Reading and More

Time sure flies. I haven't been very good at updating the blog here about what has been going on. So here is a quick glimpse of what's new and happening.

As most of you know, my wife has been going to school. That has kept her pretty busy and left me with lots of free time. Probably my new favorite hobby is to read. When we moved into our home about a year ago I started to read again and with my new Kindle I usually read a couple hours or more a day. I keep track of all my reading and books on Goodreads(post devoted to Goodreads to come).

With reading, our TV doesn't get much use. In fact, we usually turn the TV on for 2 hours a week. Typically on Sunday evening we will watch Extreme Makeover and Desparate Housewives. That is it. I don't even turn the TV on to watch sports (instead I tend to use a site like We don't have cable and some of our channels don't work. Whenever I see an awesome deal on TVs (Slickdeals) I have to remind myself that this would be the most pointless purchase. We just don't use the TV.

The time that I do watch TV is in the morning. I have been getting up every morning and going over to our clubhouse that has a pretty nice workout facility. I run 3 times a week and usually turn on Sportscenter while I am there. However, I have started listening to a lot of audio books now on my phone and so I don't watch a whole lot. I do turn it on though.

I went to the theater for the first time in almost a year last week to see Avatar. We saw it in 3D and it was alright. I quite enjoyed the film itself and the graphics were absolutely awesome. 3D technology, however, has a long way to go. The glasses are pretty limited and hurt my eyes. They also make it so the colors aren't as bright in the film. If I was going to see it again, I probably wouldn't go to the 3D version of it. I would definitely see it in the theater though as I am sure the film just won't be the same on DVD. My wife didn't really like the movie. I would give it 8 out of 10. And yes, it's better than Titanic in my opinion. I am laughing at the difference between those movie sites. Clearly, times have changed.

I have been trying to come up with good food ideas. With Anya going back to school, I typically get to make the food. I like to make homemade bread, lasagna, and chicken enchilada casserole. If you have a favorite recipe, leave it here. I will post a more detailed post about preparing food at some point.

Work is going good. Still using and working with Drupal. In fact, there is a group meetup coming up next Tuesday in our offices downtown, if anyone is interested.

I know this post was all over the place, but I wanted to get caught up.

A classless note from a classless Ute fan

On my way home from "The Holy War" down in Provo, I heard Max Hall's comments live on the radio. I was pretty upset with what Max Hall had to say. I am a huge Ute fan and graduated from the University. I have lots of respect for BYU. I grew up in a home that was dominated by BYU fans. I have no hard feelings to the University. However, I must say that his comments were out of line and I wanted to sum a few points about the comments.

"I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them — I hate everything about them.

"I hate their program. I hate their fans. I hate everything. So, it feels good to send those guys home. They didn't deserve it. It was our time, and it was our time to win. We deserved it. We played as hard as we could tonight, and it felt really good to send them home and to get them out of here, so it is a game I'll always remember."

"Do you really want me to go into it? I think the whole university and their fans and organization is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff last year and did a whole bunch of nasty things. I don't respect them, and they deserve to lose."

1) I don't have a problem that Hall hates Utah. I think that many players on both sides have this same feeling. There really isn't anything here that fuels the fire for me any more than it was already fueled. I do believe the LDS beliefs and religion discourage this kind of hate; however, that doesn't offend me as a person.

2) This is fine if Hall feels they deserved it. Both sides also probably felt the same way. It was a close game to the end, it could have gone either way and BYU pulled it out. Congratulations there. I have no hard feelings about the game being given away or lost. Someone was going to win and someone lose. I wish the other side had won, but it was still a great game.

3) I completely disagree with that the entire Utah program and fan base is classless. First off, I know there are stupid and retarded fans. And yes, I disagree with drinking morally, but (gasp) people do that. Now, there is no reason anyone should throw their beer or any drink on fans from another schools. This is idiotic, classless, and shows complete lack of self-restraint. I understand why Hall has no respect for these types of people. I myself also have no respect for them. These fans truly are classless.

4) Hall should realize however that all Utah fans are not that way. And why the program is also "classless" sure beats me. If I were to use this same logic with BYU, then I could say that the BYU fan base and BYU program is a bunch of unforgiving cocky haters. However, I realize this isn't true. There are some people from BYU that are like this (Hall would be here based on his comments), but that doesn't mean every single person at BYU is this type of a person and that the entire program is this way. It just means that there are people like this. In my opinion, these comments don't reflect the belief of the BYU program or LDS religion, rather they reflect on the character of Max Hall. He has had a year to think about this, and the fact that he thinks that all Ute fans are classless clearly shows that he has some other problem whether emotional or logical. That is not for me to determine but I think that Hall needs to step back.

In conclusion, I think Hall has lost his head with these comments. However, in no way do I think these comments diminish BYU as a program or their win yesterday. Rather they diminish Hall himself as a player and as person. BYU still has a great program and a lot of great fans. They also have their classless crowd as well. Utah has their classless crowd but they also have their good outstanding fans and players like every University. I hope that Hall can realize that what he said is pretty classless itself, apologize, and that we can all move on. Both sides have great teams and classy fans. I hope my rant isn't too "classless" for Mr. Hall though.

P.S. It was a great game yesterday and I had a really fun time in the BYU student section. Too bad the Utes couldn't pull it out.

Kindle Review

I got a Kindle last week and have been unable to put it down. I have been reading practically nonstop while not a work. My Kindle was an unexpected gift and I have been grateful to have it.

My Kindle

I had only seen a Kindle once before and wasn't completely sold on the idea of it. It was a pretty cool system, but I didn't think it looked cool enough. That is probably the first impression that most people will have. Compared to some of the other electronics out there today, a Kindle seems pretty lackluster in comparison (look at the iPhone, netbooks, and other such electronics for example). The Kindle however has one primary purpose, to provide an excellent reading environment, and it does just that.

When you look at the kindle, you literally feel like you are reading an actual page from a book.

Kindle uses a high-resolution display technology called electronic paper. It works using ink just like books and newspapers, but it displays the ink particles electronically...The electronic paper display is reflective, which means unlike most displays, you can read it clearly even in bright sunlight. Also, electronic paper does not need power to hold the ink in place, which extends your Kindle’s battery life.
-Kindle User's Guide

Truly incredible. I am still impressed. If you notice in the image below, the Kindle is sitting right in the sun, but the words are still completely visible. It is literally like a book.
And that is the reason I love the Kindle so much. Unlike a computer, iPhone, or other electronic device, you can stare at the Kindle for the same amount of time that you can stare at a normal book. The convenience of having multiple books with you wherever you go in such a small place is a nice little bonus (although I typically never carried more than 2 books with me at a time, but now I have about 20).

The Kindle offers lots of other little cool things such as an easy way to grab your favorite quotes from what you are reading, note taking ability at a certain spot in a book, and a simple way to get to your notes and quotes off the Kindle on to your computer or other device. The Kindle has Wifi connectivity so I can browse the internet (in black and white of course and it is a bit clunky, but it is nice to have just in case).

Getting books is one of the areas that I really like and dislike. The thing that I love is how simple it is to get a book onto your Kindle. If you purchase it at the Amazon store, it downloads itself directly to your Kindle (that's right, I simply say I want it and it adds itself to my system in about a minute). You can purchase books directly through your Kindle or on your computer. The thing I dislike about books is there is no local library that I can use for free to check out books. That means that if I want to read a new book, I either have to pay for it to get it on my Kindle (it's only $9.99 for a new release so cheaper than in the bookstore) or wait for it at the library as usual which kind of defeats the point of getting a Kindle. This is just a minor problem thought because there are hundreds of books that are free at the Amazon book store or on several other sites. Also, if you can print something to PDF, then you can get it onto your Kindle in a readable format.

Overall, during the past 4 days that I have been using my Kindle, I have been impressed. I take it with me everywhere and am constantly turning it on and reading a few pages here and there (it saves where I am reading in each book, so I don't need to worry about losing my spot). Would I recommend getting your own Kindle? I don't know to be honest. The Kindle comes with a current price tag of $259. I wouldn't trade my Kindle for anything now that I have it, but like I said, I got it as a gift. If you are in the business of buying books often, it may be a good investment for you as there are lots of free books out there and typically the Kindle version will be cheaper than the hard copy. If you are like me, and live at the library because you prefer free books to purchasing, then the Kindle might not be for you, unless of course you have the money to spend on it. Then, I would definitely go for it.

Remember though, you will only be able to share your books with your friends that have a Kindle as well. If you do, let me know what books you have and I'd be happy to let you check out my books. Off to read my Kindle now.

Notice that even from the extreme angle, you can still read the words that are written (no glare)

Another angled shot
One more angled shot

Putting it all together

The computer is basically done. I am finishing up getting all of our documents and pictures over to the new hard drive but that is just clean up work. I had a few people ask me why I was building a new computer and the main reason was because our old computer was almost dead. It took about 10 minutes to startup, and then if it sat for more than 10 minutes then you had to reboot the machine because it froze up. With all of the Photoshop and Sai Paint Tools stuff that my wife does, she couldn't handle it.

Also, I couldn't really just upgrade the system because the old machine was an eMachines system that was running on DDR Memory and didn't have any SATA support (that's right, we were on DDR and PATA. For the non-techies, that is old stuff.

I had never built my own system before by buying the parts, but I thought it would be a fun adventure. The most work was figuring out exactly what I needed. Putting the system together wasn't too much work. I put the system together following this step-by-step guide. Also, I did a lot of research on one of my favorite sites using this thread where people were very helpful in answering questions.

Here are a few of the pictures from my build (I am not going to give all the steps as you can find those using the guide that I posted above). I took these pictures with my cell phone so please forgive the quality:

The Parts

Putting it together

Booting Up

Overall, it took me about 4 hours to get everything together and running (the last hour to hour and a half was just setting up Windows). The system works great and so far there are no bugs. I will definitely be building all of my machines in the future because for the price you can get a way awesome machine. If anyone needs or wants help building their own machine then let me know and I would be more than happy to help you out. See the final build parts here.

Final Build Parts

So, after a long day yesterday, here are the final parts that I ordered for the machine I am putting together for my wife:

Component Link Cost
Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2H AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard $162 (Combo Price)
CPU AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition Callisto 3.1GHz 2 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 80W Dual-Core Processor $162 (Combo Price)
RAM G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) $70
OS Windows XP or Vista through ACM $20
Hard Drive Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" $65 * 2
DVD Drive PLEXTOR 24X DVD/CD Writer Black SATA Model PX-880SA $40
Video Card    
Case Thermaltake Tsunami VA3000BWA Black Aluminum $60 (After Rebate)
PSU OCZ OCZ700MXSP 700W SLI/CrossFire Active $50 (After Rebate)
  Total: $532

A couple of reasons for changing some of the parts from my original plan:

OS - I found out that since my wife is a student, she could join ACM and get 8 license keys to a large selection of software. Sweet deal, and much cheaper than purchasing an OS straight up.

Hard Drive - I went from 500GB to 640GB because I looked around and people were getting better performance from the 640 ones. The price on these drives is a bit higher than you can find but the "Black" brand is one of the better brands of hard drives and especially for the OS. I wasn't going to get a Velociraptor Drive. Too much for me.

Case - You may notice that I switched the cases and the newer one is $20 bucks more. I liked the original case quite a bit and would have been happy with it. The only reason that I switched is because the new case had free shipping, and the old one would have cost $20 to ship. So in the end, it was the same price but I got a better case.

PSU - I had a couple people direct me away from the Apevia PSU and towards some better brands. This one is built by a more reputable company and has pretty similar specs. The price is the same, so definitely worth switching.

Hopefully all the parts show up this week and then I'll be putting this machine together next weekend. I'll be posting pictures and how things go as I start to build it. I am stoked.

**EDITED 9/29/09 - They lowered the price on the hard drives from $75 to $65. I asked them to refund the difference and they did. I lowered the totals accordingly.

Computer Build

I am going to be building a new comp from scratch. Here are the current specs of what I am planning on buying. Please leave any comments on your thoughts on what I should or shouldn't buy.

Component Link Cost
Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2H AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard $162 (Combo Price)
CPU AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition Callisto 3.1GHz 2 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 80W Dual-Core Processor $162 (Combo Price)
RAM G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) $70
OS Windows XP Home $90
Hard Drive Western Digital Caviar Black WD5001AALS 500GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" $60
DVD Drive PLEXTOR 24X DVD/CD Writer Black SATA Model PX-880SA $40
Video Card    
Case APEVIA X-SUPRA G-Type X-SUPRAG-BL Black / Blue $40 (After Rebate)
PSU APEVIA ATX-AQ700W-BK 700W ATX12V $60 (After Rebate)
  Total: $522

Russian Train

I know it's been over a month since we've been home and I have meant to post this video for some time now. Anya took this video on the way home from Russia on the train from Penza to Moscow. We had the two top beds in the train and it was hot in the train. You can't really hear what I am saying (unless you turn your sound way way up and listen carefully) so I have transcribed it below.

Yo. What's up?
(video of the train)
What are you taking a video of?
You just wanted to take a video of that man down there sleeping without his shirt on.
It's really hot...I'm dying...I'm sleeping in my sweat.

Russia - People

The people in Russia are very interesting and very diverse. It makes sense with all of the things that they have been through from Communism under the USSR to the fall of communism to the beginning of a democratic society that this people has a very unique attitude and one this is tough to capture in a blog post or any pictures. Words can't really describe human nature, but I have tried to describe other parts of Russia, so I will do the same here.

The first thing I think when I see Russian people on the street or in pictures or even when I first meet them is how mad they look and sound. Russians have this interesting quality that makes you think that they are an upset people. As you walk along the streets, enter stores, and ride the transportation system you will likely not see many, if any, smiles coming from the people around you. I am not sure what it is but Russian nature is not to smile in public.

Listening in these same situations to conversations and interactions is also pretty interesting. It always amazes me how a Russian person can sound so mad and upset and the other person doesn't get offended. Russians like to hold intense conversations and be very serious as they talk so much so that I often think a fight is going to bust out, but it never does. The people are very straightforward, and they don't try to sugarcoat their words.

For example, my wife has a really good friend who she has been friends with for some time. They like to do different things together but like any women or young ladies, they love to shop and they love clothes. One of the things that always gets me is how open and honest they are with each other about each other's clothes and looks. My wife says she really likes something and her friend tells her that it is ugly and not to put it down (she doesn't say "I don't really like it." but she says "That's ugly, don't even think about it."). When it comes to boyfriends they are the same way and anything else. They also sound like their fighting a lot, but they're not, they're just talking/discussing a topic. It is the Russian people's nature for some reason.

However, Russian people are different at heart. As we were leaving Russia and were in the airport I met another woman who was headed home after a three week vacation in Russia (her first time in Russia and she didn't know the language or alphabet at all). I asked her several questions, including what she thought of the Russian people. Her answer is one of the things I love most about Russia and the people that make it who they are. She said that Russians seem really hard and mean but the people are the most hospitable people she has ever met. They have so much less than we do in America, but they give so much more. She shared how the people she visited would not let her go to her hotel but insisted she stay in their 2 room apartment. They gave up their bed and slept in the kitchen on the floor. Jean, the women coming home to America, said that in America we don't give up our beds and bedrooms, but we have a guest room, or we let them sleep on the couch downstairs. My wife and I experienced the same thing while we were there and were given the best room and place in the apartment. Jean also shared that every meal was extremely large and very good, the people giving the best they had no matter what.

Our first night on the train as we were headed to Penza, we had neighbors in the train who were extremely hospitable. As soon as they learned that we were from America and that I was an American, we were immediately invited to share their food. They gave us sausages and bananas and offered vodka and beer. They wouldn't let us turn the food down no matter what (they let us turn down the alcohol fortunately). These people were not rich by any measure and they sure didn't know they would meet Americans in the train, but that didn't matter and they were willing to give us more than what they had themselves.

I find it quite interesting that a people who seem so mean and mad from first impressions are actually some of the most hospitable and kind people I have ever known. The Russian people have a lot of problems that face them as a society and people with a lot of deceit in the government and bad business practices, but the people are what truly make Russia a wonderful place to visit. Check out my book review on "A Train to Potevka" for more about the Russian people.

Russia - What to eat

Like any foreign country, Russia has its own unique cuisine. Russian food seems to be a secret to a lot of people. The Russian diet is nothing special with lots of vegetables being consumed. Most people eat a lot of potatoes and macaroni. Most meals will contain one of the two. The one food that is at practically every meal, if not every meal, is bread. If you don't eat any bread then people think you're sick because bread is a must. I am not sure why but people ask me every time "Why aren't you eating any bread?" (Что хлеб не едите?). Following your meal, usually tea is served. I find it odd, but that is because we didn't do either of these things when I was growing up. Anyways, here are some of the common/unique foods of Russia.

Black Bread - The number one food of Russia (I think). Bread is served at basically every meal. Bread is made fresh daily and available at any store. Russian bread is much tastier then any of the bread sold in American stores.

Dried Fish - Fish is a common food for most Russians. A lot of times fish is boiled and put into soup. The other common way that fish is eaten is dried (as seen in this picture). The fish is dried with all of its scales and bones still in place and when you buy it, you remove the scales and eat the dried meat right off the bone. I've never tried it but I hear it is really tasty...

Piroshki - A pastry of sorts. It is like a bread or a roll with either potatoes, meat, or cabbage inside (they put other things inside as well but these are the 3 most common). My favorite is with potatoes but the others are pretty good as well. After putting the filling inside, the bread is either baked or fried. Fried are definitely my favorite.

Borsht - one of the most famous Russian soups. Borsht contains potatoes, meat (any type), cabbage, carrots, and beets which gives it the red color. Tastes best with sour cream. Soup in general is very common and made by some variant of boiling together meat and potatoes and some other vegetables.

Shashliki - Like a shishkabob. It is meat roasted over hot coals. These things are very tasty and found at small street vendors or when going on a picnic.

Pelmeni - Russian dumpling. A noodle type outer layer filled with beef and pork typically (sometimes with chicken). Usually these dumplings are boiled and eaten with mayonnaise or kethup. Russians do not fry them, but I think they are tastier that way.

Salad - A typical Russian salad does not contain any lettuce. You won't find a head of lettuce in Russia (you can find leaves of lettuce) so when you see the word salad anywhere you can know that you aren't getting a typical American salad. Usual salads are a mixture of rice or diced potatoes with other diced vegetables such as carrots, peppers, peas, etc. and some kind of meat all mixed together with mayonnaise or sour cream. Some can be really tasty and some can be not so great. The other common salad is sliced up tomatoes and cucumbers with onions and mixed together with mayo, sour cream, or oil (yes, vegetable oil).

Pastry - Like the bread, the pastries are fresh too. Usually the pastries are filled with a fruit jam or condensed milk. Condensed milk is used in a lot of things and is very tasty (and super fattening as well).

Blini - Russian pancakes or crepes. These are typically eaten with some type of filling inside. The above picture is a blin filled with cabbage and eggs. Other common fillings are jam, condensed milk, and fruit.

A standard Russian meal. As soon as we flew in, this was the first thing that we ate. Macaroni with fried chicken with mayonnaise for the topping. Mayonnaise and ketchup are used very often and rarely do Russians make a tomato sauce for macaroni, rather just use one of the two or both.

Sharuma - Russian fast food (kind of). This is a common food made in several cities throughout Russia. The best sharuma I have ever eaten were in Saratov with beef, tomatoes, and cucumbers but these ones are pretty good as well.


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