Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Sunday, April 08, 2012
Below is what that 10+ year old biographical note said, in bold, with a comments added by me today [in italics in brackets].
Alan A. Lew, Ph.D., AICP
Biographical Note - written to introduce me to students in the classes I teach at NAU [I used to link this to my class syllabi. Maybe I need to check if that is still the case!]
I was born and raised in Sacramento, California to immigrant parents. My father was from China and my mother from Germany. They met in Canada after WWII and I was born a year later. I left Sacramento shortly after high school and a wasted year at Sac State. [Ouch, a "wasted year"? On reflection, I may have been on academic probation after my first semester, and while I was not really interested in school that first year, it was not really "wasted". I had a lot of growing up to do, which started at that time.]
I spent a summer hitch-hiking across the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West [People hitch-hiked a lot more in those days. I would not recommend it today, if only because it is so uncommon.], then 2.5 years in Hong Kong where I learned Cantonese [Actually, it was 2.25 years, and on 1.5 of those were spent learning Cantonese].
After about 7 years and 6 different schools (including the University of Hong Kong, San Francisco City College, and UC Berkeley-where I studied Mandarin) [Actually, it was 8 years and 7 schools. While that worked for me, I hope none of my own children follow in those footsteps due to the much higher cost of education today.], I finally finished my B.A. in geography at the University of Hawaii at Hilo (on the Big Island). It then took me only 5 years to complete two masters degress (one in geography and one in urban planning) and my Ph.D. in geography at the University of Oregon.
I came to NAU after completing my Ph.D. in 1986 [Over 25 years, as I write this in 2012. It sounds like a long time ago, though it feels like yesterday!].
I have since taught as a visiting professor at the University of Tubingen (in Germany) and at the National University of Singapore [I have now taught twice, now, in Singapore. And as I write this blog post, I am spending a semester on a Fulbright research grant in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. In fact I have spent over 3 years of my life, so far, in Singapore and Malaysia, and about the same amount of time Hong Kong and neighboring Guangzhou, China].
In graduate school I came to focus my research on tourism, as subject which brought together my diverse interests in environmental perception, built environments, and travel. My interests have primarily been in Asia, especially Southeast Asia and China - both of which I have visited many times. [All of this is still true, and my interests continue to revolve around these topics. Some things just do not change much.]
I am hoping to spend my sabbatical leave in Fall 2000 at a university in Hong Kong studying the tourism situation in China. [I ended up at the HK Polytechnic University looking at overseas Chinese travel to China and at international travel patterns of Hong Kong residents.]
I have also done a fair amount of work on tourism in small towns in the Western US, and after coming to Flagstaff, I have been doing work on tourism on American Indian researvations. [I do not focus on these areas any more, though I have had several graduate students who have done research on these topics.]
I have edited several books on tourism, including the first scholarly book to be published on tourism in China and the first one ever on tourism on Native American lands. [I have now also written a couple of books since I wrote this original bio note, and edited several others.]
I am also the editor-in-chief of a new international academic journal titled, Tourism Geographies. [My journal is doing really well these days. The publisher is happy, which keeps me happy. And I might add that I was made a Fellow of the International Academy for the Study of Tourism in 2011.]
Courses that I regularly teach at NAU include: [Most of these are now taught by adjunct instructors using my content. I still monitor the classes and try to keep the content up to date.]
- GGR 346 - Geogaphy of the US [now GSP 220]
- GGR 576 - A graduate seminar in Tourism and Recreation Geography [this is no longer offered due to demands for me to teach other classes and NAU's requirement to drop classes with relatively low enrollments]
- PL 376 - Planning for Sustainable Tourism (web-based) [now GSP 276]
- PL 431 - Computer Mapping for Planning (an AutoCAD class) [this is no longer taught for a variety of reasons that are too long to get into here ....]
- PL 405 - Planning Studio (the capstone class for Public Planning majors) [other people now teach this, which has been relabeled as GSP 405]
- PL 406 - Planning Methods (spreadsheets and powerpoint presentations) [I now teach this as GSP 406, which coconvened with GSP 506 -- a graduate level class. The title is been tweaked as it now includes a social media element.]
- UC 101 - University Colloquium (topic: sustainable communities) [this class is not longer offered by NAU]
[In addition to the above, I now teach:
- GSP 421 / GPS 521 - Planning Law and Ethics, which I developed when we lost the lawyer who used to teach our planning law class following the 2008 economic crisis and subsequent university budget cuts.
- GSP 240 - World Geography - West, and GSP 241 (online) - World Geography - East (online). These are now taught by adjuncts using material that I developed.]
See my Homepage [AlanLew.com] for more information on these classes and my current activities.
See my online Curriculum Vitae for even more details. [My CV is no longer online, as I had not updated since the late 1990s. My CV these days is really long, 10 to 30 pages with very small font, depending on the version, and probably makes for some pretty dull reading. My NAU homepage is the best summary of my CV.]
On reflection, I am still the very much the same person after surviving the first decade of the 2000s. Maybe ten years is too short a time period to expect much change, especially at this stage of my life. (By comparison, my kids have changed a lot in the past ten years!)
In addition to the changes noted above, even though I am a little bit older, I am in better physical shape now than I was a decade ago, having lost weight and gotten my Black Belt in Taekwondo last year. In fact, someone at a conference in China told me this past summer that I looked much younger than my online photo -- a photo that was taken 10 to 15 years ago. I do not think that is true, but it was flattering. :-)
A decade ago I averaged about one international trip a year, whereas today I am making two to four international trips a year. Unfortunately, that is not a very environmentally sustainable lifestyle, but I do expect to slow down as I get a bit older. Most of those trips are paid by other people, but some are paid by me. I also make more money now to help pay for those trips.
I had a stint as Department Chair in the middle of this past decade, which was the most stressful 3.5 years of my life. Opportunities to get away from Flagstaff help me to keep my work sanity, though I also think Flagstaff is the best place in the US for me to live. And despite it stressful moments, I really love my job and do not intend to retire from the intellectual stimulation that it gives me for many years to come.
By the way, here is the photo that accompanied that 10+ year old biographical note:
Saturday, March 10, 2012
A while back, I posted details on how I lost 50 pounds over about and 18 month period (see: http://aalew.blogspot.com/2011/04/how-i-lost-50-pounds.html). Here is an update on where I am with my weight management efforts ...
|Local fruits for sale in Kundasang, a town on the middle slopes of Mount Kinabalu. |
I am eating some, but should eat a lot more, of the local fruit here!
In fact, I felt that I could have gone even stabilized at a lower weight. (By stabalize, I mean I would range +1 or -1 pound around that goal weight on a daily basis.) However, by the time I reached 154 (and occasionally below), I did not feel that I was very healthy. I felt a bit "anorexic" -- that is, too thin for my bone structure.
So after a week or two at 154, I decided to increase my daily calorie goal in Fat Secret (http://fatsecret.com) to bring my stabilized weight to 156. And that is where I had been from August through December 2011 -- and I felt great!
Now I am Kota Kinabala, Sabah, Malaysia (on the island of Borneo) as part of a 6 month Fulbright grant in Malaysia. I have a great weakness for Malaysian food, which is my favorite in the world with its mix of spicy cultural influences. (see http://travelgeography.blogspot.com/) I also have a sweet tooth for ice cream (durian ice cream is really good) and ice deserts (ice kacang/ABC/halo halo/cendol).
|Kota Kinabalu means "Kinabalu City" in Malay and is named for Mt. Kinabalu, one of the tallest mountains in Southeast Asia. The fruit and rice photos were taken near the middle clouds in this photo.|
Salt seems to be the biggest culprit (water retention), followed by refined flowers (white rice, noodles and baked goods) and sugar (calorie bombs). Hotel breakfast buffets are a huge weakness, especially at the more expensive hotels, which I occasionally get to stay at.
At home, I eat brown, red and black rice, oatmeal and plain yogurt, unsweetened soy milk (when I can find it), a lot of vegetables (the diversity here is great!) and very little meat. I have started to estimate my foods and enter them on Fat Secret's website. We also have a weight room at our apartment complex to get some aerobic exercise at least a couple times a week. All of this helps a lot, and I can feel the pounds slide off when I do this.
|Black, red and brown rice, grown in the highlands around Mount Kinabalu. |
These 1kg bags sell for 10 Malaysian Ringgit (about US$3.00) each.
However, we love eating the local food, and do so whenever we are out for whatever reason. We are trying to balance low calorie eating at home and more diverse Malaysian foods when we are out. So far, my new clothes all still fit (mostly), so I think I am OK.
One of these days I will come across a scale and can see just how much weight I have gained as a result of all this. I will post an update here when I find that scale! :-)
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Monday, September 12, 2011
importantly, how it related to my entire life beyond the training.
[This essay was written as part of my Black Belt test. I study Taekwondo at Maximum Martial Arts in Flagstaff, Arizona.]
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Before (July 2009, China) and After (February 2011, Barbados)
This story starts in July 2009. At the start of that month, I weighed about 208 pounds, and at 5'8" I was into the "obese" BMI range. It was not the first time that I weighed that much, though I have usually been closer to the upper 190s and low 200s, right on the border between "overweight" and "obese".
So the first part of my weight loss journey was to replicate the way I was eating in China. This involved eating a lot of Chinese vegetables, with only small amounts of meat thrown in. My rule was that I could eat as much as necessary until I was full, just so long as it was vegetables -- especially leafy green vegetables, though squash and eggplant were also acceptable. Fortunately, my wife was fully able and interested in cooking Chinese food this way, though she also loves her steaks!
I think this would have been a lot harder with just the vegetables available in our local supermarkets, because the range there is so limited. Instead, we would go to Phoenix once or twice a month with a large ice chest to stock up on a variety of Asian vegetables and I would have totally vegetarian lunches and dinners a couple times a week.
Chinese broccoli (gai lan) has long been my favorite Asian vegetable for its taste, texture and ability to make me feel full. I found eggplant to be even more filling when stir fried with chili peppers like they do at one of the Chinese restaurants here in town. Bok choi-like vegetable are good, but I need to eat a lot of them before I start feeling full.
I also weighed myself every day, using Wii Fit, and I took Taekwondo classes twice a week, though I had been doing that since before this all started. I continue to weigh myself every morning, though just on a regular scale, and I continue to attend Taekwondo today.
- Write it down. Write down everything you eat - do not skip anything. Just writing it down will slow your rate of consumption and you will eat less. But I think it has some other (magical and psychological) influences, as well. It simply forces you to pay attention to what you are eating.
This is the minimum that you need to do. It is easy to do and takes almost no time. If you really want to loose weight, just do this -- no excuses! If you cannot simply write down everything that you eat, then give me a break -- you really do not want to loose weight!
- Try to estimate the amount of each item that you eat. That will slow you down a little more. If you also weigh what you eat, for a more accurate calorie count, that will really slow you down a lot!
This is the second step, which takes a little longer. The easiest is to estimate based on cups, teaspoons, tablespoons (1 tbs = 3 tsp), or even one hamburger patty, one medium apple, one small cookie, etc. Again, it can be easy, though it is a step beyond just writing it down.
When you are at home, and you have more time and privacy, get a food scale and weight your foods. That will take more effort, but will probably give you better weight loss results.
- Add up your calories. You will need an app for that -- though you could do it on a website, as well. Some scales come with this feature built in (you need to enter the food code on the scale). As I said, the combination of the Fatsecret.com Calorie Counter on my smart phone, which syncs with the Fatsecret.com website works the best for me.
This is the third step. You do not have to do this, and you will have results. But you will get the best results if you count up your calories a couple of times, or more, through the day. You will almost certainly eat fewer snacks, for example, if you find that you are already at 1600 calories after lunch and before dinner.
- Weigh yourself daily, preferably in the morning before eating (when you are the lightest). Weighing yourself daily gives you the best feedback as to how well you are keeping on track. By doing 1, 2 and 3 above, you will actually become fairly good at predicting your daily weight based on your previous day's calorie intake. (Though see my Weight Anomalies comments below.)
Doing the four tips above alone gives me a sense that I am in complete control over my weight.
The following tips will help you speed up your weight loss, but are less powerful agents of change without the tips above.
- Eat your vegetables. Try to eat more low calorie vegetables than meat and white flour products. Fruit is a good snack food, though still higher in calories than straight vegetables.
- Eat eat candies, nuts and white flour products in moderation (smaller amounts or less frequency). You do not need to cut them out entirely, but be sure to write them down and count the calories -- you will be amazed at how high they can be.
- Eat at home as much as possible. Restaurant food, especially fast food, has a lot more calories than home cooked food. And a lot of those calories are "bad calories" (processed grains and sugars, and salt). I believe that those bad calories have an impact on my overall health, if not necessarily on my weight gain or loss.
- Get some exercise. I know that I can always eat more on Taekwondo days. But even on other days, I know that if I go for a 20 to 40 minute walk, it will noticeably burn more calories than if I do not.
ADDENDUMS - A few additional thoughts after I posted the blog above:
Low Calorie Foods: There are a lot of websites that list low calorie foods. I printed a couple of them out and early on I spent some time using them as a guide on what to eat. Here is my list of the best things that I like to eat to feel satisfied with minimal calories:
- Celery with sour cream - Celery is very low in calories and of all the popular things you can put on its, sour cream is probably the lowest in calories.
- Zapple - This is zucchini squash made to taste like apple pie filling! Find a zapple recipe online (most any recipe will do) and make it during zucchini season in the Fall. Cut the sugar recommended in the recipe in half (or less - that is where all the calories are in the filling.) The pie is really good, but the crust makes for high calories. Make a lot of the filling and freeze it for use later in the year. It goes good with plain yogurt or just by itself as a snack. Depending on how much sugar you use, zapple is much lower in calories than real apples.
- Chicken broth - I am always amazed at how few calories there are in chicken broth. You only need to add a few other things (a little meat, some vegetables) to make for a filling little soup with low calories.
- Congee - This is Chinese style rice porridge ("jook" in Cantonese). You can find recipes online. Plain jook is just rice and water, which is filling, but not very tasty. But you can also make it with chicken broth along with some pieces of fish or chicken or a few cocktail nuts, and spiced up with diced pickles (any kind), green onions, white pepper, and if you like a lot of salt, some soy sauce.
- Wasa Light Rye Crisp Bread - Three pieces are only 80 calories! Other styles of crisp bread are thicker and only have two pieces per serving.
- Fiber One Cereal - This is the king of cereals for low calorie eaters. I usually have half a serving (15 g) with my nonfat plain yogurt and fruit in the morning.
- Eggplant - I find eggplant to be one of the most filling vegetable, at least the way my wife cooks it, while also be low in calories (though higher than green leafy vegetables).
- Asian Pears - These are a lot juicier and crunchier than other pears, and that may be why their calorie count is much lower per gram (42 calories per 100 grams). They are mostly found in Asian markets. The Japanese ones are expensive. The Chinese ones are called "Ya Lay" - or something like that - and are cheaper.
- Water - Craving at late night, or mid-afternoon, snack -- try a glass of water, instead. Sometimes I find that is all that I need to get me through to the next meal, though at other times, I need more.
- Strawberries - Strawberries are even lower in calories than Asian pears (32 calories per 100 grams, or about 4 to 5 medium strawberries). Buy a bunch of them when they are season and use them to snack on.
- Two day momentum. Sometimes I find that I either ate a lot or ate very little in one day, but I do not find a change in my weight the next day, as I would have expected. It seems like I sometimes experience a weight momentum, so a high (or low) calorie day is still having an impact on my weight two days later. So, while I mostly assume that my "calories in" and "calories out" work on a 24 hour basis, this is not always the case. However, this momentum effect never seems to last more than two days -- at least not for me.
- Salt! A sudden increase in salt will almost always increase my weight the next day. This happens when I eat out at restaurants, which use a LOT more salt than we ever use at home. Restaurant food tastes good, but be prepared for the weight gain caused by extra water that your body takes on when you eat a lot of salt. For me, the salt impact takes two days to work its way through my system before I am back to normal.
- Sleep. I do not quite understand this, but I have heard that the less sleep you get, the more you gain weight. I usually try to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night. Sometimes I just have too much to do, and do I only get 6 hours. Occasionally, I can take it easy (like on the weekend) and get a fully 8 hours. I often find that I my weight is down more on the 8 hour nights than the 7 hour nights. I do not know how this works.
Monday, April 04, 2011
I recently purchased a Restaurants.com Gift Voucher that was listed on DealNews.com and sold through DealCurrent.com. The voucher touted all the great restaurants where the voucher could be used on the Restaurants.com website. There was one, in particular, that I wanted to use it at, and many others that I would consider trying.
After purchasing the voucher, I found the following:
1. There are two (or more?) Restaurant.com websites. One is very attractive and viewable to the general public. The other appears after you try to redeem a gift voucher. (Note that the gift voucher is used to purchase certificates for specific restaurants on the restaurants.com website.)
2. The public website lists a wide range of pricing options for each restaurants. The voucher site only lists one or two of the pricing options, and these are usually at the high end -- minimum purchase of $50 worth of food to redeem a $25 certificate. How does a couple spend $50 at a place where the meals top out at $8 ???
3. The voucher website does not list all of the restaurants on the public website. It appears that the voucher cannot be used to buy certificates for some of the most popular restaurants in a community.
After using my first voucher purchase, I also discovered that:
4. Restaurants can add additional requirements to the certificates that are not listed on the restaurants.com website or on the vouchers. In this particular instance, a Chinese restaurant would not allow the certificate to be used for any dish on their "Chinese menu" -- only dishes on the "Western menu" (i.e., cooked for a non-Chinese palate) were allowed.
Finally, this was not listed on the DealCurrent.com site, but buyers should be aware that:
5. The voucher buys a certificate that is only worth about 50% of the cost of the food. In addition, the 50% price saving is applied to the price of the food after an 18% tip is added. Personally, I do not find that to be a problem, but all of the vouchers also indicate on them "Please remember our staff" -- indicating to me that the automatic 18% gratuity charge may NOT be going to the staff. I cannot, however, confirm this either way -- but it is kind of strange...
SO - Is Restaurant.com worth it. Yes, it can be worth it if you:
(1) carefully read all the fine print -- but even then you will not know what it means until you actually try it the first time;
(2) expect to be surprised by challenges in using the voucher/certificates that you did not anticipate -- even after you get to the restaurant;
(3) expect to not be able to get all of the deals that were implied when you made the purchase, especially those that looked very attractive;
(4) if you see a restaurant that you might want to try at a price that you like, grab it -- the certificates do not expire and the list of restaurants and offers change over time; and
(5) check back periodically for new restaurants and offers -- maybe that one restaurant that I really wanted to use my voucher for will someday appear on the voucher page!
Overall, this voucher reminds me a lot of the Timeshare vacation market: deceptively using people's desire to save a buck by selling an attractive product as cheap and easy, when it is in fact a challenge to use. Rebates, in general, can be like that, which is why many people never submit the rebates offered on the products they buy (I always do). And perhaps that is how Restaurant.com makes its money -- though to me, that is very deceptive!
UPDATE April 7, 2011 - I got the following response from Restaurant.com when I complained about not seeing restaurants on the gift voucher site that were on their main site:
"I apologize for any inconvenience. The restaurant has a pre-determined number of gift certificates we are allowed to sell, and that inventory is split between the site for redemption (www.theidealmeal.com) and the site that you can purchase certificates (www.restaurant.com). Unfortunately, popular restaurants may be out of stock within a couple of hours from the replenishment of gift certificates. When the restaurant is sold out on the redemption site the restaurant listing will not appear. Each restaurant has its own stipulations and agreements with Restaurant.com. All restaurants are replenished through an automated system and have gift certificates available at various times throughout the month. All gift certificates replenish on or about the first of each month."
There are at least two usage tips in this response:
1 - There are two different websites! I did encounter this, but was totally confused by it until this email cleared up the difference.
2 - The gift voucher site gets "replenished" on the first of the month. So perhaps, in three weeks, the a couple of restaurants that appear on the certificate site will again appear on the gift voucher site where I can snap them up. It is on my calendar to check it out.
UPDATE May 2, 2011 - Two More Shortcomings....
(1) I have used two Restaurant.com coupons, so far. In both instances, I thought I was going to have a lot of leftovers, because I would need to buy more food that I normally do to meet the minimum purchase requirement to use the coupon. (For example, at one you needed to buy $20 of food to use a $10 discount coupon.)
In both place, we at all of the food, easily. In both places, when the food was served we thought that the quantity on the plates was on the small side. These were a Chinese restaurant and a Thai restaurant.
Maybe that is the normal size of the dishes that we ordered. If so, I think both places were overpriced -- at least on some of the dishes. Or maybe Asians are cheap (I am Asian, myself) and they are just trying to save money by making dishes for Restaurant.com coupon users smaller -- and maybe other restaurants do not do this.
I do not know, but so far, I have not been impressed with what I have gotten when I used the Restaurant.com coupon. This seems to be another shortcoming of the Restaurant.com discount program.
(2) It is the start of the month, so I checked to see if the list of restaurants available for the discounts had changed, as Restaurant.com told me, and which I posted indicated in my update, above. Nope -- no changes -- at least not hear in Flagstaff. This is a Big Bummer!
Based on what I have been experiencing so far, it seems to me that the Restaurant.com are deceptive, and *may* result in me spending more on restaurants that I normally would.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
This past summer, my son decided to wipe his laptop and put Windows 7 RC on it. Seeing that his experience went well, I decided to try Win 7 RC on my 15” MacBook Pro. At the time, my main computer was my Vista quad core desktop, which ran great and did not need to be changed to 7, and I had XP running in a virtual window on my Mac (using VMWare Fusion), and it was definitely my second computer. I had heard that running Windows in Boot Camp worked better than running it virtually, so I decided to install Win 7 RC in Boot Camp – and WOW!, I loved it so much it quickly became my main computer.
The primary advantage over my desktop of running Win 7 RC in Boot Camp was that I had more screen real estate – both the MBPro screen and my 22” wide screen monitor. Whereas, the desktop only gave my the 22” monitor. The MBPro might have been a tiny bit faster, as well. I only went over to the Mac-side of the MBPro when I needed to use iTunes for something.
When the final release of Windows 7 went on sale for $50 a piece, I ordered five copies (I actually still need two more). My son installed it on his desktop without any problem, and I installed it (32bit version) on an old HP laptop, also with no problem. So I then installed the 64bit version on my desktop doing an in-place upgrade of the Vista 64bit system – which went off without a glitch. I also got the Snow Leopard family pack, and upgraded a Mac Mini, a MacBook, and finally, my precious MacBook Pro. All of which went well.
SO – Now to getting Windows 7 (final version) on my MacBookPro. Three days later and I am still struggling with the decisions I made in getting this to work.
Initially I wanted Win 7 64bit so it would make use of the 4GB Ram that I have on the MBPro. The problem is that the Win 7 64bit cd-rom is not installable on the MBPro. Looking online, I found that my version of the MBPro (purchased in Dec 2007) has a very old cd drive firmware that Apple never bothered to update, even though they easily could have. There are work-arounds for Win 7 RC that are available online, but none that I could find for the final version of Win 7. I did not know this until after I had wiped the old Boot Camp.
So, I could have installed Win 7 32bit, but I really wanted 64bit! I then read that the new VMWare Fusion 3 could install Win 7 64bit in a virtual machine in Snow Leopard. So I paid $20 to upgrade to Fusion 3. I then deleted the Boot Camp partition and installed Win 7 64bit as a virtual computer in VMWare.
One problem I had was that the Win 7 upgrade disks look for an existing copy of Windows on the computer as a way of confirming that this is an upgrade installation. Well, Boot Camp wipes the old Windows drive partition before allowing you to install a new one, and VMWare Fusion starts a new virtual computer, again leaving no earlier version of Windows to be seen. The way I got around this in VMWare Fusion was to first install Win 7 RC 64bit (beta version), which does not have this limitation. Then I upgraded that version using the Win 7 64bit final version cd. That worked – and I was happy!
One really nice feature of this setup is that I can keep all my document files on the Mac-side of the computer, and access them as if they were on the Windows virtual machine. So I setup my Dropbox account (click here to learn more about Dropbox) to share files between my desktop and the Mac-side of my MBPro (previously, it was going to the Win-side).
When this is all working, it can work really well. However, sometimes it does not work well. The Mac-side usually works fine, though it does slow down occastionally. The Windows 7 virtual computer is much less stable. It has been hanging – badly at times – and I have had to reboot it several time in the last couple of days.
I wonder if this is because of the significant amount of file transfer activity that has been taking place, mostly in the background. I am hoping that this issue will resolve itself once Dropbox is done synchronizing files between my computers! For now, though, my desktop computer is once again my main workhorse. And I am still wondering if there is a way to get Windows 7 64bit in Boot Camp on my “ancient” 1.5 year old Mac …
(BTW – I really like Windows 7 much more than Snow Leopard, in part because I have some important software in Windows format only, but also because I find it much more colorful and fun to use. Snow Leopard may be more stable, but I personally find it “boring”.)
Sunday, August 09, 2009
The US health care system largely awards the haves and ignores the have-nots. Having health care tied to employment puts each of us one paycheck away from a health care disaster. It has also made the cost of running a business higher in the US than it needs to be, and has given us the lowest health care standards in the world among developed countries. There is clearly a need for change. The behavior of protestors at recent town hall meetings over the health care issue may be a realization among the haves that the time may be coming when have-nots (including the recently unemployed) are going to be provided for.
However, the fear that they are showing is, I think, more than just that. The fear is coming from the far right's being out of power and politically impotent (at least for the moment), which they then blame on every possible conspiracy theory that comes their way. And of course the far right commentators are having a field day fueling this vulnerability with unbelievable lies and outrageous rumors.
I think I can understand this -- to a degree. In fact, if Mr. Obama were a Republican with Bush-Cheney political policies, I too would be grasping for any possible conspiracy that might, in some remote way, reduce his power and remove him from office. That is what I am really hearing from the screaming opponents to health care. They are like a trapped animal striking out where they can -- and health care reform just happened to be what they hit.
Update 12Aug09: Related AP News Story on the Rise of Right Wing Militia Groups in the US - driven by a whole slew of conspiracy theories.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Someone posted a request on an email list for comments on his thinking about moving from a PC to a Mac. He only wanted replies from people who have switched from a PC to a Mac in the last couple of years. Here is what I emailed to him, expanded and updated for this blog post…
Just a quick note on my experience … I purchased a MacBook Pro in Dec 2007 as my first personal Mac (though I have had others in my house). I used it as my only computer (though with XP running in VMWare Fusion) while I was away on sabbatical in Spring 2008 and in general I found it adequate and continued using it as my main computer when I returned home in the Summer.
Toward the end of summer, however, the hard drive died on my Mac and I had to send it in for replacement, which took a little over a week. During that time, I started using my desktop Vista PC again, instead of the MacBook Pro, as my main computer. When my Mac came back, I had to reinstall everything from scratch, and I found that I really did not want to use the Mac as my main computer again, due to a number of limitations, which I list below.
By early Spring 2009 (possibly earlier) my Mac started slowing down considerably and programs started hanging ("beach ball of death") more and more. This was especially true when I opened more than just a couple of programs. In addition, MS Word started crashing whenever I opened more than one document, and VMWare fusion (running XP) became incredibly slow. I was ready to chuck the computer!
Finally in late Spring 2009, I decided to wipe my Mac's hard drive and reinstall the operating system. At the same time, I decided to install Windows 7 under Bootcamp on my Mac, and gave it most of the hard drive.
I have been using this configuration (Windows 7 and Leopard on two partitions with Bootcamp) for the past couple of months and basically felt that there was not a lot of difference between the two operating systems in terms of most of what I do. If I opened in Leopard, I generally stayed there for most of the day; if I opened in Windows 7, I generally stayed there for the rest of the day. There was one program on the Mac side that I did not have an alternative to on the Windows side, and there were a few on the Win side with no equivalents on the Mac side – so that kind of determined which OS I would open at startup.
Now, however, I found a replacement for that one program on the Mac side and I almost always open in Windows 7. Although I think they are fairly comparable, I think Windows 7 is visually more attractive and has better functionality (especially out of the box without having to buy additional utilities).
Currently, my fastest and most stable computer, is my relatively inexpensive Gateway AMD quad-core Vista desktop. I have had it longer than I have had my MacBookPro and I have never had any significant problems with system slowdowns or programs crashing. It still runs almost like new! (The fan comes on more now than when it was new, but other than that, I love it – and Vista runs great!) And I install a lot of trial software and run many programs simultaneously. In fact, I kind of wish I could get rid of this 15" MacBook Pro and get a smaller Vista laptop instead (which I would upgrade to Windows 7, of course), because I find that my Mac is just too big to easily travel with.
In general, my complaints about the Mac are:
- Almost nothing is free and some common file management capabilities on the PC are non-existent on the Mac. Freeware programs that I run on the PC need to be purchased for the Mac. I needed to purchase programs to add functions that are built-in to the PC to the Mac. I purchased Default Folder X (so I can do simple things in the open file dialogue box, like rename a file) and Pathfinder (which replaces the Finder application - Mac's version of Windows Explorer). Most of my early frustrations with the Mac were solved when a friend recommended these two programs to me.
- The Mac intentionally tries to be un-Windows. There are a lot of functions that are done in totally opposite ways from Windows just so they can claim to be different, and without concerns for user functionality -- in my opinion. For example, whereas in Windows you can resize a window from any corner or side, the Mac will only let you resize from the lower right corner. Also, in Windows, the menus are part of the widow and move with the window. On the Mac, menus are fixed at the top of the screen. These two less-than-user-friendly design options continue to drive me crazy.
- My Mac will overheats, especially in the summer, giving me the "Black Screen of Death". I think this is why my hard drive died, as I said above.
- My Mac proved to be just as susceptible to the system aging and slow down as it a PC – possibly more so in my recent experience. It also has its bugs. For example, I cannot access to the Ethernet at my workplace using my Mac – and the head of our IT support (a Mac guy) could not resolve my problem. Despite what Apple fan boys claim, I do not think it is superior or more stable to a comparable Windows Vista computer.
So anyway, that is my personal experience. I have not drunk the Mac cool-aid and may be selling my MB Pro on eBay this coming year – though so far Windows 7 is mostly running great on my Mac, so maybe I will keep it...
Sunday, January 25, 2009
I was quite frustrated in that I could not really tell, from the websites I had found, how these worked. Vague websites drive me crazy. I finally settled on the Freetalk Talk 5191 (below), which I ordered through Amazon.com for $63, including shipping. The reviews sounded good and I liked the style better than the more expensive Sennheisers. Unfortunately, I could not tell from the Amazon website that these were USB headphones, which is obvious from the photo below which I captured from Walmart.com.
I have had USB headsets in the past and I did not like them because there were not very dependable. Sometimes they would be plugged in and would not work. Sometimes I would unplug them but the audio would not transfer to the computer's speakers. So I was bummed that I got something that was not going to work was well as I would prefer.
Then, still before Christmas, I came across the ioGear Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headset Kit (GBMHKIT) on the Buy.com website of $50 (free shipping; photo below). From the photo I could see that this would easily plug into the earphone jack on both my computer and my mp3 player (I have a Cowon D2). This was exactly what I wanted, and was even cheaper than the Freetalk headset. So I ordered this one to, and kept both unopened until Christmas -- when I was going to make my final decision, and return one or the other -- at least that was the plan.
As you might have guessed, I ended up keeping both headsets because they are so different from one another. For example, both come with chargers for both the base and headset, though the iOGear charger plugs into a wall and is completely removed from both the base and headset in order to use them. On the other hand, the Freetalk headset charges through the USB port, to which the base station is always attached, and the headset can be used while charging or not. Nicely, you can add or remove the headset charger cable, which comes out of the base station, without any impact on the audio.
When the Freetalk is a working it is on and paired. Although there is a pairing button and an on/off button, I almost never touch these. I still have the issue of switching from speakers to headphones on the fly while audio is playing. I generally have to close whatever is playing then start it again after plugging of unplugging the USB. But at least it does work when I do that. The headphones are a bit tight, but are otherwise ver comfortable and microphone, which cannot be removed, works well with Skype.
The ioGear heast has a removable mic and are lighter and more comfortably looser. Because they feel different, I will sometimes switch between the two when one starts to feel uncomfortable. The ioGear sound quality is not quite as good as the Freetalk headset, which I tend to use more. The ioGear is less convenient in that I need to turn on and pair the base station and headset each time I use them; but they are certainly more convenient in instantly plugging into and out of my computer, and transferring the audio from and to my speakers, and they work with my mp3 player (and would be great for a TV, too, if I ever watched one).
The Freetalk definitely sounds better (richer sounds) and holds up over distance more than does the less expensive ioGear (which is better for talk than music). I can cover most of my house without a degredation or loss of sound from the Freetlak. I cannot go very far at all with the ioGear before it breaks up and then disappears, though I can carry my mp3 player attached to the ioGear base with me which is convenient. The ioGear has a real problem with walls - the more you have the less likely the signal will pass through them. A simple house layout would probably be the best.
SO - I kept them both and am actually very happy that I did.
Friday, September 26, 2008
The following message was posted on the New Deal Information Service list-serv by Dr. Joseph Plaud. He is on the Board of Governors of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.
Subject: [NDIS]: The Bernie Sanders Plan: Pass It On!
My favorite little socialist, Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont (one of only two states that NEVER voted for FDR in four presidential elections, and now 70 years later one of the most liberal, go figure) has a plan. Sanders caucuses with the Democrats in the House, and he has a terrific plan for economic recovery, pass it on. Much better use of your little grey cells than watching that drama queen John McPain continue down the Rove/Bush path to utter chaos and destruction. Note how a cornerstone of Sanders' plan harkens back to the New Deal with a focus on repairing the American infrastructure (does CCC, WPA, PWA, CWA ring any bells?). Go Bernie...
1. Ensure that middle income and working families are not the ones who are paying for this bailout by
* Imposing a five-year, 10 percent surtax on income over $1 million a year for couples and over $500,000 for single taxpayers. That would raise more than $300 billion in revenue over five years;
* Ensuring that assets purchased from banks are realistically discounted so companies are not rewarded for their risky behavior and taxpayers can recover the amount they paid for them; and
* Requiring that taxpayers receive equity stakes in the bailed-out companies so that the taxpayers’ assumption of risk is rewarded when companies’ stock goes up.
Taken together these three provisions will substantially reduce the likelihood that this bailout will end up on the backs of average American taxpayers.
2. Include a major economic recovery package which puts Americans to work at decent wages. Among many other areas, we can create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and moving our country from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Further, we must protect our must vulnerable families from the very difficult times they are experiencing.
3. Repeal the disastrous de-regulatory legislation that facilitated this crisis.
4. End the danger posed by companies that are "too big to fail," that is, companies whose failure would cause systemic harm to the U.S. economy. If a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. We need to determine which companies fall in this category and then break them up.
The New Deal Information Service (NDIS), part of the nonprofit Franklin D. Roosevelt American Heritage Center Museum (http://www.fdrheritage.org), is dedicated to monitoring inclusively, as well as analyzing and stimulating critical discussion of, news, informational, and opinion articles located in print and online that focus on or mention Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the New Deal. As an NDIS member, you may post your own comment, analysis, and discussion of this article. NDIS members will receive email notifications of all messages posted to the NDIS Listserv. The email address of NDIS is firstname.lastname@example.org. To post to SACRPH-L, send e-mail to: SACRPH@asu.edu Logs for SACRPH-L: http://lists.asu.edu/archives/sacrph.html (Only SACRPH-L subscribers have access.) SACRPH Website:http://www.dcp.ufl.edu/sacrph/
Monday, June 16, 2008
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
This is a follow-up to my earlier "Help, I Got a Mac!" blog entry.
Shortly after I got my MacBook Pro in December 2007, I went to Singapore on a sabbatical Fellowship. There I rented a couple of rooms in a house that came with an ethernet cable on a fiber optic network that was among the fastest (most of the time) and most stable that I have ever used -- much more than I get at home in Flagstaff.
Well, now I am back in Arizona and connecting my MBP to my home router, which also has four PCs and an older, and seldom used, Mac Mini attached to it. To my surprise, while the PCs were running fine on a relatively new D-Ling DIR-655 router, my MBP was having some problems. I frequently got the message that the Mac could not find the server for the web pages that I was trying to connect to. This included www.google.com. I would have to refresh the screen one to three or more times to connect, and a few times it would never connect. This was very frustrating! And it got even more so when my wife got a brand new MacBook and encountered the same problem.
I know that any Mac fanboy will recommend getting an Airport Extreme router (US$180), and I am sure that would probably fix the problem. However, the D-Link DIR-655 is considered one of the best routers available by several computer magazines, and it is supposed to work with Macs.
After searching online, I found this discussion on C-Net.com: http://www.esyurl.com/98o , in which someone had a similar problem, but even worse. They could basically not connect at all. The solution in that email was recommended by a Microsoft support person, who suggested specifically identifying the DNS (domain name server) on the Mac, instead of assuming that it will use a DNS supplied by the router. It went on to suggest copying a DNS address that is found on a PC on the network.
So I tried this. But instead of using a DNS from a PC, I instead used the OpenDNS service, which can be found here: http://www.opendns.com/ - which is a free and highly secure DNS service.
The results have been FANTASITIC! Firefox and Safari both now access websites incredibly fast -- at least compared to what the situations was before. Hopefully this information will help some others who are trying to connect their Macs to a non-Apple router. ... And thank you OpenDNS.
Friday, May 02, 2008
A friend recently turned me on to the GTD/To Do List program called Things (http://culturedcode.com/things/), which I absolutely love for keeping track of the many projects that I tend to pursue at one time. However, Things is only available on the Mac, with iPhone and iPod Touch versions coming n June. Thus I am in another Mac-Windows quandary (see my longer blog on this issue).
Things is the kind of program that I like to carry in my pocket -- on my phone, to be precise. I need to replace my Windows Mobile Verizon XV6800, which Things would not work on anyway. I could switch to AT+T and get an iPhone when my current Verizon contract ends in October (5 months from now). I could just get an iPod Touch and a cheap Verizon phone that I currently have. Or I could try to find a cross-platform or web/cloud-based GTD instead of Things.
Trying to figure this out, I tried the web-based Nozbe, which I did not like at all, and Remember the Milk, which I really like as a Gmail addon. Remember the Milk can also be accessed offline using Google Gears and syncs with Windows Mobile and Blackberry.
So currently, I am using Remember the Milk for short term, today and tomorrow, things to do. I use Things for more long term projects. And I am not going to think about my phone quandary until I get back to the US this next month.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Note that some of my questions to the Help I Got a Mac guys were misunderstood - mostly my own fault as a newby. The list of Pet Peeves that I sent them is below, along with comments on how I have learned to overcome them in the past few months.
Hi Cliff -
I got a Macbook Pro about a month ago, which I also run XP through VMWare Fusion. This is not the first Mac in my house, but it is the first that I have used regularly as my primary computer, prompted by Vista problems this past year on an under-powered laptop. Here is my current list of pet peeves in using the Mac. I would like to know if there are utilities or other ways to do these tasks. - Thanks, Alan
FILE + FOLDER MANAGEMENT
- Move files from one folder to another – finder only copies files, which I then need to move to trash.
[To address this pet peeve, I recently broke down and purchased Path Finder from Cocoatech.com which now runs in place of Finder most of the time on my Mac - cost: $34.95. Path Finder is a very powerful file manager that not only matches what I could do on my PC, but well surpasses those capabilities.]
- Moving or Copying a file into a folder where another file with the same name already exists – does not tell me which of the two copies is newer or larger - I need to open both folders and compare the files -- what a hassle!
[Clarification: This is when copying a file to a folder where a file with the same filename is present. They might be the same file, or one might be newer than the other. Windows gives me this information so I can decide which file to keep and which to delete. The Mac give no information other than the file names. I still have no resolution to this -- Any Suggestions?.]
- the Finder Window sometimes gets too long below the bottom of the screen – I cannot grab the lower right corner to resize because it is below the screen – in general, I keep wishing I could grab other corners or the sides [Clicking the green (+) button fixes this. However, if the top bar is hidden behind a menu or is off the top of the screen I am stuck as there is no way to access it at all. There is a shareware program that allows you to grab anywhere on a Mac app window/box and drag it, but I believe that it currently only works on Tiger, not Leopard.]
- Can not change File Names, Delete Files, Copy or Move files when in an "Open File" screen – can not access non-openable files from an Open File screen - I often see files that need fixing while in an Open Files menu, which I can easily address in Windows. [I have been using the trial version of Default Folder X from St. Clair Software for this. I am not yet convinced that it is worth the $35 they charge for it.] [UPDATE 7May08: I used Default Folder X several times today so I decided to go ahead and pay for it.]
- Cannot Zoom photos and images to full size in Preview - can zoom larger, but cannot tell if I am zoomed to full size - because of this, I still use Windows Preview on XP in VMWare to browse and delete my recently taken photos.
[I have three comments related to this:
(1) The reason for this pet peeve is that I take many hundreds of photos when I travel, which I use for teaching. I need to skim through these as fast as possible to decide which to keep and which to toss.
(2) This question was a new user mistake on my part. I confused Cover Flow for Preview. Yes, what I want to do can be done in Preview, but not in Cover Flow, which I was using. I have since learned about Preview and it works well for previewing photos. I was also quite excited to learn that Preview had basic photo editing tools, like crop, color correction, and sharpen - which I use regularly on my many photos - available on flickr.
(3) HOWEVER, I was shocked to find Preview destroying some of my photos when I saved them after editing them. So far, I have been able to crop and save without a problem. But when I color correct and then save, occasionally Preview will save a mostly, but not entirely, black image. Because the image overwrites the original upon saving, the photo is destroyed! This happened about six time before I figured out what was going on. I now only edit color in Photoshop, which I have in Windows XP - and which really works much better than Preview anyway.
Update: I installed Gimp, a free photo editing program from sourceforge.net, using the Wilber loves Apple website and my initial reaction is very positive. I can see myself using this instead of Photoshop.]
- Preview - can not "Move to Trash" when a photo is enlarged to almost full screen – photo covers edit icon where the Trash command is found – Again I use XP's Preview instead because of this. [Again, this is a Cover Flow problem, not a Preview problem - my mistake. Cocoatech's Path Finder has scalable thumbnails, which work much faster for quick previews than the more flashy Cover Flow, which I no longer use.]
- Can not Flip a photo in iPhoto; Can not show a photo Full Size in iPhoto [I use Photoshop Elements in Windows XP, instead]
- After sleeping a couple of times the keyboard stops working, requiring a restart [I only sleep my Mac if there are only a couple of programs running - this seems to resolve the problem.]
- Can not view images in MS Word – need to open/edit the images to see them - these are probably on files that were created on a Windows computer [There is probably a fix for this out there somewhere, but I have not yet looked for it.]
- One feature that I loved and used often in Vista was the clock. The new Vista clock allowed you to create 2 or 3 different clocks for different time zone. All I had to do was click on the clock on the task bar and I would see these different clocks -- it was great for skyping with friends around the world! [As the podcast guys said, the Widgets Screen can do this by pressing on the + button in the lower left. I did not know was there prior to the Help I Got a Mac podcast. I have since highly customized my widget screen with additional utilities.]
BTW - I agree with you on iPhoto encapsuation – I hate it – I want to be able to access to my photos from a variety of different programs – I want to know where the files are so I can move them, copy them, edit them, upload them, and download them. [I use Photoshop Elements for Windows -- someday I will probably breakdown and get a Mac version of Photoshop.]
Some additional comments:
I push my Mac to the limit though, with all the program I often have running at the same time -- and yes, programs do crash and I do need to reboot the Mac from time to time. I will upgrade to 4gb ram soon, which I expect to help with this. A new Vista computer with appropriate hardware probably runs just as well as my Mac. I think, though, that a Vista computer would slow down over time much sooner than the Mac will -- we'll see. I wish MS Office 7 was available for the Mac, as I use it at work and absolutely love it!
Occasionally I think about just running in XP all the time, mostly because of three programs that I currently have only in Windows versions: Photoshop [though Gimp on the Mac may allow me to uninstall Photoshop], Dreamweaver [I may be able to get a Mac version from my workplace] and Roboform [unfortunately there is no Mac version of Roboform].
I also wish my MBPro had an SD card reader, though that will be fixable with an Expresscard adapter that I hope to buy soon.
I may be a bit of a ludite, as I still miss features in Wordperfect that I loved, but was forced to leave behind many years ago as MS Word overwhelmed my workplace. I will update this blog post as I continue to sip the kool-aid in the coming months.