Monday, August 8, 2011

Tmobile G2: Why there's a little love in a thing called Gingerbread.

You'll recall I did a review of my Tmobile G2 smartphone a few weeks ago.  I really liked it, but it wasn't love.  Recently, the operating system was upgraded from Android version 2.2 (FroYo - or Frozen Yogurt) to version 2.3.4 (Gingerbread).  I'm not explaining the names.  If you don't follow android, you won't get it in the space I have available here.  Either way, this update was provided by Tmobile over-the-air (OTA).  All I had to do was poke a button and it installed. 

At first glance, the update was a bit of a yawn.  Some things on the screen that were white are now black, which does look better asthtetically, but that was about the only visible change.  Over the past few days since the update, however, things have taken a turn for the better.  In my review, I noted one very annoying thing my phone did that I didn't like:  it would not stay connected to my wireless network at home.  Tmobile customer support gave me the runaround, stating they couldn't guarantee the function of the phone on anyone's network but their own.  For several reasons, I felt this was a phone issue and not anything to do with my home network.  I have now been vindicated because since the Gingerbread update, the phone now stays firmly attached to my home network like I would expect it to.  Take THAT Tmo! 

The other major improvement is the battery life between charging.  Through general use, I would basically need to charge the battery every night.  It wasn't completely drained, but it would need a charge by early the next day if I didn't.  I'd have to estimate that my battery life as a result of the upgrade has been extended by 75%.  I can pretty much squeeze 2 days out of my battery between charging now.

I originally stated in my review that if the wireless issue was fixed, I'd be able to give it 4.5 starts out of 5 instead of the 3.5 I gave it.  I can firmly give it the 4.5 stars it deserves.  I'm liking it more and more each day. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Review: Kemps Chocolate Malt Milk

After our review of Kemps Root Beer Milk, we had high hopes for the Chocolate Malt version.  I was expecting kind of a Whopper smoothie.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed.  I WANTED to like it, but I couldn't.  The chocolate flavor was a little heavy, although it was better after I added a little white milk to it.  The malt flavor was, for some reason, too fake.  As with the Root Beer milk, you'd be wise to either enjoy it on its own or be very selective with the foods you eat with it.  My first experience was when I used it as a chaser to my soft shell taco.  BAD IDEA - not a good combination, in my opinion, but Karen said she didn't mind it.  Overall, Karen was less critical of the flavor.  I think my taco/chocolate malt milk combo I tried left a bad taste in my mouth (literally and figuratively).  Go ahead and try it, but you've been warned.  I'll stick to real chocolate malts for now.

Verdict:  Dustin:  1 1/2 stars out of 5.  Karen:  2 1/2 stars out of 5. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ready for the Sink and Faucet!

Below is what we decided to do with the backsplash on the bar downstairs.  We couldn't really find glass tile that was going to work, so we decided to use additional granite tile and trim it out with the same wood as the rest of the bar.  Tony, the plumber comes back on Wednesday to set the sink and faucet and final inspection on the room is scheduled for Friday.  That doesn't mean we are done (yet).  Window treatments, an ottoman, and some things on the wall will finish it off!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I'm done cleaning gutters

Silver Maples: 1    Dustin: 0
Our two large silver maple trees do a wonderful job of shading our house in the summer time.  Our electric bill barely goes up during the months we run the A/C.  But the trees also do a wonderful job of filling the gutters...  with fallen buds, then helicopter/spinner seeds, then sticks from dead branches, then leaves in the fall (usually AFTER the first snowfall of the season).  While the roof is easily accessible from the front of the house, I've had it with getting up there multiple times a year to clean them out.  The last time, they were almost level full with water, fermenting buds and spinners.  It smelled disgusting (I nearly hurled several times) and it took forever to clean out (multiple trips up and down the ladder to dump the gunk).  So, all of this plus the fact the gutters are the original ones on the house and some seams were leaking, we decided to replace them (OK, Dustin decided).
LeafGuard Gutters to the rescue!  Lindus Construction will come out in about 3 weeks to replace all gutters, downspouts, fascia and soffits (they are all in rough shape).  LeafGuard Gutters feature:

-Seamless gutter construction
-Guaranteed for life not to clog (they will come and unclog them if they do)
-20% thicker aluminum than ordinary gutters
-Painted surface guaranteed not to crack, peel or chip
-Many colors to choose from

We will switch from the white gutters/fascia/soffits we have now to the color "Wicker" which is the same color as the vinyl siding on the side and back of the house.

Click here to see a 20 second video showing the gutters in action.

I'll post some before/after pics once they are done!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Review: T-mobile G2 Smartphone. What's to like and why it's not love.

I've had my T-Mobile G2 Smartphone for about 3 months now so I thought I'd write an informal review.  I won't bore you with technical details, but give you an overview of the experience with my first smartphone.  The G2 is the follow-up to the G1 released about 2 1/2 years ago.  The G1 was the original Android phone so it took T-Mobile a while to come out with a successor.  Here are my thoughts: 
What I like:
1)  Ability to access our calendar from the phone (using Google Calendar).  I can enter new appts on the phone and it will sync with the online calendar as well as my Outlook calendar on my home PC without having to poke a 'sync' button.  However, see "why it's not love" #2.
2)  The QWERTY keyboard.  Having not had a smartphone before, this really was a must.  I had nothing to compare it to, but the reviews on the physical keyboard have been good.  The onscreen keyboard isn't too bad in the landscape position, usable with only one hand in the portrait position, and as far as I'm concerned, SWYPE is useless.  It would take a lot of practice.  Keeping my fingernails well trimmed is a must for using the physical keyboard
3)  Blazing fast web page loads.  I'm impressed with the speed, but again, I don't have much to compare it to.  As long as you're on T-Mobile's version of a 4G network, this works well.  It rarely finds 3G coverage and goes right to what T-Mobile calls the Edge network (2G?).  It's slow.  There has been a strong 4G signal most everywhere I go here in the cities. 
4)  Google Maps/Navigation/Contacts integration.  If you're headed over to a friend's house who you have as a contact in the phone, and if you have the address of said friend in the phone and don't exactly remember how to get there, you can click a button and Google Maps will show you the address.  Poke another button and get turn by turn directions from your current location to their house.  I've used this and it prevented me from having to look up the address, go to the PC, type it in, print out the map, etc.  SWEET! 
5)  As close to a pure Android experience as you can get.  Many other phones will have a separate user interface on top of the Android OS.  I really wanted to experience Android without a UI.  And I like it.
6)  Facebook integration.  It has been much easier to post and comment on Facebook since I got the phone.  I do not have acccess through my work PC to Facebook - it is blocked, so before the phone, the only way to access it was through my PC or laptop at home.  I have a hundred other things to do in the evening besides logging into Facebook that way. With the phone, I can check it out, make a quick comment and be done in short order.   

Why it is not love:
1)  The phone will not consistently stay connected to my wireless network at home.  The phone is supposed to automatically connect to my home network when I walk in the door.  I have the phone set to "Never" log off the wireless signal.  For reasons I cannot pinpoint, when I check the phone periodically, it sometimes has disconnected from the wireless network and flipped back to the cell signal.  I can always get it to log back on, but have no idea why it keeps disconnecting.  There have not been many complaints about this issue in the T-Mobile G2 user forums.  T.M. customer support told me exactly what I figured they would:  They cannot guarantee the phone's function on anyone else's network but their own.  Which means I need to prove it does it on more than just my network (which I haven't done yet) before they'll do anything about it.
2)  This one has more to do with Google than the phone.  Any contact I add on the phone automatically gets sync'd with my Google contacts online.  But I cannot sync my google contacts with my Outlook contacts like I can with the calendar.  Dumb...  Google's phone calendar will also not allow me to start an appt at any times other than the top of the hour or half hour.  If my appt started at 8:15, I couldn't make that entry- I'd have to choose either 8:00 or 8:30.  I can setup the 8:15 appt on my online Google calendar and it will sync to the phone correctly, but I can't initiate an appt on the phone at 15 or 45 after the hour. 
3)  This one, too, doesn't have anything to do with the phone.  Comcast's Xfinity Mobile App sucks.  Since our home email is with Comcast, I would love to be able to read, reply, forward and delete emails from the phone.  I used the app for about 2 months.  Over that time period, I had to unistall and reinstall the app multiple times.  It would function correctly for about 2 times after you installed it and then start doing any one (or more) of it's annoying habits.  Comcast better go back to drawing board on this one.  It has been uninstalled from the phone.
4)  No front facing camera.  I really didn't think this was a big deal until I tried to take a picture of Karen and I.  Like any camera you use to try and take a picture of yourself, it would be nice to be able to see if you are even close to being in the frame.  The next phone I own will have a front facing camera. 
5)  Holding the phone in order to use the physical keyboard reduces the strength of the signal.  If the signal is weak to begin with, if you open the keyboard and start typing, many times it will disconnect from the cell network altogher.  You have to move your hand and wait for it to reconnect before hitting send or posting what you're typing. 

Official rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars.  If the wireless network issue didn't exist, I could easily give it 4.5.  Some of the apps I use still have some bugs to be worked out or features to be added. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Kemps Root Beer Milk

You've certainly heard of chocolate milk.  You've probably heard of strawberry flavored milk and maybe even banana flavored milk.  Kemps has decided to add a new one to the mix:  Root Beer flavored milk.  It's new, which means it was on sale, so Karen bought a 1/2 gallon.  And there wasn't even a coupon! 

What did it taste like?  Well, I suppose it tasted like they intended:  Take some milk, add it to an A&W Root Beer and remove the carbonation:  Voila, Root Beer flavored milk.  The flavor was seriously root beer.  But it wasn't quite like a melted root beer float - it wasn't that creamy.  Much like chocolate milk, you would be well advised to be a selective when using it to chase certain foods- it wouldn't go with everything.

Would we buy it again?  We both said "yes".  Very often?  We both said "no". 

Bottom line:  3 out of 5 stars. 

Karen indicated there was also a malted milk flavor (I'm thinking pureed Whoppers with milk)!  Maybe we'll try that next!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Remodeling Season Has Begun

We decided to tackle the laundry room drop ceiling as our first remodeling project of the season for a few reasons:
1.  We're tired of looking at the ugly joists.
2.  The room needed cleaning.
3.  We're tired of the one 60 watt light bulb lighting the space.
4.  The materials we've had on hand for over a year and a half were taking up precious space as our rooms get finished and our storage spaces decreases.

It took two weekends to get it done, but here it goes:
Looking toward the downstairs bedroom.  Level has been established and the wall angle brackets installed.

Other side of the room - wall angle brackets installed

The 2 main supports and all cross Ts cut and in place.  Some ceiling tiles in place.

There were only 8 ceiling tile that were uncut.  The other 16 had to be cut to size.
Holes were cut for the lights and the heat duct.

6 inch hole cut for the heat vent.  The vent itself had to be moved slightly to align to the middle of the quadrant of the tile.

Almost complete.  This cabinet had to come down and be rehung because 1) It wasn't quite level to begin with and would have looked goofy against a level ceiling and 2)  It was too high (the wall angle brackets sat right on top of it and the ceiling tiles are sculpted, so they sit below the level of the brackets). 

The wall cabinet has been rehung (level now) and the electrical outlets switched from tan to white.  The washer and dryer had to be pulled out to accomplish that, which is fine - behind and underneath those need cleaning anyway.

Finished!  Heat register and all lights are complete.  The lighting is SO much better.  You can actually see what you're doing at the sink!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Valentine's Day

Our Valentine's Day was spent at work since it was a Monday.  After work, we headed to the Mall of America, where Josh Wilson, one of our favorite Christian artists, was giving a free concert in the rotunda.  We saw him at the KTIS Joyful Noise concert 2 years ago.  Below are a couple pics.  They aren't all that clear, mainly because of the lighting conditions and our distance from the stage.  He played for about 50 minutes.  And he DOES know how to pick a guitar.  Wow!

After the concert was over, we headed for our favorite pizza place (Davanni's) for a late dinner.  They were offering heart shaped pizzas through the end of the day.  It was the thin crust instead of our favorite Chicago Deep Dish, but hey, it was Davanni's!!!  Our order:  Canadian bacon, pineapple and green peppers.  As I was getting our drinks, the kid that took our order popped around from behind the pop machine and said "hey, do you want me to have the guys write "Be My Valentine" on the pizza using the green peppers?"  I said "go for it!"  Apparently, this wasn't being offered to everyone- I heard him go back to the kitchen and tell the "pizza maker" the plan, to which the pizza maker said "I can't do that - there isn't enough room!!!"  I wasn't sure what the pizza was going to look like.  Karen was off getting plates and silverware and was oblivious to the goings on.

When the pizza was done, the pizza maker came out and called the order.  Karen went up to get it.  Smiling from ear to ear, he seemed rejected when Karen didn't "read the pizza" when she picked it up.  He sulked back to the kitchen.  Karen was annoyed that the green peppers weren't more evenly spaced, but didn't realize there was a message.  I had to point it out and I did get the pizza maker's attention through the window back to the kitchen and gave him the thumbs up.  I think he did pretty good!  This was after it was cut.
No, I don't normally have my camera with me at the pizza joint, although we took pictures of some of our food in Jamaica. We had the camera with us from the concert and for some reason, I brought it into Davanni's with me.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And everyone went to his own town to register.  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  - Luke 2:1-7 (NIV)

Such a short, quick story of the birth of such an important baby.  For as much fanfare and preparation as we give the anniversary of this story today, this version seems almost disappointing.  In the process of taking a census, it was time for Mary to give birth.  So she did.  Wow!  Riveting stuff!!  Clearly there is much more to this, regardless of how the actual birth is depicted in the bible.  There later was a little more fanfare by way of the angels coming to the shepherds and the Wise Men making their way to see this spectacle, but the birth itself as it's stated here seems a little underwhelming.  Perhaps that is because the birth, while a key chapter in the story of Jesus, is a far cry from the climactic ending. 

We need to look at the birth of Jesus with Easter in mind.  Jesus was born destined to die on the cross for our sins.  In doing both (being born and dying), he was and still is Immanuel "God with us".  Jesus came to all so we could be saved and have the opportunity to live for eternity with God.  We just have to accept him with a humble heart.  This Christmas, look toward Easter for the true reason for Jesus' birth and ponder the opportunity God presents to us.  As you open all your other gifts this Christmas, have you accepted and opened the one God has given you?  Perhaps you've just taken the box off...  Perhaps you've torn open a corner to take a peak...  Go ahead and grab it FIRST and rip into it!!  It's just your size and was meant just for you!      

Such a tiny offering,
compared to Calvary...
-Mercy Me

Friday, December 24, 2010

No white Christmas where you are? Come here, we got you "covered"

1" - 3".  That is what the weather dude said we were supposed to get last night.  My butt... 
This isn't 1" - 3".  It's nearly 6"!!

And remember that pink stick that was in the yard?  It's still there, but you can't see it anymore!  It's buried somewhere in here:
Whosever stick it is will have to dig it out.  NOT MY PROBLEM!  Unless it's fire hydrant on my property, I'm not digging it out... 
Like I said, if you don't have a white Christmas where you are at, rest assured we've got enough for everyone! 

UPDATE:  With last night's snowfall, this has been the snowiest December on record for Minneapolis/St. Paul.  The old record was 33.2" in 1969.  So far, we have 33.4".  And the month is not done yet.  Weather models are hinting at a New Year's Eve storm, but that is too far off to definitively predict yet.