Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

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The Planet Express Fail Whale

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help
Photo Credit: David July — Planet Express Fail Whale featuring Yiying Lu and Gedeon Maheux, 21 September 2010 Between the reincarnation of Futurama and seeing Billy West, Phil LaMarr and John DiMaggio at DragonCon 2010 (see pictures from the panel), I was compelled to create this celebratory image to comment on the cancellation and subsequent return of the show. → Planet Express Ship from "Transit Authority" by Gedeon Maheux → Birds and Waves from "Fail Whale" by Yiying Lu
Photo Credit: David July

The String and Two Cups

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help
Photo Credit: David July — Green anole lizard at a payphone, Main Street, Windermere, Florida, 25 September 2003 When the topic of cellular telephones came up in my presence, people were often surprised to learn that I did not have one. Instead of the whole story, I would usually explain that I had good cause to cancel my last service and simply found no need to get another mobile. After all, I had a landline to use with DSL internet and did most of my talking at home anyway (see "The Paradigm Shift"). People thought I was crazy. In our modern times, it was difficult for some to imagine their lives without the convenience of smartphones. Plus it was rather inconsistent with my technical persona. If it was not for the work-issued phone I had at the time, the people I met in San Francisco might have excommunicated me or something. I mean, even the homeless there have cell phones. It all came down to a single straightforward issue: carrier contracts. Twice I had subscribed to cellular service and twice I was on the losing end of the deal. My first phone was the Qualcomm QCP-2760 on Sprint PCS. I was pleased with the device and service but I later found myself without a job. As I was unable to make the payments, Sprint PCS terminated my account and charged me the early termination fee. I was unable to come to any arrangement with them and so when I did get my finances in order, I went with another carrier. That carrier was AT&T Wireless and I used the Nokia 3595. Since I had no reason to switch, I continued on a month-to-month basis after my two-year contract ended. Unfortunately, AT&T Wireless started accepting bids for acquisition in 2004. I was not pleased when Cingular took things over, but the deal breaker came when I wanted to add more minutes to my monthly allotment. They said I could do nothing to my "legacy customer" plan without signing a new two-year contract. Photo Credit: Qualcomm, Nokia and Research In Motion — Qualcomm QCP-2760, Nokia 3595 and RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 For the next three years, ten months and twenty-one days, I did without cell service and did not particularly feel I was missing anything. When encountering a situation where it would have been useful, I was more apt to turn my nose because of the way people behave with telephones in stores and behind the wheel. Since the rudeness of other people is no reason to deny oneself technological convenience, I was open to the idea of another phone when a friend at work mentioned Boost Mobile and their prepaid BlackBerry plan. Given my prior experience, I was a bit skeptical when I learned Boost was a subsidiary of Sprint. There were at least three reasons why I felt compelled to give them another shot. First, my original dispute with Sprint PCS was over a contract and this is prepaid. Second, the Sprint CDMA network seems to have come along in the past decade and is now the third largest in the US. Third and perhaps most surprising, I was impressed by the Kai Ryssdal interview of Sprint CEO Dan Hesse on Marketplace. I also understand that Boost is targeting a demographic that is largely unable to get mobile service by contract due to poor credit history and other financial troubles. It occurs to me now I might very well be the Boost customer with the highest credit score. Nevertheless, none of that matters as long as the device and network are capable of providing the desired services. Photo Credit: Verizon Wireless — RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 Dimensions It is a simple setup. I bought the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 running OS 5 for $200 plus a $30 limited warranty to replace things like the mini trackball and battery. Each month, I add $60 to my Boost account by purchasing credits online. Although there are no additional fees, $4.50 in sales tax is levied when buying credits. This plan includes unlimited voice, SMS, MMS and data plus BlackBerry internet, messaging and GPS. In comparison, Verizon Wireless currently charges $90 for unlimited voice, SMS and MMS plus $30 for unlimited data. That comes to $60 or 100% more per month plus tax! Comfortable enough with Google Voice after eight months of use, I advertised it as my new mobile number and decided not to use, learn or give out the device's assigned number. There have been only a few minor issues along the way, like when my friend Marc could not call my Google Voice number from his Virgin mobile although we could text each other and I could call him. His switching carriers resolved that. Google Voice also has trouble establishing outgoing calls if my signal is too weak, though incoming calls are not affected. The experience has been quite positive overall and I have to admit to better understanding the reactions I got from people during my four disconnected years. I love being connected to my website and e-mail, and being able to approve comments while on the go. I love having GPS and maps in my pocket. In addition, I have been experimenting with Twitter—as you can see in the new window on the right—a service I never really understood before. I even added a new Flickr set to handle random mobile pictures. To my friends who have done all of these for many years, you may now roll your eyes. Unless you play in the walled garden, keeping everything synched up can be a hassle. Fortunately, my current configuration between the computer, phone and Google is only slightly convoluted. Since I started using Google Contacts as my address book to get the most out of Google Voice, it was a simple matter to install Google Sync and copy all my contacts to the BlackBerry. Because Google uses one field for all address information, I added carriage returns to the entries so they would import correctly into separate fields (Address 1, Address 2, City, State, ZIP, Country). Getting the address book into Outlook 2010 is currently a manual process using Google's export feature. Photo Credit: Boost Mobile and Research In Motion — Boost Mobile, Research In Motion and BlackBerry logos For a while now I have been synchronizing Outlook with Google Calendar using Google Calendar Sync. It stopped working when I upgraded to Outlook 2010, but a helpful article resolved that problem. Since the aforementioned Google Sync comes with calendar synching too, all that data is now mobile and interactive. The 6.0 release of BlackBerry Desktop Manager expected on Tuesday, 10 August will simplify some of these processes by directly connecting Outlook 2010 to my BlackBerry, which will thereafter serve as intermediary between my PC and the cloud. I am looking forward to this new arrangement. Having discovered only a few spotty coverage areas, I would rate my experience with the Sprint 1xEV-DO network in north and central Florida as satisfactory. Despite it launching two years ago, the Curve 8330 is a solid smartphone. It may not be the latest and greatest, but that was a concession I was willing to make in exchange for being contract free. So far, the most useful applications have been (in no particular order) Google Voice, Google Sync, BBMaps, Twitter, Shazam, KeePassBB, Flickr and the WordPress Mobile Admin plugin so I can approve comments here more quickly. Like with any subscription service, it will take much longer than a month to gauge true satisfaction. If my experience so far is any indication of the future, Boost/Sprint may just earn themselves a long-term customer. Or if things turn out the other way, I will have invested very little and learned a lot.
Photo Credit: David July Original Photo Credit: Qualcomm, Nokia and Research In Motion Original Photo Credit: Verizon Wireless Original Photo Credit: Boost Mobile and Research In Motion

The Great Muppet Politick

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Photo Credit: David July — The campground fishing pier at Lake Seminole, Three Rivers State Park, Sneads, Florida, 29 May 2010 I often enjoy watching a show on Hulu when having dinner at home. Tonight I put on an episode of The Good Guys, a new "opposite buddy cop show" with Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks. One of the limited commercial interruptions was a public service announcement about exercise featuring Michelle Obama and Elmo on Sesame Street. Photo Credit: Sesame Workshop ©2010 I immediately thought of the two great Muppet moments in The West Wing episode "Eppur Si Muove." The first is the scene where First Lady Abbey Bartlet played by Stockard Channing gives Elmo a checkup. Having recently given up her medical license, Elmo wonders aloud if Bartlet should proceed.
"Do you have a diploma you could show Elmo? Can Elmo be frank? This laughing is not filling Elmo with confidence!"
Photo Credit: Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc. ©2004 The other great moment is the culmination of many height-related jokes at the expense of C.J. Cregg played by Allison Janney. I think this single frame from the scene during which no dialogue is spoken stands on its own. Photo Credit: Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc. ©2004 According to the Muppet Wiki, the following politicians have appeared with Muppets on television or in person: Kofi Annan, Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Barbara Bush, Laura Bush, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Christopher Dodd, Queen Elizabeth II, David Gergen, Mike Huckabee, Glenda Jackson, Jesse Jackson, Ed Koch, Wim Kok, Ralph Nader, Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Johannes Rau and Christian Wulff. In addition, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen attended a movie screening with Muppets and Kermit has even appeared several times on Hannity & Colmes.
Photo Credit: David July Original Photo Credit: Sesame Workshop Original Photo Credit: Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc. Original Photo Credit: Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc.

The Camping Trip II

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Photo Credit: David July — A dragonfly resting on a wooden post in the campground on the shore of Lake Seminole, Three Rivers State Park, Sneads, Florida, 29 May 2010 After our successful outing to O'Leno State Park in January, I decided to join Mom and Ross on another camping trip. We were interested in trying the campground at Florida Caverns State Park; however, the Blue Hole camping area is closed for renovations from 15 March through 15 July 2010. We instead made plans for the Memorial Day holiday weekend at the nearby Three Rivers State Park. The thirty-site camping area proved to be ideal and rather private, considering our proximity to another site, the Lakeside Trail and the small road to the campground boat ramp—which turned out to be a concrete slab suitable for small watercraft only. There is not too much to do at Three Rivers, but it was perfect for what I wanted. The Lakeside Trail, starting behind our campsite three, offered a pleasant and mild hike through the woods and up to Lake Seminole in parts. There is also a wooden fishing pier on Lake Seminole, which was nice to visit numerous times per day. While not exotic, we did encounter several species of wildlife including white-tailed deer, armadillos, cardinals, loud frogs and one juvenile rough green snake. Most of all I enjoyed spending time with my family while sitting next to our campfire, drinking Tusker beer from Kenya, far from the lights of civilization.
See the accompanying photograph sets for Three Rivers and Florida Caverns.
On Sunday, the second day of the trip, we drove to Florida Caverns to take the tour and explore the area. Ironically, our guide was Park Ranger Frank with whom I last toured the cave. It was nice although I was spoiled by the last visit—there were twenty other people with us this time. Afterward, we hiked the Bluff Trail and walked through the Tunnel Cave, a one-hundred-foot passage through a section of the bluff, before heading back to Three Rivers. Though typical for the area this time of year, the weather was not particularly ideal. Periods of strong thunderstorms did nothing more than muddy the paths and campsite. The heat and humidity coupled with voracious mosquitoes made our usually leisurely hikes along the trails a bit uncomfortable. Despite all that, we made the best of our situation and the weekend was an overall success. I am not sure when we will be able to plan another camping trip but I am looking forward to it. Possible destinations include the popular Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park if we can manage to reserve a campsite and Suwannee River State Park.
Photo Credit: David July