Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Latest Gadget

For the past few months, my boss has been asking me to purchase a smart phone, and I've been a bit ambivalent about his request. The "no" part of me has been resistant because I work part time, and I enjoy not being plugged in to work all day every day. I've been smart phone-free for about two years. The first month was a bit difficult, but after that, I've kind of enjoyed having a basic phone.

But then again, there's the "yes" part of me... the part that missed not having a smart phone. Let's face it, I'm a geek, so I love gadgets. I like being able to play mindless games or surf the internet when I'm in line at the store. And I really like the idea of having GPS on my phone (not that I ever get lost, mind you).

My boss sweetened the deal by offering to split the phone's purchase price and the cost for the associated data plan. Yesterday I finally bit the bullet and purchased the HTC Touch Pro 2. (Click here for a review that's far more thorough than anything I can provide.)

I went with a Windows smart phone for work reasons... it has proven integration with Microsoft Exchange, so I can receive my work email, and it has Remote Desktop, which will allow me to manage work computers from virtually anywhere.

The major down side of the phone is that the phone quality isn't quite as good as my last cell phone, but you can't have everything. In exchange for slightly lower phone quality, I have a gadget that will keep me occupied for the next several months.

The coolness factor was so high that my wife and my best friend BOTH had gadget envy. I don't think that's ever happened. Like I said at the beginning of this post, it's been two years since I've had a smart phone. It's genuinely impressive to see how far the technology has progressed in that time.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Latest Project Around the House

After a decade of tolerating my kitchen, I've decided to do something about it. More accurately, my wife and I have decided to change things. The previous owner painted the cabinets white, and the walls are a disgusting beige. Anyone who has kids and/or dogs knows that white is not the ideal color for a kitchen. Here's a "before" shot.

I decided that I'd start the project by stripping the paint from the cabinets and drawers, just to see what's under the paint. On the floor, you may notice my heat gun and putty knife. When I took this "before" shot, I'd already started removing the paint in another area of the kitchen. You may also notice the beer can sitting on the stove. Very few projects around my house are accomplished without the consumption of this most lovely of malt beverages.

After stripping the first set of drawers and the surrounding frame, I've decided that it's definitely worth my time to strip the paint off of all of the cabinets. It took me approximately five hours to remove the paint from this area. So it's very time-consuming, but in the end I think it will be more than worth the effort -- especially considering how much more it would cost to reface the cabinets. Here's a shot of what the bare wood after stripping and sanding.

You may notice that the cabinet frame doesn't really show the wood's natural grain nearly as well as the drawers themselves. I plan to address this by staining everything to help bring out the natural grain in the finish.

In the past, most of the renovation projects around the house have been mine. I'd choose what to do, when to do it, and how it would be done. Mrs. Evan always seems to trust my vision and invariably conveys satisfaction with the end result; but I really wanted her to give more input on this project. After some discussion, I think we're going to base the project around the color yellow -- similar to the coffee mug shown on the counter above the recently-sanded drawers. We may also add a shade of orange for an accent color... we're still working that out.

Either way, we're leaning toward using a water-based stain for the wood, and tinting the stain with a color similar to the yellow we're using for our primary color in the paint scheme. Additionally, I've discovered that the center portions of the cabinets can be removed, and we will probably replace them with a frosted glass. The glass should make the kitchen look a bit larger, and since it's frosted, we won't have to keep them completely organized.

Overall, I suspect this project will take around two months -- one month to strip the paint from the cabinets, and one month for painting, staining, trim work and any accents we choose to add. Fortunately, all of this work can be done in bits and pieces, and we don't have to worry about being without our kitchen for any amount of time.

I'm also pleased to see that my younger daughter is interested in what I'm doing, and has already spent nearly an hour helping me with removing the paint and sanding.

Another Nice Winter Pic

I really enjoy looking out of my picture window and seeing winter sights like this in my back yard.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Removing the Training Wheels

Some of you may know that I've been playing guitar in my church band. More accurately, I've been playing with the church band on Thursday evenings, which is practice night, and we play for a small group that has a Thursday activity at the church.

Furthermore, since I'm the new guy, and because my skills are still developing, I've been playing on a small practice amp. The result is that I can hear myself well, but the others in the church band and the small group can't hear my mistakes.. er, I mean my playing.

The main guitarist recently had a shift change at work, and won't be able to attend Thursday evening practices for a while. As a result, I was asked to plug in to the main amp tonight, which meant that everyone could hear me, warts and all. I'm pleased to announce that my playing was pretty good. I strictly played rhythm guitar during the small group performance, but afterward, I did some lead riffing and it didn't suck. It was really cool. And, by the way, I only the slightest bit nervous.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Left-Handed Guitar Player's Trade-Off

When I finally decided to learn the guitar, I was faced with the usual lefty's dilemma... do I learn to play right-handed, thus giving me the full selection of guitars, do I learn to play left-handed, effectively limiting the instruments available to me, or do I bastardize a right-handed axe?

Though it worked for Hendrix, I immediately ruled out modifying a right-handed guitar. You see, most guitars are non-symmetrical, with a notch cut out of the body that allows the fret hand to work farther up the neck of the guitar. I didn't want to sacrifice that range. Besides, most guitars are works of art, and I have a tough time improving on such beautiful craftsmanship.

I ruled out playing left-handed for practical reasons. A friend of mine had a guitar he wasn't using -- a nice Fender Stratacaster -- so I began learning on that. After a few lessons, I asked my guitar teacher about the trade-offs of my approach, and he admitted that he didn't know. Well, after a few years of playing, I now feel qualified to tell you the trade-off for a lefty playing a right-handed guitar...

The trade-off is speed in your pick hand. I've been playing guitar for somewhere around four years now, and my picking is SLOW! This is partially because I'm VERY left-handed, but don't let me fool you... it's also because I don't practice as often as I could. But to quantify it, I pulled out the metronome yesterday and my picking speed is about 225 bpm. Yes, that's my quarter note speed, and yes, that's WITH alternate picking. My skill is roughly on par with the guy who strums his acoustic guitar while sitting around campfires, singing slightly off-key.

If I had it to do over again, I'd probably still be playing a right-handed guitar, but only because my friend allowed me to use his axe for so long. If I'd have needed to purchase before playing, I'd probably go lefty.

Monday, February 8, 2010

One Good Thing About Winter

One night a couple of weeks ago, I looked outside and saw one of the nice things about winter... a large, early-evening moon, partially covered with wispy clouds, and the moonlight reflecting off of the snow. I had to take a picture. Bear in mind that it's a bit blurry because I used no flash and no tripod, but I still have to share it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Retarded Bitch Says that we Shouldn't say "Retard"

Curious what I'm talking about? Read here.
Retard, Retard, Retard, Retard, Retard!!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

F*cking Monopolies!

Why is it that the cable company requires customers to pay in advance, but then also require you to wait six to eight weeks for any refunds when you cancel your service with them? Adding insult to injury, they're already sending me marketing crap asking me to sign up with their service!