Hot Tea

28 04 2010

For the most part, I prefer to drink water (though I do drink juice and sodas on occasion).  Unfortunately, sometimes it gets chilly, and I’ve been considering various hot beverages.

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While my go-to hot beverage is usually hot cocoa, I am hoping to find something healthier to drink instead.  I’ve never acquired a taste for either coffee or tea.  I tried some coffee at my dad’s award luncheon awhile back, but I’m resistant to acquiring a taste to coffee because (a) I don’t want to get addicted to caffeine (though I could get decaffeinated), and (b) it kind of hurts my stomach.  As a result, I’m trying tea.  With my breakfast this morning, I had decaffeinated chai tea from Stash, which I picked up from Harps.

The verdict:  For some reason, I always expect tea to be stronger/heartier.  So far, I’m still not enjoying drinking it.  It smells heavenly (ingredients include cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg and cardamom), but wasn’t strongly flavorful.

I “brewed” the tea in my mug for 8 minutes (over twice the recommended length), and it still tasted watery to me.  This is not a slight against this type or brand of tea, it’s my impression of tea in general, unless it has large amounts of something unhealthy like milk in it (like a chai tea latte).  I liked the spices I could taste, and I enjoyed the flavor of dipping oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in my tea.  I think I’m going to keep making myself tea on these chilly spring mornings (it was about 39F this morning).  We’ll see if I start to like it.





Smoke & Barrel, Steve Martin, and Sushi

26 04 2010

I had a lot of fun this weekend.  Friday, Garth and I went to The Smoke & Barrel to see the OneUps and MC Frontalot.  This is the first time I saw the OneUps do any hiphop type stuff (versus more jazzy renditions of video game songs).  What impressed me most about MC Frontalot was the energy in everyone’s performance.  They were almost constantly jumping around while they were playing and singing.  It was both impressive and engaging.

Saturday Kes, Jason and I went to the Walton Arts Center to see Steve Martin’s concert.  Since it was banjo-oriented we weren’t sure if he would be super serious, but he worked in some bits between songs that were quite funny.  Even though we were in the back row of the balcony, we could still see really well, which impressed me.  Previously, Kes and I have mostly just been to radio plays at the WAC, and so have sat near the front of the floor.

Sunday, I relaxed a little.  I put together the desk I bought, and set it up as my entertainment center.  It works really well, and the shelves look nice.  I like the height, but it is about a foot taller than what I was using previously, so it will take some getting used to.  If nothing else, everything around the television looks a lot more neat and organized.

Today, Kes and I made sushi.  Kes has made sushi once before (and I helped roll) when we had a “sushi party” a couple years ago.  (It was fun; we ate sushi and watched The Twilight Zone.)  This was the first time I really made any of the ingredients (sushi rice, mostly).

I thought it turned out pretty well.  The fillings we used were egg (with a little soy sauce), imitation crab, avocado, and carrot matchsticks.





New Nook Update (1.3)

23 04 2010

There is a new update for the Nook today.  I checked it out, and decided to do a point-by-point write-up of the new features.

Read Ebooks for Free In-store

This is basically an extension of what was already available, from what I can tell.  Originally, when you went to a brick and mortar Barnes and Noble, you could access excerpts of any book.  Now, you can read any book while you’re in-store.  However, you are limited to one book per hour per day.  You could theoretically read hour segments of several books in one day and/or the same book an hour each every day.

[Side Effect of More Features/Better Accessibility]

Because there are new features in this update, and because they wanted to make the wi-fi and audio functions more accessible, there are now more buttons on the home screen.  Previously all the buttons fit without you having to scroll.  Now you have to scroll from side to side in order to see them all:

I don’t have a picture of the home screen before the update, but “games,” “wi-fi,” “audio,” and “web” didn’t have buttons on the home screen previously.

Games

With this update, games were added to the Nook.  So far, only Sudoku and Chess are available.  I took some time to play around with both a little bit.  They seem pretty straight forward and functional.  The main game is displayed on the e-ink screen, while a close-up, interactive view is on the color touch screen.

I don’t see myself playing the games very often, personally, but they do seem to fit well with the Nook.  I can see taking your Nook on the plane to read, and mixing things up by playing some sudoku on a long flight.

Wider Wi-Fi Access

Honestly, I have no idea what they mean by this.  Maybe there are now more Barnes and Noble hot spots?  I noticed that some reviewers speculated that this meant people could now access “open” wireless networks that require you to sign in through a web page.  As far as I can tell by testing it out, this is not the case.  In my experience, the new (beta) web browser is only accessible when you’re already connected to the wi-fi (it is not accessible through 3G).

Beta Surfing Online

This is the update that most excited me.  Even with an e-ink screen, it seems like the Nook could be a reasonably internet-capable device.  The browser is set up similarly to the games in that the e-ink display shows the main portion of what you’re viewing, while the color touch screen shows a smaller portion.

You can navigate/scroll a page using either the page turning buttons, or the touch screen.  You are able to add favorites, zoom, clear your browsing history, etc.  The main problem I ran into occurred when trying to enter text into fields.  Usually when you click on a field, the virtual keyboard pops up.

However, I found that sometimes it would instead jump to a dialog box asking me to choose an input method, and either giving me no options from which to choose and freezing, or giving me only the “android keyboard” option.  This problem occurred infrequently for me, however.

I found I was able to post to Twitter.  Staying logged into Twitter wasn’t very feasible, though, since it was very slow, and would try to refresh the e-ink screen whenever Twitter refreshed, which didn’t translate well to the e-ink screen.

I was not able to log into the admin portion of WordPress.  It merely navigated to a blank page.  Google Reader looked promising, but only loaded the top half of the page, and none of the links/articles were clickable/readable.  I did successfully log into Gmail.  There was limited functionality, but I was able to see my inbox, and open messages.  While unable to log into the admin portion of WordPress, I was able to load the front page of my blog.

Overall, it’s easy to see why the browser is in beta, but it seems workable.  In some ways it reminds me of the PS3 browser (especially because you have to scroll around a lot).

Preordering Books

Now, you can preorder books through the Nook store.  I doubt it’s a feature I’ll use much, but it seems like a nice addition.  There is no specific section in the store for preorders, so you need to search for the book you want.  Once I found a preorder-able book, it all looked pretty straight forward.

Enhanced Performance

Supposedly this update included faster load times when opening books, and faster page-turn times.  I was skeptical that I would be able to notice a difference, but it actually does look like everything navigates more quickly and smoothly.  This is a welcome update because sometimes the Nook would feel sluggish.  I know people who have tried both the Nook and Kindle bemoaned the slowness of the Nook in comparison.  I don’t know how it stacks up now comparatively, but it has definitely improved.

Wrap-up

This was a pretty hefty update (especially compared to the previous update that mostly seemed to change the home screen buttons).  I will have to see over time how often I use the new features such as the web browser and the games.  If nothing else, I can see myself using Wikipedia a lot to look up non-dictionary terms.  I will use the browser much more if it becomes compatible with Google Reader  In my mind, it seems like a good match.

Feel free to comment with any questions, or observations of your own.  I’d be happy to elaborate on anything, and to hear other people’s take on the new update.





Earth Day

22 04 2010

Happy Earth Day!  I don’t know many people who are doing anything special for Earth Day, but I got started a little early yesterday, and picked up some plants to hang on my balcony.  In the spirit of being kind to the earth, I decided to buy plants that yield edibles.  After receiving some help from the manager of the plant area at Home Depot, as well as an older lady and her son, I settled on getting the kind of hanging planters that hold the plants upside down.  I got a roma tomato plant and a red bell pepper plant (which actually turned out to be two red bell pepper plants).  Hopefully they’ll yield me some food.  It would be fun to make pasta sauce partially from food I grew myself.

If anything seems to happen with the plants (flowering, fruit, etc.), I’ll definitely post more pictures.  Then, if they yield edible fruit, I’ll see if anyone has good recipe suggestions 🙂





Social Vibe

21 04 2010

I’m trying out this Social Vibe thing.  There’s a widget on the right side of my blog.  I’m supporting World Wildlife Fund.  Right now they’re working to save polar bears.  Let me know what you guys think.  I’m not sure if it’s too commercial for my taste or not.





More Realistic

20 04 2010

It’s probably going to be more realistic for me to aim for two blog posts a week.  I’m still getting a feel for what works for me.  I’m also probably going to be messing around with the layout still/again as well.

Update on my life:
Kes and I went to Lennie’s Sub Shop for hot sandwiches on Saturday, then went to see Kickass.  While I personally enjoyed the movie a lot, I have reservations about recommending it across the board.  It’s pretty violent, and has possibly offensive language (uttered by children for the most part), and so is definitely not a movie for everyone.  However, it’s definitely adrenaline-pumping if you like over-the-top action.  There are also a lot of comic book references that add [even more] humor to the movie.  I was most apprehensive about Nicholas Cage’s performance, but I think he did a good job.  I will agree with most of the reviews I’ve seen and say Hit Girl was a much more interest/exciting/memorable than Kickass himself.  For me, the draw was a mix between her impressive fighting skills, and a morbid fascination with a child using such vulgar language and ridiculous violence.

I know I keep saying it, but I am working on some creative writing to post.  The plan is to complete a short scene from the library in the repurposed missile silo story.  On its completion I will decide if I want to keep toying around with ideas for that story, or if I want to work on something else.





Maggie Moos’ Ice Cream Pizza

15 04 2010

Maggie Moos was giving away “free scoops” of “ice cream pizza” for tax day.  I met up there with Jason, and we were both pretty disappointed.  I forgot to take a picture, but the “scoop” would have been pretty tiny to look at.  It was a small piece in a sample cup.  I had been hoping that the ice cream would be in some way similar to pizza (appearance, flavor, something interesting).  However, it just tasted like overly processed ice cream cake to me.  It had a chocolate layer, a vanilla layer, and a red (maybe cherry?) layer, with mini M & M mix-ins.  While I was disappointed, I still think it’s cool they wanted to do a special for people on tax day.