Spring Training 2014: Day One

“People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” —Rogers Hornsby

My brother and I had to skip our annual Spring Training trip out to Arizona last year due to the arrival of his first-born child (priorities, right?) :-) but this year we’re heading back to the Cactus League for three days of spring baseball with our hometown Cleveland Indians.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 EditionA few weeks ago I got a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition (whew, what a mouthful!) at work to replace my aging (stuck on iOS 5.1.1) first generation iPad. We’re considering switching from iPads and Windows laptops to Android tablets for our mobile users and so those of us in IT are getting a first crack at evaluating these new devices.

This isn’t my first isn’t my first experience with Android (we evaluated a Toshiba Thrive 10 a few years ago and also support a few Galaxy Note phones in the office), but coming from a long history of iOS usage, my initial out-of-the-box experience with the Galaxy Note 10.1 has been frustrating. I’m hoping it will grow on me as I continue to use it as my iPad replacement …

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Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour

My apologies to Alton Brown … apparently I am cursed when it comes to attending his live shows.

Back in 2009 I went to the “Good Eats Turns 10″ live show in Atlanta. In that show was a trivia segment that had (pre-selected) people from the audience come up on stage. One of the participants was extremely annoying in her behavior which made for (I thought) an uncomfortable situation (and I think the rest of the audience did too).

Last night I took my daughter to Alton’s “Edible Inevitable” tour show in Tampa. Overall, we had a fantastic time, starting with an in-person meet-and-greet backstage with AB (got a few autographs, including on a photo of the three of us from 2004). The show was a lot of fun, a great blend of music (Alton playing guitar and even saxophone!), comedy, cooking information, food science, and larger-than-life experiments … everything you’d expect from the creator of “Good Eats.”

The only pall on the evening was the audience member Alton invited on-stage for his second experiment. I won’t spoil too much of the surprise but let’s just say it involves a super-sized Easy Bake oven. AB asked for volunteers and picked an older woman waving her scarf (“I’m picking you so you’ll stop that.”). Right from the start, something was wrong … the way she was acting, her snarky replies, etc. It didn’t seem like she was treating Alton with the respect he deserved (it is his show, after all!). I think the rest of the audience was in agreement as things got out of hand quickly with jokes and innuendos spoken by this lady that made me a little uncomfortable (this was supposed to be a family show, after all!). Clearly she had been drinking and I’m sure Alton was regretting his choice, but he did a good job keeping his cool, rolling with the punches, and kept the show moving.

After the show, I thought maybe she had been a plant and the whole scenario had been scripted/planned. I called my sister who had seen the show a few weeks earlier in Chicago, though, and she confirmed nothing like the sort had happened. Now, that’s not to say the show couldn’t have multiple plants but I’m pretty sure Alton was just picking random people and really had  no idea what he was in for.

So, Mr. Brown, I apologize for last night and hope you still managed to have a good time here in Tampa. Thanks for an incredible evening!

WIJFR: Year Zero

Low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter thinks it’s a prank, not an alien encounter, when a redheaded mullah and a curvaceous nun show up at his office. But Frampton and Carly are highly advanced (if bumbling) extraterrestrials. The entire cosmos, they tell him, has been hopelessly hooked on American pop songs ever since “Year Zero” (1977 to us), resulting in the biggest copyright violation since the Big Bang and bankrupting the whole universe. Nick has just been tapped to clean up this mess before things get ugly. Thankfully, this unlikely galaxy-hopping hero does know a thing or two about copyright law. Now, with Carly and Frampton as his guides, Nick has forty-eight hours to save humanity – while hoping to wow the hot girl who lives down the hall from him.

If you took Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” mixed in a little of Patrick Tilley’s “Mission” and healthy doses of the RIAA, copyright law, and popular music, you’d probably end up with something close to what I just finished reading: “Year Zero” by Rob Reid.

Nick Carter is a New York entertainment lawyer who, when mistaken by visiting aliens for a different Nick Carter, gets pulled into an intergalactic paper chase of epic proportions. The entire universe has been freely copying and enjoying all of the Earth’s music production since it was discovered in 1977 (thanks to an episode of “Welcome Back, Kotter!”). The Refined League’s strict rules state that a culture’s laws pertaining to art are involatile and must be followed. Based on recent legal rulings (like the Jammie Thomas case), the cost for each infringing copy of a song is around $2,000 which means that the population of Earth is owed approximately all of the money in the known universe. Awesome though Earth’s music is, there are some members of the Refined League that aren’t too happy about going completely broke. So, if the human race were to say, accidentally destroy themselves, then how could they collect on what’s owed? It’s up to Nick (the lawyer, not the Backstreet Boy) and his new alien friends to figure out a way to save the Earth and the wealth of the universe.

Filled with comedy, music, technology, law, and pop culture references (from Zork to THX 1138), if you enjoy space/alien comedies (like H2GT2G) and dislike the record labels and overly broad copyright law, you’ll love “Year Zero.” And if you’re an IT geek like me, the Epilogue will be particularly funny.

WIJFR: S.

One book. Two readers. A world of mystery, menace, and desire.

A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown.

The book: Ship of Theseus, the final novel by a prolific but enigmatic writer named V.M. Straka, in which a man with no past is shanghaied onto a strange ship with a monstrous crew and launched onto a disorienting and perilous journey.

The writer: Straka, the incendiary and secretive subject of one of the world’s greatest mysteries, a revolutionary about whom the world knows nothing apart from the words he wrote and the rumors that swirl around him.

The readers: Jennifer and Eric, a college senior and a disgraced grad student, both facing crucial decisions about who they are, who they might become, and how much they’re willing to trust another person with their passions, hurts, and fears.

I  just finished reading “S.” created by J. J. Abrams  and written by Doug Dorst. I didn’t know a lot about it other than I had heard someone mention it on a podcast and it sounded intriguing. I received it as a Christmas present, started it in mid-January, and then finished it this past weekend during a trip to the west coast to see my sister.

S.” is a book inside a book, and it’s a really cool concept. I pretty much do all my reading on my iPhone but this is an experience that would just not translate to an e-book.

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Epson Expression Home XP-410 and Canon imageCLASS MF4890dw printers

Although there was nothing technically wrong with my trusty workhorse Epson AcuLaser CX11NF color laser printer/scanner/fax machine, it was over 7 years old and I was starting to be disappointed with its color quality, speed, and general noise. Rather than replace it with another color laser printer, I decided to go with dual printers: a monochrome laser for basic printing, and a color inkjet for photos. I ended up selecting the Epson Expression Home XP-410  and Canon imageCLASS MF4890dw.

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WIJFR: Dodger

Seventeen-year-old Dodger is content as a sewer scavenger. But he enters a new world when he rescues a young girl from a beating, and her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.

From Dodger’s encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd, to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.

After starting the Audible version of Terry Pratchet’s “Dodger” late last year during a Thanksgiving car trip, we (the family) finally finished listening to it on a weekend roadtrip this past holiday weekend.

The novel is historical fiction, taking place in early Victorian London, and as indicated in the blurb above, you’ll probably be familiar with some of the characters: the titular Dodger (presumably from Fagin’s gang in “Oliver Twist“), Charlie Dickens himself, Sir Robert Peel, Sweeney Todd (my personal favorite), and many others.

Dodger is a tosher and spends his days in the London sewers searching for valuables. After saving a young girl from an apparent kidnapping, he finds himself tangled up in a world of international espionage, foreign assassins, young love, and, of course, the aforementioned Charles Dickens.

The audiobook is wonderfully read by Stephen Briggs and was a lot of fun to listen to during several family car trips over the past two months.

WIJFR: REAMDE

In 1972, Richard Forthrast, the black sheep of an Iowa farming clan, fled to the mountains of British Columbia to avoid the draft. A skilled hunting guide, he eventually amassed a fortune by smuggling marijuana across the border between Canada and Idaho. As the years passed, Richard went straight and returned to the States after the U.S. government granted amnesty to draft dodgers. He parlayed his wealth into an empire and developed a remote resort in which he lives. He also created T’Rain, a multibillion-dollar, massively multiplayer online role-playing game with millions of fans around the world.

But T’Rain’s success has also made it a target. Hackers have struck gold by unleashing REAMDE, a virus that encrypts all of a player’s electronic files and holds them for ransom. They have also unwittingly triggered a deadly war beyond the boundaries of the game’s virtual universe—and Richard is at ground zero.

Today I finished “REAMDE” by Neal Stephenson. I didn’t know anything about it before starting (other than it was written by Stephenson and I read all of his stuff) and given the capsule description above (and the title, a play on a mistyped filename) you might think it was another techno-thriller like “Snow Crash” with a MMORPG twist, but it’s actually closer to “Cryptonomicon” where the technology plays a lesser role in the story. So where “Cryptonomicon” was about World War II and code-breaking, “REAMDE” is about guns, international terrorists, guns, Chinese hackers, and more guns.

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Jailbreaking iOS7

In a surprise pre-Christmas present to the anxious jailbreak community, the Evasi0n jailbreak for iOS 7.0.4 was released two weeks ago. I almost jumped on it immediately (I’ve been stuck on iOS 6.1.2 since my last jailbreak) but since I was heading out of town for Christmas and there was some controversy around the initial release I decided to wait it out. After I got back from our holiday travel, though, I had some free time before New Years’ and decided to go for it.

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