Jim's Blog Ramblings about novels, comics, programming, and other geek topics

31Dec/071

Using your iPod for learning a new language

Google AdSense

If you've every wanted to learn a new language, it's easier than ever now. There's dozens of free resources for language lessons including Podcasts (mp3s) and documents (html & PDF). Open Culture provides the

Foreign Language Lesson Podcast Collection. (via Dumb Little Man)

The collection contains downloads and information for the following languages:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • English
  • Finnish
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Irish
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Latin
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Swedish
  • Tagalog
  • Thai
  • Vietnamese
My Related Posts: ,

26Dec/071

Getting the band together… Rock Band (Game Review)

Google AdSense

As readers can tell, I've been a bit late getting back into the console video games. My last console (before my new XBOX 360) was a Sega, so that tells some users how long its been.

I've looked at the Guitar Hero buzz as something of interest, but I've never been one for feats of coordination or rhythm games such as that. So I never experienced the Guitar Hero phenomenon.

This Christmas (2007) I was treated to a Rock Band night with a few family members (some photos on my Facebook profile for friends & family). Rock Band is developed by Harmonix, who also brought us Guitar Hero I & II (but they didn't develop GH3).

The biggest difference between Guitar Hero and Rock Band is that Guitar Hero is focused on a single instrument (the guitar, duh). Rock Band comes with a drum set, a microphone, and a guitar (with an additional jack for second guitar). The guitar can be either a guitar or bass (but you can only have a maximum of 1 guitar and 1 bass per play).

At first, it took me a while to get the rhythms down. Starting out with old familiar songs such as Wanted Dead or Alive (Bon Jovi) and Epic (Faith No More) helped quite a bit. If you've played Guitar Hero series, then you'll instantly be familiar with the guitars (the guitars of the two games are interchangeable).

I started out with the drums, which I later found to be the most difficult to perform. There's a kick peddle and four "drums". As the notes scroll down the screen, you tap the correct drum(s) and/or kick peddle. (If that's the correct terms...).

At first, I found that coordinate my hands and foot to hit multiple drums a bit difficult. I failed the first few times and needed to be saved by a fellow band member. Luckily, a lot of my family play on expert mode on several of the instruments and could keep the band from getting kicked off the stage almost every time. After a few songs of practice, I was able to score around 85% on the drums on Easy mode.

Moving on to the next instrument, I played the guitar for a bit. I think this was probably the second most difficult instrument. Even on Easy mode, some songs (like Enter Sandman) was just crazy on my fingers. The first two buttons were pretty easy to reach, but the third button played havoc on my finger for at least an hour or so. Finally, I was able to use three fingers (only 3 buttons are used on Easy mode) to reach all of the buttons. I was able to score in the mid-eighties in guitar mode, but usually scored much lower.

Finally, I found my tempo on the bass. The bass uses the same guitar controller as the guitar, but there's a lot less button combinations. Usually, it's only one of the three at the same time with a bit more of an interval between the notes. I was rocking the bass with scores in the high-nineties (97% with 187 continuous correct keys on my best).

Lastly, I skipped singing, but from listening to the others sing, you don't need to be a karaoke master to get a good score here.

I really enjoyed the game and I'm thinking about getting it in a few months after I finish Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Mass Effect. I'm hoping that the rumors are true about the wireless instruments coming out in February 2008. I think that's the only downside of the game is that there's a lot of wires involved and you really need at least 3 people to have a fun time, even though only 1 is required.

My only hesitation is that I don't know if I'll have enough friends over to actually ever have a Rock Band party. Also, right now the song selection is pretty limited. However, Harmonix is putting out a new download every week with new songs (varies from $0.99 per song or a few dollars for a few songs in a song pack). I'm hoping for some Rage Against the Machine, U2, and an expanded 80s selection.

Rock On.

My Related Posts: ,
19Dec/070

Programming perspective

Having the benefit of writing lots of code over the last decade or so, I quickly came to realize that the best written function/application doesn't mean it will be accepted by the client.

I've had some awfully written applications that were loved and my best written applications (using the correct design patterns along with new methologies and techniques) were disliked.

I was even thinking about blogging about this before Jeff Atwood of Coding horror posted the article titled "Nobody Cares What Your Code Looks Like". Jeff concludes stating:

remember this: nobody cares what your code looks like. Except for us programmers. Yes, well-factored code written in a modern language is a laudable goal. But perhaps we should also focus a bit more on things the customer will see and care about, and less on the things they never will.

This has been my philosophy over the last few years. It doesn't mean that I need to write poor code - especially since I'm usually the one who needs to maintain the code base. It does mean that nobody really cares how it is written as long as it works the way the client wants it to work.

This is especially true on web development projects. I've studied web design trends, usability, navigability, and all those other user experience categories of web design. However, in web development everyone who uses an Internet browser believes themselves to be a certified web designer and can (and does) comment on the page presentation.

So just like in code, clients usually won't care about your best web design, web standards, or even a standard presentation schema (layout, colors, fonts, etc. across every page of a web site). Just remember, it's their product and you're just a vehicle to get there.

I've dubbed this egoless programming - putting aside the way you want things to be done in order for your clients to get their product. The clients will ask for things that will result in a sub-par product from your own viewpoint and standards.

But the client doesn't want your product, they want their product. Even if their product looks like someone used Front Page (or MS Word) to design it. The best we can hope for, is that the product is accepted and used and -maybe- we'll get another shot at fixing it later...

Unfortunately, these applications usually become showcases and are forever associated with you as the developer. Even if you disagree with how the client wanted it implemented, you're now stuck with it for better or worse.

I also discovered the Ten Commandments of Egoless Programming as written about in Jerry Weinberg's book The Psychology of Computer Programming. Commandment number two fits in nicely with this article and should be repeated to yourself on a daily basis. Here's a few other commandments to keep in mind.

  • You are not your code.
  • Treat people who know less than you with respect, deference, and patience.
  • The only constant in the world is change.
  • Fight for what you believe, but gracefully accept defeat.

Repeat the mantra: you are not your code

17Dec/072

Programmers use i, j, and k for looping because…

Mike Nicholaides posted an interesting quote from Wikipedia (via reddit).

In Fortran, all variables starting with the letters I, J, K, L, M and N are integers... (This is the source of the long tradition of using "i", "j", "k" etc as the loop indexes of "for loops" in many programming languages -- few of which have implicit typing).

I had never really thought about why I've always used these letters for loops. It has always just been one of those things that everyone did and all textbooks used as examples. It is interesting to learn why we use the letters i, j, k, etc. instead of starting with a, b, c, etc.

My Related Posts: ,

13Dec/073

Pro and Cons of Coffee

Jay White of Little Dumb Man posted an interesting article for consumption of coffee. He lists 10 Pros and Cons of Coffee Drinking. Its an interesting read for us coffee drinkers.

Pro 7. Improved mental performance. Caffeine in coffee is a well-known stimulant. Coffee promotes alertness, attention and wakefulness. The cup of coffee can also increase information processing.

Con 10. Dependence. Caffeine is a drug, a mild central nervous system stimulant, and it produces dependence. Caffeine withdrawal is a real syndrome.

My Related Posts: ,

8Dec/070

Mass Effect: Revelation (Book Review)

Mass Effect: Revelation is a prequel to BioWare's Mass Effect video game for the XBOX 360. I picked up the book a couple days after buying the video game. I haven't had time to finish the game yet, I've just made it as far as becoming a SPECTRE (Special Tactics and Reconnaissance) agent in my first play through of the game.

Due to my current desire to finish Marvel Ultimate Alliance and unlock all of the characters, I've delayed playing Mass Effect for a bit. Even though, I've only barely started playing, the Mass Effect game has been great and the voice overs for the characters really add to the already great story and role playing that BioWare is famous for.

Back to the book, the author, Drew Karpyshyn, is the lead writer for BioWare's Mass Effect game, so he has intimate knowledge of the setting, game, and future games (the Mass Effect game will be a trilogy). Since he helped create the setting, he was able to work on writing the book at the same time as developing the game.

Karpyshyn has also written a Baulder's Gate II and Star Wars: Darth Bane novels. Both of his previous books are based on BioWare games (Baulder's Gate and Knights of the Old Republic).

Here's the excerpt from back cover of the book:

On the edge of colonized space, ship commander and Alliance war hero David Anderson investigates the remains of a top secret military research station: smoking ruins littered with bodies and unanswered questions. Who attacked this post, and for what purpose? And where is Khalee Sanders, the young scientist who mysteriously vanished from the base hours before her colleagues were slaughtered?

Sanders is the prime suspect, but finding her creates more problems for Anderson than it solves. Partnered with a rogue alien agent, he can't trust and pursued by an assassin he can't escape, Anderson battles impossible odds on uncharted worlds to uncover a sinister conspiracy - one he won't live to tell about. Or so the enemy thinks.

What that means in terms of the game is that Alliance soldier who starts off the game as your commanding officer is the primary character of the book - David Anderson. In the book, Anderson is a young officer (much like your character in the game) who eventually becomes recommended for becoming the first human SPECTRE agent. Anderson talks to you about this in the game, but doesn't go much into details.

If the game, Anderson mentions that he has a past history with one of the game's SPECTRE agents - Saren. This book fills in all of the details of the missions and helps explain a lot of the backstory of the game. It also provides a great look into Saren's motives and provides a good foundation for his involvement in the game.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. One of the things that I had hoped for was an appendix that included a short list of terms, people, places, races, and planets, etc. I really liked this about Keith Baker's Eberron novels (Keith Baker was the primary game designer for the D&D Eberron setting).

Although, BioWare has a nice online reference to the game, I still like having a book to flip through the glossary for quick reminders of the different races, key figures, or planets, etc.

The writing was a little better than I had expected. Although, I think the ending was a bit too fast. It seemed like the entire story was wrapped up in less than 1/6 of the book without any lingering pieces that might lead to another novel. I really hope there's a few more novels, maybe one with each game release, but a few more in between the releases would be nice as well.

The Mass Effect setting is great for a sci-fi fan such as myself. After reading the book, I have a much better feeling for the game and setting.  There's only so much story you can add to the game without it becoming too verbose in the role playing and consequently it would become less action-oriented.

Pairing the game and the novel makes the game even better since I can get much more of the story from the novel than the game, but it compliments the game in a good way. I can focus on having fun, blowing stuff up, and running around exploring the various planets and interacting with the alien species.

One thing that I really like about the setting is that it's a dirty sci-fi. It's not as black-and-white such as Star Wars movies. (There's a few good Star Wars novels that are great and deal a lot more in the gray area, but very few people have actually read the novels compared to the movies.)

"If you want to make it through this mission alive," Saren added, "you better be willing to shoot civilians if they get in your way. Because they will be more than willing to shoot at you."

"Necessity is one thing. But how can you be so cold about killing innocent people?"he [Anderson] asked in disbelief.

"Practice. Lots of practice."

A lot of choices in the book mirrors that of the game. I haven't gotten too far into the game, but reading the forums (without spoilers) I read that sometimes you'll have to chose whom to save (that leaves someone else to die) and make calls were there's no right answer. Are you willing to make a decision for the greater good and leave your teammate to die?

In conclusion, if you've play the game or will buy the game in the future, then this book will just make the game even more enjoyable. Preferably, if you read it before you start playing. If you've already finished the game, then you might not enjoy the book as much, but if you're addicted to the game's setting and lore then it's required reading.

If you're thinking about getting the video game for the holidays for yourself or others, then you should buy them the book now and let them read it before playing the game.

Update: You can download 2 free chapters from Bioware's web site.

7Dec/070

On the road again

Working on the west coast with the majority of my clients on the east coast inevitably requires a few trips out there. I made one of these trips to the corporate headquarters this week. This trip was so eventful, I figured that I'd post a personal and funny blog post. Some of my friends have been wanting to see a few little less technical posts and a few more personal ones. Here's a long read that might make a few chuckle.

Day 1 - Heading east

I scheduled my flight for an afternoon departure, which would put my arrival around 10PM. I figured that I would have a few hours in the morning when I could finish packing and check my email before rushing out the door to the airport.  Early that morning, I got a call from a co-worker (client in this case, since I do internal/corporate development) that I was going to be meeting with. The conversation went a little like:

Are you staying at the same place?

Nope, I'm staying at a different place this time.

Didn't you like the other one that you stayed at last time. It's just down the road from the office.

It was okay, but I wanted to try something different this time.

What's the name of it?

Blah Blah in Blah city.

Blah city? That's like an hour away!

What? That was the "corporate preferred place" and I think it said it's just 10 miles away on the web site.

<both turn to Google for help on where it is>

Wow, that is a long way away. I'll change my booking. Thanks

Somehow I'd used the corporate travel service and that hotel had been listed at the top of the page and I had selected it since it sounded a little better than my last place. I call the old place make a reservation, but can only make it for 2 of 3 nights. I made the reservation hoping that I'll be able to get a third night there.

So I proceeded to call the new (farther away) hotel to cancel, but they can't cancel since the reservation was made through the travel agency - only the travel agency can cancel it. I have no idea who the travel agency is or how to contact them since everything is submitted through our intranet. After digging through my mail, I finally tracked down a 1-800 number on an automated email sent with my itinerary. I was able to call and cancel the hotel.

I finish packing and hailed a taxi to the airport. Somehow every time I've ever taken a taxi to the airport, it's a different price even if they drive the same route and it's only a mile or so there. I even get the taxi at the same spot.

Like most times, I arrived at the airport way too early, but at least I usually have time to grab food and get some free Wi-Fi before the flight. I entered and walked to the self-check-in automated machines - no lines, cool. I had no baggage to check in, so I thought this was going to be another nice quick check-in process.

For some reason, the self check-in machines were not working for me. So I tried another one there. Nope, that one didn't work either. So I got in the ticket counter line. At the ticket counter there is another self check-in automated machine. I figured, what the heck, if it didn't work on the row of machines over there, why would it work any different over here.

At least this machine recognized me, but told me to pick up the phone next to the machine to talk to someone. The airline representative on the other end said that my flight was on hold and I needed to talk to a person there. I have no idea why the machine just couldn't have displayed text saying to talk to a human instead of telling me to talk to a human who told me to talk to another human.

The airline representative discovered that my plane had been delayed from O'Hare and would arrive about two hours late (hence depart at least two hours late if there was a short turn-around). Instead of waiting, I asked for another flight and she found one connecting through LAX and departing in about thirty minutes from the commuter terminal.

I hurried outside and caught the Red Bus for a ride over to the commuter terminal. As I was sitting in the van, I noticed that it was about fifteen minutes before take-off. The airline representative forgot to tell me that it was getting ready to take off. I hoped that I'd catch this flight, otherwise I'd be stuck trying to get back on the delayed flight or take my chances with another flight.

As I was passing through security, they discovered that I had toothpaste and aftershave lotion that needed to be removed from my bag which delayed me a bit. At the same time, my name was being hailed over the intercom as the other passengers of that flight had already been seated. I made that flight as the last person on board.

Once at LAX, I rushed over to the other terminal and picked up a bite to eat on the way. Once I got to the gate, I noticed I had about thirty minutes before loading should begin. The gate looked empty, so I hoped there'd be a few empty seats near me.

I found a nice seat and began to eat my lunch (a nicely overpriced cheeseburger). After taking the last bite, I started on my fries. Then  I heard the "last call" notice for my flight. Apparently, I was so hungry or oblivious to my surroundings that I had missed all of the loading calls. I think the others had began loading before I arrived - which explains why the area looked empty. Luckily, I caught that flight as the last person to board once again.

On board, I decided to connect my iPod to my laptop. I had copied a few files onto my iPod from my personal desktop in order to transfer the files to my work laptop, but I didn't finish it at home - I figured that I'd just copy the files over at the airport or on the plane. So I start digging through my backpack for my iPod USB cable. I couldn't find it. Looked again. Still couldn't find it. Looked through every pocket and crevice on the backpack. Still no sign of it. Oh well, at least I brought a good book to read and can listen to music on my iPod.

Arrived at Dulles with a chilling 32 degrees outside and proceeded to pick up my rental car. Before heading out the door, I pulled out my jacket and donned it.  As I was walking out the door, I heard a cling behind me.  Turning around, I found that my watch had flown off my wrist and down the hallway. Luckily, I heard that sound, turned around, and actually noticed it was my watch. Somehow, it got unlatched during putting on my jacket.

Okay, back on track... Headed to picked up my rental car from the preferred corporate agency. To my surprise, the guy asks, "Is a Prius okay?" I responded, "Sure."

Most people don't know this, but the Toyota Prius is my self-proclaimed arch-nemesis of cars. Every time I see one, I think I'll see that "Mac Guy" driving it with a conceded little smirk wearing a Bluetooth earpiece connected to his iPhone while listening to his iPod in a custom built docking station made special for the Prius. Why do cars with good gas mileage have to look so awful? I've never driven one and I'm always game for trying different types of rental cars, so I decided that I needed a first hand experience with it.

Once I get to the car, I reach to turn the key, but it doesn't turn. I pull out the key and realize that it's not a key at all, just a block of metal that looks like the the car lock/unlock/alarm device that most people carry on their key chain. So I push the device back into the slot.

I'm starting to push all kinds of buttons, but nothing's happening. Finally, I find the "Power" button and press it. Finally, a sign of life here. Well, almost. Some of the systems is working, but the engine isn't running.

At least I have heat now, it's 32 degrees outside the console says. The previous driver had the climate control set to 85 degrees - that's a bit too warm for me, so I look for the climate control. It's not to be found anywhere on the console. I looked everywhere and finally find it on the steering wheel. After a few minutes, I'm finally able to adjust the temperature. (Afterwards, I found the "Climate" screen that allows me to set the temperature via the console.)

By now, I've begun talking aloud to myself proclaiming that this is the most confusing car I have ever been in.  My next challenge was to actually get the car into gear. Even though, I don't hear anything I know that the Hybrids run pretty quiet and the heater's making a ton of noise anyway.

I think this was the most confusing part of all. (In fact, this took several trips over the next day before I thought that I had figured out the exact starting steps). I kept pressing buttons and rebooting the car until finally, I saw that Drive engaged.

Headlights came on automatically. Whew, that's one thing I don't need to look for. Windshield wipers has been on for a long time now, so I finally begin the search to turn those off.

On the road, finally.

As I was driving, I wanted to find a Circuit City, Best Buy, or even Wal-Mart to buy an iPod USB cable. I had checked at Dulles before I left, but the workers had no idea if any store there sold iPod accessories or not. Luckily, there's a Circuit City across the street from my hotel.

This should be a piece of cake, I thought. I walked in, picked up item, proceeded to checkout - about 60 seconds total time. Then I proceeded to stand in line for about 25 minutes as a two struggling cashiers look dumbfounded at the cashier machines and each other while about 15 techs walk around the store bored (the only people in the store were in the checkout line). I thought, why not just open the other registers so everyone can get checked out - but then I realized that they probably weren't certified to operate those machines.

Finally, get up to the cashier and I have no idea what the guy behind the counter is doing. I almost wanted to grab the scanner from him and scan it myself. (Actually, this reminded me of my Starbucks visit were it seemed like all of the workers were high and took an inordinate amount of time for two simple drinks.) Swiped my card, finished the transaction, and then I tore off my own receipt from the machine as the guy just stood there staring the console.

Ok, to the hotel... Checked in, got 2 free cookies. Sweet. That's my dinner for tonight. As I was putting away my clothes from my other carry-on, I find my iPod USB cable.

Day 2 - Meetings part 1

I went downstairs and picked up a few muffins, a yogurt, and coffee from the hotel before heading to work. I then sat in meetings all day. I actually had to leave one meeting while on break to go to another meeting.

It's interesting when you have contractors in the room and you're the client. Most of my career, I've been the contractor meeting with my clients, but this time it was a reversed since our consultants were there (Microsoft and another MS business partner).

It's funny to meet people a while after you've talked with them or email them. Email is so impersonal and it's easy to appear confrontational. It's the same thing with phone conferences sometimes, so I never really know how others will remember me, but most remember that I'm usually the guy that gets things done or figures things out.

Somehow every one there thinks I'm some sort of superstar, but I know that I'm just a hack and the things they ask for are all relatively simple tasks. They were just used to getting slow or no responses from others.  Last time, I visited one of the people I had briefly talked before sort of complimented me saying, "I'd thought you'd be taller." WTF?

I had a great seat to watch the snow continue to fall all day during our meetings. Unfortunately, I didn't park in the employee underground parking area.

I walk outside to find the Prius covered in snow with about 3-4 inches on the roof and hood. Luckily, a coworker had some gloves a rag to help clear my windshield and hood. I make a mental note to bring a windshield scraper and gloves next time I come out here during the winter.

If I had taken the original hotel, then instead of a 5 mile (20 minute commute) that I now faced with the closer hotel, I'd need to drive about 2 hours or more in the snow and there were tons of accidents everywhere there due to the snow and ice.

I fumble around with the Power button and gear shifter and finally get the Prius into reverse. At this point, I still don't know what I'm doing right to get it into gear. The digital camera display for reverse is a nice feature on the display, but the display distorts the distance to things making them appear to be extremely far away. The camera is even nicer because the rear window is covered in ice right now and the camera is clear and looks fine.

I had dinner and a few beers with a few co-workers at a local Italian place. Upon returning to the Prius, I finally figure out the three stage power button. Instead of thinking of Power as on/off, there's a third mode that is the same as when you turn the key backwards in your vehicle - where most systems operate but the engine isn't running. You have to press the button just right to get it to turn the engine on, otherwise, you'll end up in that other mode. Since you can't hear any sound from the engine, you can't really tell what mode you are in, except for the illumination color of the Power button (something I'd missed before).

When I got back to my room, I noticed that I had three new voice messages. I was hoping that it was the front desk letting me know that my room had become available for my last day, but it wasn't the case...

Voice mail 1 (paraphrased): [7:15 PM] Woman with condensing and accusatory voice tells me that she is disappointed that I'm out drinking with Art again.

No idea who that was or who Art is, but I was out drinking. This is a bit interesting, so deleted it and continued on.

Voice mail 2 (paraphrased): [7:35 PM] Same woman still upset that I'm not there and then finishes the call by calling a whore.

Nice. Deleted. Continue to next message.

 

Voice mail 3 (paraphrased): [7:45 PM]: Same woman claims that I don't care about our daughter and says some not-so-polite things that I can't post here and then hangs up.

Deleted. No more messages. Whew.

Just for the record, I don't have any kids, was never married, and I have no idea who she was, who she was trying to reach, or who the guy's drinking buddy is. She definitely had the wrong room.

About 45 minutes later, she called back and sounded confused when it wasn't who she expected and I told her I had no idea who that guy was. Finally, I think she realized she'd been given the wrong room number.

After thinking about it a little more, I think this guy had set himself up for the perfect alibi. He'd accidentally given her the wrong room number and went out drinking with his buddy. This way, he could say he was in his room all night waiting for her to call. Or maybe, he really did accidentally given her the wrong room number. Yeah, right...

Day 3 - Meetings part 2

I was able to changed rooms early in the morning before heading into the office. I was greeted with a nice chilling 21 degrees in the morning, but at least it's not snowing.

We watched a nice Titan (Microsoft Dynamics CRM v4) PowerPoint presentation and live demo from the Microsoft representatives. It seems like my future is trending into and towards CRM, but at least the new version is fully managed code now.

Along with Microsoft, we went through some of the CRM SQL Server maintenance plans and configuration details and found lots of things that needed to be fixed. We talked a little about Sharepoint integration with the new version of CRM. I also think that I'll be moving towards Sharepoint development probably sometime next year.

I'm starting to like the Prius console display, but it's a bit distracting. In most cars, I can use the radio or mess with the AC/heat controls without even looking at the controls, but not here. It feels like there'd be a lot of accidents from drivers not watching the road while they mess with the console display.

I thought I had figured out how to boot up the car, but it appears that I was mistaken. I'm still having trouble getting it to fully start, but after a few reboots or resets or whatever, it eventually gets going, but I still don't know exactly what I'm doing.

Day 4 - Heading west

It's warmed quite a bit this morning and it's about 27 degrees this morning. It'll warm up a few more degrees as I drive to return the rental car. I hoped that I could make the entire trip with the fuel gauge still in the Full position and almost made it, but on the way to the car rental drop-off the gauge dropped a bar.

It hailed a little bit on my drive to the airport, but overall it's much nicer than a few days ago. It is nice being able to pay less than $3/gallon for gas, but I only needed to buy a gallon or so.

Another thing that puzzles me is the inconsistencies with TSA inspections. I have no idea why they made me removed my sweater, that's the first time I've ever had to do that. It will be nice when we can bring bottled water back into the terminal instead of paying x3 as much for it after we get passed the gate, but I'm sure the corporations within the airports will lobby against that ever going back to how it was before.

Dulles seemed to have free Wi-Fi, just like San DiegoLindbergh, but it doesn't seem to be working (unlike San Diego/Lindbergh). I also noticed that many of the major Wi-Fi carriers had Wi-Fi connections that required you to pay by the hour, maybe that's why the airport doesn't have a working free Wi-Fi.

My flight back was rather uneventful. I really wish that in all the cutbacks the airlines have done that they'd remove the ability to lean back in your chairs instead of cutting out the food services.

I was able to finish the sci-fi book I had started a few days ago and it was actually pretty good. I hope to write a short blog entry about the book soon which will probably be followed up with an entry about the related video game that was also just released.

As I was reading and listening to my iPod, the guy sitting next to me interrupted me to inform me of a picture of a a polar bear on a piece of floating ice in the airline magazine. He thought it was funny that the bear was "surfing", I think he was a bit confused when I didn't laugh at the advertisement.  A bit later he noted that my soda can contained the same color as his can of fruit juice. Another interesting observation, but one that I don't think many would consider noteworthy.

Another interesting thing to note was the guy had 6 different color pens in a pocket protector. I didn't even think they sold pocket protectors any more. They were accompanied by a pocket calculator and a very thick checkbook/daily planner. His activities continued to intrigue me when he pulled out his rental car paperwork and the Consumer Reports book on the 2007 car models. He began reading and taking notes on the rental car paperwork about the various cars and highlighting passages in the book. Lastly, he added a little commentary during the flight such as, "Runners to your mark" as we taxied to the takeoff and "Ride'em cowboy" as we went through some turbulence.