’t get to do all that. Will buy some groceries at Curry Up! on the way home.

• LOST finale
Because I’m obligated somehow to post an opinion, I really enjoyed the LOST finale. I thought it was a solid conclusion to what was, all in all, a pretty amazing six years of television. No analysis, no hyberbole; just “I really enjoyed it.” That is all.

• iPad
Still isn’t freaking here yet. Ordered on April 14; most-recent estimate says it’s supposed to be here on Thursday. I’m a little miffed that foreign customers are getting them and Apple’s been sitting on my order for seven weeks.

• Fun new arrivals
I got two more G.I. Joe figures from China this week – Desert Battle Zartan and the Arctic Threat Destro. This brings my little sub-collection of cancelled or otherwise preproduction figures imported from China to five, with Arctic Threat Duke still a pending arrival. About the only one of these readily-available pre-production figures I think I’m going to miss out on is the Jungle-Strike Storm Shadow. Now that I’ve had such good experiences with the sellers from China and Singapore who deal in this type of thing, I won’t be so hesitant to jump on something the next time I see it.

Let’s see, what else… Nothing! That’s it. I’ll be in touch.

Random musings

First – AARRRRGGGGGHHHHH.

On April 14, I ordered an iPad through our computer store here on campus. It was supposed to be here on May 3. Then it was delayed until May 17. So yesterday, I checked to see if it was still on schedule. Nope. Delayed until June 3. Lame.

The timing of this was comical, as I also received an ad from Apple via e-mail today announcing the iPad as “the perfect graduation gift.” My personal iPad ordering saga, combined with snarkiness, made me wonder if they meant to buy it now for the Class of 2015.

Second – I stopped by Roy’s Comics and Games in between lunch and the gas station on my way back to work this afternoon, and discovered that they did, indeed, still have one copy of “Birds of Prey” #1 sitting on the shelf. It’s written by Gail Simone, who I’ve been following on Twitter, and seems like fun. I also left with “G.I. Joe: Origins” #15 (cover B), the first two issues of Marvel’s Black Widow series, and a “Cloak and Dagger” one-shot from March.

Still waiting on a bunch of crap to come from eBay, too – three G.I. Joe trade paperbacks, a Batman and Robin hardcover and a 26-issue-collectin’ beast of an Astonishing X-Men hardcover omnibus.

LOST tonight. I’m still disappointed in last week’s completely useless episode. I just fear this show is going to end in a huge fireball of suckfest. We’ll see, I guess.

Also curious to see if V ever starts to improve… That show’s maybe two bad episodes from me bailing on it.

“Day after” review – My Jill Valentine sketch turned out just OK; I’m not terribly happy with it. But it’s filed away in a binder now, next to Robin. Have a request in for my next project; not sure I’ll do it, but we’ll see. I’m going to do some more practice sketches and then start work on a larger, more involved project I think. I haven’t decided for sure yet; I may end up just breaking down and doing another Lego Gaga. Those are easy and super-fun.

I also need to get back to this programming project, but the delay in the arrival of my iPad, combined with the fun I’ve had drawing again, has made it tough for me to jump back into that.

Nothing else to report.

Conversations with a five-year-old

Tonight at bedtime:

I read Helen a story. I told her it was time for bed.

Helen: “Daddy, now can I read you the story?”
Me: “No kiddo, not tonight. You got one story; you can read me a story tomorrow night, OK?”
Helen: “OK. Can you stay with me? Do you want to have a sleepover?”
Me: “Not tonight, kiddo. Maybe some other night, like this weekend, OK?”
Helen: “You loser. I’m going to cut your head off.”

Conversations with a 5-year-old

On Saturday, Mel and I went to look at a house. We’d looked at it a few times before the last time it was on the market a few years ago, and really liked it; so we thought we’d go check it out again.

The house has a second-level walkout deck overlooking the back yard, right at the top of the stairs. After the visit, this conversation ensued.

Mel: “So, Helen, did you like the house?”
Helen: “Yeah, it was awesome.”
Mel: “What part of the house was your favorite?”
Helen: “The frickin’ roof. I frickin’ loved that frickin’ roof. Frickin’ mom and frickin’ dad. Frickin’. I just love to say ‘frickin’.'”

It could’ve been much worse.

Random musings for May 11

Childrens
Helen started soccer practice last week; she’s got another practice scheduled for tonight, but as it’s done for basically two weeks here, it’s raining today. Mel’s got her first appointment with a personal trainer tonight (she’s been hitting the gym pretty good for two weeks now; I’m proud of her), so I’ll be solo with both kids. Helen could deal with the rain, but that leaves me wondering what to do with Millie. I’ll figure something out.

I’ll see Megan again two weeks from Saturday; she’ll be back up here for about two months before she’s back in Kansas City for cheerleading camp in August. Can’t wait for that. I’ve spent about three days with her since November…

Me
Stood on a scale this morning; it reported back to me “240.3.” I stepped on it three more times; it thrice repeated “240.3.” This is amazing to me. I haven’t done anything; at my physical last year I was at 253. Mel and I are eating out less; I’m making a concious effort to avoid pop. I’m still not exercising (although I’ve worked pretty hard in our basement the last three weekends). This is a good thing. Being 220 or so just in time to need a restock of my fall wardrobe – and with a convenient trip through Minneapolis in August already on the books – a much-smaller me could do some damage in a clothing store or three. Exciting.

Movies
I’ve recently seen two movies at the theater and failed to report on both. On Saturday the 1st, I went to an afternoon showing of Kick-Ass, and I caught the midnight premier of Iron Man 2 on May 6/7.

Kick-Ass was really, really good; visually, it’s fantastic, and it has an amazing soundtrack. Hit Girl is the best new character you’ve seen in a movie in a long time, and watching her might be the best time you have at the movies all year. This is definitely a movie I’d watch again, and is one that I’ll consider heavily for a day-one BluRay buy. I just loved it. I’m so tempted to swing by the comic store downtown and pick up the hardcover collection they have of the comic series…

Iron Man 2 was equally great. Far more Iron Man than in the first one; a pretty solid villain with Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash; a really, really good villain in Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer; and more good stuff about SHIELD (I hate Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, though…). The little glimpses at Captain America’s shield and Thor’s hammer were really fun, as well. I wish the movie would’ve had more War Machine and more of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow kicking ass (her one fight scene in the hallway of Hammer’s factory was super-fun).  Definitely a movie I’ll watch again a few more times.

I had wanted to catch the “Nightmare on Elm Street” remake in the theaters, but I don’t think that’s going to happen; I also missed “Hot Tub Time Machine,” which just looked stupid and fun. I want to go see “Macgruber” on the 21st, and I’ll probably have to find a way to get Mel to see “Sex and the City 2: Please Just Kill Me,” although I’m hoping Sarah will take a bullet and go to that with her… After that, movie season is wide open until “The A-Team” on June 11.

Drawing
I’m going to continue my efforts to draw more often; I’m liking the stuff I’m producing and can see some progress, but I still need a lot more practice in order to get where I think I’m capable of ending up. Just need to carve out the time to do it.

Computer stuff
Shipment of my iPad at work has been delayed until the 17th. Assuming it does actually ship then, it’ll be between five and six weeks from my order until it arrives. I knew I should’ve pre-ordered…

My computer programming efforts have slowed; not due to lack of interest, I was just getting frustrated with some of the roadblocks I encountered and am again considering a course change. I’ve got a couple of books in my Amazon.com cart and probably just need to pull the trigger on them. I’m going to try and get back to work on this in the next few days.

I’ve been playing around with a beta pre-release version of WordPress 3.0; it’s pretty neat. I’m not running this site on it yet, but I’m goofing around with a test installation on a subdomain. Have some ideas for Future Things if I can get the custom post type stuff figured out. I’m on the right track with it; just need to spend a few more minutes figuring out the little details.

Comics
I’ve found some awesome deals on trade paperback collections on eBay recently, and have picked up a single issue or three here and there as well, so my slow return to comic book fandom is continuing. I’m having a lot of fun with it so far, and as I expected, seeing the art is making me want to draw more. I’ve also started following a number of writers and artists on Twitter, and have started collecting links to artists on DeviantArt as well.