Friday, February 08, 2013

Family-Geek


Can you see the cigarette butt in the picture?
 (above photo from pictureoutdoors.com)
This is a picture of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. I stood on the shore of this amazing vista in 2005 during a backpacking trip and learned a lesson in perspective. Here's an excerpt from my journal: “We walked down to lake McDonald to a very beautiful view of the lake and mountains. There were a few cigarette butts on the rocky beach, and as I started to get upset about it, I realized that I was letting a very small detail spoil all the beauty around me...”

Here's a picture of me in the mountains above the lake the next day:
Today, I had to follow through on some promised consequences with one of the kids due to some recent results from school. When a child is so respectful and mature, and such an amazing creation of God, it seems like it'd be hard to get distracted by one small lapse in scholastic performance, but it's what happens sometimes. I know that discipline is an act of love and necessary for continued growth and maturity, but why does it have to be so hard?!?

My journal from that time in Glacier continues: “...God created [my Wife], and [my Kids] with even more love and care than this mountain. Do I see the vast beauty in them, or do I let small details ruin everything?”

I know that God loves me even though I screw up, and I try really hard to express to my family how much I love each of them unconditionally too. I hope they get it.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Air&Space-Geek


We finally took the kids to Kalamazoo Mi to visit the Air Zoo, and were really impressed.  I took the panoramic photo above from the eating area during our lunch break, and what you see is about half of the exhibits. It's well laid out from the early years of flight, through the world wars, modern jets, and into the transition to space with the very impressive SR-71.  In the other hall is one area devoted to space exploration, and one with more WW-II aircraft.
For me, the highlights were seeing the real aircraft up close.  I can't describe how big and impressive the F-14 and SR-71 are in person.  These are big and amazing aircraft!  They also have an engine from the SR-71 on display and a description of some of the challenges that had to be overcome to make an engine that could operate in such extremes.  Being a geek in general, and mechanical engineer specifically, I really eat that stuff up, and could spend all day marveling at these masterpieces of design.  So much so that when we visited the Udvar-Hazy center of the National Air and Space museum near Dulles airport a few years ago, we almost missed our flight because I didn't want to leave, but that's a different story.

For the kids (aged 12 - 21), the highlight was certainly the Flight Simulators.  We were glad to have paid the $15 each for the "Ultimate Ace Package" instead of the regular $8 admission, it was certainly well worth the extra seven bucks.  After a couple of flights, the kids were doing barrel rolls and other acrobatics with impressive control.  They also enjoyed the other exhibits and the hands-on activities and cockpits that they could sit in and imagine flying with the Blue Angels or bailing out over enemy territory.

The 3D movies were also well worth having the all-inclusive pass and spending the time (about a half-hour each) to view.  One was a fun animated film about the Apollo mission from the perspective of a stow-away housefly, and the other was an inspiring story of a B-17 crew from WW-II.
We visited on a weekday during Christmas break, and arrived right at the 9:00 opening time.  We seemed to have the place almost to ourselves until about lunch time, and even then, I wouldn't say it was crowded.  There was a model-rocket clinic going on that day too, and I think a bunch of the people we saw were there for that.  We had planned to stay until the 5:00 closing time, but had pretty much seen and done everything as many times as we wanted by 3:30, and we could have been done a lot sooner than that if we weren't at such a relaxed pace, so I'd say plan for at least 4 hours to see everything.
The kids were really impressed, and at the end of our time at the Air Zoo, they were thanking us for taking them, and commenting on how it exceeded their expectations.  There's stuff for smaller kids, and they'd enjoy it too, but they just wont get as much out of it as older kids and adults.  I'd highly recommend it for kids older than 10, and for adults that are interested in science and technology.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Root-Geek

I've finally decided to "root" my Droid 2.
Verizon puts a bunch of apps on it that you can't remove (bloat-ware, crap-ware, whatever you call it), and it was really driving me nuts to have these running all the time.
Turns out it's fairly easy to do.  Here's a link to the instructions that I followed:
http://www.droid-life.com/2011/09/01/how-to-root-the-droid2-droidx2-droidx-and-droid3-running-gingerbread/

Here's the meat of those instructions (note, I had to search for a 32-bit version of the Motorola drivers):

Instructions:
1.  Make sure you have Motorola drivers installed - [Download Drivers]
2.  Download the MotorolaOneClickRoot.zip file from above and unzip it to your Windows PC.
3.  On your phone go into  Settings>Applications>Development and check the box for USB Debugging.
4.  Plug phone into your computer and select “Charge Only” mode.
5.  Navigate to MotorolaOneClickRoot folder and run MotorolaOneClickRoot.exe.
6.  Follow the instructions in the command window.
7.  Your phone will complete 3 steps, rebooting along the way.  When it finishes, you will be rooted.

 Once that's done, I installed Titanium Backup from the android app store, and upgraded to the "pro" version.  Worth every penny!  It lets me "freeze" apps to disable them, and if I want to later, I can uninstall them completely.  I'm a little wary to start nuking stuff right away just in case there's some system function in one of those apps, so I'm happy to freeze them for now.

I should have done this a long time ago!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

To India!

One week from today, I'll be part of a team of 10 people from Dow Corning sites around the world traveling to Bangalore, India for a month-long service trip.
I'm very honored to be chosen to represent our company and contribute to improving sustainability in a real way.  My sub-team will be working with Sustaintech to improve their supply chain and quality assurance for cooking products that use less fuel and improve safety and economics for their operators.
I'm very much going to miss my family for the time that I'm away, but we're blessed to have many family, friends, and neighbors that will be looking after them, so I know that they will be well protected and cared for.
Unlike my annual backpacking trips though, I will be in contact with home through blogs, email, skype, etc.  As a matter of fact, the team will have a running blog of our adventures, and I'll plan to link mine to my facebook page so all my FB friends can stay up to date with what I'm up to.
Please pray for our team that we would be well prepared, and that we will have a positive impact in India and in our various home cities when we return.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Science-Geek

I recently read Richard Dawkins' new book called "The Greatest Show on Earth - The Evidence for Evolution" I've not read Dawkins before, and I was really impressed with his engaging writing style and wit. He starts off by stating that "Evolution is a fact, and this book will demonstrate it." and then goes into great and interesting detail on the subject of natural selection.
I kept expecting the natural selection discussion to build into some sort of proof of evolution, but it never came. Showing that natural selection is true isn't surprising or controversial. As a matter of fact, the key word there is "selection." There must be some pool to select from, which is precisely why in the example of the many thousands of generations of E. Coli didn't evolve into something other than E. Coli. Through natural selection, they selected different attributes that were already present, but they didn't become some new thing.
Toward the end of the book, he's honest enough to admit that there's no evidence for what the first steps were, and he comes to the conclusion that "It must have been whatever it took to get natural selection started." That sounds a lot like creation to me.
Far from proving that evolution from nothing to life as we know it today is a "fact", this book simply points out that somehow self-replicating life was created, and life has been making small adaptations since then.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Android-Geek

There are a few applications for the Android phone that I consider to be essential in order to have the functionality that I expect from a smart phone (from the perspective of an ex-iPhone user), and there are a bunch of apps that really add to the utility and experience.
First, the essentials:
  1. Bible. This app is free, and has every version of the Bible that you could want. It requires a network connection, but it's pretty zippy. For my off-line Bible needs, I also have a copy of the free OliveTree Bible app, and have purchased several Bible translations for it.
  2. Notes. This simple app lets me write stuff down. Not exciting, but I gotta have it.
  3. SMS Popup. By default, the Droid barely lets you know that you got a text message. Installing this app lets me configure the device to wake up the screen and display the contents of a text message when it comes in. It's super configurable, down to the color of the LED and how fast it blinks! You can also set it up to do different things depending on who texts you.
  4. Touch Timer. I gotta be able to set a timer for baking my flour-less chocolate cake, or roasting coffee. This is the app that let's me time stuff.
  5. SplashID Password Manager. When you have a couple-hundred different passwords like I do, it's essential to have a secure place to store them. I can't say enough good things about this app, and the people at SplashData. I had the iPhone version of this application, and the desktop companion. They gave me the desktop version for Android, and helped me easily migrate all my passwords from one version to the other, then wirelessly sync all my passwords to my new Droid!LinkLink
Ok, so those get me able to do mundane stuff, what about the things that really take it to the next level? Most of these aren't available for the iPhone, and they're the stuff that makes people say "wow."
  1. Ringdroid. Making your own ringtones from any part of any song on your device is something that would have been so nice to have on the iPhone, but Apple can't make money off of that. On Android, it's free and easy!
  2. WikiMobile. A handy application to easily access the source of truthiness on the internet - Wikipedia.
  3. Google Voice. Get my voicemails automatically transcribed and sent to me by text message?!? Really?!? Oh yes, and so much more. Ring multiple phones at once; send some callers direct to voicemail. . .
  4. Droid48. Every geek needs to have an RPN calculator. Apparently, this developer also has a C64 emmulator, but even I'm not THAT geeky.
  5. ShopSavvy. Use the camera on the phone to scan a product bar code, and then automatically look up prices at on-line stores and local stores.
  6. Easy Envelope Budget. Synchronized virtual envelopes to keep our spending in check. If you know me, then you know that I'm geeky about budgeting and think it's really really important for a lot of reasons. This app makes it super easy to keep track of.
  7. Scoreboard. Another app from our friends at Google, this one lets you specify your favorite sports teams and aut0matically receive updates when they score. Being a Lions fan though, I don't expect to get many notifications from this one.
  8. Google Goggles. Last, but not least, this cool new app lets you take a picture of something, and it will do a Google search on it. Curious about a painting? Take a picture, and find out who the artist was. It's pretty amazing.
So those are the apps that I have on my Android phone. There are thousands more out there, and more coming every day. I'm trying to limit myself to ones that I'll actually use so that I don't fill up the phone with junk.

Mobile-Geek

As an ex-iPhone user, here are my impressions after a couple days with the Motorola Droid.
I tend to agree with a lot of the reviews that I read, that for most users, all else being equal, the iPhone 3GS is the best phone out there right now. Does that mean that I regret switching? Not at all! Because all else is NOT equal.
  1. I am not the typical user. I like to have a lot of options and settings, and take the time to figure out how to get the most out of my equipment. The android operating system allows far more customization than the iPhone. Apple is really good at making products that do a few things very well and have very few options for doing much else.
  2. AT&T coverage is not good in the places that I care about. Maybe it's OK some cities, but there's no 3G coverage in my city at all, and even voice coverage at my house is inconsistent at best. When we first got our iPhones, they worked OK at home, but a few months ago, it got worse to the point that we really couldn't use our phones at home.
  3. Apps can run in the background on the Droid, and there are a wider variety of apps because they're not tightly controlled like the apps on the iPhone. That makes it possible for apps that change how text messaging works, or apps that replace voicemail with Google Voice. One of the coolest ones is an app that lets me make ringtones from any of my music files, Apple will never allow that because they charge for ringtones.
So, if you want a smart phone that “just works” out of the box, you don't mind lock-in with Apple, and AT&T has coverage in your area, then get the iPhone. But if you want a smart phone that you have control over, has better apps, and is on the Verizon network, then the Droid (or another android phone) is for you.