Year: 2007

A Chair of My Own

Quantum Mesh Chair

I’ve been without a decent desk chair for a few years. When I first moved to Baltimore, I took a cheap, uncomfortable, wooden chair with me because that’s all I had room for in the truck. I was going to be hired and paid a handsome salary in less than a month and would have plenty of money to buy a better one. Ah, the naivety.

Two years later, with a good job and my own home office, I’ve finally plunked down the cash on a good desk chair. I was looking for something along the lines of the Aeron chair: mesh seat and back, adjustable, and stylish—without the Herman Miller price tag.

What I found was the “Office Depot Brand Quantum Mesh Mid-Back Task Chair” (which sounds almost as catchy as “Aeron Chair”). What it lacks in name-dropping and the high-end touches of the HM version, it makes up for in price. At about $300, it’s about 75% cheaper than the original Aeron. Even at that price, everyone I’ve talked to thinks I’m crazy for spending that much on a desk chair; what makes sense for me is that it’s the most comfortable computer chair I can afford. Considering the amount of time I spend at my desk, a little comfort goes a long way.

This Is Not a Blog

I’m almost certain that the W3C prevents me from calling this site a weblog anymore. The odd thing is, with the exception of very brief periods, I don’t know if I ever ran a blog. However, when the home page shows entries that date back nearly a year (and only displays 10 posts total), something about the format isn’t working.

My life is busy. Since my last entry, I’ve moved to a new apartment, bought a new (used) car, become engaged, was promoted to Web Developer at work, and started several freelance design projects. I’m trying to simplify a lot of things in my life: clutter, diet, goals, and more, but I realize that I won’t have less to do or more time to do it unless something drastic happens. Like winning the lottery or a generous windfall from the Walton family. My goal to write shorter entries more often is clearly not working. I just don’t have the time or the interest to prioritize it.

I’m thinking about deemphasizing the blog format of this site and shifting focus to the items that have been in the sidebar for-(almost)-ever: the photos, the links, and the reading. I would really like to put together a web-based library application for myself and include that on this site. There are better ways to incorporate my photos and links than just sidelining them. And perhaps I’d have time to write up some longer article-style entries. A home page that gives equal time to all of these areas of my digital life makes more sense than antiquated weblog entries hogging the home page real estate.

James Joyce Pub

Annie and I ate dinner at the James Joyce Irish Pub and Restaurant on Saturday night; we’ve driven by it hundreds of times, and finally made a commitment to go there. The restaurant is located in Harbor East, Baltimore and walking distance from my apartment on a nice day. Saturday was hot and humid and therefore, not a nice day.

We both ordered the Baked Stuffed Chicken Breast which came with mashed potatoes, green beans, and carrots. At $18/each, it’s a tad expensive, but completely worth every penny. The chicken was perfectly done, the mushroom stuffing and vodka sauce were rich and creamy, the potatoes were amazingly good, and the vegetables were crisp and tasty.

I ordered a whiskey sour with Jameson Whiskey which was perfectly mixed and reasonably-priced at $5.75. Service was friendly and quick and the interior was intimate. My one and only complaint is that they didn’t play a note of Irish music, which I thought would be a given at a bar that prides itself on importing the interior directly from Ireland.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Watch

The Onion A.V. Club has some of the best reviews of movies, books, music, and video games that I’ve read anywhere. Unlike their sister site, The Onion, the A.V. Club contains real articles about real nouns. I’ve been reading them for years and almost all of the reviews are well done. Regularly, they’ll deliver a gem; this one is for a review of Delta Farce, staring Larry The Cable Guy:

But instead of finally making the madcap cable-industry comedy he seems destined for [after Larry The Cable Guy: Health Inspector‘s questionable success], Larry The Cable Guy has instead addressed the issue of our time: war, and what is it good for? Like Paths Of Glory, Apocalypse Now, and Platoon, Delta Farce is a difficult, harrowing work offering little relief or humor. Unlike those movies, though, Delta Farce is supposed to be funny.

Well-played, Mr. Hyden. Extremely well-played.

Spider-Man 3

The final chapter in the Spider-Man trilogy lived up to my expectations. Last Sunday, Annie and I saw Spider-Man 3 and thought it matched or surpassed its predecessors. A few minor plot spoilers follow. As pretty much everyone knows by now, the black Venom suit Spider-Man wears in this version lowers Peter Parker’s inhibitions. Willful power is a dangerous thing. But it makes for such compelling cinema.

The longer Parker wears the black suit, the more selfish he becomes, forgoing responsibility in favor of revenge. I completely disagree with my friend, Joe, when he states that the period where Peter wears the black suit is the worst part of the movie. Part of what makes some superheroes a little annoying is that they act so selflessly so often. When Parker destroys Eddie Brock’s career—the perfectly-cast, Topher Grace—and gets the full-time photography job, I felt a sense of victory for Peter, regardless of his cruelty. And the scenes with Parker walking down the sidewalk and attracting stares of all types, it’s nearly impossible not to smile and appreciate how great he must feel. Yes, his hair does look a little emo, but I think it perfectly suits Parker’s mind frame while wearing the Venom suit.

My only complaint is that Spider-Man 3 does get a little preachier than the first two in the series. It’s never blatant or completely overblown, but we’re reminded of the story’s morals a little too often. Other than that, the film is a well-paced and fitting close to Raimi’s trilogy.

An Open Letter to L.J. Williamson

Dear L.J. (or Linda),

Since your website‘s contact info is incorrect, I thought I’d air my views in public. I enjoyed your article “Let Kids Outdoors” that was published in the L.A. Times on March 29. I agree that society as a whole seems to be suffocating children with safety, and that withholding all independence seems to do more harm than good.

However, I was curious about one argument you made in your article. You stated that “In 1972, 87% of children who lived within a mile of school walked or biked daily; today, just 13% of children get to school under their own power” and that “rates of child abduction and sexual abuse have marched steadily downward since the early 1990s.” You argue that society is fearing child abduction more while the actual danger is decreasing.

Is it possible that child abductions are decreasing as a result of less children traveling, playing, or being outdoors on their own? I have not researched these statistics, nor am I a statistician, but the irony of society’s increasing fear reducing that which it fears to a statistical improbability amused me.


PS: You should hire me to build a website for you that is not broken.

Google Map Improvements

I noticed earlier this week that Google has added some new features to its already great Google Map site. I’m not sure if these changes have been rolled out gradually city-by-city, but it is now possible to see the outlines of individual buildings and Metro stops.

It appears that the individual buildings feature is limited to major downtown areas. If you scroll a few screens to the right of the image above—to Little Italy—the individual buildings are not shown. I’m not sure if Google plans to add more areas to the map or even more rural areas, but it’s certainly an interesting, if not particularly useful, feature.

The Metro stops are also a nice addition, but without more information (not even a pop-up?) they aren’t very helpful. If they expand this to include bus stops and other public transportation options, this would be a huge improvement over the MTA’s terrible maps and general user-unfriendliness.

A Little Late for Resolutions

I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions; if it’s important enough to me, I don’t need a calendar switch to get started. That being said, some articles I’ve read recently have me feeling motivated to stop thinking and start doing things.

Work Out

My friend Joe recently blogged that he has been going to the gym this year and already noticing positive changes. I never really used the free gym when I was at Scranton, but I could definitely afford to join one now. Or maybe I could just run around the block a few times. Either way, I want to get more exercise than walking from my apartment to my car and back once or twice a day.

I’ve been feeling more drained every day I know the weight I’ve gained since college is partly to blame. It’s nothing Oprah-esque, but I’m sure I’d have more energy if I dropped a few. I’ve already been trying to eat less, but I need to make sure that what I eat is good for me. Since I’m such a lazy ass when it comes time to actually work out—right, Jason?—I think a paid gym membership might throw some financial motivation behind, you know, my health and all.

Read More Books

I read a tremendous amount of blogs, news, Wikipedia entries, and a cornucopia of random online articles. Trouble is that a large portion of that is trivial crap that I won’t remember the next day. Most of this stems from procrastinating something more useful. Theoretically, there’s nothing wrong with what I read online; it’s only that it prevents me from reading or doing more substantial (or productive) things.

I am going to start cutting down a half-hour to an hour of online time-wasting and try to read at least one book each month. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non or whether it maintains any credible hold on the term “literature.” I don’t care if it’s Dan Brown or Dante at this point.

Create More

I like to think of myself as creative, but I haven’t created much in my spare time lately. The last thing I want to do is allow my writing or coding skills to stagnate. I’d love to be able to write articles again like I did for the Scranton Student, but I just don’t have the time at this point. As I’ve been saying for years, I want to write more here. I think if I force myself to write at least once or twice a week it will develop into something of a habit.

In terms of creating websites, I want to design, code, and program more. At this point, I might focus on improving some of my existing sites, but I’d also like to seek out clients for professional projects. I need to focus on finishing projects, rather than a series of false starts.


In order to make all of the above even remotely possible, I need to organize myself. I could blame it on a hundred things beyond my control, but staying organized has never come easy to me. I think I’ve always battled clutter, but lately it seems to be winning. I want to work on scheduling my time better, but cleaning my room is priority one. I recently read a Lifehacker article that had a few great ideas for pilers. Already it’s helping me, but I need to take it further.

I know this might seem a little… much. But I don’t expect to accomplish all of this in a week or a month. Gradually, I want to make these changes part of my life, not some random things I might be trying. It’s going to take time, but I’m committed this time.

Baltimore’s Smoking Ban

Baltimore City and Maryland State are each considering bans on smoking in all indoor buildings including bars and restaurants. While some are saying that this is another example of the government overstepping its bounds, I think that this will be a great thing for the city and/or state.

Most of the concern stems from the idea that smokers won’t go out to the bars as frequently as they do now, but this neglects the other side of the issue. The main reason I don’t go out to pubs more often—and I suspect that I’m not alone in feeling this way—is because I don’t like smelling like an ashtray when I come home. I’d be much more likely to pop into a bar for dinner and a drink if I knew I wouldn’t reek of smoke all evening.

Update (4/29/07): Both Baltimore City and the State of Maryland have passed laws designating all bars and restaurants (excluding cigar or tobacco clubs) smoke free beginning January 2008 and February 2008, respectively. I don’t see the need to wait so long to enact the ban, but I’m still thrilled that the bills passed.

Thoughts on 24

Last week, I spent an absurd amount of my evening hours catching up on 24 Season 5 in anticipation of the Season 6 premiere on Sunday (and Monday) night. I tend to make an episode of 24 a priority, but last year I was working second-shift and missed all but the first few weeks of shows so I stopped watching, waiting for the DVD release. In the meantime, I avoided any mention of Season 5 using my magic skills.