Happiness. Short-term, stupid, self-interest.

Home Renovation – The Background

Our home in upstate New York is a 3 bedroom ranch style home with a bonus room (or, 4th bedroom). It also has 2.5 baths, a full basement and a two car garage. It is much larger than it appears and I have really fallen in love with the layout, though there are some trade offs.

house-in-october-004_sm_alt.jpgThe kitchen was not ideal. It was a small, galley kitchen, and not only do we like to cook, but the kitchen is the one place in the house that everyone eventually migrates to whether it is just the immediate family, or if you are hosting a party. We also had a formal dining room which was good for formal dining, but inconvenient for everyday use. The kitchen was going to be where our family mingled everyday and we wanted it to be a special place for our kids to grow up. So, justifying a kitchen remodel became easy and we and started talking with several kitchen designers.

One designer gave us the idea of flipping the dining room and kitchen and we loved it, so we went with it. We were deeply involved with the kitchen design and luckily had a designer that was great to work with. We both threw out ideas and the designer kept it in line with what was actually doable. The design was very functional and it still gave us all the features we take credit for, like the breakfast peninsula, the window to watch the kids play outside while washing the dishes, the cherry apothecary drawers, the open room eat-in family dining room, and all the lighting was my design.

Now, I’m not claiming to have done the work myself. We hired professionals so that they could have the whole thing done in one month, which they did. I also did not run into any contractor horror stories and they did a great job, so I have no problem saying that it was worth the $30K to accomplish it. (that includes appliances, floors, doors, windows, cabinets, lighting, plumbing, labor, etc)

kitchen.jpgWith more luck, we timed it just right and were able to re-fi the whole thing back into our mortgage due to the increasing value of real estate at that time. Looking back, we use it just like we imagined but tenfold. It is the center of our home and we love it. No regrets, I’d do it again in an instant. (except maybe to go for the under-mount sink next time and not let the contractor talk me out of one of my recessed lights)

That’s the background; and the fact that we love the room and layout so much and that we would do it again in an instant gives us an idea… (to be continued)


December 29, 2006 Posted by | Home Improvement | Leave a comment

Finding a Good Podcast

I love talk radio. When I am by myself, driving, or cooking, or doing anything that doesn’t take 100% of my concentration, I most often would rather listen to talk radio than to music. I’m a big fan of Car Talk on NPR, NPR in general, and ESPN Radio. And so, when I discovered the world of podcasts, I found a new way to listen to talk radio anytime I wanted to.

(I love music as well, especially when running or for a pick-me-up; and so, I have both on my MP3 player) (But not the player that I immersed in a bucket of acid)

podcast-alley.jpgYou can find podcasts on just about anything you want, from comedy to coffee, money to Muggles, home cooking to home theater, or sports to spirituality. Unfortunately, not all podcasts are created equally. Not only are there no FCC regulations, but there is nothing that says they even have to know what you are talking about. There is no age requirement, and not necessarily related, there is no maturity requirement. As a matter of fact, there are no regulations what-so-ever as far as I can tell.

google.jpgThe first thing you will have to do is to find podcasts on subjects you are interested in. [obvious] You can Google for them – try Google with subject followed by ‘podcast’, like: “lawn care” podcast – or, you can go to a website like Podcast alley where most podcasts are listed by subject and rated.

So, how do you to spot the good ones…?

It will take some sampling, but that’s what the fast forward button is for. A general rule of thumb is that podcasts put out by companies in an effort to market their product will typically have a higher quality (as opposed to a podcast put out by a couple of friends in their basement drinking beer) You do have to be careful, though, that you are not getting biased information.
Also, podcasts with real sponsors are a good indication that there is at a minimum level of maturity and seriousness because companies aren’t going to pay you for drinking beer in your basement; unless, perhaps, it is a beer company that is what you are podcasting about. (www.CraftBeerRadio.com)

Since anyone can make a podcast, expect to find people who think they are experts in a particular subject, but are not. A lot of podcasts out there contain incorrect information. The better podcasters at least try to correct themselves in future shows. If you know anything about the subject they are talking about, it shouldn’t take you long to realize how much they may truly know about what they are talking about.

Podcasts where the hosts will read, or respond to your email questions/comments, is good indication that they are paying attention to their audience; which in turn, leads to more pertinent and interesting topics.

A good rule of thumb for a weekly produced podcast is that if it is over an hour long it is probably filled with nonsensical, off topic, conversations. The worst of them is a bunch of teenage-ish guys giggling like a bunch of teenage girls over their inside jokes that no one understands. The best podcasts are about a half hour, or force themselves to cut content to make sure it is under an hour.

There are podcasts out there that meet all of the above things I’ve mention. Now, I can discuss and debate topics all day that relate to my profession, so while I have listened to those podcasts… well, they bore me. I picked a couple of subjects that I’m very interested in as a past time namely, Home Theater and Video Games, and I’m loving ’em.

My favorite Home Theater podcast is the HTGuys; though I really haven’t tried many of the others out there.

nextgen.jpgMy favorite video game podcast is Next-Gen, which focuses more on games in development rather than reviews of what is out there now. (I admit that I am guilty of enjoying following the development of a game more than playing it) Hosted by Colin Campbell, Gary Whitta and Jeremy Williams, these guys always have interesting subjects and give good, and different, points of view on them. Also, their prominence in their industry puts them in the position to get interviews with the big guys, like Valve & Bethesda. PCGamer also has a great crew and their own podcast. Producer Jeremy Williams is aces at putting both of these together. (I also tend to always agree with Jeremy). The results of both of these podcasts are interesting, mature, well spoken, entertaining and even humorous shows.

ESPN offers some podcasts for free, others you will need to be an ESPN Inside Subscriber.

Lastly, check out NPR, as they put most their shows up for download as well, in case you missed your favorite, or if it is just not on when you want to listen. Car Talk, unfortunately, is not free. (The current show is streamable for free) Of course, they are big shots these days so they need the money to hob-knob with their new Hollywood friends. 😉

December 20, 2006 Posted by | Gaming, Home Theater, Tech | 3 Comments

Net Neutrality

The “Net Neutrality” issue is summed up in this nifty video from the “Save the Internet” group’s perspective.

While I’ve signed the petition, I still wish I knew more about both sides of the issue. For instance, I keep thinking, there may be consumer benefits that are just not clear at this time. For instance, might my service provider be able to guarantee delivery of high definition video content by being able to prioritize some content?

It just so happens I work with the technologies can regulate bandwidth and guarantee quality of service (QoS). Implemented correctly, QoS doesn’t starve some traffic for the sake of others; rather, it allows both to fit through the network pipe in a timely fashion together and neither are affected. It can also regulate against malicious and bandwidth hogging applications that adversely affect your experience. This concept may seem impossible to you… that you can actually fit more through a connection by regulating and specifiy guarantees, as opposed to just sending everything through as fast as you can, but it is true and it gets down and dirty technical with the TCP rate shaping controls. (But I won’t go there… just trust me)

Of course, I also understand that implementing QoS incorrectly, or in a biased fashion, is something to be feared.

December 18, 2006 Posted by | Life in general, Tech | Leave a comment

Razorwire : News : MMO Supergroup forms: Schilling, MacFarlane, Salvatore

Less intresting, and I haven’t seen yet how this will turn into something great, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. Razorwire : News : MMO Supergroup forms: Schilling, MacFarlane, Salvatore

December 9, 2006 Posted by | Gaming | Leave a comment

Wired News: Firefly Reborn as Online Universe

Wired News: Firefly Reborn as Online Universe

(I love Firefly)

December 8, 2006 Posted by | Gaming, TV | Leave a comment

What’s Not Popular

I get these daily and once in a while I look at them. I circled what to look at so you can see what I found so interesting.


The industry has been very fun to follow lately. I have so much to say but not enough time to write it all down for you.

December 8, 2006 Posted by | Gaming | 1 Comment

It’s a MuVo, not an iPod! – Part II

muvo-tx-white.jpgThe MuVO I love is the Creative Labs MuVo TX FM. I love it for these reasons:

  • MP3 player (plus many other formats)
  • FM Radio
  • Voice Recorder
  • Tiny (smaller than a cigarette lighter)
  • Versatile
  • Cheap

The versatility and size is the best part. It fits in a small pocket or clips on your pants easily. It can be used as a plain flash stick and it is not restricted to any one piece of software for file transfer. (drag and drop works just fine) It is gym friendly, as I don’t have to have a big iPod TV strapped to my arm.

Oh, and the cost… you can get a 1GB player for $65. I don’t need a lot of memory because I have no need to store my entire collection of music on it. It is easy enough to put a couple standby folders along side of my “Current Music” and “Current Podcasts” folder.

The largest drawback of my blue MuVo TX is that a bucket of acid will completely deform the plastic and fry the internal components – instantly.

December 4, 2006 Posted by | Life in general, Tech | Leave a comment

What This Guy’s Playing – Dec ‘06

Playing is fun. I’m glad I’m a guy… we get to play cool stuff. I’d like to give a monthly update on what I’m playing, and what I’m looking at playing. So here is a first installment.

Video Games

    Now Playing

  • PlanetSide – I’ve joined back in after a short hiatus. (3 months is short in a 3 year span) Our outfit population is on the rise and playing has been fun with a bowl of popcorn and a mug of ale at my side.
  • TrackMania – Matthew plays more than me, but I love to play the tracks he creates. I haven’t created any of late. I’m going back through each of the games’ single player modes to complete them.
  • Burnout 2 – After loosing all my saved progress from Octoberfest (and I’m only blaming myself for that), I’m back in trying to see how much I can unlock.
    On the Horizon

  • Battle Field 2142 – I have the demo installed but I have no idea how to play. Lag is a problem on some servers. I want to give this a real try.
  • Never Winter Nights 2 – I’m just looking at this. The reviews are good, but with a few bugs, they say. I like the concept that you can create your own adventure. I’m waiting for a demo.
  • Half-Life 2: Episode One – With the new video card installed, I’m going to buy this because after this comes Episode Two. And, with Episode Two, that’s how you get Team Fortress 2.
  • Supreme Commander – I don’t love real time strategy games, but the reviews of this one have got my attention.
  • Lego Star Wars II – Again, reviews for this are fantastic. They say it is as funny as it is fun, too. I hope Santa gives this to Matthew for Christmas.


    Now Playing

  • Just the gym, as normal. The holiday season is tough on schedules; plus I’m afraid to hurt my shoulder again in volleyball. (Matthew is playing soccer.)

On the Horizon

  • I’ll probably sign up for the second indoor soccer session after the New Year. Matthew will likely continue as well. (I’m dreading the influx of New Year resolute’s that will hit the gym in January.)

On the Big Screen

    Now Playing

  • I’m currently watching the FireFly series from the Sci-Fi channel. After seeing the movie Serenity, I had to give the TV series a try and it is awesome!
    On the Horizon

  • Battlestar Galatica, but there is currently a long wait in the NetFlix queue. I need to rent Beerfest as well (because I want to see how bad it is).

Music & Radio

    Now Playing

  • Red
  • Linkin Park
  • NextGen Podcast – I have a whole slew of podcasts I listen to from games, to news, to network security. NextGen is my current favorite.
    On the Horizon

  • Rush’s new album
  • Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me – Recommended by a friend, I’ve got these in the podcast queue.

Life should be fun… GO PLAY!

December 1, 2006 Posted by | Gaming, Life in general, Movies, Music, Sports, TV | Leave a comment