Year: 2005

My Top Five for 2005

Overall, 2005 was an eventful year for me, and most of those events were positive ones. I thought it would be interesting (and somewhat challenging) to force myself to come up with the most important happenings in my life for 2005. The events I came up with are merely keyframes in a very busy year:

  1. College Graduation – In May, I graduated from the University of Scranton. Through nine semesters in five years, I managed to acquire a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, with a minor in Theatre. Earning my BA is my biggest accomplishment to date.
  2. Move to Baltimore – After several years of theoretical planning and one lucky roommate/apartment find, I moved to Baltimore, Maryland in October. Which reminds me of my third event.
  3. Fifth Anniversary – Annie and I celebrated five years as a couple in May this year. We marked the occasion with a beautiful day in Cape May, New Jersey.
  4. Student Government Website – While it may not be as momentous as my top three events, my successful redesign of a large organization website was a major time commitment and a challenging opportunity.
  5. Myrtle Beach Vacation – It was a few years since I’d taken a real vacation, so this trip was long overdue. It was great to get away from the computer for a week and fill up my new memory card for my camera.

I enjoyed 2005 and I’m looking forward to 2006. I’m sure I’ll have some new challenges to add—and a few solutions—so I’ll be writing them down here for everyone. Look for more frequent posts and pictures (really!), a new site design (goodbye, default!), and better integration of current features. I’ll also be announcing a BIG PROJECT that I’m working on with Joe right now. See you next year!

Loverly Weather

A snow-covered Baltimore street

I used sarcasm in the post title; the picture may have let you in on the secret. I could also have titled this entry “Please Reconsider Using Public Transportation When It Snows.” Today Baltimore received its third helping of wintry weather so far this season. Since Charm City is snuggled mid-Atlanticly, Mother Nature likes to give the city a little snow and a little rain. Because icy slush equals VEHICULAR EXCITEMENT! For proof, take this little bit from the Baltimore Sun:

In Baltimore, a man in his late 50s was killed after he lost control about 3:45 p.m. of his Chevrolet pickup truck while entering the southbound lanes of the Jones Falls Expressway from North Avenue, police said. A sport utility vehicle hit the truck as it spun across three lanes, and the man was ejected and run over by his truck.

Run over by his own truck! I’d capitalize that phrase for emphasis if I didn’t already fill that quota today. I mean, you have to feel for his family if only for the fact that nobody would see that end coming. Things like this don’t happen in Pennsylvania.

Seriously, you would think a city of reasonably intelligent citizens would learn that freezing rain plus motorized vehicles means don’t speed, tailgate, or brake ferociously on curves. A positive tip? Turn on your headlights when the sun has set and moisture descends from the clouds. In bad weather, it seems a third of Baltimore’s drivers drop their speed to pedestrian levels while another third fails to grasp what’s meant by “safe braking distance” or what I like to call “intelligence.” That last third? Well, they’re the people who don’t need to strap on their “special” helmets when they get behind the wheel. They’re also the only ones keeping me from trading my Honda for an armored Humvee. Yahoo!

It was announced that Yahoo bought today. For those of you not familiar with, it is a social bookmarking website that I use to power my “Worthwhile Clicks.” Basically, it allows you to add a URL, describe the link, and tag it with descriptive terms so that it’s easy for me or other people to find. It seems that Yahoo is buying all of my favorite web applications; first Flickr, then Upcoming, and now

It’s also interesting how Yahoo and Google are acquiring a lot of new features by absorbing innovative companies, but in very different directions. Google seems intent on adding applications—Picasa, Earth/Maps, Talk, and Desktop come to mind—while Yahoo seems focused on social Web 2.0 applications.

It’s a smart move for Yahoo. Their original feature, a human-edited directory, made the company what it is today. Obviously, technology is a driving factor for any search company, but adding an army of devoted, intelligent users may be what Yahoo really wants.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Annie, Veronica, and I went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the Senator Theater in Baltimore yesterday. The first thing that struck me—as well as most of the critics—about the newest Harry Potter is how much darker the subject matter is when compared to the earlier films. This Potter installment finally breaks free of the “kid’s movie” label. As Roger Ebert notes, “the film is more violent, less cute than the others, but the action is not the mindless destruction of a video game; it has purpose, shape and style.” Granted, but on a side note, sophisticated video games can have those traits too.

I had never been inside the Senator Theater on York Road before we went to see Goblet of Fire, but now I know that I’ve been missing out on something great. The inside of the historic theater looks spectacular, with lighting and an attention to detail that’s missing from a lot of more recent architecture. The most shocking part of the whole experience, however, was the live, on-stage announcement of the previews, upcoming events, and a little information about the theater for new visitors. I could hardly believe it when it happened.

Alienating Customers

If you run a business and are looking to alienate your customers, just do exactly what the music industry does. You can’t fail with this method. More information about Sony BMG’s XCP was released today as several security firms confirmed that some Sony CD’s installed rootkit malware on users computers.

The software installs itself without the user’s knowledge and continues to run invisibly in the background. In addition, it creates vulnerabilities to viruses that may not be detectable by anti-virus programs and provides no means for uninstallation without disabling the CD-ROM drive or crippling the system if the rootkit files are manually deleted. The EFF explains what CD’s are infected and what to do.

Sony BMG claims the “software” is designed to prevent illegal ripping and distribution of its songs, but several analysts suggest that Sony is reeling from the decline of the DiscMan and the rise of the iPod. If you can’t rip a CD, you can’t play it on your iPod. The unbelievable anti-consumerism of the music industry infuriates me. If, as you claim—and I don’t believe—your sales are down, you should improve your product and put a priority on great customer service. You don’t, as the music industry has repeatedly done, sue your customers, lie to them, limit their listening habits, refuse to offer music in new mediums, hack into their computers, or install dangerous software.

Winamp to iTunes

When I find software that does what it should without getting in my way, I tend to remain faithful. For several millennia—or seven years in Internet Time—I’ve used Winamp as my primary music player on my computer. The free version did everything I needed it to do without trying to “help” me do things I didn’t need or want; yes, I’m looking at you, Windows Media Player.

The simple fact is that iTunes works very well. Its organization and playlist capabilities are simple and elegant; I can’t say that for Winamp and WMP is just abysmal. I hesitated letting iTunes organize my music files because I had carefully categorized my files by genre before I concluded that it would be easier than trying to determine if a song should go in the “Rock” folder or the “Alternative” folder or if new Aerosmith is still considered “Classic Rock.”

Say what you will about the iPod’s irreplaceable battery or the Nano’s screen, but Apple did a fantastic job with iTunes, the best music management software I’ve ever seen. I’m switching.

Working Out

Annie and I saw a morbidly obese teen who was wearing a t-shirt that stated “This working out thing isn’t working out for me” in Burger King on Saturday. As we were leaving, I overheard him telling his similarly obese family about some other boy who was running down a hallway, waving his arms in the air, yelling “I LOVE SLUSHIES!” You already know he acted this out for his family.

The Big Move

I live in Baltimore, Maryland! That sentence has been in the works a long time. Last Friday, my parents helped transport most of my stuff to a Canton apartment that I will be sharing with Kevin, one of Annie’s coworkers. We arrived a little later than planned, but the move went off without any major complications.

As a housewarming gift, some woman backed her SUV into my car and scratched the hood and bumper and broke one of my fog lights. I then met one of Baltimore’s finest, who was able to locate the SUV owner’s boyfriend who told us this woman “didn’t know she hit anything.” That probably explains why she left her vehicle parked in front of my car where my white paint on her gray SUV was clearly visible. Did I mention that parking by my new place is not one of the selling points for the area? It’s not.

I’m not completely settled in my new apartment so it doesn’t feel like home just yet, but I will post photos next week once everything is the way I’d like it. I’m going to my house in Pennsylvania this weekend, so it’s strange that when I leave for Baltimore again on Sunday, I’ll actually be going home—to my new home in Baltimore.

Lord of War

Lord of War DVD

Jason and I went to see Lord of War on Saturday night. It was better than I expected and both of us enjoyed the movie. The movie is a narrative told by Yuri Orlov (Nicholas Cage), a charming, intelligent, and witty gun runner who is a disgusting mess of a person. The film itself seems ambivalent towards Yuri; sometimes, it snuggles up to his humanity only to reveal just how morally repugnant true amorality can be.

From the opening title sequence over a smart short film about the life of a bullet to the sobering footnotes at the movie’s end, Lord of War is a black dramedy. The subject matter is dark and exciting, but laughing is the only way to keep from crying at the absurdity of the small arms trade and its disregard for human pain and suffering.

TextDrive for Life

This site is now running on TextDrive‘s servers. I made the switch because they were running a special “Hosting for Life” promotion that will save me a lot of money in the long run; I’ve also heard a lot of good things about TextDrive and their focus on great hosting service for people who “get it.” I plan to move all of my other sites to TextDrive in the coming weeks, so there may be some downtime. I highly recommend you take advantage of VC3.