Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Stars Were Out

I watched the MLB All-Star game Tuesday night, and... the madness continues. Maybe I shouldn't say I watched it. I had the game on, but I was busy doing other things. Other online journalists (you know, the ones who actually get paid for speaking their mind) have ranted over the current MLB All-Star format, and I have to agree with a few sentiments. But my take on it might be a little different. I'm neither a baseball purist nor some Bill Veeck (bonus points if you know who he is without looking him up). But the current all-star format leaves a lot to be desired.

First, what is the MLB All-Star Game? It's just like the home run derby. It's an exhibition between players of various teams, whose sole purpose is to generate more buzz and revenue for the league. It doesn't figure into any league statistics for the year (like when Eric Gagne blew the all-star game save, but it didn't affect his record-breaking save streak).

My biggest complaint has to be Bud Selig's silly notion that the all-star game should determine home field-advantage in the playoffs as an incentive for players to play hard in this exhibition game. Lets look at the other US pro team sports with a championship series, the NBA and NHL. Both of these leagues award home-field advantage in their best-of-seven finals to the team with the better record (or points in the NHL). Now, it is true that in the last six years, there has not been a game seven in the World Series. But why wait until after a World Series goes to a full seventh game and it does make a difference?

In the all-star game this year, the NL had Justin Upton, a right fielder, playing left field. Curtis Granderson hit a one-out drive to left, and Upton's route to the ball allowed Granderson to get to third base. After a walk, Granderson scored on a sacrifice fly to right field. Should home field advantage in the World Series be determined by a guy playing out of his normal position in an exhibition game?

I won't mention both rosters featuring (count 'em) four first basemen. Rather than expanded rosters of 33 players each (how did they even come up with that number?), why not pick the best 25 in each league, play them more than one at-bat, two innings in the field, or one inning as a pitcher, and try to win a ballgame? We should strive for quality, not quantity.

How about this: who cares if there is a tie? It's an exhibition anyway. Fans are watching to see their favorite players, the stars of the game compete. If the game goes to 14 innings, call it a tie and award a tie MVP for one player in each league. I bet after 14 innings, most of the fans will have gone home or tuned off anyway. Why? Because deep down no one really cares who wins!

It didn't always used to be like this, especially back in the 70's when Pete Rose ran over Ray Fosse. People had pride in their league, and the game meant something. But with the introduction of interleague play, the novelty of the twice-a-year AL vs. NL (all-star game and World Series) has worn off. Don't get me wrong, I do like interleague play. But it comes at the expense of things like the all-star game.

I'm not a fan of the designated hitter in regular games. But for goodness sakes, get the DH in the all-star game every year. I don't want to see Roy Halladay bat in an exhibition game.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I've been asked quite a bit about netbooks lately, so I'd like to give my thoughts. What exactly is a netbook? I haven't come across a good definition (although I'm sure one exists), so let me try to define it in layman's terms. A netbook is a mini-laptop (9"-12" screen) designed for light computing usage (web browsing, email, word processing).

The upside for a netbook is the portability. A netbook is perfect in an airplane seat (I always found with a full-size laptop that I would have to bend the screen down or recline my seat back). Netbooks are also very light, making them very ideal for traveling. The Dell Inspiron mini 9 even fits inside the top pouch of my Tamrac camera bag.

Price is another upside to the netbook. Most netbooks are in the ballpark of $300. Earlier generations can drop as low as $150-ish, and adding extra RAM and/or storage space will run you closer to $500 on the upper models.

Netbooks are even being subsidized by various cell phone providers. You can purchase a netbook through Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint (and maybe even T-mobile). Deals range from a small discount ($200 on Verizon or AT&T) to as low as a buck (Sprint). All of the discounts require a 2-year commitment to a data plan, which can range from $45/mo to $60/mo completely separate from your cell phone plan. If you are planning on forking over the money for the data plan, it might be worth it. All have 802.11g Wifi, and all of them either come with Bluetooth standard or as an option, so you have plenty of connectivity options rather can a cell phone wireless network.

The downside of the netbook is... well it's size, specifically the screen size. Most early netbooks have a 9" screen, and others are getting a 10" screen, with models topping out at 12". You can't see very much on the 9" screen and a max resolution of 1024x600. Most desktop LCDs and monitors will display atleast 1024x768, 1280x1024, or widescreen resolutions up to 1920x1080.

Another possible downside is performance. Most netbooks use the Intel Atom processor, a CPU designed for low power operation and longer battery life. Do not expect the netbook to be your road warrior for professional digital photography or video editing.

Another possible downside is that netbooks do not come with DVD drives. You can get an external DVD drive and plug into the USB port, but they do not have them built in. Personally, I consider this a plus. Why lug around a DVD drive when I barely use it? When I need one, I just plug it in. You can convert DVDs to a viewable movie file (and the netbook will work well for that), but you won't be able to pop a DVD into the netbook.

Along the same lines of small size and portability, the keyboard is smaller, and that is something you have to get used to. On the Dell Inspiron mini 9, for example, the quote/double quote key is not on the home row (see this picture). It is a tradeoff to have larger key sizes, but lose some keys, verses having all the keys where you expect them, but smaller. It drove me up the wall, every time I would hit the quote key, I would hit enter key instead. Netbooks are on display at retailers (Target, Walmart, Costco, Best Buy, etc) and at cell phone stores (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc). Go and check the keyboard out before you buy. Make sure you are comfortable with both the size and placement.

Specs-wise, most netbooks can be upgraded to 2 GB of RAM for a decent price. Storage on the netbook I've used is only 4 GB. That's not a lot of space at all! Some netbooks use solid state hard drives, super quick drives that don't store as much information. Get one that has atleast 32 GB, although you might consider 64 GB, or 128 GB (based on cost). Other netbooks use rotating spindle hard drives, the ones we've been used to in desktops and laptops for years. They might come in 160 GB, 250 GB or 500 GB models.

Several manufacturers make netbooks, including Dell, HP/Compaq, Acer, ASUS, MSI, and countless others. All have a pretty big following in online communities, so do plenty of reading and searching on reviews and forums. It will help cut down on any surprises afterwards.

Netbooks are interesting. They have a niche between a smartphone and a full-blown laptop, and the costs are somewhere inbetween that range too. It really depends on what you want to do. If you want something cheap and portable to check email and type out a few documents on the road, the netbook is for you. If you want to check out those RAW photos you just shot, the netbook probably isn't for you.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Did you hear about the guy in a flood on his roof?

It had been raining for days and nights, a flood gushing over the levy. The river raised so high that one gentleman was finally forced to get on the roof of his house. As the waters rose, an older man in a rowboat appeared and asked him if he'd like some help. 

"No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in God. He will save me!" So the older man dipped his oars in the water and rowed away. The man on the roof prayed even harder for the Lord to save him. The waters rose even higher, and suddenly the sound of a speedboat filled the air.

"Get in!" shouted a couple from the boat.

"No thanks," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the Lord and He will save me." So the man in the speedboat zoomed off leaving only a wake. The man on the roof prayed even more earnestly for God to save him. The waters rose steadily. Later, a helicopter appeared, dangling a person held by a rope. The person shouted at the man, "Grab a hold of me, we'll pull you to safety."

"No thanks," the homeowner said. "I have faith in God and He will save me." The rescuer pleaded with the man, but to no avail. Finally the pilot rescinded the rescuer back into the helicopter before flying off.

The man on the roof prayed again for God to save him.

The waters rose still yet higher, and eventually so high that the water covered the roof. The man tread water for several hours before finally succoming to the deep.

In heaven, the man marched straight up to God. "Father..." he said, "I had faith in you, I prayed to you to save me, I believed that You could, and would, and yet You did nothing. Why not?"

God expressed a confused look and replied "What? I sent you two boats and a helicopter. What more were you looking for?"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Passover and Communion

I had the opportunity to participate in a Passover Seder last week. It was a very eye-opening experience. It is one thing to grow up understanding the bread represents Jesus body, and the wine/grape juice/"fruit of the vine" His blood. The Bible says that Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples, then they sang a hymn and went to the Mount of Olives.

But there's so much more to it than that! To explain, we have to get a little Jewish.

Passover or the feast of unleavened bread was a yearly celebration to remind the Hebrews of their slavery and their redemption by God. The Seder has probably changed a little bit since Jesus' day, but my understanding was it went something like this:

The Seder requires the participant to (throughout the meal) have four cups of wine. The four cups are based upon Exodus 6:6-7 ("bring out", "deliver", "redeem", "praise"). Between the first and second cup, Jews eat some ceremonial items, such as bitter herbs, parsley dipped in salt water (to remind them of the tears that were shed), a sweet mixture reminding them of the mortar for bricks, a roasted egg dipped in salt water.

Traditionally, Jews have three large pieces of matzo (unleavened) bread. By definition, unleavened matzo dough is pierced before cooked at a high temperature. The three matzos are separated and placed in a cloth, with each of the matzo in a separate compartment. At one point in the Seder, the middle matzo is removed from the cloth, and broken in two. One half of the matzo is returned to the cloth, and the other half, called the afikoman is hidden by the father for the kids to find and eat after the dinner meal, almost as a dessert (remember this for later!).

The youngest asks the ritual questions about what the night is about, etc. They also retell the story of coming out of slavery. Then, after the second cup of wine, the actual Passover meal is served. During the time of the temple, a lamb would be eaten. Since there is no temple (and thus no sacrifice), matzo soup or brisket (mmmmm) is served.

At this point, the children hunt for that afikoman. When it is found, each person breaks off a piece about the size of an olive (a large Mediterranean olive) and eats it. The third cup of wine is poured, and a blessing is recited over the cup of redemption.

Songs are sung, and a last cup of wine is poured and drunk for Hallel, or praise (you know Hallel, one transliteration from Hebrew is Hallelujah, or "praise the Lord").

Okay, so what does all that mean? I'd like to piece what the Bible tells us along with Jewish tradition to gain a better understanding of what happened.

Jesus celebrated the last Passover meal (and his last meal) with his disciples on that Thursday night. The gospels tell us that at supper, Jesus took the bread and blessed it, and said, "Take, eat, this is My body."

Allow me to digress for just a moment. If you remember, the afikoman was broken from the middle or 2nd matzo in the cloth. What do the three matzos represent? Some say the patriarchs, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. So why take the middle/second one and break it, why not the first or third? I don't think anyone knows exactly what the matzos represent. But let me take a stab at it. What if the matzos represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the trinity? The middle matzo is broken and hidden from view, but is then shared with all.

Wouldn't it be fitting if the bread Jesus broke was the afikoman? Jesus passes it to his disciples and says, "This is my body, broken for you." Have you ever noticed that matzo is pierced? Pierced just like Jesus' body. In fact, you can shine a light through matzo. Jesus could tell his disciples that the bread they were eating represented him, the Bread of Life.

After the blessing and pouring the third cup of wine (which represented the Israelites redemption from slavery), Jesus said that the wine represented his blood, the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Jesus is redemption from our slavery of sin, which is the new covenant.

The next time you remember Jesus' death through the bread and wine, think of the shared afikoman, and the cup of redemption which through his shed blood frees us from our slavery!

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I am now officially a certified severe storm spotter! Or atleast I think I am. See, I went to a class on storm spotting about 2 years ago, and then again last week. Well, after this last class, I signed up for an account on the National Weather Service's e-spotter site, and it was granted. So.... that makes me... uh... something! I think. I can sign in and make weather-related event reports such as rainfall rates, hail sizes, approx. wind speeds, tornadoes and the like. This combined with radar and other reports help the NWS get a more accurate view of what really went on during a storm.

I'm preparing my camera bag with severe weather necessities for the next big storm:
  • Ham radios (Yaesu FT-11R 2-meter hand-held, and Icon 2SRA 2-meter hand-held with wideband receiver)
  • Camera (Nikon D40x 10.2 MP DSLR with 24-50mm and 50-200mm AF lenses)
  • Extra batteries for both, memory cards for the camera
  • Blackberry (So I can insert witty wall retorts and nearly-funny status comments on the go)
  • Computer (Dell mini Inspiron 9 and possibly Nokia n800 Internet Tablet)
  • Beef jerky and David Sunflower Seeds (ok maybe not enough room, but they're definitely necessities)
  • (After re-reading over this list, I can leave my Official Geek Card at home, all the other junk will sufficiently identify me as such.)
I've signed up to go to the Douglas Co Annual Storm Spotter Symposium (say that three times fast) in Lawrence next month. It looks like they have 4 severe weather speakers, and several KC TV meteorologists, including Karli Ritter. :D I bet most of the meteorologisticalfragisisticallydoscious stuff will be over my head, but I find it very fascinating both from a scientific standpoint and a photographic standpoint. I think it helps to know what you're shooting!

I read about the tornadoes in Oklahoma earlier this morning. There was one in northwest Edmond and thankfully, there were no reported injuries. I hope there were no injuries that were unreported. Several people lost their lives closer to the Texas border, and storms hit other parts of the state as well.

How are you preparing for severe weather season? Do you have a plan, bathtub, lower-level closet, or even the Official Katie Horner Severe Storm Preparedness Helmet?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hooray Google

Google maps is pretty neat. They now have a pedestrian walking feature. For fun, I wondered how long Google thinks it'd take me to walk from Olathe to V-town.

View Larger Map

Walking directions to Vallejo, CA: 1,786 mi – about 24 days 9 hours. I'd better bring some extra shoes.

Best part: "Use caution – This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths."

They might as well told me to watch out for bears and killer bees.

Monday, January 26, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

1. Sometimes I lack motivation.
2. Certain things I am Type A. Most things I am Type B.
3. I like to think of myself as Type AB positive.
4. I don't know my real blood type.
5. I am a Christian, although I consider myself to need a lot of work.
6. I've decided I am an extroverted introvert.
7. I love VH1's pop-up video.
8. That's what she said.
9. I had a cat growing up, I named her K.C., "just like Kansas City." Foreshadowed?
10. K.C. died after 20-plus years, after I moved to Kansas City.
11. My Guitar Hero band is named The Saucy Nuggets.
12. My geeky Linux server is named orangepeel.
13. Alton Brown is my other hero.
14. I don't watch much TV, besides the morning weather, The Office, Family Guy, the San Francisco Giants, San Jose Sharks, San Francisco 49ers, and any other sport on TV.
15. I laugh at my own jokes. Unless they're really bad. Then I chortle. For days.
16. When I graduated 8th grade, my teacher gave me a certificate that said I was allowed to tell my jokes.... after June 10th, 1994. (graduation day). I still have it.
17. I like humor because it's a sweet escape.
18. I like plain white t's. The band is cool too.
19. I like the name Delilah.
20. I think it'd be funny to see "Delilah's Salon."
22. I wouldn't get my hair cut there.
23. I love to sing. It's fire in my bones.
24. I am bad at math.
21. Just kidding.
25. I love photography.

This post was originally posted (can I do that?!) at

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jeans, bowling, pizza, and Coke

Costco routinely carries Lucky jeans for $37. I'm not one of them stylish clothing people (just ask anyone I know!). At Christmas last year (when I landed a day before my bags did), I had to pick up some clothes so I could atleast like shower (yeah, I know, gross right, thanks Southwest!). Mom had to stop by Costco to pick up something, and my sis noticed the Lucky jeans. I ended up with a pair and the rest as they say is history. There really isn't anything special about them, they're just comfortable. Real comfortable. In the past I've worn Wranglers, Levis, whatever, I just really like the feel of them. I've heard they cost much more other places, so I guess I am.... Lucky.... to get such a great deal! (*groan*)

Not to mention, I got a slice of Costco combo pizza for lunch. :)

Lets see what am I up to? League bowling last night, and the Pin Wheels team all had a great night. Personally, I rolled a 155 and 172, both well above my average going into the evening of 139. I think it was the shoes!

I made a trip to the Whole Foods market. Veeerrry different. No, I'm not one of those organicky people, I'm just on the hunt for mexican Coke. Yes... mexican Coke. In places where you can find it, it's more expensive than regular US Coke, but worth it. It's a different taste than the Coke you're used to. I can't explain it. It's different. Why? Well it's made with pure cane sugar. Yes, the good stuff. I can't describe the difference in taste, I wouldn't call it sweeter, but maybe it is.

Anyway, I went to Whole Foods market, I heard a rumor that there was some there. They did have an off-brand cola that was made with sugar. I did get it, it tasted closer, but not quite the same. But I couldn't find the real stuff. I kept looking, and looking and looking, and no dice. Maybe they had it and were just out when I was there. I did find it online from some soda shop in SoCal. Get this, it's $30 for a case of 24 12-oz bottles (like the one on the left). Oh yeah, that and ground shipping brings it to $75. I'm sorry, but I can't bring myself to pay over $3 for 12-oz of soda! Until I find it, the thirst continues....

Sunday, December 21, 2008


He walked slightly hunched, and slowly. He carried a cane most of the time. Once, we left Safeway and when we got back to his house, the cane was still on top of his red 1986 Ford Thunderbird.

My great-grandpa Lonzo Alfred "Skip" McDowell was born today, 96 years ago. For those into cool numbers, his birthdate was 12/21/12. How neat is that! I knew him as grandpa McDowell, but everyone else called him Skip.

He loved to bowl, especially taking Stacie and I on Saturday mornings after we'd spent Friday night with him. Well never together, we'd kill each other. Kentwig Lanes was close. You remember the one. They had dollar games, cheap shoe rental.

He loved to come watch my baseball games. In fact I remember he passed right at the beginning of my 12-year-old season of Little League, in April of 1993.

He whistled. A lot. I could never tell what, it sounded almost Korean or something. I think he could carry a tune in a bucket, just not all that far. I used to sit by him in church and he'd sing. I remember a specific time when we sang "Holy, Holy, Holy" and I was next to him singing along.

My best friend growing up, Bryan, had an elementary school named after his grandpa. I thought it was neat, but Bryan never really got to know him very well. I felt sad for him. I counted my blessings that I got to spend so much time with my great-grandparents and grandparents. I'm looking forward to spending some time with my family this coming week!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hello again

I haven't blogged in a while. I guess I really haven't had much to say. Things I think are good.

Let's see, bowling league is a blast. I'm improving, and one of these days I hope I can get back to respectability. Until then, I'm having fun and that's all that counts. I've been eyeing bowling ball bags, bowling balls, and shoes. I've seen shoes for $35-40, which I don't think is a bad price. Balls run anywhere from $40 to however much you want to pay. I've seen what look like decent (performance-wise) and good-looking balls for $60-70. New single-ball bags start at $20, and one I really liked was about $33. Sure, I guess I could spend $200 on new bowling stuff, but I really haven't done it much lately outside the league. We bowl 6 more times (12 games total) after the new year, if I went more and saved money (having my own shoes for example) maybe it'd be worth looking more into.

I'm in the market for a new phone. My phone works fine except for the battery. I basically have to charge it every night and hope it gets me to the next night. Instead of a $40-50 battery (which I'd really have to search online for), I could put that towards a new phone. Unfortunately, that would come with a shiny new 2-year renewal. And an extra $30/mo ($22/mo after my discount) in charges. I haven't decided there, I'll figure out what I'm doing after the holidays.

My car needs work too. It's well overdue for a good 100,000 checkup. And timing belt. And water pump. And transmission flush and fill. And... well who knows what else! A new phone will have to wait until I get my car done.

I've done little more with photography. I took my camera tonight to my friend Rachel's christmas program. She's an elementary school music teacher. She asked our singing group to provide some background vocals for a song, and I happened to take my camera along. I'm getting more comfortable shooting in sorta-manual mode. Oh wait, I think the S stands for shutter, not sorta.

Computer-wise, I've been playing with Windows 2008 Server Standard Edition. I've read reports of people who like it as a workstation OS. They're completely right. The Vista drivers work great with it, and you can enable themes that make it look more like Vista. Except it doesn't suck. It's speedy, responsive. I'm very impressed. If only I didn't have to reinstall everything every so often.

I'm looking forward to going home. I'll be out there for several days. I'm really hoping to get to go skiing. I haven't been in a few years, maybe winter of 06-07?

I need to get going on my Christmas shopping. I've got a list. Well in my head. Close enough?