Monday, June 27, 2011

Free Society, My Ass!

If we are a free society, then why do we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world?

If we are a free society, then why is the Supreme Court deciding whether or not cops have the right to put a GPS tracking device on someone's car without a warrant?

If we are a free society, then how is law enforcement allowed to seize a person's assets without due process?

If we are a free society, then why can I lose my job or freedom if I choose to consume marijuana?

If we are a free society, then why are parents thrown in jail for failure to pay child support?

If we are a free society, then why is the government saying that two consenting adults cannot marry?

Feel free to chime in...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Month and a Half

About 45 days ago, I got a migraine that directly led to a decision to quit smoking. I'm not going to preach. I'm not going to tell anyone else to quit. What I AM going to do is mention some of the differences I've noticed since I decided to give up tobacco.

-I may be free from tobacco, but I am not calling myself nicotine-free. I am chewing the nicotine gum, and I have no specific deadline for quitting that. In other words, I freely acknowledge that I may be substituting one addiction for another.

-Unlike other times in my life, this commitment to be tobacco-free seems to be sticking. A couple of weeks ago, a friend offered me clove cigarettes -- a major weakness of mine -- and I declined his offer without batting an eyelash. Okay, it took a LITTLE bit of willpower, but I resisted.

-I get heartburn MUCH less frequently than I did as a smoker.

-My appetite has pretty much returned to normal. For the first couple of weeks, I was CONSTANTLY hungry. That seems to have subsided.

-It was not, and is not, nor do I expect it to be, difficult to have a beer without a smoke in my hand. The gum is a perfectly viable substitute.

-I spend FAR less money on nicotine gum than I spent on my daily cigar habit. I chew two to five pieces of gum per day. I also smoked (and inhaled) three to five cigars per day.

-I have FAR fewer headaches.

-I don't get winded doing (insert activity here).

-My sleep patterns are far healthier.

-I am STILL very cognizant of how clear my lungs are. But with that said, I am STILL coughing up itty bitty chunks of phlegm each morning in the shower. I think, though, this is a result of allergies. I believe that I'm done coughing up stuff due to smoking.

-No more dragon breath. There are two types of dragon breath brought on from smoking. One is the horrible morning breath. The other is the result of a mixture of coffee and smoking.

-No more hysterical laughter devolving into coughing fits.

-Noticeably more money in my pocket.

-I am FIRMLY convinced that inhaling cigar smoke is less damaging to the human lung that cigarette smoke. I have smoked cigarettes or cigars for years. Each time, I am surprised how much more quickly cigar smoke clears from my lungs, despite how heavy cigar smoke is when compared to cigarettes. I believe the difference is the amount of processing that goes in to manufacturing cigarettes as opposed to cigars.

Again, this isn't designed to convince anyone else to give up tobacco. I am a firm believer in personal choice and personal responsibility. You can smoke or not smoke... it's your choice. I am simply sharing some changes I've noticed as a result of giving up tobacco.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Evaluating the Plantronics Explorer 240 Bluetooth Headset

I've always been kind of irritated by those kinds of folks... you know, the ones that ALWAYS walk around with a bluetooth headset in their ear. The ones that especially pissed me off were the ones with a bluetooth headset, a three-piece suit, and a grande mocha latte (or whatever) from Starbucks... they just come across as people who take themselves FAR too seriously.

With that said though, there are three things that helped me realize the wisdom of a bluetooth headset...

1) I am a computer geek. And over the years, I've learned that it's no fun to try to type a command on a keyboard while holding the phone. The same thing applies to crawling behind a computer located in a dark corner. Bluetooth is VERY handy during long, drawn-out tech support calls.

2) Driving and talking on the phone is also a drag if you have to hold the phone. Furthermore, some states REQUIRE hands-free driving. Driving is another situation where bluetooth is awesome.

3) Talking to my mom. Look, I love my mom to death, but that woman can talk. I can't count how many hour-plus conversations I've had with her over the years. When it comes to talking to my mom, bluetooth and cellular service are a Godsend. They allow me to do other things (like scrub my toilet, or work on my belly button lint sweater) while I talk to my mom.

As you've probably concluded, I broke down and bought a Plantronics Explorer 240 bluetooth headset just shy of a month ago. I will spare you a long, drawn-out evaluation and simply say that I like it. It's got good battery life, and good voice quality, both for me AND for the person on the other end of the call. The only thing I don't like about it is that it's uncomfortable sitting in my ear for hours on end. But that's because I wear glasses, and both of the over-the-ear pieces are competing for limited space. This isn't a design flaw on Plantronics' part.

Now with that said, if you do invest in a bluetooth headset, you should know a couple of things...

1) You look like a dork douche if you always walk around with your headset on. If you're not actively on a phone call, put the damn thing away.

2) Be prepared for people to not realize that you're on the phone when you use a bluetooth headset. If you're listening to the person on the other end of the phone, be prepared for friends, family and co-workers to not notice the headset, walk up to you, and just start yammering away as if nothing's going on in your world. Be patient with them. Try to come up with some sort of sign to explain that you're on the phone. If you're speaking, be prepared for them to look at you as if you've lost your mind, because they'll think you're talking to yourself.

3) Re-read rule number one. Seriously. If you're not actively using the headset, put it away.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Evaluating the Samsung Mesmerize

I've been using the Samsung Mesmerize for roughly two months now, after switching from the HTC Touch Pro 2 that I owned for two years. Let me say up front, I'm a convert. Over the years, I've had several smart phones with several different operating systems. I've used the Palm OS, Windows CE and its variations, and now the Android OS. I can confidently say that Google got it right.

The one negative I found with the Mesmerize was the abysmal battery life. When I first bought the phone, I frequently had to charge the phone multiple times per day. The poor battery life kind of took the "mobile" out of mobile phone. However, a little research helped me find a couple of different ways to extend the battery life significantly. And when I say "significantly" I mean that my phone will now hold a charge for three-plus days during periods of light use. The two major changes I made were to reduce the screen brightness and to turn off GPS. GPS was the big power hog. My recommendation is to kill it if you're not actively using it.

Once that was out of the way though, I found nothing to dislike about the Mesmerize. It outperformed my HTC in every possible way. Yeah, I know it's not fair to compare these two phones, since the HTC was two years old, but this is how end users tend to evaluate their new phones. "Is it better than the old one?" Yeah. It's faster, brighter, lighter and almost never needs to be reset. The old Windows phone needed a reset almost weekly.

I think that Swype typing is really cool. At first it's a bit slower than typing, but once you get used to the change, it's really fast. I also like having voice-navigated GPS (about the only time I actually turn on the GPS feature), and the wide variety of free apps available for Android users.

My one concern going in was that I would have difficulty connecting to my exchange server at work. It took about five minutes to figure things out, but once I did so, the phone connected right up.

After a couple of months with this phone, there are only a couple of things I don't like... the late-night texts and emails... but that's because I chose to own a smart phone, not because of any weakness in the actual device. The Samsung Mesmerize is a great device that I'd highly recommend.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Evaluating the Vega V-Tune Motorcycle Helmet

After owning nothing but entry-level helmets for the last five years, I figured that it was time to upgrade a bit. For as long as I've ridden, I've worn no-frills helmets. My position was that a helmet's job is to protect my head in the event of a crash, so why spend all the extra money?

As time went by though, I understood that it would be nice to be able to talk with my passenger. I bought a chatterbox CB50 system. Again, the job was communication, and maybe listening to music, so why spend all the extra money. The CB50 did its job, but after riding for an hour or so, the speakers began to press on my ears uncomfortably. The helmet was not designed for the speakers. With this in mind, I figured I'd bite the bullet and buy a new helmet. After looking at available features, I decided on the Vega V-Tune.

Getting a helmet over the internet was a huge leap of faith, because every helmet fits a little bit different. The Bell helmet I've worn for several years was snug. The V-Tune fits noticeably looser than the same-sized Bell. The thing is, this ever-so-slight increase in room makes a tremendous difference in comfort without being unsafe. Additionally, the V-Tune is far lighter than the Bell.

Bluetooth is a nice feature that I don't use nearly as much as I expected I would. I've coupled the bluetooth with my smart phone, giving me the capability to send and receive phone calls, and to listen to music. Both features work adequately in town, but I wouldn't recommend a phone conversation at speeds over 35 to 40, and listening to music isn't worthwhile past 55 to 60.

One feature I absolutely love is the built-in flip-down sun visor. It makes riding into the sun a non-issue.

One thing I don't like is that the visor is kind of noisy at high speeds. The visor vibrates against the base of the helmet unless your head is even slightly tilted down.

Overall, I am satisfied with my purchase. The Vega V-tune is far more comfortable than my old helmet, and the bluetooth feature functions about as well as I had expected. I'd probably buy it again.

March 29, 2014 Edit:
I have purchased a new helmet that I like better.  Click here for the review on my new helmet, the LS2 FF386 Modular helmet.