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On kids (2) Tue, Sep 30, 2008
I heard two interesting things about kids recently: 
  1. I learned that the sense of taste is a newborn's strongest sense.  That's why they put everything in their mouth and lick things off the floor.  It's how they figure out information about texture, temperature, and anything else you can learn from licking things.
  2. On expecting the birth of a third child, a bystander quipped, "It's like going from man-to-man to a zone defense."  Well played.

Idling SUVs Mon, Sep 29, 2008
Why is it that people who drive large, black SUVs powered by fuel-wasting V8 engines that will almost definitely never be taken off-road or be used for anything other than carting kids and dogs around to soccer practice and parks, feel the need to let their vehicles sit in the parking lot and idle while they go into the supermarket and buy a few things? #travel

Advertising a failure Mon, Sep 29, 2008
I was listening to the radio while I was driving yesterday, and I heard an ad for AIG.  Yeah, you know, the company we all own now because the government lent it $85 billion of taxpayer money.  I'm no genius, and I have no degrees or experience that allows me to give sound financial advice, but for the love of all things holy, if your company experiences a failure of epic proportions, probably the first thing you should do is eliminate your advertising budget. #entertainment

Obama vs. Palin (1) Fri, Sep 26, 2008
Once again, I hate politics.  I refuse to try to persuade anyone to believe one thing or another, and any time I read the political opinions of random people on the internet, I throw up a little.  But I have two thoughts regarding the current rat race for the presidency: 
  1. I actually hope Obama gets elected.  Whether he does anything good or not is completely beside the point.  I just think it would be good for the health of our nation, our younger voters, and our multitudes of liberal celebrities to finally get their way.  Otherwise, there could be riots.
  2. The biggest criticism of Palin is her lack of experience.  I seem to remember a few months ago when the biggest criticism against Obama was his lack of experience.  Suddenly all these democrats that said you didn't need experience to run the country have changed their mind.
For the record, I side with neither candidate at the moment.  However, I'm leaning towards Palin (and her running mate John what's-his-name) because she's attractive and has a good impersonator in Tina Fey. #politics

Cat puke Fri, Sep 26, 2008
Sometimes I document things solely for the purpose of documenting them, not to share them with other people.  Such is the case with cat puke.  Cats have delicate digestive systems, so they puke all the time.  Most times it's gross, as most puke is.  But other times, I take pictures of the puke because it's funny, whether it's in a weird location or is unusual in shape or content.  But as a person who has a mild understanding of social norms, I know that sharing pictures of cat puke isn't entirely acceptable.  However, today's Friday, so I'm making an exception. 

Exhibit 1 seems to be sending a very clear message:  "Here's what I think of your computer." 

Wendy pointed out that this could legitimately be an intentional message because our cats like to sit in our laps, and guess what often takes up lap space?  The laptop.  It's worth pointing out that the culprit must have carefully aimed this particular puke because the laptop was on the coffee table, not just in the middle of the floor.  So the cat had to get up on the coffee table, position itself so that it would be directly facing a particular section of the laptop, and let loose.  It was a calculated move.  Kind of like this little dog from Cute Overload

Exhibit 2 is from a year ago and requires an explanation.  Sometimes we let our cats outside, and like most cats, they eat grass like it's their job.  Experts disagree on why cats eat grass (whether it's because it tastes good or because it makes them puke up hairballs), but the fact remains that cats do in fact eat grass.  Since our cats live inside, as soon as they run out the door, they chomp down a bunch of grass before we can do anything about it, then they puke it all up as soon as they get inside. 

For some reason, the grass eaten in this particular instance seems to have contained more green coloring than normal.  I remember stumbling upon this green pile of liquid as I was about to go upstairs, and it took me a while to actually figure out what it was. #nature

Other Thu, Sep 25, 2008
Palm Zire 71 - Wendy bought me this for Christmas in 2003 because I had mentioned in passing that it would be cool to own a multipurpose gadget that could used as a phone, mp3 player, camera, etc.  This Palm device was one of the first handheld devices to have a camera, so she thought it would be great.  The camera was really low resolution, so I didn't use it much.  But the device itself got me into the idea of PDAs in general, which influenced my purchases of cell phones in the future. 

Magellan eXplorist 200 - I bought this handheld GPS device used off Amazon for about $65.  I attempted to use it for a few weeks, but was utterly disgusted by its speed, usability, tiny black and white screen, lack of a keyboard, and overall uselessness.  I ended it up selling it on Amazon for about $90, which was thoroughly satisfying. 

iPod Classic 80GB - Wendy and I found this on an empty beach in New Jersey.  No one was around to claim it, so we kept it.  It's a little scratched but otherwise completely functional.  It's an awesome device, is great at organizing music and podcasts, and has great battery life. 

Garmin eTrex Vista HCx - I finally decided to try a new GPS device, and this one is great.  The battery life is excellent, and it's easy to connect to a computer and transfer tracks and waypoints.  It doesn't do many things, but the few things it does, it does well. #gadgets

Computers Thu, Sep 25, 2008
Gateway Pentium II Desktop (1998) - Windows 98, 400 MHz, 10 GB hard drive, 128 MB RAM

Compaq Armada E500 Laptop (2000) - Windows 98, 650 MHz, 10 GB hard drive, 64 MB RAM

Dell Dimension Desktop (2004) - Windows XP, 1 GB RAM

Dell Inspiron 600m Laptop (2005) - Windows XP, 1.4 GHz, 60 GB hard drive, 1 GB RAM

Dell Dimension 4400 Desktop (2006) - Windows XP, 2.4 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 75 GB hard drive

HP NC6400 Laptop (2007) - Windows XP, 1.83 GHz, 1 GB RAM, 60 GB hard drive, 14.1" widescreen LCD

Dell Optiplex GX620 Desktop (2007) - Windows XP, 3.4 GHz, 2 GB RAM, 2 150 GB hard drives, 24" widescreen monitor

Asus EEE PC 1001P Laptop (2010) - Windows 7 Starter Edition, 1.67 GHz, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB hard drive, 10.1" LCD

Dell Latitude E6410 Laptop (2010) - Windows Vista, 2.4 GHz, 2 GB RAM, 149 GB hard drive, 14.1" LED

Dell Precision T7500 Desktop (2012) - Windows 7, 2.4 GHz, 12 GB RAM, 465 GB hard drive #gadgets

Phones Thu, Sep 25, 2008
Motorola T720 (Verizon)
Date Purchased:  June, 2003
Price Paid:  $150
Current Status:  Sold on eBay for $40

This was my first cell phone and a major step in my level of commitment with Wendy, since we started a 2-year family plan when we each got one of these phones.  The price was pretty steep, especially considering the phone didn't do much other than voice calls. 

Samsung SCH A530 (Verizon)
Date Purchased:  March, 2005
Price Paid:  $0
Current Status:  Sold on eBay for $75

I got this phone from a friend for free.  Wendy's phone broke, so I gave her mine and got this one.  I only used it for a few months because it was nearing the end of my contract.  It was an incredibly small phone that worked well. 

Palm Treo 650 (Cingular)
Date Purchased:  June, 2005
Price Paid:  $370
Current Status:  Sold on eBay for $110

This was my first PDA phone, and it was a good choice.  It was also my first experience with a different network, and it was largely positive.  I didn't use the data network until the last few months of my contract, but it really opened my eyes to the possibilities of cell technology. 

Palm Treo 700wx (Sprint)
Date Purchased:  June, 2007
Price Paid:  $310
Current Status:  Sitting in a closet

The experience of switching to Sprint was one I'd like to forget.  The phone, however, is pretty good.  Similar to the Treo 650, but with Windows Mobile instead of a Palm operating system. 

Palm Pre
Date Purchased:  June, 2009
Price Paid:  $200
Current Status:  Sitting in a closet

I was fortunate enough to have my contract up for renewal right when this phone came out, so I jumped on the bandwagon.  It has a bunch of cool features and is fun to play with, so I'm pleased. 

HTC Evo 4G
Date Purchased:  February, 2011
Price Paid:  $180
Current Status:  Sitting in a closet 

Samsung Galaxy S III
Date Purchased:  December 2012
Price Paid:  $100
Current Status:  In use 

Faux Mexican comparison Thu, Sep 25, 2008
I've been into faux Mexican food lately, so here's my comparison of three popular chains: 

Qdoba - I got a standard chicken, peppers, onions, and cheese wrap, and it was one of the worst food items I've ever attempted to force down my gullet in recent memory.  I'm usually good about finishing my food because I don't like to waste money and I can usually put up with bad-tasting food simply to get rid of my hunger.  This was the exception.  I actually stopped eating my barf wrap and threw it the hell out. 
My rating:  0/5 stars

Chipotle - I mentioned this place a few weeks ago and my feelings haven't changed.  I got the chicken, peppers, onions, and cheese wrap, then the next day I got the steak, peppers, onions, cheese, and rice wrap.  I asked the wrap-maker to skip the rice, but he apparently didn't hear me.  But it might've been the best rice I've ever eaten.  The cilantro really brings it all together.  And the wrap-makers do everything right in front of you, which makes the whole process very transparent and comforting. 
My rating:  5/5 stars

La Salsa - I'm not sure how big of a chain this is, but there's one about five minutes from where I work.  Again, I got the standard chicken, peppers, onions, and cheese wrap, but I was surprised to find it also came with broccoli, corn, and other assorted vegetables.  The thing is, they make the wraps somewhere behind the counter, so I didn't know what I was getting until I took the first bite.  I like the idea of the extra vegetables, but it just didn't taste right.  I'm probably going back tomorrow to try it without all those veggies.  Update:  I went back and got the steak, peppers, onions, and cheese, and I asked for no extra vegetables.  The end result was just ok.  My rating stands. 
My rating:  3/5 stars #food

Cameras Wed, Sep 24, 2008
Sony Cybershot DSC-P31
2.0 megapixels, 1.6-inch LCD, no optical zoom
Date Purchased:  June, 2002
Price Paid:  ~$220
Current Status:  Gave it to a friend of a family member

This was my first digital camera, and I actually took a few really good pictures with it.  Many of my early pictures were taken at lower resolution because I was trying to save space on my memory card.  After upgrading and accepting the fact that digital storage space would always be plentiful, I carried this camera with my through several years of college, summer internships, road trips, and my first year of marriage. 

Canon Powershot SD400
5.0 megapixels, 2.0-inch LCD, 3x optical zoom
Date Purchased:  July, 2005
Price Paid:  ~$300
Current Status:  Still being used by Wendy

I bought this somewhat hastily because I was looking around for a new camera, and I happened to come across a deal for a camera on Dell's website.  I signed up for a Dell Preferred Account thinking I would be getting 0% interest for a year, but was sadly mistaken when I saw my first bill and a $30 finance charge.  I was quite pleased by the size of this camera and the quality of pictures it took.  Battery life was a little lacking. 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ5
6.0 megapixels, 2.5-inch LCD, 6x optical zoom, image stabilization. 
Date Purchased:  March, 2007
Price Paid:  ~$200
Current Status:  Sold on eBay for $40

I had been thinking about buying a new camera with more zoom and a bigger LCD, but when I forgot my existing camera for vacation in Hawaii, I was somewhat forced to hastily buy a new one.  I settled on this camera because it had some nice features, and it was pretty cheap.  Although I later read about all the bad reviews it got, it took surprisingly good pictures.  The downside was that it was a bit bulky and its LCD had poor resolution. 

Nikon D40
6.1 megapixels, 2.5-inch LCD
Date Purchased:  January, 2008
Price Paid:  $550
Current Status:  In use

I finally decided to buy a dSLR, and as soon as I collected a bunch of money from Christmas gift cards and found a good deal online, I bought one from Amazon.  It came with the kit lens (18-55mm) and an extra 55-200mm lens.  I'm still learning about this camera and all the great things it can do.  But one thing's for certain:  It takes amazing pictures.  The only major downside so far is that it doesn't have an internal autofocus motor, so it can only use lenses that have their own autofocus mechanism.  This is slightly limiting, but certainly not a deal breaker. 

Casio Exilim EX-V8
8.1 megapixels, 2.5-inch LCD, 7x optical zoom, image stabilization
Date Purchased:  June, 2008
Price Paid:  $200
Current Status:  Sold on eBay for $200

I bought this camera because I wanted something with high zoom.  I got it off eBay (new in box), and immediately took in on a trip to Germany.  I was thoroughly disappointed with the pictures it took.  Many of them were vastly underexposed, leaving certain portions completely black despite the fact that there was full sunlight.  Although, a few pictures came out absolutely amazing and I have no idea why that happened. 

Canon Powershot SD870 IS
8 megapixels, 3.0-inch LCD, 3x optical zoom, image stabilization
Date Purchased:  September, 2008
Price Paid:  $235
Current Status:  In use

After using the Casio for a brief period and then selling it, I wanted a good pocket camera.  I decided against high zoom and instead went for something that was highly rated on CNET.  This is a good, solid camera.  It takes good pictures and has a great LCD.  The only problem I've had is that pictures taken while zoomed-in are sometimes out of focus.  But this is more of a physical limitation than an error. 

Sigma 18-250mm Lens
Zoom Range:  18-250mm
Aperture Range:  f/3.5-6.3
Price Paid:  $500

I wanted a lens to replace my Nikon 18-55mm and my Nikon 55-200mm.  This lens does it well, plus an extra 50mm, plus optical stabilization.  It's noticeably heavy, but that's the price you pay for carrying around such a large zoom range.  Otherwise it's fast and reliable and does the job I want it to do.  It has a few optical peculiarities, such as barrel/pincushion distortion, but it's bearable.  Also, close-up shots aren't always focused as crisp as I like.  But the main complaint I have is a physical one:  When zoomed all the way and using the flash (on the Nikon D40 anyway), the lens gets in the way of the flash such that a dark spot appears in the bottom center.  It's easily avoided by zooming in, but that's not always possible.  Regardless, this is a good all-around lens, and I'm happy I bought it. 

Nikon 35mm Lens
Zoom Range:  35mm
Aperture Range:  f/1.8
Price Paid:  $200

I heard a lot about prime lenses and the "nifty fifty," so I wanted to give this lens a try.  It has a fixed focal length, so zooming is done by physically moving closer or farther away from a target.  Because it offers such a large aperture, the depth of field is often very shallow, which is desirable at times but not all the time.  It's fairly good at low light pictures, but I think you have to modify white balance and things like that, which is a step beyond what I enjoy.  All in all, I'm fairly disappointed with this lens. 

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