Sunday, February 28, 2010

Video Blog: February 2010

In this month's video blog, I talk about my trip to Chicago, Orangina, my favorite hot dog stand and my discomfort in using a bluetooth ear piece. And, of course, there's the beer of the month.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Kicking Up The Highway

I just finished driving 2 and-a-half hours North up the interstate. I thought that this would be a great opportunity to put my Motorola Droid and the Verizon 3G network through their paces. I streamed my Stoner Folk Rock music station through Pandora the whole way up. About 30 minutes into the trip, Jason called me through my Google Voice number. The Pandora stream paused as the phone rang. Google Voice announced his name in my earpiece and I the button to accept the call. When the call was over and I hung up, the Pandora stream resumed. Nearing my destination, a call came through my Verizon number. Again, Jack Johnson's dulcet tones paused as I answered the call and resumed when I hung up.

A brief stop at a rest stop for some coffee allowed me the opportunity to consult Google Maps. The app read my location via GPS. I input in my destination address, retrieved estimated travel time from the app and called ahead to update my e.t.a. I then hopped back in the car, started the Pandora stream back up and continued on my way.

I must say that the Droid and the Verizon Wireless 3G network performed quite well on the trip up. The Pandora stream never dropped due to gaps in the network. The phone itself held up well. The 50% charge I had on my battery when I left was more than enough to handle the calls and data streaming that I was doing for nearly 3 hours. When I arrived, the phone still had a 15% charge.

Gotta love technology.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Web Teleconferencing With Speek

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Speek. All opinions are 100% mine.

In this modern age, it seems like all of us are not only constantly connected, but we're also connected via a number of different devices. Myself, I have my cell phone, Google Voice, Yahoo IM and AIM. That's a mere pittance compared with most people I know. Sometimes, when it comes time to collaborate with co-workers or even make plans with friends in a timely manner, calls need to be sent out between multiple devices. It's much to inefficient and time consuming to contact every device one-by-one. And Heaven help you if you've got to make follow-up calls. You'd think that someone would come up with a way to contact a number of devices all at once in a teleconferencing module.

The folks over at Speek.com have developed a Web-based teleconferencing system that can dial out to cell phones, landlines, and voice-over-Internet applications like Skype and GoogleTalk. The great thing is, this app is FREE and all you have to do is sign up and register for private beta.

I used the app just a bit ago to make dinner plans with a number of my friends. Not only did it connect with everyone seamlessly, but the call clarity was amazing. Nobody could believe that they were teleconferenced in through a web application. They were all sure I was using a professional, fully wired landline system.

Don't just take my word for it. Sign up yourself and try it out. If you click the link above, you'll be able to get into the private beta without an invitation code.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Action Comics #1 Sells For A Million

A rare, mint condition edition of Action Comics #1, the comic that first introduced Superman, sold on Monday for $1 million, the most ever paid for a comic book, in a public sale held by website ComicConnect.com. The comic was published in June 1938 and described how Superman was born on another planet and came to Earth as a baby. It also introduces Clark Kent's love interest, Lois Lane.

Back in 1938, the comic sold for 10 cents. I remember a copy being offered for sale, some 15 years ago and it went for $150,000. Last year a less-than-mint copy of Action #1 was sold for $317,000. I just hope that the Siegel and Shuster estates don't get wind of this. They'll no doubt want a cut of the profit.

The $1 million record may not last long, however. On Thursday, a similarly preserved issue of Detective Comics #27, the first comic appearance of Batman, goes up on the auction block. With fewer than 50 copies of Detective Comics #27 known to be in existence, and with Batman having a larger fanbase than Superman, and with all the hype surrounding the sale of Action #1, it would seem that Detective Comics #27 may indeed be poised to break the $1 million mark. But, it won't matter. All that money still won't bring poor Batman's parents back.

In all seriousness, it's interesting to see comic books selling for as much as works of fine art. Essentially, comic books are indeed works of art and its nice to see them being treated as such.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Olympic Curling

I fell asleep with the television on the other night. I had been watching Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. The faux-indignation he displays in his "special commentaries" no longer entertains me, but that's another story. I awoke in the wee hours of the morning to find that Winter Olympics coverage was polluting my television screen. Worse, it was curling. My gut reaction was to switch the television off and go back to sleep. For a few moments,  however, my desire for knowledge pushed through my somnolence. What was this sport about? Why was it so popular all of a sudden?

Curling resembles shuffleboard except that it's played on ice with a circular target rather than a pyramid and a gigantic rock instead of a plastic disk. The team pushes rocks on ice to a target and whichever team has the closest rock to the target gets points. The amount of points is determined by the number of closest rocks the team has. Two sweepers with brooms or brushes accompany each stone to help direct the stones to their resting place without touching the stones.

You might say that curling is basically bocce ball on ice, except the players are using the bastard offspring of irons and bowling balls. Okay, I got it, but I was still bored. I ceased wondering why a gang of  bored Scottish men first decided to do this on some frozen pond in the 16th century. I was about to turn off the TV and go back to dreaming about the zombie apocalypse when the women's curling competition began and I realized the real reason why this sport is so popular this year

Have you seen the women's teams?

Ladies, I'm afraid we can't let you onto the field anymore. You could melt all of that ice.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Droid Does. And Now, So Do I

I was due for a new cell phone back in October. I had known for quite some time that I was ready to purchase a smartphone of some sort, but, with all the options available to me, I didn't know where to begin. I was tempted to go with the iPhone seeing as how much I enjoy my iPod Touch. Increasingly, however, Apple has become the Wal-Mart of apps in that it is trying to be too family friendly and content suffers because of it. Apple's refusal to allow Google voice in the App store, along with my desire to keep my music device and my cell phone separate, pretty much sold me on getting a phone that runs the Android platform.

The first thing I noticed about the Motorola Droid is that it bucks current design trends. Instead of smooth curves, you'll find angles and edges. Instead of a cheap, lightweight feel, you'll find a solid heft. This little design rebellion works very well when using the device to run apps, but seems counter-intuitive when using it to make calls. It just doesn't feel natural putting this thing up against my ear and speaking into it. To fix that, I went out and bought a bluetooth earpiece.

The Droid's real strength comes from its integration with Google technologies. Now, finally, I can use Google Voice which circumvents my minutes usage. Google Maps and its turn-by-turn directions have already saved me from wandering around the other side of the county looking for some obscure side street. Apps are easily installed from the Android Market onto the phone and the number of apps available is increasing. I do wish that Yahoo would offer a suite of apps for email, IM and such, but it hasn't yet happened.

I have a love/hate relationship with the camera. It's a five megapixel camera paired with an LED flash, which sounds pretty sweet. And it is, when it comes to shooting video. When taking still pictures, however, there's a bit of a learning curve. The camera takes forever to focus and the interface is just not intuitive.

The temptation to compare the Droid to the iPhone is irresistable, but it's really like comparing Stauffer's Whales to Pepperidge Farm's Goldfish. Both platforms have very distinct strengths and weaknesses. If you do have to make the comparison, then you need to know that the Android platform doesn't offer as seamless an experience as Apple's iPhone does. However, the iPhone experience lags behind the Droid in messaging, email, and customization.

Overall, I'm very happy with the Motorola Droid. I'm still finding my way around it, still learning and still experiencing. It works great with Verizon's network and has more than enough features to make a geek like me happy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Virtual Sink's 198th Post SPECTACULAR!!!!

It's hard to believe that just a year ago today I slapped down the money for a domain name and web hosting, thus unleashing The Virtual Sink back upon an unsuspecting populace. At first, I wondered if I had the discipline to keep this site updated on a regular basis. Now, a year later, I feel that the site is going strong and still packs a lot of potential. I've renewed the domain registration and the web hosting.

I'd like to highlight some of the high points over the past year:
  • Being named a Blog Of Note: This was obviously a huge deal because of the amount of page hits it generated. This allowed me to sell ad space which finances the operation of the site.
  • The War on Sobriety: This was a lot of fun, not just because of the atmosphere of Las Vegas but because, for the first time in years, I got to spend quality time with my younger brother.
  • I developed quite an affinity for snack food pr0n and continue to be on the lookout for it whenever I am shopping. 
  • Interacting with my readers either via comments or e-mail. You folks are great for my ego. I even kinda like you spambots who occasionally muddy the site up with your blog-o-spam.
It has been an amazing experience being able to share with everyone my thoughts, adventures and goofy videos. There's a lot more still to come. Here's to another year of The Virtual Sink. 

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Worst. Mardi Gras. Ever.

    Mardi Gras. It's the culmination of the carnival atmosphere created during the week between the Epiphany and Ash Wednesday. Just like last year, I'm sitting out of all the celebrations today. Two years ago, Jason and I had the worst Mardi Gras ever. It was so bad that I haven't gotten up the courage to tempt fate again.

    We had both been having a particularly crappy week at this time back in 2008. The finer details are irrelevant at this point, but suffice it to say that we both felt like were were being crushed under the greasy black heel of fate and we were in the mood to turn things around. I had read about some Mardi Gras party about an hour north of us and we decided to go all out and party as heartily as possible. We dropped way too much money on beads, crowns and other spirited knickknacks and trudged North. Then, it began to rain. It was as if God had poured out the Heavens in an attempt to drown us. We pushed onward, determined that that while the elements might rain on our parade, we wouldn't let them flood us out.

    Finally, we arrived, both of us in dire need of booze. We donned our Mardi Gras finery and headed into the bar. I had so many beads on me that they were absorbing my ambient heat. We were so anxious to get in, get warm and get a drink that we didn't immediately notice that the place was almost completely dead. There we were, decked out in crowns and beads staring dumbfounded at the bar. I don't think I ever felt so out of place. Not even in high school. But, yes! Salvation! The bartender was a hottie. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

    The bartender sauntered up to us as she perkily exclaimed "Oh, how CUTE! You boys dressed up! Too bad nobody else did". I think I actually felt my heart sink down into my gut.

    There was only one cure for this swirling vortex of humiliation that seemed to surround us at that moment. Jason and I looked at each other and said "Irish Car Bombs". It took several rounds to numb the pain, after which we stumbled out into the street to look for a more happening bar.

    We fell into some other place where I was promptly accosted by some roided out muscle head for making a remark about the hotness of his girlfriend. I had personally meant it as a compliment, but my English-to-Dipshit translator must have gone offline after the fifth Irish Car Bomb for the muscle head charged at me like a drunken rhino. I began to look for a napkin on which to write my obituary. Just then, Jason body checked the oaf and pinned him up against the wall. I was still sure that we were going to die a horrible, painful, bloody death. I wondered if I could find a pen.

    The bartender saw the commotion and ordered the bouncers to throw us out. "You can't throw us out! Because we're leaving this shithole!" Jason exclaimed proudly. And, so we left.

    We found yet another bar and settled down in order to sober up. We admitted defeat and resolved to leave town before anything worse could happen. As we left, Fate kicked us in the balls again by flooding out the main road out of town. We would have to detour. We got lost and didn't make it home until several hours later.

    When asked what I learned from this experience, the best I can ever offer is that I am content to leave Mardi Gras to the folks who actually give up stuff for lent. At least after a crappy Fat Tuesday, I can still go and have a steak the following Friday.

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    I Chaperoned A Field Trip

    Growing up, my folks weren't often, if ever, able chaperon my class field trips. So, whenever my daughter has a field trip planned for school, I make a point of trying to put aside the time so that I can go along. On Friday, she and her class took a trip to a Lincoln historical site where Lincoln's early life is re-enacted by the employees. Along with an information center, a working 19th Century era farm is on the grounds. The kids were excited to walk around the farm and look at the animals. One employee brought out a chicken for the kids to pet. Personally, I had never been up close to a chicken that wasn't being served on a plate, so I was interested in petting the hen myself. But, the employee passed me by.

    "Hey! Don't bogart the chicken, 19th century dude!", I said with tongue placed firmly in cheek. It was then that the unexpected happened. The old-timey guy handed me the chicken to hold. I knew right away that this would be awesome. I exclaimed to all of the kids that this was the most awesome experience ever and invited them to gather around to meet "Camilla".

    I was immediately mobbed by first graders, each anxious to see what all the fuss was about. I excitedly talked to the group. "Aren't her feathers soft?", I asked. "Look how red her caruncle is. The caruncle is the little comb on top of her head. Can you all say caruncle?" I was smiling and laughing the whole time.

    My daughter seemed to take pride in watching her father go from quiet observer to center of attention. Her teacher whispered something into her ear and my daughter nodded emphatically. I asked the class to say goodbye to Camilla, to which they all said "Bye, Camilla" in unison while I pitched the hen back over the fence.

    Lining back up with my daughter, I asked her what her teacher had said to her.

    "She said that you are like a big kid".

    I couldn't agree more.

    If we can learn just one thing from our children, it's that we should not only be open to learning new things, but we must also relish the opportunity to be excited about learning. In the grand scheme of things, holding a chicken might not be much of a learning experience for a guy like me. But, it was new and simple and exciting. You don't often get that out of a classroom.

    Sunday, February 14, 2010

    Happy Valentine's Day

    No conspiracy theories today. No lashing out on how Valentine's Day is a Hallmark Holiday. No jokes about a bunch of gangsters getting killed back in 1929. Instead, I have taken on the more daunting task of giving everybody in the world a valentine.

    What? You say you didn't get yours? Well, it's right here:




    Saturday, February 13, 2010

    Murder Or A Heart Attack?

    Jason sent this one in to me this morning. He's fighting a losing battle with the mice in his garage. This one seemed to be fast enough to snatch the bait from the trap yet it turns out that the snapping of the trap scared him to death.


    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Five Dollar Personalized Apple & BlackBerry Cases

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    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    Google Buzz

    Google has just announced Google Buzz, its newest push into the social media foray. Combining aspects of Facebook and Twitter, Google Buzz will allow you to post status updates as well as photos and web links. If you've got a Gmail account, then you'll end up having the Buzz tab added to your Google toolbar.

    There are five primary features that define Google Buzz:

    1. Auto-following
    2. Rich, fast sharing experience
    3. Public and private sharing
    4. Inbox integration
    5. Just the good stuff

    Google Buzz is accessible via mobile in three ways: from Google Mobile’s website, from Buzz.Google.com (iPhone and Android), and from Google Mobile Maps.Buzz even knows where you are. It will figure out what building you are and ask you if it’s right. And, you Twitter freaeks will be happy to know that the @ tag is supported.

    I get a lot of use out of Google products, but the one gripe I have is that there's not a lot of unification between them. I use gmail, blogger, voice, calandar, and chat every day yet I have to log into each one separately and they all have their own interface. At least Google Buzz is built into gmail so I don't have another log in again to use it.

    Still, this might be cool. I've have been looking for a Facebook replacement ever since my mother got on Facebook. The only thing I fear now is Google Farmville.

    Monday, February 8, 2010

    Super Bowl 2010

    So, the Saints won the big game and the Colts have been left in the dust with vague hopes of "maybe next year". To tell you the truth, until Friday morning when everyone at work was decked out in team apparel, I had no idea who was even playing in the game. To me, a super bowl is one that's full of snacks that I don't have to share.

    I suppose I'm going to be subjected to a number of newfound Saints fans chanting "Who Dat?" at me for the next couple of weeks. That, and Kim Kardashian is going to be everywhere acting as if she was the one who intercepted Manning's pass for a touchdown. If the Lakers go all the way this year I'm going to have to pack it all up and move to Canada in order to escape the Kardashian media machine.

    Friday, February 5, 2010

    Samuel Adams Makes With The Swag!

    Two weeks ago, while trying to decide on topics to talk about in my January Video Blog, I had the opportunity to try Samuel Adams Noble Pils beer which was just recently brought to market. I didn't think I'd like it as I'm not a fan of pilsners, but, I found that the fine folks over at the Boston Brewing Company actually put together a pilnser that I didn't have to be drunk to enjoy. That's when I hit upon the idea of having a "beer of the month" segment in the video blog, and, of course, I made Samuel Adams Noble Pils the first beer to be awarded that honor.

    As a goof, I decided to e-mail the founder of Boston Brewing Company, Jim Koch. Here's what I sent him:

    I just wanted to mention to you that I'm quite the fan of both Coastal Wheat and Noble Pils beers. In fact, I have named Noble Pils my "Beer Of The Month" on my blog (known as The Virtual Sink). It's a great beer, maybe a bit light for a winter season lager, but still a very good brew. Check out my video blog. You guys are mentioned towards the end. And, at the very end is some crazy fat guy dancing. Really, it's worth a viewing.


    http://virtualsink.com/2010/01/video-blog-january-2010.html


    Anyway, thanks again for brewing some excellent beer. If you'd like to drop some literature in my snail mail box, please do so. I also like free stuff like hats and shirts (I'm an L or an XL). Or, if ya got a spare bottle of Utopias around that nobody is wanting to drink....


    I'm over 21 and I drink responsibly.

    I hardly expected a response. It has been my experience that CEOs don't read their e-mail. That's what their secretaries are for. I couldn't believe it when, just two hours later, I heard back from Jim Koch, who wrote:

    Thanks for the kind words. And I did enjoy watching the fat guy dance! Cheers, Jim
    That alone is very cool. Even better, though, was coming home from work today and finding a package on my doorstep waiting for me from the fine folks over at the Boston Beer Company. Included inside was a hat and a shirt. No beer, but still very classy and unexpectedly cool. 

    Anyway, my most heartfelt thanks goes out to Jim Koch and the folks over at the Boston Beer Company for making my week by taking a little time out to send a little love to one of their biggest fans. Cheers, guys.

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Stop Waiting And Get Going With Charter

    This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Charter. All opinions are 100% mine.

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    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    PETA Wants A Robotic Groundhog For Groundhog Day

    PETA thinks the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club is cruel to their resident groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. They want a robot to replace Phil because of "cruelty", though his caretakers argue that Punxsutawney Phil lives like a king.

    "Phil is probably treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania.", says a spokesperson for The Groundhog Club. "He's got air conditioning in the summer, his pen is heated in winter ... He has everything but a TV in there. What more do you want?"

    Turns out the folks at PETA have never even made an effort to visit Phil.

    Seems to me that it's better to keep old Phil living like a king in captivity then let him get eaten by a coyote. If PETA really wants to make a contribution they will pay Alecia Silverstone to crawl naked out of a hole in the ground to look for her shadow. I might even pay to see that.

    Did you know that Phil is just one of many groundhogs used to predict the arrival of Spring? A number of cities around the United States have their own local groundhog prognosticators. Here's a small sampling of them and their predictions:




    Prediction   Groundhog   Location  
    Early Spring Octorara Orphie Quarryville, Pennsylvania
    Early Spring Sir Walter Wally Raleigh, North Carolina
    Early Spring Jimmy the Groundhog Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
    Early Spring General Beauregard Lee Snellville, Georgia
    6 More Weeks of Winter Malverne Mel Malverne, New York
    Early Spring Staten Island Chuck Staten Island (New York City)
    Early Spring Woodstock Willie Woodstock, Illinois
    6 more weeks of winter Wiarton Willie Wiarton, Ontario
    6 more weeks of winter Punxsutawney Phil Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
    6 more weeks of winter Spanish Joe Spanish, Ontario
    Early spring Dunkirk Dave Dunkirk, New York
    Early Spring Buckeye Chuck Marion, Ohio
    Early Spring Balzac Billy Balzac, Alberta
    6 more weeks of winter Shubenacadie Sam Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia
    Early Spring French Creek Freddie French Creek, West Virginia
    6 more weeks of winter Chuckles Manchester, Connecticut
    6 more weeks of winter Woody Howell, Michigan

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Ken: By Request Only

    I stumbled upon a terrifying secret today. My office is across from the inventory room, which is a veritable museum of obsolete technology, lost backup tapes and misplaced paperwork. The Powers That Be decided that this would be the week that the room would be cleaned out, and anything everything not useful would either be thrown out or shipped back to the State for surplus and re-provisioning (a fate worse that being thrown out, I assure you). Among the items being discarded directly into the trash was a mysterious box, pictured below:
    It had been a slow day at work, so my curiosity got the better of me. Looking left and right to make sure nobody was watching me, I took the heavy box up in my arms like a lost kitten and scurried gleefully back to my desk. Inside the box could be anything! Russian nuclear codes, depleted uranium, a punch-card program for listing the prime numbers between 1 and 10,000, Jimmy Hoffa...the possibilities were endless. I tried to flip open the latches, only to find that they were locked! Whatever was in this box, somebody did NOT want it to get out.

    My pocket knife easily thwarted the rusted locks. I threw open the box and looked inside to see the treasure contained within. Looking back at me was a true abomination. Had it not been worn away from years of being held in a substandard storage facility, my eyes might have melted away the moment this aberration of nature slipped into my field of view. What was it that caused such a reaction? Why, it was nothing less than a copy of "Ken--By Request Only". Against my better judgment, I'm placing a copy of the album cover below. It's only a stock photo copy, not a direct scan, so it should be safe. Still, don't look directly at it or your retinas may explode.


    Back in the 1970's, a combined task force from the CIA, FBI and the Army Corps of Engineers were researching non-lethal weapon technology that could be used to subdue an enemy in order to take them into custody and question them. They hit upon a dual-sensory approach that would offend both the eyes and the ears of an enemy combatant. In order to achieve this objective, project scientists decided to clone Sister Sledge. They then inverted her genetic structure and mutilated one of her X chromosomes, turning it into a Y. The result was Ken. Age acceleration technology and bio-encoded memory engrams brought him up-to-speed for his task within a mere 18 months of emerging from the cloning chamber. He then recorded an album, the result of which would be the non-lethal weapon that the project leaders had long sought. But it worked too well. Instead of immobilizing enemies with uncontrollable diarrhea, vomiting, migraines and intense eye irritation, it made them die a horrible, agonizing death. Copies of the album had been intended to be dropped on Argentinians occupying the Falkland Islands in 1982. Due to the fatalities that ensued from field testing, however, the project had to be scrapped. Copies of the album that could not be destroyed were packed up and shipped to isolated locations throughout the United States.

    I ran screaming from my office, hoping to find my way to a bathroom sink so that I could wash my eyes out, lest I be subjected to a long absence from work. When I returned, the album was gone. Someone had run off with it. Woe be unto me, for I have let this scourge loose upon the world. All I can say is that I am sorry. Cover your ears and avert your eyes.