Saturday, November 17, 2007

Austin Allsup

One of my favorite bands of all time played at the T last night. Austin Allsup.

'nough said.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Downtown is coming of age.

One of the things limiting acceptance of Downtown Dallas as a place of residence is the lack of infrastructure. If you still have to jump in the car or grab a taxi to, say, buy a book, you may as well live in the 'burbs.

Well, things are certainly moving in the right direction, finally. CVS just opened a street level pharmacy on Main Street. One previously had to go underground and the tunnels closed at 6 pm daily and completely on weekends. Not very convenient for residents, and originally designed to accommodate the tens of thousands of commuters to Downtown jobs.

Also on Main, Jason's Deli is due to open in about a week. Let's hope they decide to stay open after dark and on weekends. Enchilada's moved up from the tunnels a month or so ago and are doing a booming business on Elm Street.

The most exciting news, though, is the announcement that Barnes and Noble will be opening a store in the old Kül location on Main.

Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I loves my little Blackberry Curve, yes I do!

I've had my Blackberry Curve for three weeks now. During that time I've really put it through its paces. It's my third Blackberry and by now, I've got some pretty high standards. I haven't been disappointed.

Bluetooth just keeps getting better and better on the Blackberry. Not only does it support the simple "earbud" and automobile "handsfree" profiles, in addition it will integrate an external Bluetooth GPS "puck" and Bluetooth stereo headphones. If that doesn't blow your dress up, you can also tether your Bluetooth capable laptop to it for wireless access to the Internet.

It seems to be as rugged as the older, clunkier models, too. Made out of some kind of super plastic that looks like metal, it has shrugged off the couple of falls to the floor I've managed to give it so far. I did opt for the cool neoprene "skin" up front and that makes it a lot less scratch prone as well as keeping it in place wherever you put it down. The skin only adds a couple of millimeters to its dimensions. For ten bucks, I recommend you get it.

The wi-fi works as advertised and when you are near a hotspot, significantly speeds up browsing the 'net. My provider also has a feature where if you are in range of a wi-fi connection, it switches automatically to the cell phone analog of VOIP and you don't burn any airtime minutes. That's an extra cost feature, and it's temporarily enabled on my phone to get me to want it, I'm sure, but I don't use up my plan minutes as it is now, so I won't be signing up for that. Cool, nonetheless. The new browser does a great job of rendering most sites. A real improvement over the original offer. It allows you to switch between an "internet browser" and a "wi-fi browser" also. I'm not sure what the difference is between the two, but the wi-fi browser is much faster if you are connected wi-fi.

RIM, the manufacturers of the Curve have really improved the cell phone aspect of their handsets as well. The, now obsolete, model 7250, had to be placed carefully over your ear to get any sound out of it at all, whereas the new models are quite forgiving. I find I use the speakerphone feature far more than I thought I would, too.

With a 4 gig data card, I can carry just about as much of my music around as I want to and if I want, 4 cards will hold my entire iTunes collection. So, the iPod stays at home now.

In a word? Sweet!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Life's Little Mysteries

Did you ever wonder why a loaf of bread has an odd number of slices? What do you do with one slice? Toast comes in twos in my mind. Make half a sandwich, I suppose. It must be a plot to waste bread.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I love a parade!

What a great day! The Veteran's Day Parade down Main Street, planes screaming overhead, tanks, soldiers, guns. Whew!

One of the best parts for me is the high school marching bands. I especially like the bands from the black high schools. The drum corps always manages to jazz up the simplest of rhythms.

My brothers and I collect firearms so I'm always curious to see what the ROTC cadets are carrying. Mostly decommissioned M-14's or probably M1a's, but today I saw a sizable number of Garands and Enfields. I like the M1 Garand. I have a minty one that is a pleasure to shoot. The first rifle I ever shot though was a Model 1917. My father figured he'd have to pick me up afterwards but I surprised him and immediately chambered another round.

This is the day they erect and trim the Christmas tree in Pegasus Square. Neiman Marcus is getting ready for their holiday season. What fun! This is a great time of year, especially Downtown.

11 am CST!

Wow, there is nothing quite like fighter aircraft flying at roof top level over the city!

Veteran's Day 2007.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fresh coffee!

The darling little UPS man just delivered a huge box of Starbucks coffee. I wouldn't normally order something like that on line, but the Starbucks closest to me charges $15 a pound for the same coffee that the ones a little farther away charge $10. It's not the money, lord knows, it's the principle of the thing. Plus they close at 5 pm. Excuse me!? What kind of coffee shop closes at 5 pm? It's the Starbucks at Akard and Commerce, if anyone is keeping score.

Having said all that, I don't buy their brewed coffee. I just go there to use the free wi-fi, watch the people, and feed the pigeons. I even take my own coffee. Why? Because I have the worlds funnest espresso machine at home. A Jura Capresso E8. You pour beans into one side and water into the other, hit the button and stand back! It does everything including grinding the beans and emptying the grounds into an internal bucket. Every so often, you get a message on the display to fill with water, add beans, empty grounds, enjoy, etc. You can also brew a single cup of ground coffee when you have a guest that can't take the caffeine or insists on some kind of flavored nonsense (that they helpfully brought along).

So, I got on the Starbucks site and loaded up on all my favorites. Since you don't pay sales tax and the shipping is nominal, you save a ton of money even over the stores that are not money grubbing ... sorry..., it's quite the shit. Everything is in stock, too.

Another cup of Sumatra, please. No problem!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ah, Lovely Friday!

The weekend is upon us and it looks like it's going to be gorgeous! Temperatures in the high seventies, and partly sunny. Perfect weather to leave the top down and maybe drive out into the country. There's a comet visible now in the northern sky. It should be particularly spectacular out from the city ground light. I'm also going to take a road trip out to the observatory in west Texas for a better look, some weekend. There ought to be an opportunity for some good pictures.

This weekend marks the start of the charity ball season here. It'll be fun watching the two story mountain of Christmas presents form. Did you know that the Corvette comes with a Barbie now? Not when I was a kid!

I love dressing up, too. The guys will be in their same tired old tuxes, maybe a new tie or vest here and there, but the girls will all have something new. Or we'll talk about them mercilessly all night behind their backs. I will be resplendent as always. ;>)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Do you know how much cattle crap a herd of 100 Texas Longhorns can drop?

No, that's not a Trivial Pursuit question. I'm watching the golf cart brigade of pooper scoopers rolling down Main Street right now. It's a mess. Who thinks up these stunts?

It's Stampede Week in Dallas. There's a rodeo championship at American Airlines Center. Gospel singers in Pegasus Square. Whoopee! I thought that's why we have Fort Worth.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

One Up on the Man

Well, I got my renewal for my automobile registration yesterday and I usually mail it in because I don't like to stand in line for an hour with 100 other happy people. "Golly", I exclaim, the county records building is only ten blocks away, "I can just walk down there and take care of it in person, and I'll save a buck in the process".

"Emily!", you cry, "you'll drop a buck tip on a $3 shot, why would you walk 10 blocks to save one". Well, maybe if it's a cute bartender, but that's an investment, not an expense. I'll tell you why.

I gathered up all my stuff and set off for the Records Building. As I'm walking up Elm Street, I pass El Centro. Bonus, I can get registration materials for the Spanish class I'm going to take in the spring. Soon, I'm at my destination. Now the fun begins.

I need to preface this with a theory I have about public servants. Their jobs are so thankless and boring that the only pleasure they can get from them is by making other people miserable, too. The fun comes with preventing them for doing that.

Auto registration is clearly marked with signage as you enter the building. At least if you can read, which all public servants are convinced you cannot. So the first thing you do is stick you head into the first open door and inquire meekly, "Can you tell me where I get that little sticker thingy that goes on my windshield?" "You mean your vehicle registration sticker they reply hautily?" "Yes", I reply meekly. "Down that hall."

Heh. The scent of fresh prey is in the air. The entire building vibrates in anticipation.

So, as I expected, the place is pretty empty at 10 am. No one in their right mind would drive downtown to do this and there are only about 3500 residents downtown and half of them don't have cars.

I walk up to the first manned window. "May I help you?", she intones, the predatory smile intended to put me at ease for the kill. "Yes, I'm here to renew my ... vehicle registration..." I proudly announce. "Do you have your Vehicle Registration Renewal Notice?" As I rummage through my belongings, I note an almost imperceptible growl emanating from behind the cage. "Oh!, is this it?" The growl abruptly stops. "Yes, that's it, hand it here, please."

When she sees that I've only handed her one page, a look of smug satisfaction starts in one corner of her mouth. "Do you have your Proof Of Insurance?" The look of horror that passed across my face must have been particularly convincing because she was now virtually bursting with the anticipation of warm blood. "Oh!... oh, wait, yes!, here it is." I swear, I think she visibly shrank. "$53.80, please." "Umm, I'm sorry, don't I save a dollar by paying here?" Tee hee. Mission accomplished.

It's going to be cold here today, a good day for revenge.

i.Trek M5+ Bluetooth GPS

I've had a while to play with the M5+ and its performance is stellar. The MTK chipset doesn't seem to give up any sensitivity to the SIRF III competitor and has a significant advantage in the power consumption department.

Sitting about a foot off the rug on a coffee table, this little GPS puck can "see" eight satellites. It has a solid fix on my position with a serviceable HDOP of 1.6, sometimes reaching 1.1. It's about 12 ft. from a window, by the way. Now, I'll admit, that window goes all the way to the top of a 15 ft. ceiling, but 30 ft. past that is a 20 story building. I think urban canyon is the proper term here.

I've been trying to run the battery down, but every time it ceases to "hear" any Bluetooth communication from either my cellphone or my laptop, it goes to "sleep". Today, I'm going to let the laptop exercise it continuously and see how much longer it will last. When the NMEA strings stop, I'll be able to read the exact time it quit from the log file.

You can call me a nerd if you like, but I do love the toys!

Deer Collisions?

I got a letter from my insurance company. They're warning me to watch out for deer crossing the road in my area. That would be a hoot, seeing a deer standing in the crosswalk, waiting for a city bus to pass!

I can hear the row over at the homeless shelter now. It's fresh venison tonight, boys!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Using the Blackberry Curve as a Bluetooth Modem

Well, this is just too cool! If I'm out with my laptop and not near a wi-fi hotspot, I can use my new Blackberry Curve to access the Internet.

Of course, I can just use the Curve by itself with its full keyboard and trackball, but if I've got a full size machine, then why not use it?

My previous two handsets had the same capability, but I never got around to downloading the modem scripts for them. The Curve has a much richer set of Bluetooth capabilities and I'm determined to use them all.

Getting the modem script was the only part that took any effort and it was readily available several places on the web. One place that has a link to the script plus a handy set-up guide is here.

Technology is wonderful!

(I published this entire article from my Powerbook>Blackberry Curve.)