Starcraft 2

July 28, 2010 ~ 10:56am

Well yesterday Starcraft 2 was finally released. I've actually been excited about this game since they announced it over 3 years ago. I knew then that I couldn't play it on my PC, so I decided that I wouldn't replace my desktop until I knew the requirements for the game. I'm somewhat impressed they aren't that bad (although recommended 4GB RAM on a Mac seems a bit much). I've been looking for an excuse to replace my aging desktop with a new powerhouse, and this seems like a perfectly legitimate reason. :-)

I went to Amazon to save the game in my cart (and my wish list), when I started to read the reviews there. I'm a little disappointed with the complaints regarding the DRM and online account requirement Blizzard has chosen to employ. I will admit that when I played the original Starcraft in college over a decade ago it was widely pirated across the campus networks. But now as a legitimate buyer I'm feel a little frustrated knowing how expensive and annoying the process is - before you can even sit down and play.

I still intend to buy the game (can't wait). But first I need to buy a new computer (can't wait either). Quad-Core here I come!

The Joy of Vacuuming

February 19, 2010 ~ 07:35pm

My brother bought a Dyson DC24 off of Amazon for my parents as a Christmas present last year. My initial thought was "Did they need another vacuum cleaner?". Then when my dad assembled it, I was a little taken aback. The thing is tiny and looks almost like a toy. It seems a little flimsy and even a little mechanically quirky. And the dirt tray is so small you would have to empty it frequently. When I looked up the item on Amazon, I was a little shocked how much the thing costs.

I assumed it might eventually get shoved into some closet given how gadgets accumulate. That is until I heard stories. ... Apparently my dad uses it all the time. In odd places and at unusual times he would be found vacuuming or cleaning up. What didn't occur to me is that since it is so light, relatively quiet and so incredibly easy to use, the job of vacuuming became less like a chore. Even though you might empty the dirt frequently, its still so simple that it doesn't interfere with your task.

I have a Dirt Devil with a 12 amp jet engine motor that is so loud and difficult to move around, that just the thought of using that thing gives me palpitations. So I might not vacuum as regularly as I should - at the cost of my health! I think the dust bunnies are getting ready to unionize.

Anytime you have a burdensome repetitive job that must be completed, you need to stop and look at your methodology, and in this case: your tools. When I think about my daily tasks, I am aware of the tools I lack, which on my part is just laziness. (I'll fix this over time) When I think about the deficiency in tools for my day-job, it's downright depressing! (A story for another day) ... How much is my time worth? Or my peace of mind? or arm strain?

Don't go out and buy yourself an expensive lightweight vacuum cleaner (like I most likely will). But do take the time to examine how much self-inflicted torture you endure every day just because you might think you're saving yourself a few dollars. Trust me, you're really not.

Thoughts to ponder for anyone - especially those who might call themselves an engineer. (Hope you had a Happy Engineers Week).

A Modest Look Back Over 2009

January 1, 2010 ~ 06:27pm

Happy New Year! I started writing this yesterday, but didn't get a chance to publish.

This last year was quite an revolutionary year. Lots of up's and down's, hello's and goodbye's and some serious shakeups in the workplace. I want to list some of notable points about the last year. There is really no major order, anything and everything that came to mind I added.

Some of the positive things...

  • Had 4 memorable fun trips this year.
  • High point: U2: 360
  • Best CD I purchased: Coldplay: Prospekt's March off Amazon (actually 2 CD's)
  • Best DVD I purchased: The Departed off Ebay (I'm cheap)
  • Smartest purchase: some running shoes
  • Musical talent I found most fascinating in 2009: Lady Gaga (yes, I admit it)
  • Best 2009 Movie I saw: Up from Pixar (so sad, but yet so sweet)
  • The "family" grew not once, but twice
  • Someone I thought for sure would never get hitched actually tied the knot - there is hope after all
  • Old friends: 1 engagement announcement, 1 baby on the way announcement and 1 yes!-i'm-finally-a-daddy SMS!
  • I took the time to really learn something about investing
  • I finally tried Netflix, I feel stupid for waiting so long - and they have so many bollywood/hindi flicks
  • Along the lines of Netflix, also came to enjoy Redbox - how can you beat $1/day rentals?
  • I got Windows 7 Ultimate for free, and I hate to admit I really like it
  • Coolest gadget I should have bought much earlier: Playstation 3, so many things you can do with this thing
  • I DID NOT get laid off from my job

And some of lower points...

  • Sad farewell to my Uncle
  • Missed a chance to visit China (major bummer)
  • Realized I need to be more careful on my diet and lifestyle ... the gut is here
  • Lots of disappointing movies in 2009
    • Terminator: Salvation - had such a b-movie feel to it
    • The Hangover - previews were much better
    • Star Trek - Star Trek should not be sexy!
  • Not many good places to eat outside of the new office location
  • Most annoying personality of the year: Glenn Beck
  • Many friendly intelligent colleagues disappeared from the workplace, hope they learned something
  • I DID NOT get laid off from my job (there's a flip-side to everything)

Of course there are many things that I can't quite categorize. I had a few personal epiphanies (many go beyond the scope of this blog).

  • I realized in the past that I have been quite the luddite. I can't beleive how often I have resisted change.
  • I realized I have no concrete goals. (That's probably the nicest way to put it)
  • I don't really know anything about investing. Years of reading still seem like you're missing something.
  • Deadlines really do make the world go round.

And about this new decade that begins with 2010, I have some hopes and fears. Sadly, they start with health care. America you really messed up. When HR says things like "consumer driven options" it is code for "you are screwed". I can deal with that since I am relatively healthy and not in any position that something will bankrupt me, but others? I'm not so sure. ... And will the movie and music industries get a hint already: adapt or the torrents will destroy you! ... Netflix, Redbox and on-demand streaming: maybe cable TV is no longer necessary? ... And the real gem for this coming year: more Android phones! (even though Google is beginning to scare me).

And in conclusion, I did actually pick one real resolution: I resolve to stay single for 2010. Tougher than I originally thought...

Happy New Year

California 2009

October 29, 2009 ~ 09:47pm

I got back from my trip to California last night. As previously noted I was intending to relax a bit but that never really happened. For better or worse (more of the better), I went around. A lot!. I had a different city for pretty much every day. And I really don't know what I was expecting, but the traffic and driving were too much for me. Although, I was doing much more traveling on account that I was a tourist.

I had a relatively painless flight into I flew into LAX Thursday night and right off the bat, I could see why people dread that airport. Too much traffic, crowds, commotion, police - enough to make you want to avoid it. It took well over an hour and half to get to where I was staying in Orange County with my brother.

I was on the beach Friday and later drove out to the Santa Monica Pier to watch a Cirque Du Soleil show: Kooza. It was pretty entertaining. I will have to write a more in depth review of this in the days to come.

Saturday we spent the day in San Diego. We watched the UofM vs Penn State game at the Pacific Beach Bar & Grill where apparently there is a significant number of Michigan fans. I met up with some college friends and we did some site seeing in San Diego. What a gorgeous city! The view from the top at Cabrillo National Monument overlooking the San Diego Bay was magnificent. You could see all the way to Tijuana (no I did not visit there). Lots more to do there. Sadly I did not plan enough time. Perhaps next trip?

Sunday after church, we drove up to Pasadena. I made a quick side trip to El Monte to visit someone, but eventually we reached our destination: Rose Bowl Stadium to see U2 perform. This will definitely require an additional post. Despite some drunk-thinks-she's-hot girl accidentally pouring beer all over me, I still did manage to enjoy the performance. The U2 360 Tour was just over the top, but an 100% unforgettable experience! We were lucky enough to have someone arrange free parking for us, but unlucky enough to get lost on the way back.

Monday, after a late night, we once again drove back into the mess. This time to Universal Studios Hollywood. I think this may be my first trip to a Theme Park as opposed to a general amusement park. It was really fun, with extra praise for The Simpson's Ride (did it twice!) and The Mummy Ride. Unfortunately the Terminator 3-D attraction was closed down, which was a major let down. Otherwise the park was pretty fun. I think we picked a great day to go as we never waited more than 20 minutes for anything. The people who paid double the general admission price were foolish, there is no way they got their money's worth! We had dinner at the park and I split up to catch up with a friend. We did some cruising through the nicer nearby areas. By that night I noticed my voice had pretty much given out. Probably the screaming..err..singing at the concert.

Tuesday I had lunch in Anaheim. Nothing special, just a place to relax halfway between LA and Laguna Beach. Spent the evening not doing anything special. Watched some DVD's, had some drinks and told some silly old stories. Sometimes the craziness gets a little too crazy with siblings, but all in all enjoyable.

Wednesday I flew back. I wouldn't mention the flight, but the damnedest thing happened. We encountered some unusual turbulence. Apparently somewhere near Colorado, we hit some "mountain wind" which caused the plane to instantaneously drop 500 ft in altitude. It was quite shocking and in truth, a little exhilarating. Everything flew 2-3 feet straight up (including un-belted passengers). I wasn't really scared considering I was buckled down, but the attendants were yelling at everyone to sit down. The real mess was that the passenger next to me had a full glass of wine that also flew up 2 feet and hit me in the stomach, crotch and right leg. It was a mess. I endured over 2 hours smelling like wine sitting in a wet seat. He felt terrible, but I figured it wasn't the worst thing, his wife's wine covered the seat and lady's hair sitting in front of her.

But besides that, I think I was really happy with my time spent in "Cali". I think my brother and I were a bit too ambitious when planning considering we intended to do much more with less time. Even so, I am quite impressed how much we were able to enjoy. This was a first for me visiting where everyone had their S.O. with them. Everyone was a good host (and hostess) to me, considering how thoroughly irritating I can be (was ... am ... will be).

Lots of fun stuff and crazy stuff. Dowsed with alcohol twice (luckily no one lit me on fire ... although some of those California girls ... ). First time doing continuous status updates on my mobile. Too much driving (almost 600 miles total!!!). Lots of talking, singing and screaming. For the people who were making the pitch I should consider relocating ... well, all I can say is this trip was a really compelling argument.

Much more things to say, but I fergit, ask me and I'll tell you. A review on the performances to follow...

Canon Cameras and Customer Support

June 28, 2009 ~ 03:01pm

I think it was during late 2004, that my younger brother said he wanted to buy a digital camera since he would be taking a trip to France. After a little bit of research (and seeing the ugly pictures from a co-worker's Sony camera), we both settled on a Canon PowerShot S410. I had a gift certificate from Best Buy, so I picked up S500 that Christmas (same camera but 5MP instead of 4.1MP). I have never regretted that purchase. For the past 4+ years my camera has taken some great pictures on various trips and vacations (especially my last India trip).

Unfortunately, last Christmas my S500 had developed a minor problem where every picture had either a purple bar or light pink/purple hue in all of the pictures. Luckily a few months previous to my younger brother's wedding, my youngest brother had picked up a PowerShot SD 880 IS which took some great pictures at the wedding. The only issue was that there were some moments that a better camera might have produced better pictures. So, reluctant to invest in an DSLR, my oldest brother bought a PowerShot SX10 IS which produced some amazing pictures at my youngest brother's wedding last month!

However, it became quite obvious that the SX10 might be inconvenient for quick pictures and trips when I needed to pack lightly. So I thought I would go ahead and purchase a new camera similar in size to my S500. However, before I did, I found a story about Canon Support on the Consumerist website. I thought I had nothing to lose in contacting tech support. Before I contacted them, I decided that I would be willing to pay ~$100 to have it fixed. Primarily because (1) I had accessories (case, spare batteries, 2 2GB Compact Flash cards) and (2) I would end up spending at least double for a new camera.

I finally got around to calling them 2 weeks ago on Monday (Jun 15). The tech support lady was quick to tell me that there was an advisory that did affect my S500. She also stated they would evaluate it and tell me the repair cost. So they emailed me a free UPS shipping label, and I sent in just my camera (no accessories) on Wednesday (Jun 17). The UPS tracker stated the camera arrived at their repair center on Friday (Jun 19). It wasn't until Monday (Jun 22) that I got an email stating that all repairs would be done free of charge. I was so happy. The final email I received was on Thursday (Jun 25) that the camera was fixed and shipped on FedEx Next Day Air. This last Friday my fixed camera was waiting for me after work. Great service for less than 2 weeks!

I didn't start out to write a "Canon Love Fest", but I can honestly say that there is nothing better than a company that produces good products and (more importantly) has great customer service. My biggest regret was not contacting tech support earlier.