Saturday, December 27, 2008

In search of the perfect watch

So at one point I thought an analog watched powered by your arm motion (dubbed "kinetic" by the watch industry) was the way to go. Many higher end watches like this, however, require you to set the date again at the end of every month that isn't 31 days, and what's worse make you crank through all 24 hours of the day to move forward a day (ie. you can't just set the day one day forward easily). I had both a Rolex and a Tag Heuer like this, and while both are great looking watches, I simply stopped wearing them because of this, and because if you did go a day or two without wearing them, you then had to wind and re-set them, and both are annoying to set. (Yes, I know you can get a "winder" box to fix this, but even those are annoying to put the watch in every time you take it off. I simply didn't do it.)

Having a cellphone does preclude the need for a watch these days, but I still occasionally thought it would be handy to have an actual watch on my arm. Besides, a good looking watch is a whole lot better looking than a cellphone. I wasn't actually searching for a watch when I saw a TV commercial for the Citizen Eco-Drive watches. I'm pretty agnostic when it comes to TV advertisements, but the watch in that ad just really caught my eye. So I started doing some research...

Turns out that "Eco-Drive" is a fancy name for "solar powered." The nice part, however, is that the watch doesn't look solar powered. The solar cells are embedded in the face in a very hidden fashion. Interesting. No batteries to worry about and no kinetic business. That also means the watch is electronic, so it turns out that setting it is easy. But since it's electronic, it can know what year it is and will always get the months right. Okay, great. But then I find they have a LOT of different Eco-Drive watches. Hundreds. Ugh.

Then I started to find there are different types. I've typically been interested in larger "diver" type watches, but only because of the look. I don't scuba dive and may never scuba dive. But upon further research, I found that there is also a "pilot" genre of watches. Interesting. Similar look to a diver's watch, but different features entirely. Like the bezel is actually a circular slide rule. Apparently pilots have long used circular slide rules because of their compact size in a cockpit for navigational calculations and watch companies started incorporating them into the bezel of a watch. Neat. I found a lot of different pilot watches I liked, and almost bought one.

Then I happened upon the smaller "race" genre. These are sort of a hybrid between a pilot's watch and a more powerful stopwatch. The Citizen Promaster series looked great to me. Upon further research, I found via forums that Citizen watches in the US didn't often come with sapphire crystals, just mineral (which scratches fairly easily). This was disheartening as I now found myself in the $500+ price range for an electronic watch that looked analog and couldn't get a good crystal. There was some chatter that perhaps it was possible to get the US repair shop to put a sapphire crystal in most models since most models were sold worldwide and the Asian market watches do have sapphire crystals, but nobody had confirmed you could do that.

I was fairly certain I wanted a titanium case and band in whatever I got, too, since in the size watch I was interested in the weight savings would be significant. So finally I zeroed in on the Citizen Promaster SST. Somehow in my travels I found that a while back Citizen had done a limited edition version of this very watch in black titanium. The icing on the cake was that this model also had a sapphire crystal! Oh, but where to find one. Turns out a few still sat unsold even though only 1500 were made. The original list price was $1,499.95 and I found a couple online retailers with them still listed at MSRP. But I found an eBay seller listing one for $950, which had been the going rate on eBay for them when they came out. The seller looked legit, so I ordered it. It's number 82 of 1500.

Turns out it was better than I ever expected it to be. It's big, but not heavy. Once sized it seems to work in all conditions better than any watch like it ever has (my arm swells when I'm hot and most watches are too "floppy" when I'm not hot or too tight when I am...this one works both ways fine). The features are awesome. I'm lazy and when I travel I like to not have to try to remember what time it is at home. This one lets me put the time for a second timezone in the digital area. It has a 20 lap memory for lap timing at the race track. And a lot of other features I may never use. Best of all, I think it looks great and I wear it everywhere. Now I just have to learn how to use a circular slide rule!

Facebook Rant

Okay, I admit it. I love Facebook. One thing that helps make it great is the fact that Facebook provides programmers with an interface to let them write their own interface applications. And the Facebook folks have even written a few interfaces other than just the standard browser interface. So here are all the ways I use Facebook:

  • Firefox web browser on the Mac
  • Opera Mini web browser on the Blackberry
  • Facebook for Blackberry application
  • Safari web browser on the iPod Touch, iPhone version
  • Safari web browser on the iPod Touch, mobile version
  • Safari web browser on the iPod Touch, full version
  • Facebook for Chumby
Now, there are a TON more Facebook clients out there for different platforms. These are just the ones I use. And I'm glad I can use Facebook on different devices, but note that I use it on my iPod three different ways and on my Blackberry two different ways. Why? Because all five clients are basically broken in some way. The only one that doesn't seem to be is the full web version on Safari, but even that is hard to use thanks to the tiny screen. All the others are broken in some way...they won't let you comment on statuses, or see status comments at all, or let you click links posted in statuses, etc. Same goes for the Chumby client (which is really just my alarm clock, but it's cool to be able to see status updates by the bed...okay, it's not cool, it's a wee bit obsessive).

Part of this is because of mobile device limitations, but most of it is just the application developers are doing a poor job of keeping up with the new features the Facebook folks are adding. The Blackberry folks author the Blackberry specific application, and it hasn't been updated in many months, for example.

So if you try to use Facebook on another device and find features missing, it's probably not you. For now, anyway, sometimes you just have to go to the computer and use the full version.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dry Ice Bomb

These are pretty fun to do. I just need more 2 liter bottles!

Check it out on Facebook for a much higher resolution version if you're one of my Facebook friends. Hopefully Troy will get video hosting working at some point soon and I'll be able to stream my own higher resolution version of these things. *hint*

Monday, December 15, 2008

A real life Forrest Gump?

There's no real life Forrest Gump, but there are some folks out there who are pretty close. One of my favorite authors is Homer Hickam. His website has a lot of good information and my favorite books of his are October Sky and then the entire Josh Thurlow series, but he's almost a living Forrest Gump in his own right. A local author got five minutes with him and published an interview in The Blotter. Click the December 2008 issue and download the PDF and go to page 11 to read the interview. He's an amazing guy, and has been known to swap email with just about anyone, including shleps like me!

PS: Jane, the article uses the word "raconteur"! Seriously! And thanks to Paul Jones for pointing out this article to me.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A tip for Flonase users

So, I had an annoying visit to a Minute Clinic in the CVS drugstore today. I won't go into why, but I do want to share a tip I got for those who use Flonase or any other nasal spray. Tilt your head forward instead of back. Yes, I mean bring your chin to your chest. Then spray. This gets the spray better into your nasal passages rather than being able to drain down your throat. I tried it and it worked great.

I know it's awkward, but it does work better. You think it's going to run back out your nose, but at least with one squirt of Flonase it didn't run at all.

What's with the weather?

Okay, I can't take it. I have to vent. Bear with me.

Why is it that in NC we don't have fall? It's cold or hot, but never in between these days, and it's driving me nuts. It gets so warm you need the air conditioning to sleep, and the next night it's under 40F outside. I might go out of my mind.

The cold snaps are colder than usual for this time of year, too. Which leads me to believe the warm spells will finally go away and it'll stay REALLY cold. That's fine, as long as mother nature sheds a lot of white stuff on us. Cold is useless without white stuff.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One of my favorite snacks

I love them so much. Combine the Krispy Kreme mini cruller with a glass of cold whole milk and you have pure heaven. Maybe not quite as good as a hot glazed doughnut from KK, but much more attainable. Where do they rate on the health meter? I'm sure it's illegal to put them on something called a "health meter." So if my wife is reading this, STOP BUYING THEM! That is all.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Road to Hana

Hana is a small town on the island of Maui, HI, that's only reachable by air and the Hana Highway, a 30+ mile stretch of road with 46 one lane bridges, countless other one lane areas, and over 600 curves. Near Hana is the Waianapanapa (Why-uh-napa-napa) State Park, which is the bulk of this video. Lava tubes and formations found here are truly amazing and make the long road trip well worth it. Check it out...

A Silver Lining

Yeah, so the economy sucks, and probably will for a little while. What could be good about that? Well, nothing is absolutely good about it, but there is at least one thing positive. What's that? Customer service. Overall, it's going to be better than it's been in a while. Why? More places will need your business to stay alive. And they'll realize what it took to get to being big or what it will take to stay alive more than ever.

I've already seen instances where companies are starting to do more for the customer. I think it will continue. There's the argument, though, that this kind of economy will only help the Wal-Mart and Home Depot's of the world to put even more of the smaller guys out of business. That's definitely possible, and quite sad, really. But the reality is that while we might think of "customer service" as someone with a smiling face, lots of product knowledge, and a willingness to help, that's not all it can be defined as. It can also be defined as putting a lot of stuff you need in one place with good prices and no salesmen annoying you to buy things you don't need. Big box stores aren't evil, they provide something that obviously a majority of shoppers want. And the reality is for most of what they sell, most of the people out there don't need any knowledgable help.

But for products where you can put a knowledgable salesperson to use, companies will start to do a better job of it. They'll have to, or they'll die quickly. Hopefully the economy rebounds before they die anyway.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

We'll miss you, Tom!

On December 18, Tom Suiter will do his last broadcast as the sports anchor for WRAL TV in Raleigh, NC. It's likely that any sports fan who has lived in this area in the last 20+ years knows and likes Tom Suiter. The article I've linked does a great job of explaining what Tom has brought to TV, but I'd like to point out that it was Jesse Helms, long time NC senator, that brought Suiter to WRAL. Helms died not long ago, and I did a blog entry about it. It's interesting to find a case where Helms was so instrumental in helping someone out. The great part is just how good at his job Tom turned out to be. I'd bet Helms had a feeling he'd be great, and that kind of thing is what made Helms so special, too.

But not only is Suiter great as an anchor, but he's been a great mentor of young people. These are the kind of people you hate to see moving on...