A Sorrowful Life Indeed.. The Tale of Merle (*Spoiler Alert*)

In tonight’s penultimate episode of The Walking Dead we find Rick making one of the more idiotic decisions his character has made thus far… then reverse it… but too late… Ahhh!  Frustration.  That’s the short version.

The long version has Rick decide to hand over Michonne to the Governor, which is beyond ridiculous, simply for the trust factor.  I won’t get into that piece because everyone will just have a bad time.  Rick tells Daryl and Herschel his decision,  and while neither like it nor really agree with it,  they go along with it.  Rick then recruits Merle to be part of it,  I assume because he knows Merle has some expertise in this area.  Of course,  since Rick is a good guy,  he does the requisite soul searching and comes to the better decision later on in the episode.  This is the perfect opportunity for Merle to do what Merle would of course do.  He knocks Michonne out and we catch up to them making their way to the exchange with the Governor – which is a trap as we all knew.  Oh and along the way Michonne is about as cool and collected as anyone I’ve ever seen,  under any circumstances. Seriously.  My cat sleeping has more of a sense of urgency.

Moving on.. Rick tells Daryl he has changed his mind,  but of course he cannot find them in the prison.  On queue,  Daryl jets after them.  During their journey, deadpan Michonne does a bit of a Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting and gets through to Merle,  who has been just an unlikable douche from minute 1.  Merle finds his grinch heart and lets her go. He proceeds to find some liquor to enjoy and grabs a small horde of zombies to bring with him to the supposed exchange with the Gov and company.  At this point you sort of like Merle because he actually had a decent plan.  Send the horde at the Woobdury folk and pick them off from out of the way.  Things go pretty well until a walker tries to gnaw on Merle.  In the ensuing fight, the Gov finds Merle and proceeds to BITE HIS FINGERS OFF, then shoot him.  The slow spiral down of the Governor has been really excellent this season and David Morrissey has been phenomenal.  The Gov is clearly off his rocker at this point.

All this is basically a set up for the episode’s “Boom” moment.  The Gov,  being the Gov,  shoots Merle in the chest, which ends his human life and creates the Merle zombie.  And as expected Daryl comes through and finds zombie Merle eating one of the Woodbury folks he shot.  Needless to say,  Daryl does not take this very well and this is a moment that really does pull you in as Daryl is one of the most likable characters in the series. Kudos to Norman Reedus for pulling it off really well.

That was the major arc in this installment.  A couple other things happened as well.  That maniac Glen proposed to Maggie, which almost felt like filler.  Glen went a bit off the rails this season, so maybe this will right his ship.  The other item was Rick telling the group that it’s not a dictatorship anymore.  But we all saw that coming miles off.

Overall I’d give this episode a 7 out of 10.  They stuck to the main storyline for the most part and Merle and Daryl really hit the right note at the end.  With the Governor now in full psycho state, and the group now bonded and reaffirmed,  it has the makings for a sensational finale.  And speaking of next weekend,  thank some deity for DVR!  With The Walking Dead finale and the season Premiere of Game of Thrones going head to head I would be pissed!  Add in the return of the Doctor and next weekend is gonna be pretty sweet!

 

Up Up and Quantify..

The Up band.
The Up band.

Well Hello , Up.

So I’ve recently purchased a JawBone Up band to see what all the fuss is about around this self quantifying movement.  It retails for about 129$ and can be picked up at the Apple store or other fine retailers,  like Amazon.  It comes in some nice packaging as you would expect and in several colors and sizes. The colors are self explanatory but JawBone did something pretty cool for the sizing.  They included a measurement flap on the packaging that allows you to check your size without having to open the package.  Smart.

Look and Feel

I  picked up the black/XL version.  The band itself is quite light and hardly noticeable after a few minutes wearing it.  It doesn’t have bluetooth syncing like some of its competitors and syncs with the iphone via the headphone port.  Fitbit does offer Bluetooth syncing but isn’t available yet in a wrist band form factor.  After using the Up band for  several weeks and syncing it the recommended two times a day, the lack of Bluetooth syncing is probably my biggest con for the device.

View of Up on my wrist.
View of Up on my wrist.

 

As you can see the XL version fits my wrist pretty well.  I don’t have any worries that it will slip or fall off.   Jawbone says that the bracelet can withstand thousands of showers but I have yet to put that particular claim to the test.  I definitely wouldn’t wear it swimming,  but it’s been splashed plenty during hand washing and  doing dishes etc with no ill effects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Data

So what’s the point of this device?  To collect data and present it to you in a way that will allow you to use it to improve yourself.  The two main items the app shows you is the sleep you get and the steps you’ve taken each day.  You set up your goals in the app and it shows you where you stand in relation to them.

Screenshot of Up iOS App
Screenshot of Up iOS App

You can then drill down into each and get a more in depth breakdown of that metric.  In the breakdown you get things like Active Time, Total Burn, Longest Idle and Longest Active among others, which you can use to fine tune your daily activity.

The breakdown of my steps
The breakdown of my steps

Other features, including some I find really useful are the Smart Sleep Alarms and the Idle Alert.  The Smart Sleep Alarm is actually pretty fantastic.  You set a time that you want to get up to start your day, and the “Smart” aspect is that the Up band will monitor your sleep and will wake you at the optimum time with a gentle vibration.  The alarm won’t go off hours ahead of your desired time, you set a window that it will stay between. Mine is set to 30minutes.  I have found it to be pretty dead on with the timing and really handy.  Perhaps my favorite feature is the Idle Alert.  I sit at a desk all day staring at SQL Server Management Studio and T-SQL code all day so I have frequently found myself sedentary for large stretches of the day.  Needless to say, that isn’t very healthy or comfortable when finally getting up from one of those extended sessions.   This is where the Idle Alert is clutch. It’s pretty self-explanatory but the Idle Alert will give you a gentle reminder to get up and move around after an amount of time that you set.  I have it set at 1 hour.  It’s a small thing,  but I really love this feature.  It gets me up and forces me to get some blood flow going and also helps me retain my focus on the task(s) I am trying to complete.  It also tells me I should probably look at a standing or walking desk. Well,  maybe one day.

Other stuff you can do with the Up band.
Other stuff you can do with the Up band.

 

 

 

Some of the other things you can do is use the stopwatch function or the Power Nap function, which is pretty cool.   Unlike many of us would like to think,  the optimal nap isn’t 2 hours on the couch.  It’s actually about 26 minutes and the Power Nap function helps you nap with ninja like efficiency. It will detect when you fall asleep and wake you when you will be most refreshed from your little siesta.  You can also log any missed sleep or any work outs that you feel it may have missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrap Up

I’ve had my Up for about 6 weeks and I have to say, that while I don’t use it to it’s potential, I do find it immensely useful in my day to day activity.  As I mentioned earlier, I have found that the lack of Bluetooth syncing is a bit of a buzzkill and I may consider the FitBit wrist band when it is released. But that is my biggest gripe, and totally a first world problem, so overall I am happy with the device but if wireless syncing is a must for you I would probably recommend waiting for the Fitbit Flex.  This is a growing space and there are some other more advanced devices on the horizon from some other companies, but like in all tech,  there is always something better around the corner.  The Jawbone Up is a cool device and provides a lot of information and functionality for being an early entry into the market.  I do look forward to the really amazing stuff we’ll see in future gadgets like this in the future but I’m definitely enjoying the Up now.

Bzzz..What’s that? Oh, it’s my Pebble!

Finally!

So last year when Pebble was announced on Kickstarter I was really excited about the potential of it. I mentioned it in passing to my technophobic wife.  It seems I was correct in my choice of partner because a month or two later when my birthday rolled around she presented me with my backer receipt.  Totally. Awesome.

Well,  fast forward several months and some understandable delays later,  and I recently got a notification that my Pebble had shipped.  Needless to say I was checking the mailbox with kid-on-Xmas-morning anticipation daily.  Today it finally arrived.

Pebble Shipping box
Pebble Shipping box
View on opening the Pebble
View on opening the Pebble

The packaging is low-key but certainly functional.  They also had the foresight to make the packaging about as frustration free as you can get this side of Amazon.  Once open you are presented with the watch and the charging cable,  which is of the USB to proprietary Pebble variety.  I suppose this was a necessary choice to make the watch water resistant to 5ATM.  Needless to say,  the watch is safe in the shower.

First Impressions..

So the first thing I noticed,  or felt was that the watch is smaller than I had pictured in my mind.  It’s by no means small,  but surprisingly compact. It’s very light and looks exactly as it is pictured on the site.  I didn’t have to order a larger band so it has the normal sized band which fits great and should work for most folks.

Pebble vs Seiko Diver
Pebble vs Seiko Diver

As you can see it is about the same size as my Seiko diver.  It also takes a standard sized watch band so you  can change it out to your hearts content.  The pic here also has the charging cable attached to the side of the Pebble.  It’s very Magsafe-esque and works well.  All in all,  it’s a perfectly serviceable size and wears comfortably.

Using the Pebble

I use an iPhone 5 as my daily driver and had already downloaded the Pebble app for iOS.  Set up was dead simple.  They make it really easy to pair the device and give you dead simple directions to set up your notifications.  Under the BT menu you enable notifications on the Pebble and then you make sure the notifications you want to see are enabled in the Notification Center.  Quite simple.  It’s not quite as flexible as the Android version from what I have read but it is certainly functional.

I have notifications set up for SMS/iMessage and Mailbox and both work great.  I did immediately notice that you only see the last message you received. That is a bummer but I would imagine it is high on the Pebble team’s priority list.  The ability to scroll through your notifications would make it much more usable for very heavy users.  Speaking of which,  the Pebble team is still in it’s infancy as far as the SDK and Apps go.  They just announced they would be releasing the .0 version of the SDK in April that will only have watch faces,  which will be cool.  I like the variety of the currently available faces but things could get even more interesting.

View of one of the Pebble watch faces.
View of one of the Pebble watch faces.

To be Continued..

So far I am really happy with the Pebble,  but I am taking into consideration the point in the product development cycle it is currently at,  which is early. The potential for the Pebble is pretty huge and I am excited to see what else the Pebble team and the developers can come up with.  I’ll update this post in a week or so after living with it for a bit…

Walking Dead aka Andrea.. *warning spoiler alert

I just finished watching The Walking Dead and while I love the show in general,  there are two characters that consistently annoy me,  Laurie and Carl.  Carl ruins every second he is on screen simply because he is a terrible actor.  Laurie bothers me because she always makes stupid decisions.  Like brain dead idiocy.  Tonights antepenultimate season episode had her finally make the call to leave Woodbury, which she probably should have done when she saw the Governor’s collection of heads and his friggin daughter on a chain, but it seems that *now* is the time the Gov went too far.  What?  She drives me crazy.  Her plight and actions were pretty predictable,  but the excellent creepiness of the Governor was enough to save the episode for me.

This episode gets about a 6.   I think the next two are going to be frigging fantastic!

Daaasssssss Keyboard has arrived!

2013-03-15 18.36.09

It has arrived..

I’m really excited about my latest present. The Das Keyboard Professional S (Brown switch).  The keyboard I have at work is just atrocious and I have been daydreaming about my favorite keyboard of all time an old IBM mechanical model.  I forget the exact model,  but boy if typing on it wasn’t a dream.   So I ordered the Das Keyboard Pro S from http://amzn.com/B008PFDUW2 . I ordered the Cherry Brown switch for the quieter typing since I’ll be using this primarily in the office.  I chickened out and got the Pro model because it has the indicator on the keys.  The regular version is blacked out,  which would probably be ok pretty quickly and keep folks off of my PC,  but since I touch production I didn’t want to take an unnecessary risk… for now. I’ll probably end up getting that one for home eventually.. or convince my wife to get it for me.  Speaking of which,  she tried it out and asked for one too.  She may steal it from me before I can get it into my office.

In any case,  the typing on it is *awesome*.  I can’t wait to get to work on Monday!