January 30, 2008

Go Johnny Go!

Well some of my predictions came true yesterday in Florida. Rudy Guilani, aka "America's Mayor" took home only 14.6 % of the Republican vote while John McCain won with 36.0 %. Mitt Romney, the perenial runner up garnered 31.1 % of the Republican vote. What does this mean? It means that Rudy's "let it all ride on Florida" strategy failed. How do you ignore the primaries leading up to Florida? I just can't understand the logic behind it. With this loss Rudy is pulling out of the race and expected to endorse McCain. Is there anyone out there that actually endores Romney? So now the Republican field is effectively narrowed down to 2 people, John McCain and Mitt Romney. Mike Huckabee is still in the race, but at this point all he can really do is hurt Romney, which he seems to enjoy doing. In the Democratic field as I also expected, John Edwards is pulling out of the race. I think he has more or less run out of money and he shouldn't be in the race any longer since he didn't win his home state of South Caronlina. I'll be very interested to see who he endorses because it will factor into his being a viable candidate for Vice President. He probably has the most to gain by endorsing Hillary because she is fairly experienced, has slick willy to provide advice, and wants a VP that has broad appeal. Obama would be unlikely to select Edwards as his VP since Obama is fairly inexperienced and probably wants to have a VP that has more experience. Too bad he can't get Cheney as his VP. Now that would be very interesting.

Posted by troutm8 at 10:53 AM

January 29, 2008

Today Is Rudy's Day

Today is the Florida primary, which is only important for Republicans since the Democrats punished Florida by taking away all of their delegates (since they moved up their primary). My expectation is for Rudy Guilani, former NYC mayor, to lose and fade away into obscurity. Sorry Rudy, its not you, its us. Really... His departure won't really affect the rest of the field since the real race now is between McCain and Romney.

Posted by troutm8 at 09:03 AM

January 27, 2008

Obama Wins South Carolina Primary

The race continues on as Obama wins the South Carolina Primary in convincing fashion. The part that Surprised me the most was how badly John Edwards did since that is the state that he is from. That crushing defeat pretty much dashes his hopes of winning, but he is continuing on so that he can possibly be a spoiler. I have little doubt that whomever loses (Obama or Clinton) will be very upset that Edwards stayed in the race this long. I think it will all come down to February 5th, when lots of states vote. On a side note I've seen a lot more Obama signs and bumper stickers lately. What I want to know is why people are supporting him. I can definitely attest to the fact that he is a good speaker, but I don't know much about him and where he stands on lots of issues. For instance, if he wins, will he take away my guns? :-)

Posted by troutm8 at 11:44 PM

Saddam's Confessions

I got a chance to watch 60 minutes tonight and I found the segment where they (60 minutes) interviewed FBI agent George Piro about his efforts to get information out of Saddam Hussein after he was captured. In the interview, George talked about his relationship with Saddam and the answers to many of the burning questions we (the world) had. If you want to watch the interview with George click here. If you would rather just see the questions and answers I've compiled a summarized version.
What happened to the weapons of mass destruction? Answer -> Saddam destroyed them because of the UN inspectors. He let the world think that he still had them and also let the world think he was doing a great job at hiding them because he was afraid that if Iran knew that he had gotten rid of them they would probably attack. He also wanted his own people to think he still had them so that he could stay in power.
Did Saddam have any links to Al Qaeda? Answer -> No because Al Qaeda, especially Osama Bin Laden are fanatics and Saddam believed they were a threat to him.
Why did he let things get to point where the US invaded? Answer -> Based on his experience with no fly zones and isolated US bombing in 1998 he figured the US would just do that again, which was something he could absorb and still retain power. And when Bush said that we would invade he didn't believe it. Doh!

Posted by troutm8 at 11:15 PM

January 25, 2008

Another One Bites The Dust

Good thing I didn't vote for Fred Thompson in the CA primary. He dropped out of the presidential race. Oh well, he will live on in Law & Order reruns. I always wondered why he decided to run in the first place. He didn't do much to differentiate himself from the other candidates or give people a reason to support him. But that's just my take. So one down and many more to go. Who will drop out next? On the Republican side it is effectively a 3 person contest between Romney (wins in Michigan and Wyoming), McCain (wins in New Hampshire & South Carolina), and Mike Huckabee (win in Iowa). Rudy Guliani is betting the farm on Florida, but my guess is that he won't win Florida and will drop out of the race when the results are announced. And then, on Feburary 5th, lots of states will have their primaries, after which I would expect Huckabee to drop out. And depending on the results either McCain or Romney will effectively win the nomination. On the Democrat side it looks like Kucinich dropped out (big surprise). Other than that it is effectively a two person race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I'm guessing nothing will be sorted out for them until Super Tuesday, February 5th. In the meantime we are dropping interest rates and giving people back a bunch of money as the economy tosses and turns. We'll see how things shape up...

Posted by troutm8 at 03:56 PM

January 22, 2008

Another Cold Weather Photography Article

I ran across this photography article about taking photographs in cold weather and at least they didn't say you shouldn't do it. Their tips centered around keeping your battery warm, having extra batteries, and how to deal with condensation when you go from cold weather to warm indoors environments. While I was reading this article I got an idea on how I can do a better job of keeping my battery warm the next time I try to do a 3 hour exposure in 30 degree weather. Get some chemical hand warmers and use a rubber band to stick them to the sides of the camera where the battery is. It may not save the battery completely, but it may be just enough to let it finish the 3 hour exposure without dying and corrupting the image that is captured. I'm going to try that next time...

Posted by troutm8 at 11:13 PM

A Clinic In Agile Development

In the latter part of last year Timber was really excited about a new product from the OmniGroup called OmniFocus. It is basically a task/project management application that only runs on Macs. She said that they were currently in data testing and that I should check it out. So I signed up as a beta tester, downloaded it, watched the tutorial video and got started. Overall it take a little bit of time to get used to it and figure how to use it in the two important ways that you can use it. But once you figure it out it is a pretty powerful application. The reason I think it is a clinic and Agile Development is because they had code drops every day for the beta testers. And the cool thing about it was that I didn't have to go to their site to get it, anytime I launched OmniFocus they had a build for me to grab by having a pop up appear to tell me that a newer version was available. After I said yes and downloaded and updated the build that I had, the release notes came up to show what they did to it in the past 24 hours. And this happened just about every day from early November up through early January. Even on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I wondered how much these guys were working, and what kinds of automated tests they have in place if they can release a new version every day. And I never ran into any major defects that caused OmniFocus to crash. In fact I ran into very few defects at all. So if you are developing software and want to go agile try living up to how the OmniGroup does it by:
1. Having daily builds that run automated regression tests and
2. Release the code to actual customers, you will quickly find out if you have any major issues and it will make your product much better.

The cool thing about doing beta testing was that I got to buy it for half off what they charge the public, and I helped make it a better product. So if you are in the market for a good product (for the Mac) that will allow you to easily manage large and small projects you should definitely check out OmniFocus.

Posted by troutm8 at 10:19 AM

January 21, 2008

Happy Birthday Wookie!

Wookie is 4 years old today. We have now had him for half of his life. He's a great dog thus far. He will go in the crate now just by being told to go into it, and he sometimes even goes without being told at all. I still want to teach him some new tricks but that will all come in due time. I'll try to find him rack of lamb tomorrow for his birthday. Woohoo!

Posted by troutm8 at 11:02 PM

How iTunes Movie Rentals Work And What I Think Of It

In case you didn't hear, Macworld was last week. At Macworld, Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO announced a plethora of new products and services. I was not all that impressed by most of them, but I was intrigued by the movie rentals. He said that every major movie studio had signed up for it, and he demonstrated it with the Apple TV. He went on to say that the software update for the Apple TV would be out in 2 weeks. I verified this by trying to find it with my Apple TV and the software update was not there. So my experience is with my MacBook and iPhone.

iTunes Move Rental Overview -> Overall, the way that the iTunes movie rental service works is simple. You launch iTunes and navigate to the movie rentals section. You can either get there from a tile on the main iTunes page or click on the Movies link on the top left. Now that you are at the movies page you can search for movies, look at top rentals, browse via coverflow, etc... One thing I noticed is that there is no easy way to distinguish between movies that you can rent/buy versus just rent. So say you clicked on a movie and it is available for rent. All you have to do is click on the Rent Movie button, and the movie immediately starts to download. Once the download finishes you have 30 days to start watching it. Once you start watching it you have 24 hours to finish it. After the 24 hours is up the movie will be automatically deleted.

My Experience -> I rented the Simpsons Movie. It was a little less than 1 Gb, and I started downloading it at my house. Then I went to another persons house, so I paused the download, closed my macbook, and went to the other person's house. Once I got there I got on their wireless network and resumed my download. I had to go run some errands, so I paused the download again, ran the errands, and when I got home I finished the download. Once the movie finished downloading it showed that I had 30 days to start watching it. So I synced my iPhone up with my MacBook and moved the movie over to my iPhone. Note that you MOVE the movie to different devices instead of just copy like you would a movie that you own. This is so that you can't trick the timebomb that automatically deletes the movie 24 hours after you start watching the movie. I'm guessing a small percentage of people will get hosed if their iPhone crashes while some rented movies are on them. But anyway, I started watching the movie but only got about halfway through by bed time. The next day I watched it in two other sessions until I finally finished the movie. Every time I want to the Videos section on my iPhone it showed me how many hours I had left. And when I got down to under an hour it told me how many minutes I had left. And when the 24 hours were up it did indeed automatically delete the Simpsons Movie from my iPhone.

My Suggestions -> Overall I'd say the process works. I would like it better if you had roughly a week to watch it after you started it. Why 24 hours? That is too restrictive. Also, maybe a NetFlix-like subscription may work better for most people. I currently use NetFlix to rent movies, and the only way I can see moving to another movie rental service is if (1) it is more convenient than Netflix and (2) it is competative in price with NetFlix, and (3) it has comparable selection to NetFlix. iTunes movie rentals is definitely more conveniant, but I think I watch enough movies so that $3.99 per movie is more expensive than what I pay at NetFlix. Lastly, since iTunes movie rentals just started they do not have the same selection. One last suggestion that I have is that if I rent a movie and like it enough to buy it that I be able to count the rental fee toward the price of buying the movie. That would be kind of like the complete my album that they have for music.

Posted by troutm8 at 11:50 AM

January 15, 2008

California Primary Election

I finally got my first vote by mail ballot late last week, and over the weekend I made my decisions, filled out my ballot, and mailed it back in. Woohoo! It is too bad I had to request to become a vote by mail voter several times before it finally took effect. But that's government I guess. But the ballot measures were pretty boring this time. I also think that the presidential primary was also kind of boring because I'm a registered Republican and I had to choose out of the likes of Huckabee, Romney, Paul, Guiliani, McCain, etc... But I deliberated by visiting their websites to see where they stood on the issues and it was easy to not vote for most of them because they had a few issues that I just couldn't reconcile with. For instance some of the candidates openly said that they would overturn Roe vs Wade if they had the chance. While I personally disagree with abortion I don't think that right should be taken away from women and I definitely don't want to elect a president who could appoint supreme court justices to do just that. After using that as elimination criteria I wasn't left with too many candidates left. I basically whittled them down until I was left with John McCain, so he got my vote for the Republican nomination.

Posted by troutm8 at 06:51 PM

January 12, 2008

Alaskan Christmas Photos Posted

I finally got around to posting the photos from our Christmas visit to Alaska. You can find them here. You can even click on the [Map This!] button to see where a lot of the pictures were taken.

Posted by troutm8 at 11:07 PM

January 10, 2008

Hillary Lives!

Since I started paying attention to the primaries Hillary Clinton went from being the frontrunner to being down and out and back to being the front runner again. All in the span of about a week. Pundits wrote her off after her dissapointing 3rd place finish in Iowa and early polls in New Hampshire showed a large Obama lead. And guess what happened? She won New Hampshire (close race) and is back to front runner status. This showed me that in America we like to make predictions even more than we like to watch the actual event. What was purported to be a huge comeback wasn't really a comeback at all. The same thing happened, although for a longer period of time for McCain. He was down and out last summer and was having trouble raising money. But now that both he and Hillary have won the primary in NH they are both swimming in money again, which is the most important thing that they could have gotten out of NH. So at this point I'm not going to make any predictions, I just like watching the races and I'm going to remember promises made by the candidates. I will also start reading up on each candidate in preparation for the California primary in February 5th. But between now and then I'm sure there will be lots of memorable moments along the campaign trail.

Posted by troutm8 at 11:28 AM

January 08, 2008

It Is Time For Some Politics

The Iowa Caucus is over and the New Hampshire primary is today. I would say that it is now time to start getting interested in the run for the Presidency. After today we will have a better idea about who are the contenders and who are the pretenders. Overall I would say that I'm pretty dissapointed in the Republican field, and I'm extremely dissapointed that Huckabee won the Iowa Caucus. From the articles I read it seems like the evangelicals came out in force to vote for him in Iowa. To all the evangelical Christians out there I want you to stop hijacking the Republican party. It is ridiculous that for a Republican to get nominated they have to get in front of you people (like a monkey in a suit), and dance to whatever tune you play for them. They have to say that they don't believe in evolution, that they will ban gay marriage and abortion, and some even say that they talk to god. I don't want anyone that believes in creationism to have the capability to drop nukes. And it doesn't send a very good message to the rest of the world that we seperate our religions from our government. So for the sake of the party and the country, let a moderate Republican get the nomination. Besides, if you power a guy like Huckabee through to the nomination he will get plastered against whomever he faces from the Democrats.

Posted by troutm8 at 10:07 AM

January 05, 2008

Night Photography In The Cold Is Tough

I have had some rough experiences with night photography thus far, mostly because keeping the shutter open in cold weather kills the camera battery. Before the Death Valley camping trip I got a remote switch that could keep the shutter open for pretty much as long as I wanted. I did some test shots at home in San Jose and I was pretty confident going to Death Valley that I was going to get the kind of star trail shots that I wanted. For the most part the shots came out as I wanted with distinct trails being shown, and I experimented with the exposure, iso, and f-stop using a 50 mm fixed lens. The thing that I didn't consider and which burned me was the battery for my camera (lithium ion) got absolutely hammered by cold weather. The night shots in Death Valley were done at a temperature of about 30 degrees F. The last, and best shot that I took was one centered on the North Star to get the star trails of the stars spinning around it. I set the exposure to 3 hours and went to sleep (right next to the tripod). When I woke up part of the way through the night to check on it the camera was off and the battery was pretty much dead. I could not do much right then because the battery was pretty much dead and the LCD was not working. The next day I checked out the shots and the north star shot looked a little weird on my LCD and the battery was just barely alive. My biggest mistakes (which I will not make again) were:

1. I didn't bring extra batteries
2. I didn't bring a charger.

So for the rest of the Death Valley trip I ended up using my iPhone to take pictures. When I was in Alaska for Christmas I didn't get many opportunities to take night shots because Anchorage was clouded over most of the time. It finally cleared up a little bit on the last night and I decided that I had to go take my shots. I took what I learned from the Death Valley trip and applied it, but this time, in 15 degrees F my battery nearly died with only a 15 minute exposure. I discussed this problem with one of my coworkers that is pretty knowledgeable with cameras and the consensus we came up with was:

1. You should always have extra batteries f
2. You should try to find some way to keep your battery warm while it is in the camera taking the long exposure shots in cold weather.

He also recommended not doing long exposures in cold weather, but in my experience some of the best night shots are done

Posted by troutm8 at 04:41 PM

Bob In Prudhoe Again

On Sunday, December 30th we got up early to take my brother to the airport so he could fly up to Prudhoe Bay for a while. After we dropped him off, we went and had breakfast at the Snow City Cafe in downtown Anchorage where my mom got the "Heart Attack on a Plate" while Timber and I split a combo of two eggs, pancakes, and reindeer sausage. We also helped mom with her "Heart Attack on a Plate". After breakfast we went to my mom's work and helped her with a few things. I also saw a really defective computer monitor for the first time right out of the box. The state of Alaska buys their computers from Dell, and they had just gotten in a new monitor that had two fairly large horizontal translucent stripes across it. I spent some time trying to recalibrate it, found the instruction booklet and went through the troubleshooting guide, and even checked Dell's customer support forums. Dell customer service online pretty much sucks by the way because they make it very difficult to find what you are looking for. After I exhausted all those avenues I told my mom that I thought it was a hardware issue and that we would need to call Dell. I was really dreading having to call Dell. But luckily my mom's work had already filed a trouble ticket with them, so my work on the monitor was done. For the rest of the day we worked and took a break for a short walk around downtown and a cup of joe and then later on we took a lunch break and walked down the street to Humpy's. Humpy's has tons of different beer, but since we were going to go back to the office and get some work done I had soda instead. :-( But if you are in Anchorage and want to check out a place with lots of different beers (lots of local ones) you should check out Humpy's.

Posted by troutm8 at 11:58 AM

January 04, 2008

The Feel Good Movie Of The Holidays

While we were up in Alaska Timber, my brother, and I all went to watch I Am Legend. It is definitely NOT the feel good movie of the holidays. In fact it was really depressing. If you want to watch the movie and don't know the story stop reading right now... I think the draw for movies like this, at least for guys, is that we get to see what it would be like to be just about the last person on earth, with tons of guns, ammo, and grenades, with lots of vampire zombie things to kill. Sounds like a cool video game right? One of the things I think this film does well is that it shows just how lame and depressing it would be to be the last guy alive in Manhatten where you have to scrounge for food, do your research to try to find a cure for the zombie vampire disease, and you have to get home and lock everything down before the sun goes down. I think if most people were put into that kind of situation, along with losing their family, they would probably just put a bullet in their head and be done with it. So it was interesting to see the main character act slightly weird because he hadn't talked to another human in years and deal with being alone and depressed. He probably had a lot of inner demons to deal with in all that time he was alone. I would like to know how the film makers got all the shots of Manhatten overgrown with vegetation and the buildings being decayed and abandoned. That had to be a lot of computer graphics. So overall if you want to see what it would be like to be alone with zombie vampires roaming the streets at night you should check out this movie. On the positive side this movie showed me the merits of having loaded weapons in every nook and cranny in your house. :-) But be warned, it is pretty depressing and you can't just turn it off like you can do with a video game.

Posted by troutm8 at 03:20 PM