Daily grind

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We could start a fund for you

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

A short video interview with Nate on the ride to the airport from the end of the Berlin trip. The fund is started – send me money to contribute!

The bacon chocolate martini

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Question: what do you get when you combine three of my favorite things; bacon, chocolate, and liquor?

Answer: the bacon chocolate martini at the Capitol Club, Capitol Hill, Seattle.

Chocolate bacon martini

Bless the Capitol Club, and bless Ali and TB for doing dinner with me last night at the Capitol Club. Good luck gals – twins on the way!

Update: A few days after posting this I’ve gotten a couple of emails asking for more details so here they are. The bacon chocolate martini is far from a martini – it’s not crisp nor light. It’s thick, heavy, and delicious. In fact, think of it more as a dessert than as a cocktail. The Godiva chocolate liquor used gives an almost milkshake like texture to this rich sensual delight.

The drink itself is more focused on the chocolate than the bacon. The bacon infused vodka adds more of a bacon note to the drink than an overwhelming bacon flavor. The candied bacon garnish is a sweet finish and tastes delicious dipped in the chocolate between nibbles. The Capitol Club was smart to start with maple cured bacon and then candy it – the ultra sweetness added by this process works perfectly with the natural salty flavor of the bacon when combined with chocolate.

An exercise in driving efficiency

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Having just driven downtown to pick up Mike and give him a ride to his car I was struck (brutally and repeatedly) by the fact that American drivers suck. At least in the small corner of Berlin that I saw drivers were efficient, courteous, attentive, and knowledgeable of the rules and customs of the road. Cars, bicycles, and pedestrians shared the road with very few slowdowns and no rudeness or sense of danger for those not protected by thousands of pounds of metal car frame.

For such a relaxed people the inhabitants of Berlin all seem to have the German sense of efficiency drilled into their very cores related to driving resulting in quick and productive transport.

P.S while on the topic of cars, I want one of these:

The definition of fast

Berlin in brief

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Berlin is awesome – I suspect that is a condition which actually applies to much of Europe as well, but as I don’t have time to go personally verify that statement I’ll stick to Berlin for the time being. The culture here is delightfully efficient while maintaining an easy going pace and a friendly atmosphere. Every German I’ve met has smiled at me when speaking, and seems genuinely happy to see me – certainly not something you could say about the States.

Hotel Concorde at sunrise

HP has put us up in the Concorde, a beautiful 5 star hotel in the West German town center. It’s a great location which makes walking hither and yon an easy task. As busy as I’ve been I’ve taken every effort to get out and explore, taking photos along the way. I’m way behind in posting those photos, but I’ll try to catch up in the next few days and get another batch uploaded to my Flickr stream.

Ciao for now – off to get ready for the first day of interviews.

International mid-flight bloggery?!

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

First international trip ahoy! While watching a few DVD rips on the flight over I’ve decided to kill some time writing both this entry as well as the bulk of the first draft of my HP Mini-note 2133 review for Gear Live.

Getting on the flight was also an interesting experience. I’m not sure if this is normal for international flights but they had a long line of customs agents lining the hallway to the plane as I entered and were pulling every other passenger or so off to ask them conversational questions about their trip and duration. I suspect given the way the conversation happened that they were looking for nervousness or other signs of illicit activity.

While Northwest Airlines is no British Airways or Virgin it does manage to impress with a few amenities. Most notably is the inclusion of standard united states AC power outlets for each seat enabling laptop usage during the entire 12 hour flight without the use of additional batteries or proprietary charging adapters.

Aside from the availability of power (sweet, sweet power) the Airbus plane I’m on features a small screen embedded into the back of every seat. Coupled with a wired remote control in the armrest this screen is theoretically supposed to offer on-demand movies, in-flight information, games, and a variety of ways to part from one’s money. However the particular linux-powered system in my (rather the row of seats I am currently occupying) seems to have some problems as after three hard resets they still can’t get movies working. The attendant offered me 5,000 air miles for my trouble, but as I fly about once a year it wasn’t really worth the trouble of filling out the paperwork to claim them. Poor me.

*** time passes ****

I’m currently hurtling above the Atlantic ocean near Greenland at approximately 580MPH. As such the flight has been blessedly uneventful. The food service is average at best, but not so bad when I factor the fact that it’s being served to me 36,995 feet in the air while hurtling along at nearly the speed of sound.

I’ve been struck by how many male flight attendants there are on this flight. In my past experiences most flight crews have been predominately female – a stark departure from this 2:1 male to female ratio I’m seeing for this one. I wonder if that’s because this is an international flight, because this is a Northwest flight, or if I’m just lucky to get some decent eye candy on the 10 hour leg of my journey.

*** more time passes ***

While whisking along through the air I decided to flip through my download of Little Brother, Cory Doctorow’s latest book. It’s actually a fairly creepy book to read given how close it smacks to the truth. The subject of the book is a kid, barely 17, who is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is detailed and questioned for potential involvement in a terrorist act. Having just been questioned needlessly by customs while leaving the country I’m suddenly even more aware at how the United States government has become just a little too Orwellian of late, all in the name of protection.

*** even more time passes ***

Well, Little Brother is done, and an excellent book. Bravo to Cory for writing in a language that the up and coming generation can understand bringing light to an issue that often adults find confusing. I highly recommended reading it – wether from a free download from Cory’s website or by purchasing it from your local retailer (and thus supporting Cory).

On a less related note I’m very glad that this plane has AC outlets. I’m already more than 8 hours into this flight and think that without the digital comfort provided by my laptop in the form of books, movies, and music I would have gone stir crazy by now. As is I think I’m on the verge of stir crazy just based on the fact that I’ve essentially been sitting in the same cramped and uncomfortable seat for 8 hours straight without standing up now. I can’t wait for the flight to land (less than 2 hours now) so I can stretch my legs and get some circulation going again.

*** time passes, but not much ***

Although walking about is discouraged I finally couldn’t take it any more. I managed to do a few laps around the plane (and hit the frighteningly small bathroom). It wasn’t much, but after 8 hours I’m not too picky when it comes to stretching my legs.

I’m now struck by the prevailing fact that I’m further from my home (or my birthplace) than I’ve ever been before. In the grand scheme of things it’s pretty trivial to be 4,037 miles away from Seattle (if the in-seat entertainment unit is to be trusted) given how man is on the verge of exploring the universe and expanding our horizons on a cosmic scale, but it’s still a big deal for me.

I’m very interested to see what my personal take on Europe is going to be. Somehow it now seems strange to only have a single viewpoint on life, to have only seen the American way. From what I’ve heard the rest of the world is a very different place – I’m eager to see how different (and how the same) it really is from the reality I’ve known my whole life.

*** 700 miles remaining to Amsterdam ***

As I’m sure my mother could attest I’m not so good at sitting still. I’m not so good at traveling either. I guess combining the two is one of those little personal tests one must go through to experience the world. Weird thing is that if my 101 goals are to be believed then I’ll be doing this all over to visit Japan, and then a miniature version of this to see the east coast of the United States.

Side note: I wonder what kind of coffee will greet me at the Amsterdam International Airport. Regardless of type, quality, or concentration I can assure you that immediately upon landing coffee will be consumed.

*** 48 minutes remaining to touchdown ***

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? How about now? Now? Soon? Are we there yet?

Further side note: The iProduct is ubiquitous. Of the approximately 30 people I can see from my vantage here in the bowels of a giant plane I can count no less than 18 of them using the signature white earbuds. Sadly I myself am in this lot while I wait for my Vibe Duo’s to come back (yet again) from Vibe after their last failure.

*** the second leg ***

I’m currently on the second (and much shorter) leg of my journey. Nate and I made it to Amsterdam and got a chance to stretch our legs and wander about the Amsterdam airport for a few hours. Now that we have boarded our final leg we have less than one hour remaining until we land in Germany.

I’m busy cramming Learn German 101 podcasts trying to brush up my vocabulary to a meager minimum to allow me to get by. Yes – I realize that on the plane to Germany is likely not the best time to be learning German, but really when it comes right down to it I think this falls into the ‘better late than never’ category.

I’m quite looking forward to landing and getting checked in to our hotel. We will be landing at roughly 2pm local time and have the rest of the day free. After a quick shower I’m hoping to get out into Berlin with my camera and get in a little tourist time before the HP PSG event starts and I get sucked into work related stuff.

And I’m off!

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Bags packed, puppy loved, and more portable computing power at my beck and call then anyone would really consider neccesary. Waiting now for Brian to show up so we can swoop north for Nate, then south to the port of air.

Wish me luck in Berlin!

Crown of pain

Friday, June 6th, 2008

This morning brought an early morning dental appointment to fit my latest crown. This is the first time I’ve gotten a crown over a live tooth as opposed to one that that had either died of (un)natural causes, or had been subject to a root canal.

I now see why people cringe at the thought of crowns – putting a ceramic cap on a live nerve certainly makes for a tender mouth. My dentist said it was actually due to a galvanic response which between my naturally saline saliva and the metals used in crown construction can create a weak battery and thus current to stimulate the nerve ending with. Luckily this should fade within a day or two and I’ll be left with yet another ready-for-anything ceramic chomper with which to chew for the rest of my biological days.

Also: squeeeeeeeeeeeee! Berlin in 12 hours!!!one!

How to make great iPhone wallpaper

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Being an ADHD design nerd (or is that Apple fanboy) I’m frequently changing up the wallpaper on my iPhone. As a some of the wallpapers I published in an earlier post have crept up to some of my most frequently viewed Flickr photos I thought I would post a quick write up on how I select and make my oft-changed iPhone wallpapers.

I primarily use Photoshop for my image editing work and this process will be easy if you have Photoshop and are comfortable using it. It’s a very simple process and could be completed with virtually any image editor, although ones that can read Photoshop (PSD) files will make it easier to import the template discussed below. If you don’t want to spend money on a photo editing application GIMP is a free option that offers a decent interface and lots of tools to experiment with.

The first step of the process lies ahead: selecting the image to use. Ideally images should fit into one of two categories. These images have either a uniform simplicity, or a design flow that works with the iPhones overlaid controls.

The first type of image that works well has a uniformity to it. Because of the user interface controls partially obscuring the locked iPhone wallpaper images that focus on color or texture will work very well for this as obscuring a part of this kind of image does not hide key aesthetic elements. This kind of image is great for capturing a favorite color or surface while not adding distraction to Apple’s clean and minimalistic design.

Contrail to God iPhone wallpaper
A simplistic background

The second type of image that works well are images with a central focal point that is well buffered by simplicity. As the top and bottom of the iPhone are obscured by the overlaid controls having an image which can appreciated from the lower than center portion of the viewport on the lock screen, and with a background or less important top and bottom that are not critical to the aesthetic appeal of the image.

When taking photos for use as an iPhone wallpaper consider using a very narrow depth of field to direct interest to the center area of a vertical shot. Alternatively for a bolder look consider incorporating strong design elements such as bright angular sections of color. Remember that although the top and bottom will be obscured the image will still bleed through the overlay and provide some visual impact.

Sunlit frond iPhone wallpaper
A more visually complicated sweet spot

Once an image is selected I use the iPhone template pictured below to help me compose it for the iPhone. I found this template on the Mac Rumors forum in this thread. Full credit goes to TheSpaz who created the awesome resource and shared it with the world.

The template is free to download and comes in the form of a PSD template with each element set up in a separate layer with the correct opacity. This template makes it easy to drop an image into the background layer and compose it to look its best on the iPhone.

As your source image is likely much larger than 320×480 pixels you will have to transform the image down to size. By using Photoshop’s free transform option on the layer you can adjust both the scaling of the image, as well as drag it around to ensure that the portion of the image you want visible is perfectly framed by the overlays.

The shot being used in this particular tutorial was taken with a Lensbaby, a lens that adds a significant amount of blur and vignetting away from the center of the screen. This effect helps draw the eye into a subject and simplify the background making it ideal for use in creating iPhone wallpapers. If you have an image you really like, but that does not work well with the overlays due to visual distractions consider vignetting the image in photoshop by gently blurring or darkening the top and bottom edges to draw the eye to the center of the composition.

Because the iPhone displays bright colors so well I usually find that bumping up the saturation of an image 4-8% adds a bit of pop to the wallpaper. A slight bit of sharpening with the unsharp mask filter often helps more detailed images retain clarity on the iPhone’s densely packed pixels. Both of these steps also help make the image look it’s best once it is saved out of the Photoshop format and into either a JPEG or PNG image.

Once you are happy with how your image looks within the preview offered by the template you are ready to save the image and put it on your iPhone. For this process you don’t want the templates overlays added so hide all of the overlay layers leaving your resized and cropped photo and any adjustment layers as your final image. From the file menu select ‘Save for Web & Devices’ to compress your final wallpaper down. I usually save my wallpapers as 32bit PNG images, however JPEG format backgrounds will work just as well.

Save the wallpaper with a recognizable name into the location where you have iTunes set to sync photos from. The next time you sync your iPhone the image will be synced into the iPhone’s library. From there you can view the image with the Photos application and then click the export scarab at the bottom of the screen to select that image for use as your wallpaper.

If you are interested in the image above the version saved without the overlays suitable for immediate iPhone use is here. You can also get the original PSD file here including all the layers, adjustments, and overlays used to create this.

The EeePC 900 vs. the Macbook Pro

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

After mentioning my new EeePC 900 in my memorial day catchup post a few people emailed me to ask how big (or small) it really was. To hopefully answer the question about my delightful little netbook I present the following pictorial evidence of the diminutive EeePC stacked atop it’s big powerhouse of a brother, my 15″ Macbook Pro.

EeePC and Macbook Pro

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