Central Park In October


Here is an HDR photo taken in, you guessed it, Central Park in October.

I've made it available in several formats for use as a device/display background as well as in printed form. You'll find links below:

For use on tablets including "retina" class devices
For use on desktops/notebooks including "retina" class displays
Links to various sizes available via Flickr
Prints via ImageKind
Prints via RedBubble

And as always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter, Google+ or Facebook.

Comic Stash: January 9, 2013

Mini-reviews and ratings of comics released January 9, 2013.

Agree or disagree? Let me know by hitting me up on Twitter or Google+.

Action Comics
16
1 star

Grant Morrison
Rags Morales

Incomprehensible. I'm out.

Detective Comics
16
3 star
John Layman
Jason Fabok

Dark, violent and twisted without an appearance by The Joker. As I'm feeling that the "Death of the Family" arc is starting to drag, the lack of the primary villain really brings this down to an average rating for me.

Earth 2
8
2 star
James Robinson
Yildiray Cinar

I've come to the realization that while I'm marginally interested in the characters of Earth 2, I really couldn't care less about them. The book actually has a lot going for it, but after eight issues my curiosity is sated.

It's not you, Earth 2. It's me. I'm out.

Legends of the Dark Knight
4
2 star
T.J. Fixman, Andrew Dabb, Jonathan Larsen
Christopher Mitten, Giorgio Pontrelli, Tan Eng Huat

One out of three isn't great, and that about sums up this issue for me. Out of the three tales, I only cared for one of them (the Two-Face story). Considering I didn't like any of the artwork, then technically this issue is batting one for six.

But that's the nature of a title like this. The upside is that there will be a fresh batch of stories and artists in the next issue.

Fingers crossed.

Shadowman
3
4 star
Justin Jordan & Patrick Zircher
Patrick Zircher

Finally! Action, father talks to son, the torch is passed and The Shadowman returns. Plus a talking monkey in a top hat. What's not to love?

Superior Spider-Man
1
4 star
Dan Slott
Ryan Stegman

This would have rated 5 bananas if it weren't for the last page where we see the ghost/essence/remnant of Peter Parker exert some control over Doc Ock. Since this news is a few weeks old, I'm not going to rehash what the Internet has covered ad nauseum. If this is something you care about, odds are you've read/heard as much as you can stand on the subject. And if you don't care about this, there is no sense in lingering.

Besides, I'll concede that Dan Slott is probably a better writer than I am. One page won't run me off considering I highly enjoyed the rest of the book.

Star Wars
1
4 star
Brian Wood
Carlos D'anda

Want to know what happens after the first Death Star was destroyed at the Battle of Yavin but before the events on Hoth? This title aims to scratch that itch. And right out of the gate, things are looking pretty good. The character tone seems to be about right. It's nice to see some of our favorite characters being portrayed by someone who can actually write. (As opposed to George Lucas.)

The artwork is a little... cartoony. One can easily imagine this as an animated series. Most of the time it works, sometimes it's a little jarring and a couple of times I was all like, "That's AWESOME!!!" Your milage may vary.

Thor: God of Thunder
4
5 star
Jason Aaron
Esad Ribic

Read my reviews of the previous three books and the same holds true here. Story? Boom! Artwork? Boom! Cliffhanger final page of awesomeness? BOOM!

The Sadness That Is UltraViolet


Please bear with me as I vent. If I say anything incorrect, please let me know.

I bought a Blu-Ray with an UltraViolet digital copy. In theory this is a good thing. I should be able to watch my video from a computer, tablet, phone, smart TV, etc. The problem is that the process for redeeming and consuming the media is too complex and painful.

First, I was required to log in to Flixster's website. I've done the before and it's not a big deal. The site remembered me and immediately presented me with a box to enter my redemption code. So far so good.

Next, I was asked for my UltraViolet credentials. Right. That's not the same as your Flixster credentials in case you were wondering. Unfortunately, nothing that I or LastPass remembered seemed to work.

I told the site that I had forgotten my password, please email me a reminder. No email.

In desperation, I clicked an unobtrusive link on the page and revealed a hidden checkbox that asked if I wanted to allow my Flixster account to be linked to my UltraViolet account. I checked it and was taken to a page that asked me to confirm the transaction. Success!

Or not.

Clicking the "continue" button did nothing but cause the page to become unresponsive. Eventually I was presented with this...


Darn!

I figured I was start from scratch by just going directly to the main Flixster site. Of course, that didn't work either.



Now imagine that page constantly flashing as it reloads. Over and over.

At his point I abandoned Chrome and switched to using Safari. This seemed to work just fine and I was presented with the following:



Success!

Or not...



I refuse to install Flash Player and typically use Chrome to view Flash content.

Except I can't use Chrome on the Flixster site.

Wait a minute... I know that Vudu has a copy of one of the UltraViolet movies I redeemed already. I login there and...



Shoot! My new purchase isn't there! (No results under "My TV". I checked there also.)

I figured that since I was in a site and could actually find some media, I'd see how it looked through the browser.



Perfect.

At this point I've spent about 30 minutes, had to use two different browsers, three different accounts and have no idea who it is that maintains control over the digital goods that I paid for. I assume it's my UltraViolet account, but don't understand why the registration instructions packaged with the disc send me to the Flixster site instead.

Logging in to the UltraViolet site shows me the two titles I currently have redeemed, with links to watch at the "provider" (Flixster) for both and Vudu for neither. So I'm confused because I'm not sure how one of my titles shows up at Vudu.

Not that it matters since the HDCP restrictions keep me from watching anything in HD anyway.

UltraViolet promises to give you a legal way to watch what you bought wherever you want. If this is the way they hope to reduce piracy then they had better try again. Your average consumer is not going to be interested going through all of this and your more technical consumers will just go back to BitTorrent.

Update - January 27, 2013 02:45am:

I've been going through my discs to fill in a list I'm compiling of the various UltraViolet options. I came across another problem.


I honestly don't know what it takes to make a title available, but surely there is little overhead involved. What about copies of the movie that sit on a shelf and then sold. Are those people out of luck?

More sadness.

Geek Fitness: No Brain, More Pain

Most people don't like pain and tend to go out of their way to avoid it. But feelings of discomfort serve a useful purpose as they help us identify boundaries by letting us know when we are approaching a limit. If discomfort turns into full-blown agony, we know we've really crossed a line.

The goal is to recognize the warning signs and avoid putting yourself out of commission. The key is to pay attention and keep your mind on the task at hand.

Let me tell you a story. A tale of a stupid man who made things harder on himself and paid the price.

Once upon a time...


On Christmas eve, a fitness-minded individual... let's call him "Tom" ...was working through the second half of Insanity. He was proud to not be slacking off, sure that others were finding excuses to take things easy during the holidays. However, as they say, "pride goeth before destruction".

"Tom" dutifully set his phone down where he could readily see any notifications and began his workout for the day. Instead of concentrating on the Max Interval Circuit, his thoughts instead turned to...

  • What time is the family getting together for Christmas Eve dinner?
  • Have all the gifts I ordered come in yet?
  • Did someone just tweet me?
  • Does my sister-in-law have what she needs to work out in this room when I'm done?
  • I wonder how this room would look if it were arranged the other way...
  • A work email just came in. Is something going on that I need to check on?
  • I need to write another "geek fitness" blog post soon. What should the topic be?
  • Should my back feel like this?
  • SHOULD MY BACK HURT LIKE THIS?!

Being no stranger to back pain, "Tom" realized that if he continued working out, the pain would become really serious. So he quit early and with the exception of shoveling snow out of the driveway on the 26th, did nothing strenuous for the rest of the week.

The take-away is...

Avoid Distractions


For the geek, avoiding distractions is easier said than done as our lives generally revolve around finding new and interesting ways of entertaining ourselves. "Dead air" is to be avoided at all costs. Whether music, video, news, email, social updates or any of the myriad other things that generate notifications, having 30-60 minutes of quiet where something isn't playing, beeping, ringing, flashing, pinging or anything at all that grabs our attention is inconceivable.

Do you want to know the secret to safely getting fit? It's a real game changer. I should really charge for this....

Put your phone in airplane mode. Or disconnect your PC's network connection. Or work out in a location without phone, PC or tablet.

You get the idea.

I'm not saying you can't listen to music or use technology to help you get the job done. I'm simply saying that if it keeps you from concentrating on what you are doing at the time, you might want to at least think twice about it. There is a reason fitness instructors are always telling you to focus.

Here Comes The Pain


Pain, or at least discomfort, is how the body clues us in on what is going with it. A twinge may indicate incorrect form or overexertion. When you aren't concentrating, you aren't paying attention to form. You are simply going through the motions which not only does not give you the workout you need, but it opens the door to injury.

In "Tom's" case, if he had put his schedules on hold, turned his phone off and kept his mind in the game and on what his body was telling him, he would not have had to put his workout on hold for a week or worry that he might be starting back up too early.

As things were, I felt as if I... he... couldn't give 100% to the final few weeks of the program. I... I mean... "Tom" recorded his progress and the final fit test results show how I... he... lost a step or two during that time.

Alright. I admit it. I am "Tom". I know, right?! A shocking Shyamalan-like twist!

The Moral


People like us use tools and gadgets to do a lot of things; many of them are pleasant distractions. Technology can be used to achieve many productive tasks. It's up to each geek to make sure that the tech we are using is a help and not a hindrance because sometimes the cost of failure really hurts!

Comics Stash: December 26, 2012

I'm changing up the format of these comics posts since my Blogger dynamic theme was buggered up. (Not by me!) Thus the new look around here. 'Nuff said.

My mini-reviews of comics released on December 26, 2012.

Amazing Spider-Man
700
4 stars
Dan Slott
Humberto Ramos

You've probably read more than you care to on this issue. Before it came out. After it came out. I don't feel the need to pile on. The destination was as expected, but the journey was handled well.

I'm really looking forward to Spectacular Spider-Man #1.

Aquaman
15
3 stars
Geoff Johns
Paul Pelletier

The more they build up Arthur's character and backstory, the more I like it. That he feels as if he is being portrayed on the same level as DC's Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman speaks volumes.

Plus a cliffhanger!

Avenging Spider-Man
15.1
4 stars
Chris Yost
Paco Medina

I'm enjoying Doc Ock's take on what it means to be Spider-Man and that probably puts me in the minority. This issue is a pretty good pivot point between Amazing Spider-Man #700 and Spectacular Spider-Man #1.

New Avengers
1
3 stars
Jonathan Hickman
Steve Epting

It seems that all of the elements for a story I will like are there, but right now I have no idea what's going on. I suspect that's by design.

Not so sure about this secret superhero group that I'm assuming are the Illuminati?

My puzzler hurts.

Night Owl
4
3 stars
J Michael Straczynski
Andy Kubert

A pretty "meh" issue for me and I'm glad the run is over. It's gets three bananas on the strength of Andy Kubert's art.

Tech News Today Appearance

As luck would have it, I found myself booked to appear on the end-of-year "open mic" episode of TWiT's Tech News Today. Those interested have probably already seen it but, for the sake of posterity, I'll toss it up here to kick 2013 off something a little different.

Without further ado...

Comics Stash: January 2, 2013

My mini-reviews for comics released January 2nd.

Batman: Dark Knight
15
2 star
Gregg Hurwitz
David Finch

I was sadly disappointed in this issue. The cover shows Batman and Scarecrow playing chess with Gotham City, but the story was nothing quite so intelligent. This was just too convenient for me. The idea that Batman's blood, pumped from Bruce himself as he pilots the Batwing, aerosolized and sprayed over the city would counteract Scarecrow's toxin is ridiculous. At least as ridiculous as the sentence I just typed. Deus ex machina meets the Bible. No thank you.
The good news is that the end of that arc means the beginning of another and overall, this book has outperformed.

Justice League
15
3 stars
John Reis
Frank Prado

In spite of the misleading cover (Shazam is not a Justice League member), JL #15 was a good start to DC's latest event entitled "Throne of Atlantis". While I think the whole "you fired missiles into the ocean thereby declaring war on Atlantis so Atlantis declares war on you" ploy is a bit weak. But whatever gets things moving, I guess. Nobody wants to see issues of political discourse and diplomacy, right?

The scenes involving Superman and Wonder Woman "in disguise" were kind of cute in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. I don't care what anyone says. They make a good couple. Leave those kids alone!

The Shazam extras must be doing the trick because I am ready for him to get his own title.

Superman
15
4 stars
Scott Lobdell
Kenneth Rocafort

I like Superman, but for it to be my pick of the week must mean that it was extra good or the competition was on the weak side.

I'm going to say it's a bit of both.

I like what Lobdell is doing with Lex Luthor here. Maybe it's because I was out of the comics scene for so long, but I'm enjoying this interpretation.

I also like that Superman is more than just about his physicality. That Luthor feels that Clark is the only person who even comes close to being his equal hints at depths in Superman's character that I'd never considered before.

I'd also ramble on for another issue about how much I love Rocafort's artwork, but you're probably tired of reading about that.

Talon
3
3 stars
Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Guillem March

When I reviewed Talon #2 I gave the title one more issue to wow me. Consider me not wowed.

Don't get me wrong. This is an OK title, but given limited time, attention and funds, room needs to be made for better books.

Teen Titans
15
3 stars
Scott Lobdell
Brett Booth

Joker. Crazy. Awesome. 'Nuff said.

Maybe a little more said. Once the "Death of the Family" event is over with, I'm not sure if I'll be sticking with Teen Titans. I'm only reading it now for Joker.