Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sports - The Raiders

Anyone who knows me knows that when it comes to sports I am first and foremost a Raiders fan.  To be completley frank, I enjoy all sports, but football is my one and only true love.  It's not just the hitting and ferocious nature of the sport.  But its' the strategy of it all.  In no other sport do you have 11 guys playing against 11 guys all at the same time.  And there is so much creativity to both sides of the ball.  You can line up in any formation on either side of the ball and make it into whatever you want.  That and the whole synergy of seeing 11 guys working together as one unit is only surpassed by an orchestra.  All other sports are about the one on one battles and this is truly about 11 guys trying to beat 11 guys.

So with my love for football comes my love of one of the great NFL organizations, the Raiders.  Sure they have been a joke for most of the past decade, but with that they are still one of the most storied franchises in history.  There are numerous hall of fame players and coaches, not to mention the GREAT  John Madden.  So with that, here comes my thoughts on the 2011 version of the team.

Coaching - Most people, both fans and observers, were very unhappy with the firing of Tom Cable.  I'm not going to sit here and tell you it was a great move, but at the same time I understand it.  Tom Cable, was and is, a great player coach.  He really knows how to motivate players and get them to buy into a system.  He definitely did a ton to turn around the feeling of hopelessness that existed in most players when he arrived.  Having said all that though, I do not believe the man had really great mind when it came to putting together an offensive playbook.  Under his tenure, the Raiders had one of the most vanilla offenses since Art Shell.  The players knew this, other teams knew this, and Al Davis knew this.  Because of this reason he brought in Hue Jackson to be our Offensive Coordinator last year, it was widely speculated that the whole OC thing was just a test drive after being burned on Kiffin. And the test drive went wonderfully last year.  We had an offense that was actually able to score points and something that we could rely upon to bring us back if the defense faltered.  So the reward for such improvement?  A head coaching gig!  And thus far in training camp he is brining intensity and a playbook that is far more advanced than anything in recent memory.  The players are responding, and from what I have read look spectacular.  Sure its just training camp, but even with that, the Raiders have not looked spectacular in training camp since Gannon left.  I think we have pretty good chances this year with Hue Jackson at head coach.

Quarterback - Here we go, is Jason Campbell good enough?  I don't have any earthly idea.  I know that when the running game is on he's a dangerous player.  I know we have a stacked backfield.  I know we have a rookie Wide Receiver who is blowing up camp (more on that later) but I don't know if Jason Campbell is the man.  I think he's probably good enough to get the job done, which to be honest is good enough for me. I've seen enough bad Raider quarterbacks to be happy with one who does just okay.  I loved Gradkowski, but I understand why he had to go.  He really got in Jason Campbell's head, and he was injury prone. So not a viable starter, and probably making your real starter uneasy.  We did bring in Trent Edwards, who still has a ton of tread on him and might be able to turn the corner with good coaching.  We'll see, that's all I can say about that.

Running Back - Wow, we are stacked.  When I say stacked, I mean stacked, like we have to cut someone.  Darren McFadden, nuff said right?  Right, except that he's put on 10lbs of solid muscle and he has higher goals than last year.  A motivated Darren McFadden??  Even better.  Michael Bush just res-signed and he is a starter on most other teams, great insurance policy.  And then there is the rookie, Taiwan Jones (Made in Taiwan? No idea).  This guy runs a 4.28 40, and has size to boot.  Being that he's just 3rd string (presumably) there is absolutely no pressure on this kid.  So they can just throw him out there for fun and see what he does.  I expect that he will score some pretty fun to watch touchdowns during this season.

Wide Receiver - Scary unit the past few years.  Chaz Schillens looked to be great a few years ago, but then 2 years if injuries have really knocked him off the map.  Jacoby Ford was great last year, and is looking great again, except he fractured his hand.  Receivers kinda need those...  Louis Murhpy has been looking good in camp, but he has really never put together a solid season.  Darrius Heyward-Bey, why is he still on the team?  You got me, Al Davis loves him for some reason, and that's about all that he brings.  There are others who  might shine but, there is a rookie who IS shining.  Denarius Moore.  Every single practice this kid has made highlight reel type plays.  Again, its only training camp, but if he can translate anything into a real game, well then I think that we might have a top 10 offense this year.  That would give us a 3 receiver set with Denarius playing human highlight reel, Jacoby Ford playing slot, and Louis Murphy providing automatic first downs.  Even the NY Jets with their loaded secondary would have difficulty with that.  Keep in mind that Darren McFadden is also an outstanding receiver and that we just signed Kevin Boss from the Giants.  The same Kevin Boss who has a super bowl ring with them and was good enough to replace head case Jeremy Shockey.  I think I like the setup we have, barring no injuries.

Ok I'm not going to cover all of the units.  That would be the most ridiculously long post ever and I'm sure I've already lost some of you.  Let me just say that I am so happy that the Raiders have gotten out of the Free Agent gamble that they played for so long.  Were developing players from the draft and getting high quality free agents at bargain prices.  Thank you so much Al Davis for not letting our franchise continue to be the joke that it once was!

That's all for now, hope you enjoyed!  GO RAIDERS!

- Chad

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Off Topic - The debt deal

Two blogs in one day you ask with surprised excitement?  Yes readers of my blog, if there are any, today you get two.  I figure with the long layoff I owe whoever is out there some payback.  And this one is not in my usual assortment of topics, but one I feel needs some ranting.  If there hasn't been enough of it already.  This afternoon I speak to you on the newly signed debt deal that President Obama calls one step towards this country living with in its means.  And its exactly this statement that I think deserves the recognition for the rant.

So to begin, I think its important that I speak to what exactly my position on "living within ones own means" really is.  My belief is that in order to live within ones own means they cannot allow their spending to exceed their income.  We saw a lot of this behavior in the last decade with people buying houses they could not afford and then using credit to supplement their losses.  The end result of this type of financial irresponsibility?  Well I'd say it was probaby one of the worst recessions our nation has ever seen, and one we have not fully recovered from.

Yet here is our Federal Government arguing over a budget and finally coming to agreement on one that ultimately is like applying to another credit card and then saying you'll fix your budget in a decade.  What's this about a decad you say?  Well the debt limit was raised by (I think) 1 Trillion dollars so that we as a country do not default on our loans.  But to make up for this (I'm guessing?) We have commited to reducing spending by 1 Trillion dollars over the course of the next decade. 

Now keep in mind that we are running over 1 Trillion dollars over our income with this current budget.  We have been running in a 1 Trillion dollar deficit or more for several years.  So with inflation over the next 10 years our government leaders have commited to reducing spending but not even to the point where we are breaking even.  How on earth is it acceptable for the leaders of our nation to behave in such a way with our tax dollars when it is unacceptable for the citizens of said nation to?

The complete lack of financial responsibility that we have seen in our Federal Government over the course of this past decade is absolutely appalling.  Don't even give me a "It's those damn democrats" either.  Bush is the one who started this whole roller coaster of spending too much.  Let us not forget that it was Clinton, of all people (That evil evil man...) who left the white house with an 800 Billion dollar SURPLUS for Mr Bush.

So what's the point?  The point is we need to shake these people up.  Personally I think that in the next few elections whoever the incumbant is needs to be voted out.  You say maybe this is drastic?  Maybe it's punishing some people who were doing the right thing?  Maybe so, but it takes an extreme action to wake up a group of individuals to the fact that we are the ones who hold the power here.  We are the ones who say you can serve this country or not.  And guess what, what you have been doing for a decade is not good enough.  So until you can collectively get the job done the way we say it should be, there will be drastic change.

Just my opinion, not that it matters.

And I now step down from my giant box of soap.
- Chad

Technology - Asus Transformer

Long time no blog.  Sorry for all of you who have have been waiting patiently for  my next post.  Actually I'm pretty sure that no one has really been waiting with bated breath, but here I am.  I am currently blogging to you from my new Asus Transformer TF-101.  This device is a Android Tablet which also has an optional keyboard dock.  It has relatively the same specs as all the other high end Android tablets and also has some Asus add ons which are actually pretty nice.  The reason that I went with this tablet is the fact that it has the physial keyboard dock which not only provides for a better input method but also has a built in secondary battery which is supposed to provide a whopping 16 hours of battery life.

For a few years now the only personal computer I've had has been a desktop.  Not there there is anything wrong with a desktop, but lets be honest, there is zero portability factor there.  This desire for portability led me to question whether or not I've actually used my portable devices in a portable manner before.  I've owned several laptops in my lifetime, but when it came down to it I don't think that I ever actually traveled anywhere with them.  Not on a regular basis anyway.  So the only reason for portability with those devices was to be able to move it from room to room in my own house.  Based on past experience I decided that a laptop was not the way to go for me.

This led me to looking at netbooks, which some consider to be a dead technology already.  But why are they a dead tech?  I think the idea of a netbook is awesome.  It's a small, lightweight laptop, with outstanding battery life.  Why wouldn't someone want something like that?  Well to achieve the battery life they tend to have low power processors such as the Intel Atom.  As for operating system, they tend to run Windows, which is a OS that is not very forgiving to low power.  In fact Windows sums up the American fanaticism with bigger, faster, and stronger.  So while you have a device that is ultimately very portable and has a long battery life, the device is very slow and over time not something you want to use.  Why own a device if you don't want to use it?

So what about the tablet?  This device is a tablet, the ipad is a tablet, they are very portable and run an OS that is fast.  They have long battery life and are really custom made to be consumer friendly.  But there is the whole problem with the input method.  All tablets use a touch interface, which is awesome for single click inputs such as opening an application, clicking a link, or playing a game.  But what about text entry?  Therin lies the problem, I hate typing more than a sentence or two on a full keyboard that you can essentialy only do a faster game of hunt and peck.  I tried using home row on this thing and I found it impossible to accurately type at a speed that I deem to be acceptable.

This leads me to the Transformer.  It is a tablet that turns INTO a netbook.  What a novel idea!  It runs Android, love it, and it has a dual core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor.  It boasts 8 hours of battery life as a stand alone tablet but wait, there's more!  If you dock it, the battery life... DOUBLES!  And the keyboard is  a godsend compared to typing on the touch screen.  And how much might a setup like this run you,  you might (should) be asking?  Well I had the fortune of getting a really good deal on my tablet thanks to my friend +Mike Syravong.  But if you pay full price you can get the 32GB tablet for 499.00 and the keyboard dock is going for 140.00 on Amazon.  You can also get the 16GB version of the tablet for 399.00, if you think that you'll never ever store stuff on your device.  But then again the tablet and the dock both have SD card inputs so you can always expand your memory later.  Alright the pitch is over, go out and buy this thing, but you better hurry, I hear they are selling out because Apple is buying them all up. That's a joke of course, Apple wouldn't want to feel bad about buying superior products to their own.  But the Transformer is selling out at a lot of places. 

That's it for now, hope you all enjoyed!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Brewing - Hops: A bilateral opinion

Hello and welcome to today's post.

Today I was considering my next brew (more on that process, or the one I follow anyway, later).  As I was coming to the conclusion that I would like to do a big Imperial IPA with around 100 IBU's, it struck me as funny that I used to hate this beer.  In fact, at one point I hated beer altogether.  Yes this was when I was very young, but the actual enjoyment of beer did not occur for me until very recently.  Even then I refused to drink IPA's because of that bitter after taste.  Now suddenly if a beer doesn't have some level of bittering, I'm not into it.  How could my palate change so drastically?

Hops and bittering are considered to be one in the same.  Though hops do provide a bittering flavor, that is not the only sensation that they bring to beer.  Hops are aromatic, they can provide some fruity notes. Yes ultimately they do bitter a beer, but not always to an extreme or even noticeable degree.

So my thoughts expanded beyond me.  Lets take a look at beer consumption in America.  Miller, Coors, and Budweiser hold around 90% of the market share for beer consumption in this country.  None of these breweries ever claimed to make a beer that had a great hop characteristic.  Miller Light does now claim "Triple hops brewed", however I fail to understand exactly what that means.  The best that I can guess is that either they use three hop variatals, or they hop the beer at three points during the boil.  In either case it is obviously not a beer with a large hop characteristic and I wonder exactly how well that ad campaign is treating them.  The converse of that is an old advertisement that my room mate reminded me of.  "Bitter Beer Face", I can't recall who created this advertisement, but what I can recall is that having bitter beer face was a very bad thing in a beer.  To put it all together, 90% of beer consumed in this country has little or no hop quality and to top it all off, having a bitter beer is considered a crime in beer advertising.

Now it all makes sense to me.  Bitter is not a flavor that is well liked in the old US of A.  In fact we avoid that flavor at all costs!  So to drink a beer that has an IBU of 40 or more is quite shocking to the palate.  In fact the first time I ever drank an IPA, the only thing that I even noticed was the bitter.  I didn't notice the fruity nose, the malty characteristics of the various grains used.  In fact, I didn't even notice the great aroma that the hops gave when smelling the beer.  Bitter was all that beer was to me, and I didn't like bitter.

So how does one overcome this deficiency? (this is of course my opinion since I obviously have a much more refined beer palate than you. Kidding of course!)  I think that gradually one has to expose themselves to hops.  Try different beers, different varieties of beers.  Some with more hops, and some with less hops.  Eventually you will find that the bitter flavor you found so shocking is not that any more.  Maybe you will get to a place where, in some beers, you actually expect or want that bitter finish.  In either case, what hopefully would come out of such experimenting is that hops are not a bad thing! They are after all, in EVERY single beer you drink.

Thanks for reading!
- Chad

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Technology - Ubuntu 11.04 - a review of sorts

Welcome to to the first tech posting of the BST blog.  Today I am writing to you from within Ubuntu 11.04.  For those of you unfamiliar with this software, let me quickly explain.  Ubuntu is an open source operating system based on the Linux platform made freely available to the general public.  You may be asking yourself "What does that mean to me?".  Linux is an open source derivative of Unix, and Unix just happens to be the backbone of all of Apple's operating systems.  So essentially this is an operating system developed on a similar backbone to Apple but made freely available for download and use by the general public.  The mobile version of Linux similar to iOS is Android, and I'm sure that everyone out there has heard of that.

So what does that mean for you?  Well it means that if you think Apple makes good products that are reliable and more stable than the Windows counterparts, then Ubuntu might be a nice alternative to Windows for you without having to pay the premium that Apple charges.  It does require some effort on your part to install the operating system, but the people over at Canonical have made great strides over the past few years and I find this latest offering most impressive.

To provide a bit of history on why I chose to look at this software, I have to enlighten you that this is not the first time I have attempted to use Ubuntu.  In fact I have gone through many different revisions of Ubuntu in the past ultimately, not finding it useful for my needs and the last version I looked at was actually in the 9's.  The reason I want this software to be useful is that I have a deep longing for open source software to be successful.  It's not that I don't like paying for software, I just hate paying hundreds of dollars for software that doesn't live up to expectations (Microsoft) or limits me to what the author says I can and can't do with the software provided (Steve Jobs ala Apple).  So I keep going back to the well of Open Source trying to find something that will officially announce the arrival of relevant free software.

So on to the "review" which will be very short and sweet since I bantered on so long with the background details.

WARNING: You will not be able to install Ubuntu along side your existing operating system unless you have free disk space.  For questions about how to create more disk space or check to see if you have any available, please feel free to email me.

Download and Install:  You can easily download the software which is freely available at Ubuntu's homepage.  They make it very easy to select the version and download.  Next you will need to burn a copy of the ISO (Disk Image Format) to a disk so that you can run it.  I would recommend another Open Source offering for this and go ahead and download CD Burner XP which though not a pretty piece of software, is very quick and efficient at what it does.  After burning the iso to disk (should take 2 - 3 minutes) you can reboot your computer and boot from the disk.  This will boot you into the Ubuntu 11.04 operating system from the disk and either allow you to try it out (Keep in mind your running the OS off the CD, it will be SLOW), or you can choose to install it directly to your hard drive and take the plunge, or so to speak.

The installation was actually much easier than expected and took about 20 minutes to complete.  They have designed the questions outlining the install to speak to the average every day computer user and I have to give them kudos for refining the process to the point that they have.  It was very clear that I was going to be installing Ubuntu along side Windows 7 and not on top of it.  After the install completed I was prompted to reboot and the installation disk was ejected.

First Boot and other thoughts: On boot you are brought to a Boot-loader screen.  This is a very small piece of software that allows you to designate which operating system you would like to boot.  The wording behind each option is probably a little advanced but it very clearly designates which is Ubuntu and which is Windows.  The boot up time was a matter of seconds once I selected Ubuntu.  The login I created during installation was the only one available and I typed in the created password and 30-45 seconds later I was at my desktop.

The new version of Ubuntu is very Mac OSish to me.  The app bar is on the left instead of the bottom, but everything seems to look and feel like OSX otherwise.  I was able to connect to my wireless network with no issues (Previously I had to find a driver to install and run it with some command line to make to make it work).  I was prompted to install updates which did require a password, Windows 7 tried to duplicate some of this security but they missed big time.  The only time you will get the cancel or allow in Linux is for something major like software installation and removal, or major changes to application permissions.  Each time you will be prompted for your password, and though this may be annoying, it is really for your protection. 

The Ubuntu software center is very much like an app store and makes it easy to find various applications based upon search criteria.  Some of the apps even have screen shots and user generated reviews!  I think that this will be a big selling point if this is to become more main stream.

Ubuntu One is a new cloud based offering that is unique to Ubuntu, though I think Apple is right on their heels with iCloud.  You can share all sorts of files including media with all of your mobile devices.  You can get a free account to start off with 2GB of storage, which I find to be plenty for my music needs.  I haven't played around with this a whole lot but I think they have done a pretty good job with it.

Overall impression: I like this software.  I have not really been able to say that about an Ubuntu offering before.  I will continue to use it and ultimately find out, for home use, if I can just ditch Windows altogether.  I think that anyone can install and try this Operating System out and it is probably just fine to take care of your needs. 

I hope that this small nondescript write up was beneficial to you and that you do give this Operating System a try.

Thanks for reading!

Hello World

Hello and welcome to my first blog post.  This is my first and possibly only attempt at entering a world I have often looked down upon.  Through the years I have seen many blogs come and go often providing useless opinions on matters that were not thoroughly understood.  But at the same time I have also seen some very profound writing come out of a 10 sentence paragraph. 

I have entitled this first writing "Hello World" from my very limited programming background.  "Hello World" is often the first program that an individual will write in an entry level course.  The program itself very simply posts the phrase "Hello World" onto the screen.  This simple program is quite amazing to the first time programer, and I view this first simplistic entry as an extension of that programming model.

The topics that I have chosen are those that I feel I can write about on an almost daily basis.  Though these topics are the bulk of my interest, I can also say that not all of my postings will be based upon them.  I hope to get out the thoughts that have been buried in my head for a number of years in this place.  I hope that those thoughts will entertain, inspire, or in the very least make you look at a subject from a different perspective. 

I hope that you enjoy my musings and I look forward to any and all comments that are posted.