Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Kindle 3 : An Owner's Review

Hi All,

My new 3rd Generation Kindle arrived yesterday and I've had a day to play with it and read a little bit. First let me say that I was a very satisfied owner of the 2nd Generation Kindle. (I'll just call them Kindle 2 and Kindle 3 from here on out) I had no complaints about the Kindle 2, so why would I upgrade to the Kindle 3? Simple. I love new gadgets. Particularly black ones. Particularly with a host of upgrades. When Amazon announced the new revision of their fantastic little e-book device, I decided that I'd go ahead and buy in. Though I had no complaints with the Kindle 2, I am even more impressed with the 3. I thought I'd do a quick blog and outline my impressions and perhaps do a bit of comparison for those of you who already own a Kindle 1 or 2, and are trying to decide if the newest version is for you. I'll hit the most important features for me and I hope that if you're curious that it answers your questions.

For those who don't know, The Kindle is Amazon's e-book reader. Having previewed other devices like it, in my opinion it's the best at what it does in the market. It reads electronic books. Very well. The current Kindle device comes in a Wi-Fi only flavor for $139 and one for $189 that uses a network technology called Whispersync allowing you to download content (Being books, magazines, newspapers blogs and so forth) anywhere in the world that you have a cell signal. It can use 3G/Edge/GPRS. It weighs under 9 ounces, and has a battery life that means taking it on a three week trip to Europe and not worrying about charging. The device is first and foremost an elegant and usable e-book reader, but also has a slew of other features that make it an incredible little travel companion. I use and highly recommend this device to anyone who loves to read and wants to save room in their home library and their carry-on.

The Kindle 3 is smaller than the Kindle 2. I don't believe the Kindle 2 was too big. It felt right to hold. In comparison to the Kindle 2, however, I like the size of the 3 better. It isn't too big or too small. The 6" screen is the right size for a paperback page. As I read at one point on the Amazon website, a good book disappears in your hands when you read. The Kindle, like a good book, does this as well. It gets out of the way and lets you experience your story.

The Kindle's screen is a technology called electronic paper. It is not back lit, and doesn't display in color. You might think at first that this is a step backward, but on the contrary, in the e-book world, these screens are not only the norm, but they are advantages. Many, including myself, find reading on a backlit screen to be an eye straining experience if done for very long. And the monochromatic nature of the screen more closely resembles that of an actual book, which I feel lends to the experience. After all, how much color do you need to read anything other than a picture book? This technology is common, as I said, on other devices like the Sony reader and the Nook. I think perhaps a built in reading light would be something to consider, but truthfully, I have never missed this feature. I use a light like I would while reading an ordinary book, and I have found that the screens of both the Kindle 2 and the Kindle 3 are excellent even in full sunlight. This is something that a backlit LCD based screen has difficulty accomplishing.

Edit: I also would like to mention the fact that the contrast level on the Kindle 3 is notably better than the Kindle 2. I never had a problem with the contrast on the 2, but next to my wife's 2 , the 3 is much more crisp and clear.

The two schools of thought on storage are fixed size and expandable. The Kindle does not have expandable storage. Kindle 2 had about 1.5GB and the Kindle 3 doubles that to 3GB. I am not of the opinion that expandable storage is an important feature of an e-book reader. At first, I considered that I might want the option, but decided when I bought my Kindle 2 that I just wouldn't be using that much space for books. I ended up being correct in that I read a great number of books on the device, and never came close to even half filling it. With the doubled space on the Kindle 3, I can't imagine reading so much that I'll ever need the room. I could of course use the device to back up files, or carry pictures, or music or anything else I desired, but the bottom line is that a flash drive or MP3 player is more convenient for such a task and first and foremost, the Kindle is a book reader. I think this focus has led to the device being as usable as it is.

The Kindle 2 and 3 both have a full qwerty keypad, and a simple array of buttons for navigation. There are a few changes to the Kindle 3 that I believe are an improvement over the 2. First, the joystick has been changed to a directional pad, which so far has been much easier to use. Also, the buttons for turning pages have been mirrored on either side of the device, making it possible to turn backward or forward in your book regardless of which hand you're using. It is also worth mentioning that the number keys have been removed from the keypad and added to the symbol menu allowing for a smaller device.

Other Features:
The Kindle hosts a lot of features in addition to simply being a book reader. There is an experimental web browser, which is not nearly as functional as a full browser like Internet Explorer, Safari, or Firefox, but manages quite well and does the trick when you need it. I recently spent two weeks in Italy and used my Kindle to check my mail and update my Facebook status for those interested in following my trip. The device becomes a kind of travel guide in its rudimentary internet function. Wikipedia and Google become tour guides in downtown Rome, or a good way to find a recommended restaurant on the go. The Kindle 3 introduced a new browser, supposedly more robust than its predecessor, and with more potential for the future. I have not had the chance to put it through its paces, but in the short test I performed, it did load my email like a champ, and seemed faster and more capable next to the Kindle 2. There is also social integration in the latest Kindle 2 and Kindle 3 software. Users can highlight and post book passages to Facebook and Twitter, and can also see popularly highlighted passages from the books they are reading. A fun feature, but all in all, I could take it or leave it. My hope is that they will allow you to actually post your thoughts on passages easily and perhaps discuss them with friends and so forth. Perhaps a kind of social Kindle book club using Twitter or Facebook integration. So long as Amazon maintains the first and foremost function as a reader, the rest is just icing on the cake. Other features include the ability for the Kindle to read a book with text-to-speech (which I find a little too unnatural to be enjoyable, but interesting all the same) and the ability to play music and podcasts. The bottom line is that the Kindle will do a great many things, but the one thing it will do very well is allow you to read a book, and enjoy yourself doing it. That said, the Kindle is also stuffed full of neat little featurettes that will have you saying things like, "Huh! I didn't know it could do that!"

In comparison to the Kindle 2, the 3 is essentially the same well designed device. In the way of most upgraded devices is it smaller, has more space, and does its job faster than its predecessor. As I mentioned before, I believe that the Kindle is the foremost e-book reader on the market owing to an excellent design, truly elegant functionality, and a focus on the reason the device was created. It doesn't try to be more than it is, and for that reason is it good at what it does.

Unanswered Questions:
I have pitched the Kindle to a number of friends and colleagues. I've often joked that Amazon should be paying me a commission. There are a couple of things that I've come across that come up rather often that I'll close with.

1. Touch Screen - People often mention that they'd like the Kindle if it had a touch screen like the Sony reader. Had someone mention that just this evening as a matter of fact. The touch screen, I feel, is largely a matter of preference. I, for one, don't like to touch my screen because I like it to be as clear as possible when I'm reading it. The Kindle has a fairly smudge resistant matte finish screen, but it does show prints if you handle the screen. A touch screen has to be cleaned fairly regularly or oil builds up, and I'd rather my screen simply be a screen and use button navigation. Also, the tactile sensation of button presses makes me happy. To each his own, but that's the way I like it.

2. What about the iPad - I'm not certain what the argument is over the iPad, but in talking about e-book reading, it seems to come up. My response is always the same, which is that the iPad is not an e-reader killer, but rather a netbook killer. It is in a different class of devices and an apples to oranges kind of discussion. This isn't to slight the iPad and what it is. It's a cool device, and very capable (if notoriously missing a few features I'd call needed) of doing many things well. This does come back to the shiny, backlit LCD issue mainly. Not to mention the extravagantly different price points, battery life and weight that I think make pure e-readers so attractive. If you love reading, then an e-book reader is the way to go. I would add though, that owning a Kindle doesn't preclude you from owning an iPad. I for one would buy one, but I'm waiting until the price drops significantly.

I hope you've enjoyed my review. Please feel free to post questions or comments below! Thanks for reading!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hello. I'm Jon, and I'm an RPG Gamer Geek

Click Here for my post on Wil Wheaton, Slayer of Dragons and the True Dungeon Engagement!

I thought and thought about how to follow up my last blog. My small corner of the web has a regular readership of about 20 people. I see about 25-35 hits a month. In the past two days, thanks to Wil Wheaton's linking of my story of GenCon 2010, A True Dungeon Engagement and his own heroic tale of dragon slaying, my site has been hit over 11,000 times. That's fairly incredible! And so, what do I write? You always hear, “Write what you know, and don't worry about numbers.” And so, whether it ends up being interesting to anyone other than my regular readers, I'm going to tell you about how I became the geek I am today.

My name is Jon, and I am a geek. Originally, a geek was a circus performer who bit the heads off of animals, but I'm not that. Often, a geek is thought to be a socially inward or backward individual, bent on one or more particular pursuits, and somewhat non-productive otherwise, but I'm not that either. What is a geek you ask? It is difficult to nail down a singular definition. I can only tell you the kind that I am, and assure you that there are many more like me, and many that aren't

I can pin down the year that I started down my particular road to geekdom. 1986. I was 9. My life was that of a typical 9 year old. I played army, made swords from the tall ironweed that grew in a field where I lived. I had Matchbox cars, Transformers, G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K., LEGO, and Star Wars toys. What regular boy my age didn't back then? My imagination was alive and well. I had a Tandy 1000 computer and an ATARI 2600 which I enjoyed a great deal. All of this was normal. Typical even. Three things happened within a year that were the catalysts that transformed me from my typical kid archetype into my specialized form. Those three things? Nintendo Entertainment System, The Chronicles of Narnia and Dungeons & Dragons. By 1989 I was, and continue today to be, An RPG Gamer Geek.

It was these three things in which I discovered a great untapped source of entertainment, expression and self-discovery. Also, these things played a large part in my social awareness and interaction, rather contrary to to the popular myth that gaming makes you socially awkward. Am I denying that there are socially awkward geeks and gamers? Not at all, but to say that all gamers and geeks are awkward is like saying that all fish are trout. So let's look at each item on my list.

Nintendo Entertainment System: The Atari was an amazing system for its time. But the system I really grew fond of first was the NES. It was in no small part due to the games available. I still remember a lot of things about that system well and fondly. The Nintendo Fun Club Newsletter. That first Super Mario Brothers issue of Nintendo Power. Final Fantasy. Dragon Warrior. And opening the box for The Legend of Zelda not knowing that the cartridge itself was going to be bright shiny gold! Those were good times. The epic fantasy video game was young, and everything was new! 8-bit was an incredible technology, and I didn't have to input a code to pick up where I left off? Unreal! Those games took hours and hours over weeks and weeks to play. No internet. You had to do it all on your own, or pay an expert on a hotline to give you an answer. They required attention to detail, a long attention span, and excellent recall. At the same time I was enjoying the King's Quest series on computer, and the old classic, 'Rogue'. I was a sucker for a good old dungeon crawl.

The Chronicles of Narnia: One of the great epic tales. Narnia introduced me to the fantasy novel. I loved the breadth of time it covered, the sweeping worlds and battles and the great and small creatures of the realm that chipped in for the good of Narnia. What I recall about it in particular is that these children, who were my age, and much like me, were pulled into this amazing place, and became a part of the tale. After I read 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe', my outside activity shifted from army, and cowboys and indians, to a backpack, an ironweed sword, and some sort of great journey. Rocks could be gems, trees were monsters, and I was the hero! After Narnia, I would discover Fantasia, Middle Earth, and many other places that sprang from the minds of their creators. I still love fantasy fiction and always will. Of the fiction that I read, it comprises a good 90 percent. What I love most is the way a good fantasy author can create and entire world that is as different from, or similar to ours as he or she wants. Many authors write a fascinating hybrid of our world and their imagined one. Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time comes to mind as an example of a world that melds our world with another. To me, there is little in fiction that is more interesting than good world building.

Dungeons & Dragons: I was introduced to D&D by my step-sister. It was the red box. The one with the huge red dragon on the cover. They had a sculpture of that same cover this year at the top of the escalators at GenCon. You could step up on the stone and pose like the warrior fighting him on the cover. I didn't manage to get the pose, but I did take a picture. Dungeons & Dragons took some serious heat early on from someone who was deeply hurt by the loss of a son who played. The game took the blame for his death, but truly, I feel it was the scapegoat, and not the real reason. A game, any game, can be just as dangerous as anything. How many lives do you suppose too much poker has ruined?
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding the game itself, but let me at least tell you my experience with it. I was raised in a home with solid values, Biblical truth, and respect. I became a Christian at age 10, but didn't really start to truly see what it all meant until I was 18. I am in fact, an active, all week long Christian (with as much failing and short-coming as anyone) who plays tabletop RPGs like D&D not to mention others. I think there is an ill-conceived idea of the way the game is played that conjures images of children and young adults gathered around a table in the dark wearing robes and memorizing incantations for summoning demons to do their bidding. Not in any game I've ever been involved in. A typical session?

One person has prepared a story or part of a story in advance. They make maps, create non-player characters for the players to interact with using the characters they have made to control in-game. Some DMs will just describe what's going on to the players. A theatrical DM might use voices and mannerisms, like a good story teller or actor, to bring some life into his NPCs, but it is entirely up to the DM and their style. They sometimes prepare props. I'm fond of handing actual notes to my players from the characters in the game, rather than just telling them that they get a note and things like that. The creation of the game is incumbent upon the DM (Dungeon Master) or GM (Game Master) in some systems. The players show up ready to take part in telling a story together. That's the game in a nutshell. The player characters are subjected to a problem or issue and become protagonists. They have to save the town, win a battle, oust an evil overlord or anything that the person running the game can come up with. The players create characters and then make the character do what they think he or she would do. As the characters are played, they gain experience and grow stronger. The game isn't always over in one night. A series of adventures, called a Campaign, can last for years if a group meets to play infrequently. But the main point is that the whole game happens around a table, in the minds of the players. It is a great social exercise that makes friendships that last a long long time. I am still friends with the people I played with in high school, and we still get together from time to time to play. I think most of them read this blog in fact. At any rate, I have never felt pulled to real witchcraft, spells, magic or anything, and I have no problem with reality versus fantasy. If that happens, then I question whether the problem is the game, or if it began somewhere else.

So there you have it. The three main influences that made me the Gamer Geek I am today. Is my story like yours? Can you pin down what made you who you are? Feel free to comment your own gamer/geek story!

Oh and FYI, my first D&D character was named Alexander. He was a fighter. A master of martial weapons. I don't know when I retired him, but in my mind, he looked just like the fighter on the cover of the box. He wasn't me, but he was the me I would be if I were the one in the game. Bound by a personal code of honor, eager to prove himself and willing to help with his talents and abilities. And also, the gigantic horned helm.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

GenCon 2010 - The Tale of Wil Wheaton: Dragon Slayer

Hello all!
I just got back from GenCon 2010 and I'm glad to say that it was a great time, and that True Dungeon was a fantastic success this year!

GenCon itself was a great time. It is a lot of fun to hang around with so many people with common interests. This is true for anyone I think. But I want to tell you about our time with True Dungeon this year!

This was the second year that I have had the privilege of attending GenCon in Indianapolis as a True Dungeon volunteer. Michelle and I along with two of our friends made the 4.5 hour drive last Sunday and spent the week helping to oversee the build, run and tear down or the event. We had a great time last year as new volunteers and were extremely excited to be given the task of becoming build leads. After the build, the two ladies became NPCs. (Non-Player Characters for you non-gamer types) They played the same character on different shifts. That of a half crazed protector of an artifact that the players were seeking. My friend Mike and I assumed administrative assistant roles. That might bring to mind typing letters and sending mail and such, but in True Dungeon, it means making certain that all of the rooms are running smoothly, that lights are working, radios are charged, and markers aren't dried out to name a few of the varied tasks that surface. Essentially we were running all over the place putting out fires. We all had a blast, and can't wait to get back next year!

There are two stories that I can tell you from the event this year:

The first concerns a couple who got engaged during their run of True Dungeon. The guy contacted the TD's creator and owner, Jeff Martin and had a special treasure token made which read "Ring of Engagement - Lisa, will you marry me? -Adam" and then arranged for his wife to find it in a treasure box as the party's rogue. The token popped the question for him, and when she turned around, he was on one knee with the actual ring pictured on the token. Here is a photo of the token!

I didn't get to see this happen, but I hear it was a great moment! She did say yes, by the way!

The second amazing story from True Dungeon this year, involves Actor/Author/Blogger and Geek Royalty, Wil Wheaton and some of the cast of the award winning web series, The Guild! (Felicia Day, Sandeep Parikh, Robin Thorsen and Jeff Lewis)

Here's how the story goes: Our finale this year was an encounter with Smoak, the Red Dragon! He was about one story tall, animatronic, and probably the single hardest challenge in TD history. Only a handful of groups managed to beat him, and most of those groups barely survived. Wil, Felicia, Sandeep, Robin and Jeff made their run late on Friday night with one of their event coordinators, and a pair of TD staffers. By all accounts they were good with the puzzles, and an effective, and intense group of players. They made it in good shape to the final room with our enormous fire breathing dragon!

This is where the story becomes legendary! The dragon was about to unleash the spray of fire that would put an end to our intrepid adventurers, when Mr. Wheaton stepped up to the slider board. (I should interject that combat in True Dungeon is carried out with a shuffleboard-like table and plastic sliders in which players' weapon tokens are placed. A silhouette of the enemy is on the far end of the table and where the slider comes to rest determines hit or miss and how much damage is dealt.) Wil made his slide just as the dragon was about to breathe, and his slider landed on the critical hit zone with the damage pointing in such a way as to kill the dragon in a single shot. This, as has already been said far and wide, is a one-in-a-million slide. A feat not accomplished by anyone else at the convention. The slider had to land in that exact spot, and the ring around it had to be facing that exact way. A heroic and legendary tale to be sure. I hear it told that once the party realized what had happened, Wil proclaimed that from now on he was Wil Wheaton, Slayer of Dragons! Here is a photo of the victorious party, celebrating at the feet of Smoak himself!

Today is a good day to slay a dragon! *Image by Fotoz by Fritz*
This story will more than likely be told and retold forever among the ranks of True Dungeon volunteers and Staff. There was no better outcome for this party. They succeeded in their quest, and they did so in a way that was entirely dependent on the skill of the players. (And perhaps a goodly amount of luck as well)

After the epic attack, Wil was given the d20 used to roll for combat initiatives. A gargantuan die, which he has named "The Dragon's Heart". It will no doubt become a legendary artifact itself! Later on at the con, my wife and I met Wil at his table in the autograph section of the exhibit hall and asked him about his experience. I was pleased that he along with the cast of The Guild, had a great time with True Dungeon. And Wil, seemed more excited than anyone. And why not? He has done what many gamers have only dreamed! He has slayed a legendary Red Dragon!

Wil Wheaton: Dragon Slayer and The Dragon's Heart

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Firearm Certification

Hello readers!

I wanted to do a quick update on one of my goals, as I have completed it! This past weekend I enrolled in a firearm safety and Concealed Carry Certification class! That means I now know my way safely around a handgun. The class was interesting and informative, and the time at the range actually shooting was good experience as well as being a lot of fun.

In order to qualify for my certificate, I had to take a written exam covering gun safety, and I had to know the nomenclature for a revolver and a semi-automatic pistol. Additionally, I had to pass the test at the firing range. At 50 feet, I had to hit a human sized target in the body 5 out of 6 times. I manged to hit 6 out of 6, and with a fairly nice spread in my humble opinion. Observe...

As you can see, 6 shots, all very close to the target area, which is the "X" drawn on the body. Excuse the crappy quality. This was taken with my phone.

So, I passed on all counts. And because I don't want to end my post abruptly, let me tell you about the weapons I got to fire while I was at the range. We were allowed to try some of the instructors other weapons to experience higher calibers and different types of guns and so forth. Maybe you'll get a kick out this, maybe not, but aside from all the seriousness of handling a firearm, the range shooting was a lot of fun!

I took my test with a Beretta Model 76, lent to me by my good friend Gregg Hager. It is a .22 Caliber, and at 50 feet I had a hard time seeing the holes I made in the target.

The other .22 I tried was a Walther P22. If a gun can be said to be cute, this one was. No bigger than the palm of my hand, but a lot of fun to shoot.

Then, growing tired of not being able to see my shots, I tried a little something bigger. The Taurus .44 Revolver. Shown here is the Model 431. I'm not certain it was this exact model, but the caliber and look are right. I could see the holes this one made.

Then for good measure, I fired a Glock .40, and the Glock 9mm. They looked rather the same really. So I won't bother linking them both. One was just a little bigger than the other.

So now, as a result of my class, I am certified to apply for my permit to carry a concealed weapon. Does that mean I'll always be packing heat? Probably not. I'd really rather not have one on me at all times, however, I am going to get the permit, because there are times it may be handy. I'll most certainly look into getting something for the house.

So there's one for the books! Took me three attempts to actually get into the class, but finally it is finished!

Firearm Certification Complete! Mission Accomplished!


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Saab Story

Well folks it's been a huge month. Let me start with a little preface about what prompted a little adventure I had with my friend Mike.

On February 3rd I lost my job. They eliminated my position in the company, and that was that. They did offer me another position, but it turned out to be something I'd never apply for as it would keep me away from home on business too often. And so, I took the severence package and began deciding what to do with myself. That, in itself is an entire post, but I'm not going to focus on it, except to say that I'm attempting to move back to technology. Going to get some certifications, and pursue something in that direction. Now...on to what you really came for. ADVENTURE! A warning. Brace yourself. This is a long one, but I promise it'll be fun.

You see, my company has provided me with a car for the duration of my employment there. I didn't have to worry about it. I realized, however, that as my time there came to an end, so would the company fleet car. And so I needed something I could drive, and quickly. Some of you may know, and some may not know that in college I drove a black 1987 Saab 900 Turbo. Happened across is quite by chance, and never imagined I would miss it when it was gone. It was a little worse for wear. No headliner, rattling tailpipe, questionable interior, no air. But heaven help me if it wasn't more fun to drive than anything else I've driven. That was about 10 years ago now. But I never forgot that car. Many of my friends (and my girlfriend to whom I am now married) thought that the car was as ugly as the day is long. Here's one like it. You be the judge.

I think it is a stylish design. But I will freely admit that it demands an opinion. You love them or you don't. It's ok if you don't. I won't ban you from the site. :)

Alright, so I was determined that I would own another Saab, similar vintage, only in better condition that my original 900. I started looking. Now we had money saved up in the event that something like this might happen. These cars aren't all that expensive, but finding a good one for my money was tricky. The ones nearby were all battered from seasons of the harsh weather we experience here. I knew I wouldnt' find one that wasn't more than a little rusty in this part of the world. So what could I do? Well, the best ones are in California...too far. Too expensive...out of the question. Or Florida...heeeeey....wait a second. My local airport flies to Orlando, non-stop, extremely cheap. Craigslist....Orlando....They're literally everywhere. Perfect!

So my plan was to book a flight, rent a car, test drive about three of these guys, buy the best one and drive it home. Easy. Now the most astute of you may notice a flaw in my plan. Once purchased, how to return said rental to the airport? I needed another driver. I asked Michelle first, but she was attempting to save her leave. Regrettably she declined. I looked on MSN, and my good pal Mike was on.

"Mike? I need a wingman"
"Ok. Ma'am, is this guy bothering you?"
"No, an ACTUAL wingman."
"Fly to Orlando? Buy a car? Drive it home? Ok. I'm in."

Ok, now, I have everything booked. I had eliminated for one reason or another, all but one of the Saab 900s I was to see. The one I loved as soon as I saw it on the ad. 1988 Red Saab 900 Turbo. Convertible. Restored black interior. Beautiful. Very high miles. 191k. But wow. Pretty car. I was going to look at a couple more just to be thorough, but the red one was the one I wanted. And it was in fact the best one.

Then, a mere four days before we were to leave for Florida, another car popped up on Craigslist. Green and tan, 1992 900 Convertible. 107k miles. OH NO! This can't be happening! It's not only the kind of car I wanted, but the miles are ridiculously low! My sense of responsibility asserted itself, and I knew that unless something was very wrong with that car when I saw it in person, I'd have to buy the green one. Most people I showed the cars too seemed to feel the same way. They'd say, "Yeah, you pretty much have to go with the green one." Then they'd eye the red one. "That one sure is pretty though." I was a little heart-broken, but prepared to do the right thing.

Now I had the red one and the green one lined up. Down we flew. We ended up in a rented Prius which was fun. We were on the way to see the green Saab. The hands down sensible choice.

I'll tell you up front. I got the red one. Why? Mike and I decided that it was destiny, because that sounds better. Here's what happened:

I called the guy with the green Saab. He didn't answer so I left a message. We were halfway to the location when he calls me back.

"I'm sorry. I'm not even in the state. I'm out of town. I didn't think you would show up."

At first I'm a little taken aback. I thought, "Didn't I email you and tell you I was flying to Florida from Ohio to see your car?" But then it hit me. If I can't get the green one...then...YES! I mean, that's too bad. It really was a sensible car. But red sure is pretty. :)

So it fell through. My sensible car fell through. My attempt at responsibility was blown out of the water. Well, nothing for it then but to see this red Saab 900 Turbo Convertible with Restored Black Interior and way too many miles. (Although, 191k really isn't all that bad for a well maintained Saab.)

Mike and I test drove the car. Sure, it's got some quirks and foibles. What 22 year old car doesn't? But you know what, It sure is pretty:

We drove it up the coast that night and stayed at my grandparent's place. We did discover that the car did not have working heat. That became an issue around North Carolina. Mike and I made many stops to warm up. We bought convenience store gloves, socks and hats. We used a quilt, drank hot chocolate and drove through a heavy snowstorm. We drove through toll booths looking absolutely ridiculous. It was a hero's trial. We had to earn this car, and believe me, we did.

Well, we fixed the heat the next day. A simple matter of a disconnected linkage. I've been tinkering with some of the small things that aren't working. Replacing bulbs and the CD player and what have you. And so after 10 years, I'm back in my Saab.

Ladies and Gentlemen, My Saab Story. :) Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed living it! More pictures are available here.

Thanks for reading!

Oh and as a PS, Recently you may have heard that Saab was being disolved as a company, but fortunately Stryker is now buying them and they aren't going away! Woohoo!! :)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Trudger's Treatises Annual Traffic Report

Good evening everyone! Thank you for coming to our special annual meeting. Actually, there's no meeting. I was just playing around with Google Analytics, which is what I use to observe my traffic here at Trudger's Treatises. Currently all JonCCook.Com traffic points directly here as well. I think it's really interesting to see where and how my visitors get here, so I thought I'd share some of the information from my reports with you. This February, believe it or not, marks an entire year for this blog. I'm amazed that I've kept it going for that long. Normally my projects don't have that kind of staying power! Perhaps it's simply that I know people would be lost without their Treatises. :) Anyway, how about about those numbers! Trudger's Treatises : February 1st, 2009 - January 27th, 2010 Total Visitors/Locations: 640 Visits 5 Continents - 23 Countries - 255 Cities Worldwide Average of 1.91 Visits per Day Top 5 Highest Readership by Country
  1. United States - 551 Visits (This is probably to be expected)
  2. Brazil - 25 Visits (No idea I had such a following in Brazil!)
  3. Japan - 13 (Thanks Tomoko! :)
  4. United Kingdom - 10 (Is that you Liam?)
  5. Philippines - 7 (Like Brazil, I am surprised, and pleasantly so, that the Philippines enjoys the site, however rarely. :)
Top 5 Traffic Sources: Visitor Origins (How people find their way to my site)
  1. Google Search - 23.59%
  2. Direct to Page - 18.12%
  3. - 12.19%
  4. - 10.31%
  5. Trillian's Tales - 8.44% (Thanks for the referral traffic Gina!)

Top 5 Most Viewed Posts: (The Blazin' Challenge is the hands down victor for popularity on my site according to several metrics)

  1. The Blazin' Challenge
  2. Pack Contents for The Appalachian Trail
  3. The Cook's Kitchen: Beef Jerky
  4. GenCon 2009
  5. Brandon Sanderson Made Me Famous

Top 10 Most Common Keyword Combinations: (There are a few ties for 2nd place actually, so I'm listing the top 10. It should become apparent what the single most popular post on my site concerns.)

  1. Coleman Max Pot - 6
  2. Bill Meadow's Pottery - 3
  3. Blazin' Challenge -3
  4. Blazin' Challenge Shirt -3
  5. Buffalo Wild Wings Blazin' Scoville -3
  6. BW3 Scoville -3
  7. Good Samaritan Soles 5k - 3
  8. Sample of Treatises -3
  9. Buffalo Wild Wings Scoville Scale -2
  10. Buffalo Wild Wings Scoville Units -2
Some of the more interesting keyword combinations:
  • Beef Jerky Caulking Gun
  • Blazin' Challenge Injuries (o.o)
  • Blazin' Challenge Dead/Died (O.O)
  • Contents of Toiletry Bag (My personal favorite)

So there is some interesting information about my blog. It's amazing how many visits and how much interest the Blazin' Challenge has generated. I'm going to have to find something else to do like that so I can generate more traffic! Anyone have any recommendations?

Talk to you all soon!


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kung Fu - The White Sash

Hello everyone! Guess what? I took my test for the white sash tonight at Kung Fu, and passed! I think it basically means I have learned enough to begin learning! :) The test isn't all that extensive, or difficult, but it's a beginning! Basically, there are a handful of kicks, punches and techniques that you have to demonstrate, plus a short blocking form. I was little nervous, but managed not to get too overworked, and didn't have any trouble. So this means that my Kung Fu goal is half way completed for 2010. Well, not exactly. The yellow sash is considerably more involved, and will take quite a bit of study and dedication to accomplish by the end of 2010. I only attend one of the two weekly classes. At any rate, I'm excited to begin. Mainly what I want to do before worrying about the color of the fabric around my waist during class, is to increase my strength and flexibility, and become very certain of the basics that I've already learned. A solid foundation is the key to a great many things. And I'm certain that any martial art is no different. I'll keep it short tonight! Just wanted to update you all on my progress. I'm certain you're all riveted to the screen! :) Talk to you all soon! -J

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2009 - A Year In Review

Hello everyone! I guess it's been awhile hasn't it? Just over 3 months by my calculations. It was a busy, whirlwind holiday season to say the least! I wanted to take a moment, do a post, and look back on 2009. My friend Mike dubbed it the year of the ninja, wherein we would all aspire, by the end of the year, to be one. So are we? Well, not quite. But hey, we made the attempt, and we're closer now than we were. Not quite a bullseye, but closer to the target than we would be had we never aimed for it. (The proverb goes, "Aim for the moon, and even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.) As it stands, I have a lot of goals which I have not completed. There is a perfectly good, and I think a perfectly acceptable reason for this. I am a person of many, many.....MANY interests, and you might say a Jack of all Trades, and Master of None. Here is the vital thing. I have made progress toward many things which I aspire to complete, and even though I did not finish in 2009, I am not finished. The goal setting, more importantly than anything, focused me enough so that I could in fact get somewhere, and keep from going nowhere. I have to update some percentages, but the list is pretty close. One of the best things is that Merrick is approaching halfway on the first draft. This is by far more than I've ever managed with any story which I intended to be longer than a few pages. It was the method I was using, I discovered this year. As an author, I am an outliner, as opposed to a discovery writer. This means that I work from an outline better than off the cuff. I write my concepts and beginnings that way, but once I frame the idea, I need to outline. Because of that, Merrick is going to be finished! I'm very excited about it. In 2009, I also made a few inquiries, and connections as far as the publishing process will go, in the event that Merrick is ever at that level. It just might be someday! The other great thing that came out of 2009, goal-wise, is my study of Japanese. I have had a great time so far learning the language. I have a long way to go before I'm even comfortable with basic conversation, but this time last year, I knew perhaps 100 random words and had no idea how to put them together. Now I would place my vocabulary at 400-500 words, and a good grasp of the basic structure of the language. I've also nearly mastered Hiragana and Katakana. The Kanji are little intimidating, but I'm sure if I take it a little at a time, I'll be fine. Fitness was a big part of 2009, and I know it will be big in 2010 also. Michelle and I have been whipping ourselves into shape after the holidays, and have tossed around another piece of the Appalachian Trail. Perhaps the 20 miles or so that we missed on the trip last summer. A smaller hike, true, but by design, so we don't have to take as many days off from work. Also related to fitness (as well as the year of the ninja) is Kung Fu. I'll be continuing with that in 2010, and my goal is two sashes this year. With a little more practice I'm ready for the first one. In 2009, Michelle and I had opportunities to do so many things we'd never done before. Not only the Appalachian Trail, but Baltimore and GenCon in Indianapolis. It was almost too much! We had an absolutely great time, and it was a great year. One for the history books! In 2010, there are some new things planned. In the spring we'll be heading to Italy to visit Michelle's uncle, who retired there after his time in the service. There may be a quick crash course in Italian thrown into my language studies. We're also planning a return to GenCon to assist with True Dungeon again. Not only did we have the time of our lives, but hey, it's a free vacation! :) In retrospect, I believe that I've grown in 2009. I feel that mentally, physically and spiritually I am in completely new places than I was last year at this time. I'll never be perfect. And in many things, I'll never even be adequate, but I can try to be better than I used to be. That's the important thing. And so, look for more posts soon. Let's kick off 2010 and make it another good one! Thanks so much for reading! I really do appreciate it! -J