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Better fitness

On Saturday I joined a local fitness club.  I have been entertaining the idea of getting a membership to a fitness club for a while now, but when I started out looking for one, I didn’t want one of those professional performance places where its a bunch of hulk hogans running around and all that.  So I found a family oriented club and went to check it out on Saturday morning.  I was a little intimidated by the size of the place, but once the manager started showing me around, it was really quite nice.  Everyone was friendly and they offer a lot of cool programs that come as part of the membership.  It is a bit expensive, but my plan is to stick with the club for about a year, get myself in better shape and then try to get some equipment that I can use to maintain my fitness level at home.  I need to go at least 3 times a week which is going to be tough with my schedule.  I realize that if I am going to do this, its going to cost something besides money, and that is my family time.  I’m going to have to go at night twice a week and once on Saturday morning. 

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My Pick for screen recording

I have tried several software packages to do screen recording, and I must say that my favorite by far is Camtasia studio by TechSmith.  Their software is visually appealing with a modern and intuitive interface.  It also outputs your projects in a variety of configurable formats and makes your work look very professional.  Several neat features I enjoy are smart focus and a neat little mouse trick.  With Smart focus, the video can zoom and pan as you move your mouse around while recording, this way the viewers get a close up view of what you are doing and you are not wasting as much viewing space with unused area on your desktop.  I also like the feature of using the hotkeys to pause recording so you can make changes or do other tasks, and when you un-pause, the mouse is returned exactly to where it was when you paused the recording, eliminating the annoying mouse jumps you get in many other packages. 

Its not free, and in fact is one of the most expensive solutions I looked at.  But the user experience is ver good and the output is the best I’ve seen in screen recording packages.  This is a great tool for many professions and specific tasks, but particularly useful in IT as you can record tutorials or how-to videos with ease, and make them very easily viewable and portable!

Miata's are awesome

I love my Miata. I have had very little negativity as a result of driving it, but I did recently get a “its a girly car” or its “a gay car”. In response to this, I put together a short list of links and quotes from people who would know best….Miata owners. People shouldn’t talk down about what they have no clue about. The quotes below are taken from the Miata.net forums…

“I think the Miata is just about the best kept automotive secret for those who are not car nuts, but a car guy (or gal of course) knows what a Miata is and what it can do, it’s no secret to them.”

“I’d rather have a car that attracts women more than men (not that there’s anything wrong with that ).”

To quote Louis Armstrong, ” If you have to ask what Jazz is, you’ll never know””

http://townhall-talk.edmunds.com/direct/view/.f0e614c
http://www.miata.net/motm/2003/PFN.html
http://forum.miata.net/vb/showthread.php?t=250985&highlight=girly
http://www.miata.net/misc/girlscar.html




I’ve had girls shout their phone numbers to me …my girlfriend didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as I did though.

I have had this car for 7 years and absolutely love it! The car is nimble and incredibly responsive-the car takes curves wonderfully. The top is easy to lower – I have taken the top down while sitting at a long red light. Unlatch and drop it behind you. The gas mileage is good. I get up to 33 mph on highway driving. It is a roadster and sounds/feels like one. I would recommend it for anyone looking for a fun, no frills car that is intended for driving enjoyment. When I bought it, the differences between the Miata and the (then) Z3 didn’t justify the $18K difference in price. I am glad I went with the Miata. Fully loaded with all options it was only $24K,

Miata is the most popular sports car in the world with well over 750,000 built to date. What if Mazda had successfully marketed it as a “guy’s car?” Probably would have stopped being built in the mid ’90s and Mazda would no longer exist….

“I have had a lot of friends make fun of the Miata. You know, the whole “it’s a girl’s car” and “gay guys drive them”. A lot of them said that until they rode in it and nearly pissed on them selves. I have thought about it and I have come to a conclusion. My car is black. So, I don’t think that it really falls into either category. The color has a lot to do with the girl or gay appeal. That is just my opinions. But, as you all know. Those are like butt holes everyone has one.”

“Heck, I’ll try to talk anyone into buying one given half a chance. “Oh, man, I LOVE this car! The tight handling, the chunky shifter, the size, the proximity to the ground making you feel like you’re going fast even when you’re not, so you don’t feel tempted to get a ticket – what’s not to love?” Then I get to tell them what a practically new-looking ’97 like mine is going for. (But wait, that doesn’t add to my cachet, does it?) ”

“I never turned a basher to a fan, but I did make some shut up. It was early morning and some of my family car lovers and I were headed out to a classic car show. Well my uncles and cousins have either classic muscle or new, as do I but its in the middle of restoration and not drivable, are all ready to go on our little tour to the show. We always take the back way to miss all the traffic, and have a little fun on the way there. I showed up in my Miata and was ready to go. I get there and get knocked a little for ruining the V8 line. But especially knocked by one of my cousins in a late 90s Z28. On the way there I figured I’d give him a run for his money. I told him to just keep up as the roads are pretty curvy. For most of the trip I sat on my uncles bumper, then at one point I slowed down. well my cousin was ready to go, revving his engine and popping the clutch. So after there was some distance between the front of the group I punched it. I tore through the curves like nuts and watched my cousin disappeared behind me until I caught up to everyone else. He never knocked it again. ”

“I was amazed when I bought my 99 NB by how sleek and attractive the car was and how nice the interior design had become. Not to mention the way it drove – and now with power mods done such as exhaust, CAI, and some other goodies (and working on piecing together a DIY turbo kit) I couldn’t be happier! Now I know to never bash cars without checking out what they can become, not what they are.”

“1 convert to date. Made fun of the car, said they were under powered and lame, I asked him if he’d ever driven one, and the reply was “No.” He then joined me in a car pool of friends driving back to Ohio from North Carolina. I drove the first two hours, then handed him the keys and told him whenever he wanted to switch, let me know. I ended up riding in another friend’s car for the rest of the trip while he drove it, and another girl who wanted to ride in it asked me if she could, so we switched spots.

The next day he asked me to drive it around again, and then started talking about his plans to buy one.”

“Two people come to mind. First, I took a kid with an EG civic with a B20 non vtec in it and took him on a nice easy drive down a twisty road. It was the last time I heard him ask ‘why would you want a Miata?’ ever again.

Secondly, several friends of mine and I autocross and both of them have Trans Am WS6’s. This past weekend, I went to an autocross school and the autocross that followed it. I made good use of the braking and turning exercises, and beat both of them by a fair margin(1 and 3 seconds on an average 55 second course.) They both promptly clammed up, and I haven’t heard either of them mention buying a ‘real’ car all week.”

“I have had numerous friends laugh at my “girly” convertible. Once I take the onramp at 70 mph and have to slow down to merge, though, the ribbing stops. Then after their first time behind the wheel, they keep coming back for more. It’s an addiction”

“Let your car explain it for you – have them drive it.

I have friends that still talk about having driven mine in 1991. I have a friend who restores muscle cars, vintage-races a 200 mph former NASCAR Busch Cup car, and considers 300 hp “almost adequate for a street car,” who drove mine a few times and consequently just bought a ’92 Miata. (He drives the Miata more often than the ’04 Mach 1 lately and calls me to tell me “I found this great road on the way home today.”)

I’ve probably let 75 people drive mine, including friends, family, coworkers, and complete strangers who simply ask me about the car. “Here, why don’t you drive it and see for yourself.” I’ve taught probably 20 people to drive a clutch in my car (including my 11-year-old son.) Nobody has ever gotten out of the driver’s seat without a big ol’ smile.”

“I have been driving for 30 years and have never been interested in cars.
They were “transportation” from point A to B, and expensive to boot. In the fall of 1999 one of my co-workers wanted to show me his new-to-him 1996 Montego blue Miata. So one day at lunch I took a look, and then he took me for a drive around town…..3 days later I bought a 93 that I continually upgrade; new top, engine stuff, custom paint, etc. I still can’t explain it, but I will have this car the rest of my life ”

“As soon as I got past the “Miata’s are for chicks” thing, and learned about Mazda’s passion for good sports cars (and the rotary engine – which I know the Miata doesn’t have) all that bias lifted away and now I can’t wait for someone to buy my car so I can move on.”

That’s all I have to say about that…

POP3 connection for Exchange

I personally use one of these on my Exchange server, but didn’t know about this one until recently. Go to POP Grabber and check it out. It has a free version for 3 accounts or you can pay I think $35 for the full version which is unlimited. This is a great deal compared to other POP3 downloaders which are often much more expensive.

NetFlix trial

For the past few weeks I’ve been trying NetFlix, which has actually turned out to be pretty cool. You can logon to their website and rate moveis that you’ve seen, and then you get a huge list of recommendations which are generated based on your ratings of other movies. They have a great selection and a local warehouse in Tampa, so I get my next selections pretty fast! I don’t know if I’ll keep it or not, its not that expensive but I only have a few more movies left that I want to see in my queue, after searching most of their inventory. So I will probably end up cancelling.

Pizza night

Tonight we are having Pizza Hut pizza for dinner. Its been a really long time since we’ve had Pizza hut, since other places are cheaper and closer. But Sarah and I really love Pizza Hut pizza so tonight we are getting a large pan pizza and a thin and crispy pizza. I think Pizza Hut is my personal favorite pizza, followed by dominos and then various independant places I’ve been. Dominos has the best cheesy bread hands down of anyone else! Papa Johns is also really good, but a bit more expensive so we don’t have it that often. I did NOT like their perfect pan pizza.

New Glasses

The time has come once again for me to get new glasses. Last time I got new glasses I spent way too much money and didn’t even get a pair of frames that I liked. I think this time, I am going to try to find a way to take someone with me and help me pick out a pair of frames that look good. Maybe I should get a stylin’ pair like H.R.G on Heroes 🙂 NOT! They look OK on him, but I think something a bit more moden will be good for me. I want to get laser vision correction, but probably won’t do that for a few years or so, due to financial issues (since its expensive). And the Lasik people had the nerve to tell me I have large pupils! Which of course means I need the most expensive package! Oh well, for now I just hope to find a good pair of frames that look good on me. Its just hard to pick out a good pair on my own, since I can’t see without my glasses, and none of the frames on display have real lenses in them. So its like a blind man trying to funble around in the dark. Hopefully this time it will work out better! I am planning to go some place like Lenscrafters or something to see what I can find.

Paperless home office!

I got a sheetfed scanner in the mail today, and started doing some searches for free or open source software for use in making our home office a paperless home office. I am so tired of all the clutter in all the papers we get from creditors, and not to mention all the papers from Sarah’s schooling and Liz’s activities. I found this great software called DocsVault, which has a free home edition for download. I had searched for a few hours and really hadn’t found much of anything that cought my eye. Some expensive server based systems looked great, but were overkill for my home needs. So I came across this software and downloaded it to give it a try. I was impressed right from the start, it has everything we need for organizationl; cabinets, drawers and folders. It stores everything in an internal database and can use my sheet fed scanner. It has backup and restore capabilities built in, and can burn stright to CD/DVD or to a hard drive location. It integrate with MS Office and save documents directly to the cabinet/drawer of your choice. It has search capabilities and lots of powerful features above and beyond what I thought I could get for free. I started today scanning in papers, anything from bills, tax paperwork and all the way to the girls drawlings. Its perfect and exactly what I need to take care of my digital home needs. This should decrease the clutter and allow for better archiving and make things easier to find.

New Speakers arrived

I got my new surround speaker system last night, but was very disappointed to find that they were as cheap as you can get.  The website with their description was very mis-leading.  I managed to combine them with my TV speakers and got it to sound half way decent.  But I am going to have to upgrade to a more expensive and better sounding system in the not so distant future.  Its frustrating because these things are so expensive and I don’t even want the top end major name brand or anything, and it will still probably cost me at least $300 for the speakers and sub that I would want.  GRRR.

The Great Speaker Hunt

I recently decided that I’d like to replace the older surround sound speakers currently installed on my multimedia PC at home. Since I don’t have cable or DirecTV or any other paid TV Service, I use my multimedia PC to download/watch any shows or movies (not counting DVDs) that I want to see. This works out great for me, and the quality is amazing. My multimedia machine is a 1.8GHz AMD system, with 512MB of RAM, a 400GB hard drive, and Realtek HD Audio processor. I checked out my system specs and found that if I bought a really nice set of surround sound speakers, I’d probably need a new sound card. I like the Realtek HD audio, but the physical outputs on the motherboard are limited. I won’t have enough outputs to power a decent speaker set in 5.1 surround. So I went online and took over an hour to decide on a new sound card. I ended up getting the Creative Audigy EAX PCI. Its not an expensive card, but should deliver good quality 5.1 6 channel audio to my living room. Now the hunt is on for a good speaker set, I want to get something thats 5.1 surround, has 2 right channels, 2 front channels, a center channel/sub. I need something with a remote for volume control. I also want something if possible, on stands, so I won’t have to worry about finding temporary stands or mounting stuff on the wall.

I think I found a few sets on eBay that look pretty nice, and are fairly affordable. I don’t really need a receiver, because I won’t be using it for any radio or with any other inputs. All my multimedia comes from my multimedia PC, so as long as whatever I get connects to my multimedia PC, I’m set. I don’t want to go overboard either, since I won’t be using them to their full potential till we either move to a more secluded area, or the kids are older. We live in a close neighborhood, so I don’t want to make too much noise! I’ll try to put together some kind of diagram and spec listing for my multimedia PC and home theatre system once its complete.