July 28, 2007
Born in the Summer of Love

Today, forty years ago, in 1967, the Summer of Love, I was born.

Yes, today is my 40th birthday.

Our culture puts a lot of emphasize on this birthday, but it feels pretty normal to me. Today is very much like yesterday. I had no burst of wisdom or perspective.

Over the last forty years I have seen and done many things, but today I will share what I think is important. They are not new or original ideas, but I have found them to be true and helpful in having a happy life.

No matter how much you learn, there is always more you don't know and people smarter than you.

Sometimes I say, "The more I know, the more I realize how much there is I don't know." You can never stop being willing to learn and listen to others. Everyone has something to teach you, even if it's how not to behave. Learning something new everyday is as important as eating well and exercising. The tough part about his reality, is that people like to consider themselves an expert on a topic and feel that they need to dismiss new ideas to maintain their status as an 'expert'. Understanding that you don't need to be perfect and can ask others for help is amazingly liberating.

The only person's opinion of you that truly matters is your own.

Many people spend their lives trying to live up to an ideal or image that others have created and set expectations about. You need to live your life the way that you want to live it. That doesn't mean you can ignore others, but you should dress the way you want to dress, eat what you want to eat, listen to the music you like, and not worry about what other people think about your personal choices. Not easy to do, and not a reason to be non-conforming on purpose, the idea is to not do things because others expect you to.

Compassion and humility are the hardest virtues to practice, but they are the most important.

While everyone is a unique individual, we are surrounded by billions of other unique individuals. Coming to the perspective that the world does not revolve around yourself is hard. After this realization, you can see that helping to alleviating the pain and suffering of those we encounter, is likely our most important job in life. Having compassion for others does not require gigantic effort and sacrifice. Sometimes it is simply joking with someone that could use a smile or leaving a large tip. Having compassion for others isn't always about the big, dramatic effort, it's about living your life daily considering those around you. The point is to think about the needs of others more than you think about your own desires.

Humility is perhaps the toughest thing for many people to develop. Instinctively, we want others to pay attention to us and what we do. There is nothing wrong with feeling happy when you receive a compliment or a link to your weblog. ;) Humility is focusing on the others around us and their needs rather than our own. Easy to say, tough to do.

Thank you for reading my weblog, I hope it makes you happy. Have a wonderful day, I know I will.

Posted by michael at 02:00 PM | Comments (9)
July 19, 2007
The Booksling (ver. Moleskine Mod)

I've been a fan of the people at Everyday Innovation since I got my hands on a PicoPad several years ago.

Recently, I saw that they now make something called a Booksling. As someone that uses a Moleskine notebook at the office daily, I was intrigued. I like to write with a pencil and always have a hard time carrying it with the Moleskine. The Booksling looked to solve that problem.

Some people may find other uses, like students or others that take notes or highlight while they read, for the Booksling.

The Booksling comes in an attractive package in the mail.

Here is the Booksling next to a standard (5.25" x 8.25") Moleskine notebook. The come in three colors, cranberry, grape and mango. They look like red, purple, and yellow to me, but I'm an engineer, not an artist...

I wanted the Booksling on the back of my Moleskine, but soon found that the cool pocket on the back cover interfered with the Booksling.

Undaunted, I stole my wife's Exacto knife from her quilting table. I cut just enough of the pocket to allow the Booksling to slide underneath. My wife hates when I use her tools for 'non-fabric' stuff, but she seems perfectly OK taking my pliers and wire cutters and migrating them to here quilting table.

The pocket has been modified now and you can see the Booksling in place, under the Moleskine pocket.

There is the Booksling holding my favored pencil, the Mirado Black Warrior. Obviously the pencil is longer than the notebook, presenting a slight problem. I'm considering cutting down a few pencils specifically for use of a matching length of around five inches.

Most people use mechanical pencils, and I'm sure they'd work fine. Here is my Muji mechanical pencil as a demonstration.

I really like the Booksling. At $6 each, they are a steal and you should buy one now.

I hope the people at Everyday Innovations keep on developing new, cool products. So far they are 2 for 2 with me.

Posted by michael at 01:59 AM | Comments (0)
Coca Cola with Orange - Cruft Labs Mobile Edition

This week, I am in London for work. Rather than seeing the sites, I am focused on the amazing kinds of junk food to be found in Britain. Yesterday, I saw this in the company canteen. Of course, I had to try it.

I took the bottle back to my hotel room and went to work. First, notice that Coke Orange is 1% 'orange fruit from concentrate'. A wee bit more than the usual drop of artificial flavor in most flavored drinks.

The soda pop itself looks like regular Coke. For some reason, I was expecting a bright orange color like the bottle, but it had the standard dark brown/caramel color in the glass.

When I first smelled it, the aroma of Tang, a powdered orange drink, was very strong. The smell was dominant over the usual sweet smell of Coke. After tasting a bit, I was surprised to find that the flavor was not nearly as strong. In fact, the orange taste was subtle and not that bad at all. I think that Coca Cola is counting on the strong smell and subtle taste to entice drinkers. While I likely won't seek it out, the Coke Orange was OK and if offered it again, I wouldn't turn it down.

Posted by michael at 01:15 AM | Comments (3)
July 09, 2007
Field Test on iPhone

How to get into Field Test mode on an iPhone:

Enter *3001#12345#* and then hit Call.

(via SoCalWUG)

From Mike Outmesguine's email on the SoCalWUG mailing list:

You will be presented with a menu. Strength is shown next to the RX header under the Cellular menu. And it looks like strength is shown as -dBm. For example, -80 is a good signal, while -110 is poor. The higher the number (negative number, closer to zero) the better the signal. A strength of -1 means you are sitting on the tower and need to move away before you or your phone melts.

On the iPhone, Field Test Mode also shows you something like 100 other parameters (I didn't actually count). And I don't know what a lot of it means... yet. The neat part is how it shows you the cell towers to which the phone is connected... the highest signal strength is listed on top (and hopefully that's the one you are using).

If you don't have an iPhone, here's a list of field test modes for your phone:

Posted by michael at 01:27 PM | Comments (5)
Monday Linkage

Instead of working, follow these links:

My brother Matt discusses the evolution of Dramatic Look Prairie Dog meme

The Wire - Investigating a Crime Scene - The best written scene on television evar (via Lemonodor) - NSFW for the f-word

Spinal Tap reunites, playing Big Bottom with an army of bassists (via Metafilter)

Posted by michael at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)
July 07, 2007
Podcasts I like

I don't listen to the radio much in the car these days. Typically, I'm listening to a podcast instead. Here's what I like. You probably won't find them as enjoyable, but to each their own.

1) Infected by Martin Sargent - This is the podcast with an irregular schedule that I get the most belly laughs from regularly. Hosted by Martin Sargent and his friend, The Gator, they discuss strange things found on the internet and topics that are rarely discussed. Vulgar, offensive, and hilarious, it's not for everyone. (That means you aren't going to like it Mom.) Guests range from porn starlets to inventors to weblebrities. I do miss Joey-Bird since he mved away. I felt he added a great presence to the show. Martin's story is always good, but my favorite ever is Gator's story at the beginning of episode 11.

Catchphrase: Don't get ripped by the riptide. Quasi toe-toe!

2) SModcast - Film writer/director Kevin Smith and Producer Scott Mosier host this podcast. Simplest of all the podcasts, it's just Kevin & Scott talking. Again, it's vulgar, offensive, and hilarious, and I love it. It's the way friends talk when no one is listening. Let me rephrase it, it's the way the men talk to their long time friends. No holds barred, no censorship, nothing off topic, and no tangent goes too far.

Catchphrase: Have a week.

3) Geekscape - This podcast is the mutation of an older podcast called Geekdrome that imploded after a good run in a mysterious way. Jonathan London was the half of Geekdrome that went on to start Geekscape. His former partner, Dan Trachtenberg, went on to launch the The Totally Rad Show, which is too overproduced and saccharin for my tastes. On Geekdrome, Jonathan has gone the route of having various guest hosts, even his girlfriend, to talk about films, video games and comics. Along the way, he's picked up quite an entourage of sidekicks that add to the flavor. Jon's passion comes through clear and cleanly. He'd firm in his opinions and able to explain why in a way that some critics avoid. While I disagree with some of his opinions, it's good to see him stake out unconventional positions and stick with it.

Catchphrase: Robotitties!

Those three podcasts exemplify what I find most appealing, honest talk and opinions about topics that the individuals have real passion about. Too many of today's podcasts are simply regurgitated newscasts based on what ever is hot on the net. They may be popular, but they are so produced and careful about what they say that I find them dull. Many of the podcast aggregation sites love this kind of news podcast, but I think they are lame.

4) The Adam Carolla Show - Adam Carolla is the host of a morning radio show in many parts of the country. Not exactly a shock jock, Adam is more like a smart libertarian with common sense (unlike most Libertarian Party members). Honing his skills for over a decade on Loveline, a nightly radio show, he speaks smoothly and intelligently on most any topic. Unlike that typical radio host that strives to create drama, Adam strives to move people toward sanity in an insane world. The podcast is simply the recording of the show, broken into segments, minus the commercial breaks. I love listening to his show this way since I can skip over guests or segments I'm not interested in.

Catchphrase: Mahalo

5) Wine Library TV - First, I'm not a big wine drinker. I prefer a glass of a good scotch whisky on ice, but host Gary Vaynerchuk, is a fantastic host. His passion for wine is evident and the fluidity of his patter is impressive. Never at a loss for descriptive words for the smells and flavors of the wines he tries, it's always an impressive performance. My only regret is that he doesn't review whisky. If you like wine, this is a must-watch show.

Catchphrase: We're changing the wine world, aren't we.

6) Metafilter Podcast - A podcast that discusses the MeFi site & community by Mathowie and Jessamyn. Calm and easy going, this podcast is for people that follow the Metafilter website. With a very narrow audience, this podcast serves them well. I've followed the site for over 5 years and find it a relaxing listen with a few good chuckles tossed in.

Catchphrase: [none yet, but they need one]

7) Diggnation - Probably the most popular podcast on my list, I've been listening since the second episode. Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht talk about popular posts on Digg.com. The topics they talk about often aren't news to me, since I follow Digg. what's interesting is when Kevin & Alex mix it up a bit and open up about their experience or passion about a topic. Some episodes, they seem to be phoning it in, just trying to get to the end, not really giving a shit. Other times, they are hilarious. They are at their best in front of a live audience, where their professional TV skills take over, and they really get on a roll, fueled by alcohol.

Catchphrase: Next story!

Overall, what I find interesting in a podcast is interesting people that speak from their hearts. You can get talking heads and news aggregation anywhere, but it's not so easy to find interesting, smart people. Many podcasts don't seem to get this. They seem to think that finding a niche and talking about recent events is enough, it's not.

So, Loyal Cruft Readers, what did I miss?

Posted by michael at 09:07 PM | Comments (3)
July 05, 2007
Diet Coke Plus & Java Monster

Here are reviews of two different drinks I bumped into recently.

Diet Coke Plus

Actually, I found this at the supermarket several weeks ago, drank it, took pictures, but could muster the energy to post about it.

Who can resist Diet Coke with a theoretical benefit? Definitely not me.

I wanted to just buy a can or a six pack, but only the twelve pack was available, so Cruft Labs jumped in with both feet.

The color scheme is pleasing to me for some reason. The light blue swoosh with the rainbow style lettering. The taste was, well, the taste was like Diet Coke. I really didn't notice anything strange or bitter.

When I actually looked at the vitamin content I was a bit disheartened. The vitamins are Niacin (B3), B6, and B12 all energy metabolism types. The minerals are magnesium and zinc. I guess those are helpful, but what about the more useful ones like vitamins C & D or iron or something else that I've actually heard someone need. Magnesium and zinc? They are necessary, but not the first things that pop to mind when choosing vitamins.

I wouldn't go out of my way to buy more Diet Coke Plus, but if you are one of those Diet Coke fanatics that runs through a six pack of the stuff daily, you might find it useful.

Java Monster - Big Black

At the office, one of my co-workers, Jason, is never seen without a can of Monster in his hands. He swears by them, as does my brother, Matt.

I've never been one for the new style energy drinks. They all seem like slightly off versions of Gatorade to me.

But when I saw Java Monster - Big Black at 7-Eleven, I had to give it a try. Who can resist this copy:

The Java Monster isn't bad, but it's not great either. As you can see, the color is more like chocolate milk than coffee.

The flavor is terribly sweet with a milky flavor, with a hint of coffee flavor. I would call it a mocha rather than Big Black. I was expecting a much stronger coffee flavor.

I had a few Japanese iced coffees that are this sweet, but the can of monster is almost triple the size of the traditional iced coffee can. I drank about 2/3 of the glass before I lost interest.

Posted by michael at 09:10 PM | Comments (6)
July 04, 2007
Happy Independence Day #231

Two hundred and thirty one years ago, our nations founder's declared their independence from Great Britain. Today, we celebrate the creation our our great nations.

In my town of South Pasadena, we have a traditional parade of the community down our main street.

The Boy Scouts carried the Colors to lead the parade of local officials and groups. Everyone from bands to soccer teams to square dancers to fire trucks were in the parade.

My eldest daughter, Zoe, was given the privilege of carrying the placard for our Representative, Adam Schiff.

A simple parade like this, without overt commercialism, reminds me that the basis of our country is the simple idea that by joining together with our community, we can create a better life for everyone. In these days of political turmoil, it is good to remember that we are all in this together. Seeing families out together and bumping into friends is an important reminder that people are what's important in this life.

Posted by michael at 02:38 PM | Comments (0)
July 02, 2007
Bud Light + Clamato = Chelada?

Yesterday, Michele and I made a run to the local 7-Eleven, her for a soda, me for a Slurpee. I'm always on the lookout for new products and I spied a case of Bud Light + Clamato. Of course, I bought a can to bring home to Cruft Labs. Tonight, after dinner, we tried it.

You didn't believe me, did you. Sure enough, the wizards at Anheuser Busch have concocted a real doozy here. Now, I've heard of a chelada before, but I understood it as beer with lime & salt. Anheuser Busch seems to have a different opinion.

Clamato really is what it sounds like, tomato juice + clam broth. Personally, I've never liked it. Then again, I don't like tomato juice or Bloody Mary's either. Michele does like Clamato though.

The color of the Bud Chelada is light orange with just a minimal amount of head when it's poured. There is a slight salty smell and a stronger vegetable smell on the nose.

I took a good sized swig and that was enough for me. The strong salt taste with the mild carbonation is just too nasty for me. The guy at 7-Eleven said it was selling well, but I can't understand why.

Michele didn't like it either and she's a person that likes light beer and even already drinks Clamato.

You have to give it to Anheuser Busch, they are really trying new things to see what sticks. But I'm not sure that shellfish is what I want in my beer.

Posted by michael at 09:14 PM | Comments (40)
It's nice to know the right people

The people at Apple and AT&T are good to us.

You can see me in the reflection at my desk trying to get work done while they built-in various pyramids of iPhones...

Posted by michael at 03:40 PM | Comments (3)