Neat Link of the Day

Today, Photocritic pointed me to neat little online app that will allow you to do some basic photo editing (crop, rotate, colours, levels, exposure, and some neat special effects stuff) on the fly.  It’s called Picnik, and I can definetely see it coming in handy – it’s even got some integration with flickr, for easy storage of your finished masterpieces.

Ah Monday

How I cherish you, if only for the way you allow me to look back upon my weekend and long to relive it, over and over again.

Friday night, I tried to watch Idlewild with my roommate and his cousin. I should pause for a moment to elaborate on my intense hatred for hip-hop “culture”: I hate ebonics, I hate the casual use of the n-word (no, just because you are black does _not_ make it ok), I hate the “success means being a pimp or a drug dealer or a basketball player” mentality. I do like hip hop music though, and I have a weakness for movie musicals, and I heard Andre Benjamin being interviewed on Fresh Air a few weeks back, and he didn’t sound like an idiot, so I figured I’d give the movie a try. It started well enough – the actor playing “young” rooster stole my heart, the music was catchy, and the neat little camera tricks used to bend reality ever-so-slightly where cool. Unfortunately, things started to go downhill by the end of the opening monologue. The acting was bad, the writing was worse, and the plot, non-existent for the first 40 minutes or so. We turned it off after we realized that the only white people in Idlewild, Georgia apparently are the cops. I can deal with having my intelligence insulted by movies (I watched Lord of War last night, for example), but subtle racism is a little too much for me. Luckily, I had some Eddie Izzard and New Glarus’ Yokel to use to cleanse my brain.

Saturday, an ex-coworker of A. and mine joined us for lunch at Little Szechuan, the St. Paul project of the chef at the Teahouse (the best szechuan I’ve ever had in Golden Valley). Suffice to say, I’ve now found the best Szechuan in St. Paul, and, given the fact that I can get there without braving 394 or 100, it might just be the best in the Cities. Try the dan-dan noodles, and the chung king chicken, and naturally, the szechuan green beans. You will not be disappointed. The best part of it (and all really good chinese places really), is that the 6 of us gorged ourselves for $15 a person — tip included.

After lunch, A. and I fought off the food coma and headed to the theater to watch Notes on a Scandal, which was brilliant and, despite the creepiness factor, has greatly enhanced my girl crush on Dame Judi Dench. It’s too bad that Helen Mirrin seems to be the frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar this year, because that was an Oscar-worthy performance if I’ve ever seen one. Cate Blanchett also did an excellent job as a galactically stupid high school teacher, and Andrew Simpson, well, lets just say he had me thinking thoughts that I ought not to about 15 year-olds.

 Movie seen, we headed deeper into the heart of St. Paul to Station 4, where we enjoyed cheap beer (but did not take advantage of the free snacks) whilst waiting for the shuttle to whisk us away to the land of the “The Legendary” Roy Wilkins. Station 4 is a neat little space, with it’s stage separated, yet still visible, from the bar area (meaning that one may enjoy the show and one’s beverages with less of a risk of spillage), and I’d like to check out a show there at some point. Roy Wilkins (and the rest of Rivercenter really) was insane, due to record crowds for the MN Rollergirls (over 4700), plus every 13 y.o. girl from the suburbs at the Xcel for the Pink Dick-in-a-Box show. Despite the craziness, we were able to find decent seats in the front row of the balcony, and enjoy a uniquely elevated view for the first home bout of the 2007 season. A. was a little shocked by the level of violence in the jams (I mean, they are home teams…shouldn’t they be friends?), but I say that a little carnage just spices things up all the more.

Sunday, The Unnamed Jetta was pampered by the army of monkeys (teen-aged boys who wear their pants too low) at the Perfect 10 Carwash, and then I headed down to Hell’s Kitchen, where breakfast porn was ordered and consumed. Afterwards, C. (my personal interior design consultant) and K. (her assistant), joined me at Home Depot for the launch of Operation Decorate My Bedroom. We played with the computer, and grabbed some paint swatches (evidently, I like browns, purples, and blues), then headed over to Target (with a brief stop to die of cute at Petsmart) to look at accessories. I’m still really bad at imagining how colours will look together, so I’m going to spend some time staring at swatches on my wall this week. The evening finished off with a trek to Roseville to visit Play-it-Again-Sports (I need to budget $50 for a pair of skates next week), and Cost Plus World Market (where I went in looking for bedding, and came out with wasabi peas), and finally a trip to C’s, to watch an episode of Knitty Gritty (which was not the one with the Yarn Harlot in it) and torment her cat.

Despite the seeming hecticness this weekend, I came into work today surprisingly refreshed and with a much better attitude for dealing with things here than I left with on Friday. Have a great week everyone!

Neat Link of the Day

One of the things that I’ve tried to do since graduating from college is to stop pirating software.  After all, I make my living writing it, so should I rip people off.  That being said, I also hate paying for software (especially at non-academic prices!), so I often try to find free (as in beer as well as speech) alternatives to popular programs that I’d like to use.  For example, my image editor of choice is The GIMP, not Photoshop, and when I get back to tracking my finances again, it will be in GnuCash or AceMoney, not Quicken. 

So, I was really pleased when I found Osalt.com.  It lists popular commericial software, as well as open source alternatives, so you can easily find a substitute.  For example, I had been lamenting not being able to find a decent alternative to Microsoft’s generic diagramming tool, Visio.  I looked it up on Osalt, and viola!

Of course, in software, as in the rest of life, you often get what you pay for.  Open source versions of tools often don’t offer as rich of a feature set, or are a little more buggy/harder to use than their for-pay brethren.  That being said, I often find that I don’t really need all the bells and whistles, and I’m willing to put up with a little more hassle in order to save both my bank balance, and my conscience.

A little something to feed to your RSS reader

RSS has changed the way I use the net. Not too long ago, a site like Cooking Cute would have warranted a quick look from me, and then gotten forgotten.

Now however, I can toss it into Google Reader, and on a regular basis be reminded that there are people out there with far more time on their hands and talent than I, and maybe I just might be inspired to make the world a better place by creating something cute to eat.

a.jpg

Pretty Pictures

I signed up for a photography class at SW Mpls Community education last week, yesterday was the first class.

To be honest, on the drive down to the school last night, i had almost convinced myself that I was going to drop it — first of all, it is in that area of south minneapolis that I fear because it is Edina-Adjacent and a 30 minute drive away from my homestead in Blaine. Secondly, I have to drive through south minneapolis rush hour to get there on time. And last but not least, it conflicts with movie night, which means that I’ll have to either lean on my co-workers to see movies that start before 5pm all the time, or just plan to be 15-20 minutes late to class every other week.

By the end of the evening, I had convinced myself to stay with it. Our instructor, Leo is an adorably socially awkward Ukranian immigrant with a background in fine arts who used to do photography for the soviet army — imagine the stories he’s got from that! He seems to really know what he’s doing as well, and isn’t too shy about criticizing, which is what I need. Also, some of my best friends are in the class with me, so no matter what, I know it will be fun. Plus field trips! And homework that actually seems like it will be fun! There seems to be a slight disparity of skill levels right now (one of the students didn’t know what macro mode is), but I have a feeling that as long as we’re all patient, we’ll all learn a lot.
it's a vicious cycle

On another note, as part of prepping for the first class, I learned that you can send pictures from flickr directly to Target for 1 hour processing. I don’t think I need to go into how convienient this is as I am already a Target junkie. The photo quality is pretty good, but I wish that flickr’s applet for this would allow you to specify how you want the pictures cropped if they don’t already fall within the nice 4×6 boundaries.

Stats Junkie

I admit it.  I’ve got a problem.  I’m addicted to web stats. Nothing strokes my ego more than watching my page hits go up whenever I post, or using my referrer logs to figure out what people are searching for when they find me.

Previously, I had been using Tracksy to keep track of my page views.  I liked tracksy a lot because it was easy and free, and I could track some of my other sites from there as well.  However, I always felt that something was lacking, since Tracksy doen’t do stats on RSS feeds, and since that’s how most people with brains read blogs such as this, I felt that I was missing out on learning about my readership.  Laziness and lethargy are powerful forces in my world however, and I never bothered to do much about it.

This changed a few weeks ago when Tracksy’s website wouldn’t let me log in for a few days: “we’re having database problems” was the message.  I was annoyed, but figured I could last a few days without obsessively checking my page views (and being in Vegas away from internet access for a few days definitely helped).  What killed it for me though was when I got back, and tried to log in again, and was told something along the lines of “Due to our database issues, some of our accounts have been lost.  Please sign up again”.

Umm…  Not cool.  I know it’s a free service and all, but how do you lose accounts?!?  A few days of data, fine.  Maybe even forget a couple of the sites I’ve asked you to track.  But don’t forget about my entire user account.  Don’t you have backups? grumble.

Anyways, this finally pushed me over the edge to FeedBurner, and it’s a stat whore’s dream.  Not only is it pretty (trebuchet and rounded edges), but it’s functional too.  It will do simple pageview tracking like tracksy did, and it tells me how many subscribers it detects to the feed, how many times the feed is hit by robots like Google’s FeedFetcher. The burned feed itself even gets a nifty stylesheet thrown on it, so I can point users straight to http://feeds.feedburner.com/ThePrudentHedonist, without having to worry about whether they know what to do with some xml gobbledegook.

Setting it up wasn’t quite so easy as I think it should have been (but that’s more WordPress’s fault than anything else, and there are some how-tos on FB’s site), but now that I’ve got it going, I think it’s pretty slick.  Some of their more advanced features are for pay only, but I can’t see myself really needing them right now.  Maybe after I go above 10 subscribers I’ll think about it.

Oscar Season!

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, the nominees have been announced.  I know there’s other award shows out there – SAG, GG, PC, but something about the Academy Awards has always just felt so much more real to me.  Maybe it’s because the other shows didn’t get much play in Canada when I was growing up, or because Dreamgirls is (deservedly!) not even nominated for a major Oscar, but the Oscar’s just have that aura of respectability to them.  Well, as much respectability as a celebrity fueled masturbatory spectacle can have.

Oscar night this year is 2/25.  I’ve always wanted to host an Oscar Party, but have never really had the motivation.  This year, my fellow movie geek A is applying enough peer pressure on me that I probably will throw one this year – even if it does mean subjecting perfectly innocent house guests to Ellen Degeneres trying to be funny. If you know me IRL, you’re invited.  I think I’m gonna try to fancy it up a little – hors d’oeuvres, decadent desserts, and a few bottles of fine wine – we’ll have to see how the budget looks around then though.

Wierd

It’s been a weird day my friends.
Couldn’t order the camera, due to shenanigans regarding my AMEX (I want to pay using that, so that I can get the 90 day theft/damage protection), hopefully I can order it tomorrow and two day shipping will arrive on Thursday so that I can have the camera for VEGASBABYYEAH!

Got some potentially icky news at work today, which pretty much killed off my afternoon and resulted in A. and I going out to dinner (instead of me going to the gym, then going home and eating chili – so. much. chili.)

Went to Riverdale to exchange my empty box of test strips (water quality is still crappy, btw). I also went looking for an appropriate outfit to wear in VEGASBABYYEAH! Found a cute blazer, which coupled with the super cute shoes I got a couple months ago, and one of the many pairs of black pants I have lying around should be suitably “big-pimpin’” for our night on the town. Looking through my closet I realize that I have a lot of “party” gear that I never wear, because it never seems to be the right party, or I decide that it isn’t cute enough for some reason or another. I think I need to sit myself down one of these days and make a major deposit into the karma bank at Goodwill.
When I got home, I found a $15 coupon for the store that I just dropped $70 at. Oops – I guess I’m making another trip tomorrow. Also, my roommate (the budding dj) bought a copy of Scratch Live, so he’s currently having throwing a dance party for himself in the basement. As part of this party, he felt it necessary to open the bottle of Grey Goose I’ve been saving, even though I told him not to. He thought he could make it better by pouring me an extra strong drink, but when I’m not in the mood to be drunk, even good vodka doesn’t sit right with me so it’s that much more wasted — he owes me a bottle of decent vodka.

Hopefully everyone else had a better day today, and tomorrow will work out well for all of us.

ETA: one thing I forgot!  The Current has launched their song of the day podcast. Today’s song by The Good, The Bad, and the Queen was well, odd, but definetely something I won’t mind keeping in the rotation – check it out.

5 day week

I haven’t worked a five day week since November. This coming week is going to be rough.

In preparation for a week where I have to work for a living for at least a whole 40 hours, I’ve spent a lot of time by myself this weekend, which has been a very good thing. Friday night, I went skating and then for drinks with representatives of 3 different groups of friends – I’ve determined that one of the things that a potential partner-type person needs to be able to do is to fit in with the diverse groups of people who I associate with. I don’t like feeling like I’m babysitting. Saturday morning, I slept in until 2pm, despite getting to sleep before 2am. There’s probably a reason for this, but not one I’m going to write about here. I watched Good Night and Good Luck (finally!), and was impressed, but also scared, given humanity’s inability to learn from history and the current situation vis a vis wars and “enemies” and the media and such.

Accomplishments from the past weekend include:

  • Made marlin steaks for the first time for – 4 minutes per side (about 3/4inch thick) turned out a little overdone. Marinated with soy sauce and lime juice which worked out well.
  • Ate a delicious rib eye as part of a fancy dinner made just for me. No marinade, just salt and pepper, 4 minutes on side 1, 5 minutes on side 2 = heaven. Seriously – I’d forgotten how good a simple homemade steak (accompanied by mashed potatoes and sauted onions and mushrooms can be).
  • Made a vat of chili today – fairly basic recipe – cook dry beans in crockpot overnight, in the morning, brown beef with cumin and chili powder, saute onions/garlic, deglaze with beer, add to crockpot with tomatoes, and every type of pepper you can find.
  • Made cupcakes – Cook’s Illustrated’s Dark Chocolate Cupcake recipe, frosted with Betty Crocker’s Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting, the cupcakes were orgasmic of course (I <3 Christopher Kimball and all of his minions), but I was also pleasantly surprised by the frosting - it had been sitting in the pantry for a while (came home with one of my roommates), and I was expecting it to be overly sweet and kinda gross (as most store bought frostings are), but it is actually fairly decent - I'd be willing to serve it in public, which is saying something.
  • Knitted and felted a swatch of malabrigo for a purse I was hoping to make. I don’t think I like it very much – i’ll have to confer with the ladies at knitting club on Tuesday to see what they think.
  • Found A’s xmas present at Borders, bought a new snail at Petsmart – though I need to go back there now, because I also bought a package of test strips and when I opened the box, it was empty…grr.

This next week I’ll be laying in preparations for Vegas next weekend. I have a camera to order, a fancy outfit to find/purchase, packing to do, and some blackjack basic strategy to study up for. Interspersed with that, I will be going back to the gym for the first time since last year (yes, i’ve been naughty), also knitting (of course) and best new bands of 2006 show at First Ave on Wednesday. Should be interesting. TTYL!

Happy Thursday

Yesterday morning, I woke up around 6 to the sound of my roommate getting ready for work.  I must have made amusing groaning noises because both of my roommates came into my room and mocked me for being so tired.  I then proceeded to sleep until 8 (oops), and my car needed gas, and my tires needed air, so I rolled in to the office sometime around 9:30 (double oops).  I’m still not sure why I was so tired as I was in bed by 11:30 the night before.  The going theory is that the Town Talk people drugged our drinks.

After work, was the first incarnation of SMEGMA – the Semi-Monthly Evening Group Movie Adventure.  Basically, a bunch of people from work have committed to going to see a movie every other Wednesday at the new theater near our office.  I think this is great, because it will get me to see more movies in theaters (and probably some that I would otherwise pass on, since we’ll be using a democratic process to determine the movie each time).  Yesterday was Dreamgirls which disappointed – it was long, and boring, and frankly fairly depressing.  I don’t know why I used to love the soundtrack so much when I was little (my parents had it on vinyl).  Eddie Murphy did a great job as a James Brown-esque figure, Jamie Foxx was comfortably creepy, and yes, Jennifer Hudson kicked ass, but as a whole, it’s just not something I can recommend.

Yesterday, I also got a 2007 refill for my Franklin-Covey planner (more on this later). And discovered that if you want to buy a page-a-day calendar for someone, you should do it before the first of the year.  Luckily, Amazon.com still has these in stock.

Other cool things I heard about in the past nychthemeron include:

  • Placeblogger – think of it as a directory of “local” blogs.
  • The Current Song of the Day – New MP3 to download every day – sounds neat, I can’t find it for the life of it on their page (even though Mark Wheat told me about it last night….grumble.)  I’ll keep you posted. Evidently, this is a new podcast of theirs that goes live on Monday.  I’ll post the link when I get it.
  • People with babies are crazy (well, we knew that already)
  • My broomball game is cancelled tonight.  This is actually not cool, but it does mean that I get to go grocery shopping and then make myself a real dinner tonight (cooking! at home! during the week! this is quite shocking, really).

Enjoy life today folks!