Saturday, September 27, 2008

Day Out with Thomas

Last weekend, we went to see Thomas the Tank engine at the Colorado Railway Museum in Golden Colorado. You can see pictures at: http://kids.ericshepard.com/thomas2008.htm

Day out with Thomas is a wonderful event for kids. Based on the kids I saw there 3 and 4 seem to be the main ages that are most represented in the Thomas fan club. Tyler at 6 is still a fan, but seems to be close to out-growing the need to visit the little blue train. I think it is somewhat likely that next year he may not want to go.



One thing I noticed this time as well as last time is that I do not think I have been anyplace with more children throwing tantrums of one sort or another. It seems that at any point in time you could look around and find at least 3 kids crying within ear-shot. Even one of our angles had a little melt-down this year in the "Imagination Tent" when we wanted to move on to something else. When you bring together hundreds of kids most of whom are between the ages of 2 and 6. It is probably inevitable that there will be whining and crying. And overall, I am sure fun is had by all. Once we calmed Connor down, he was fine for the rest of the day.

One thing that was somewhat frustration was that Tyler and Connor seemed more interested in the things that are always at the museum than they were in most of the stuff that is just there for Thomas. There is a big black engine that Connor likes to call "the Polar Express". We had a hard time getting the boys to move on from the Polar Express. Of course explaining to a 3 year old that it is time to move on because we have to let someone else onto the train

video

The video is taken at the Denver Garden Railway Society Exhibit... another thing that is always there and that the kids wanted to spend considerable time around. It is pretty cool and the number of trains running on Day out with Thomas was more than usual I think. At the very end of the video, you can see the actual Thomas running around the museum's tracks.

Overall, it was a fun day. The tickets were expensive and there were too many kids around, but Connor and Tyler both enjoyed themselves and Mommy and Daddy survived. We'll have to see whether or not we end up going next year or not.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

BlueField

My sister has started a blog. http://bluefield5.blogspot.com . I am not sure why I am posting that fact. The majority of people who read my blog (my dad and my sister) already know.

As of right now, she has 5 posts over the past 5 days. She is already beating me for September even though I have had about 18 more days to post this month. And of course her posts are much more interesting than mine. I bet more people have read them.

Its not a competition you say? You are probably right.

I asked her how she picked BlueField as a blogspot sub-domain. She tells me that Blauwkamp means blue field. Pretty cool if you ask me. I guess the 5 is because there are 5 people in her family (and because bluefield was already taken).

Oh well... Blog away.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rhapsody

I have gotten a couple of recommendations to try Rhapsody-To-Go.

I have a Sansa View which is Rhapsody - compatible. So, I am trying it out for the free 30-day trial.

To be honest, so far I am not impressed.

One of the most impressive things to me (theoretically) is the ability to add a Rhapsody Channel to my portable device. A Rhapsody Channel is basically a set of songs of a similar style. For instance, you can pick a channel that is Punk Rock or whatever you like. You can even add your own songs, artists, etc to customize your own Channel. Rhapsody then only serves you songs that you are theoretically interested in. It works pretty well to my laptop, also I think Pandora does a better job of getting songs you might like. But, you cannot put Pandora "Stations" directly on an MP3 player.

But the process of adding a channel to my Sansa does not seem to be all that user friendly.

First of all, it is VERY slow.

Second of all, I have not gotten it to work, yet.

I am a computer professional, so it is not that I am an idiot, but I have gone through the process a couple time now (each try takes over 20 minutes, and if the process get interrupted, it starts all over again). So, I have yet to get the channel to work on my device. Part of my problem may be that I am doing this on a computer that has way too much stuff running on it.

And I am sure I went through the process, and Rhapsody still says "not on device". It does not tell me what went wrong. it appear that it did not really even try.

Another thing, the documentation on this part sucks. In the help I clicked on something for how to sync a channel to your device and what came up was how to delete a channel.

I guess it is possible that my device does not support channels, but Rhapsody added a little "Channel" section to my player, so it seems like it should work.

The reason I have so much time to do this is that I am scheduled to help deploy the application that I have been working on for the past several months to "production". My infrastructure person told me we were going to start at 10. As usual, he is running late. I do not really have much else to do. This has to get done and it is 11. I should not be surprised. This always happens. The infrastructure staff is way under-staffed.


LATER....


Well, I have gotten Channels to download songs to my MP3 player, but the technology is certainly not very robust AND it is SOOOOOO slow.


It takes almost 5 minutes for the Rhapsody client to connect to my portable device. It apparently has to find and catalog every single song before it can do anything. To me, 5 minutes is an unacceptable time period before I can do anything with the device.


Then, it takes over an hour to download a channel to the device.


And quite often, the client crashes. Even if it does not crash, the application "freezes" long enough that you think that the program is dead. Usually, it comes back from that state, so that appears to be an issue of not managing threads effectively.


There is no way to set up the client to only update a channel when you ask it to, it seems to want to randomly update one or more of the channels every time I connect my portable device.


One of the guys who just raved about the Rhapsody service told me "eventually it will get better". I am sure that is true. There will be improvements made to the software to better handle the data transfer. However, I do not think I want to pay $15 per month to wait for improvements.


I might actually be willing to live with the limitations if they just made a few minor improvements:


  1. The client should handle asynchronous processes so that the client never seems dead for minutes at a time.

  2. I should be able to only update channels when I ask for them to be updated. I should also be able to configure a channel to download less content than whatever the program decides should be downloaded.

One thing I am a bit "concerned" about is finding a quick and easy way to get rid of Rhapsody content once my subscription expires. The client does not seem to want to tell me what is Rhapsody content and what is stuff I put on there from my CD collection. So, once my subscription expires, I am afraid there will be enough content out there that I will have to manually get rid of. Since I am leaning towards not extending the service past the 30 day trial, I guess I will find out in a couple of weeks.

LATER....

I have decided to let the subscription die. Depending on how much I miss the songs I've already downloaded, I may change my mind after it dies and try it again. Maybe they will give me some deal to come back.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It is gonna happen

I am actually doing it. Thursday night or Friday morning I will be heading up to Lost Creek Wilderness for my 4th SheppyQuest. I should probably leave right now because I am too obsessed with looking at maps and imagining my trip to get much done at work.

As far as work goes, this Friday and Monday are not the best to miss, but at this point I am committed to this weekend. It would have to be something pretty major preventing me from doing my Quest this year.

One thing I am unsure of is whether I should attempt the whole loop or just set up a base camp and day-hike Saturday and Sunday. My guess is that the full loop is a bit ambitious, but what is SheppyQuest without a challenge? It probably depends a bunch on how I feel Friday. Weather may be a factor as well.

I feel like I should have a goal as to what I want to mentally resolve this weekend. I have no idea. Well, I have ideas, but am not sure about them. I sort of would like to figure out a career path, but can I do that in the wilderness over a weekend. My faith could probably use strengthening. SheppyQuest is a good opportunity for introspection about that. Probably the thing I want to "fix" most about myself is to lose 20 to 50 pounds. A plan for that might be a good goal for the weekend.

But, maybe I should just see where the weekend takes me mentally.

I have a cold for about 4 weeks now. I am not 100 percent, ad I hope SheppyQuest does not aggravate my cough. Obviously, it would be ideal to be 100 percent healthy for my trip. Maybe I will be, but probably not. The cold does not feel bad enough for me to want to postpone. I might change my mind up in the cold high-country. I guess we will see.

Well, that is it for now. Next blog will probably be after SheppyQuest 2008. Aren't you excited?


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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

ducks

Well, we did not win the any of the duck races again this year. Damn those Tweedle Beetles.

It was a good weekend though. I thought it seemed like there were less people this year, but apparently there were a record number of ducks. There were around 11,000 in the main race. 10 of them were ours, and we did not place in the top 50. We did not win anything.

There is a restaurant in a widened out section of the blue river called the dredge. It has a deck over the water and on the deck you can buy little pellets to feed the trout swimming around the dredge. The kids thought this was really cool. It might have been their favorite activity all weekend. We fed the fish every morning and evening over the weekend. The fish were really hungry until the very last morning, and usually attacked the food we threw to them.

We got Connor a wrist band this year to play on all the inflatable things this year. He really liked the big obstical course. He and Tyler raced through it hundreds of times. Tyler always won but Connor was having such fun that he did not notice. Other than the bouncy castle, the obstical course is all that Connor did. But he did it more than enough to make the all-day bracelet a better deal than buying tickets for the stuff.

As always for our visits to Breckenridge, we got two bedroom condo and so Tracy and I slept in a separate room than the boys. It is so nice being to put them to bed hours before we go to bed. Tracy and I watched 3 netflix dvds this weekend in the condo.

So as always, fun was had by all at the Breckenridge duck races. I just wish we could win something some year.

Cheating Tweedle Beetles.

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