Monday, June 29, 2009

Another Free Office Alternative: IBM Lotus Symphony

CROSSING THE WORK "4th WALL" ALERT: One of the IBM account managers that I work with discovered my blog (that's a lie - it came up in conversation and I demanded she read it religiously) and took particular interest in this post about open source free alternatives to Microsoft Office. She informed me of IBM's free product called Symphony - I figured I would review it.

Since Windows 7 will be the OS platform of choice in a few months, I decided to install it on my beta copy machine. Any quirks I may experience might not be representative of the product.

Version: 1.3
Installer Size: 192 MB download
Installed Size: 517.2 MB

[Installation]

The installation posed no issues (even on a beta OS). Windows gives you the "can I run this window" and you say yes, and it opens. Even on an older machine, the Symphony program installed quickly and has snappy performance which we will get to in a second.

[Overall Features]

It is clear that the developers didn't just want to take OpenOffice and put an IBM stamp on it. The interface looks sufficiently different without being distracting. The suite looks like it was designed to run under high screen resolutions with the placement of function sidebars. The suite also uses a tabbed approach familiar in most current web browsers. It feels comfortable and does not clutter your desktop and menu bar.



[Word Processing]

The word processing program feels and acts like it should. The graphical creation functions leave something to be desired and wouldn't stand up to MS Word circa 1997 when it comes to creating basic art. That aside, I like the text manipulation features being placed on the right side on the screen. Again, it seems that Symphony is designed for large monitors and computers with higher resolution.

I was pleased that I could open Office 2007 Word Documents (.docx) format. This closes the gap in the office wars and hopefully Microsoft will relent and switch to the OOF (Open Office Format) or at least support it in future versions of Office. I didn't try any crazy documents because I don't live in the Office 2007 world, but I did download some documents and it seemed to open them just fine.



[Spread Sheets]

I was happiest with the spread sheet application in this suite. It feels like Excel but I think improves upon the interface. Once again adding a formatting menu on the right, it was very easy to use (instead of having all of the tools buried in other menus). I downloaded some complex spreadsheets and they were opened with no issue. I read on the spec sheet that macros are not supported, so if you are a heavy macro user you are out of luck. But if you are like me, and don't go near macros, this is a good alternative to MS Excel.

COMPLEX SPREAD SHEET


SIMPLE FORMULAS


[Presentations]

The presentation or Power Point Alternative looks and feels exactly like Power Point. I don't have anything to add to this. It seems to open up all of the .PPT files I have thrown at it with no issue. I don't think sound or video are enabled in this version, so that's a loss (more the sound than video). But again, if you looking for simple to moderate power point replacement for free. This application seems to do the trick.



[Conclusion]

IBM Symphony is a viable Microsoft Office replacement for basic users. After a few days of using it, I noticed it was slower than I originally thought, but that could be chalked up to using older equipment to test it. The suite has a nice visual look and offers robust features for being a free office suite. It seems to work well with MS Office formats including Office 2007. I liked the tab interface and polished GUI.

The drawbacks are pretty obvious, it isn't a full replacement. If you are a hardcore users of MS Office products you won't be able to use macros, sounds, videos, custom scripts for word. The suite does not come with a database product and assumes you are using Lotus Notes for email management. Some not-so-obvious drawbacks are if you choose this product over OpenOffice, you are shunning an active and large user/support group that actively corrects bugs and creates new features free of charge. While this is a lovely IBM experiment, how long will they continue to support this free-ware product? That will be the difference between wide-spread adoption and acclaim or the fate of WordPerfect. Regardless of Symphony's future fate, IBM has put together a very nice product that is certainly worth your time if you don't want to spend several hundred dollars to type up a letters and make simple spreadsheets.

If you want to try IBM Symphony, you can download it at IBM's Symphony Micro-site

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Leftovers: Volume 01: Issue 33

Howdy true be-loggers, welcome to Sunday Leftovers! This week we talk about rental cars, bean soup, and of course Michael Jackson. It has been a long week, so lets see what is leftover....

[Travel Story: Renting a Car]

I had to travel to Connecticut this week for work and it was very productive (thanks for asking) but before I even got there I ran into a problem; the car rental place totally screwed me over. I called car rental place (that I have been using for years) earlier in the week to confirm the rental, the pickup time, etc. I was immediately alarmed when the gentleman I am used dealing with didn't answer and a young girl that I could not understand took his place. She told me everything was in order and I moved on with my life, until I had to pick up the damn car.

I told them to have the car ready for me at 9 AM. I expected to pick it up at 11. I got there closer to 11:30 and when I arrived, I noticed the parking lot had no cars. I went into the office and asked the girl for my car and she told me it hadn't been dropped off yet and to come back at 1:00. I told her she should call me before I came back to check. She didn't. At 1:30 I called the office and nobody answered. I kept getting routed to a main office. I started to get angry. My wife checked the hours of operation, they closed at 1:00 PM. Now I was furious.

I called another branch that was open until 3:00 and they said she called there hoping they had a number for me on record (but I had just given her my number). It was unclear to me if the original place ever had my car, but the new office said they could get me one. So I drove to the other rental office and they got me a weathered Mazda 3. Didn't care about the condition as long as it got me to my destination. I am much less angry than I was last Sunday, but it still bothers me that I made the time to secure reservations, check them, and there was still such a massive screw up.

In a funny coincidence, my friend Brandon posted this on Facebook yesterday and I thought it would be a good way to close this section out:
How to avoid getting screwed at the Car Rental place

[Ticketmaster Recap]

This week I posted my second round of letters with ticketmaster. You can read it here. Long story short, I didn't get anywhere with them besides amusing myself. They did provide me with contact information for the Trocadero and I did write a letter (very similar to the first letter to ticketmaster, so I don't see a point in posting it).

I don't expect to hear anything back from the Troc, but if I do, I will post it for your amusement.


[Recipe of the Week: Navy Bean Soup]


INGREDIENTS
1 (16 ounce) package dried navy beans
6 cups water
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 package of baby carrots (halved)
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz (1/2 pound) chopped ham or pancetta
1 cube chicken bouillon
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups water

DIRECTIONS
1. Add a splash of olive oil into a stock pot and set to medium heat. Put in the onions and allow to cook for 6 minutes.
2. Now add the ham or pancetta. Cook for an additional 6 minutes (keep covered) - the onions should look clean and sticky, the ham should smell great.
3. Add the celery, garlic and carrots allow to cook for another 6 minutes
4. Now add water, tomatoes, bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, garlic powder, beans, and bay leaf in a stock pot; bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for two hours.
5. Add additional water. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for an additional two hours. Discard bay leaf.

[DIY of the Week: Light Home-made Backpacking Kitchen]

It's the summer and for some it means camping season (I like April and October personally). Here is a lightweight kitchen courtesy of Instructables:


4-3/4 oz Ultra-light Backpacking Kitchen (video demo) - More DIY How To Projects

Video Demo:


[Michael Jackson]

Michael Jackson died this week and I could care less.

If you are one of those people in mourning of the fantastic recording artist, where were you when he died 25 years ago? What took his place was a media freak show that touched little boys. He lied and manipulated the media believing the world\audience would accept anything he said as the truth; it was insulting. It's pathetic to see all the "fans" that have supported him over the years clutch to the memories of someone who was once great, but thanks to his upbringing, fame, and our willingness to turn away from the obvious, became a walking, breathing, cartoon (of a sexual predator).

I am glad children across the world from California to Dubai can finally sleep well knowing the "Thriller" won't be coming for them in the night.

[Random Video of the Week]

Whoever edited this is a very talented and odd person...



[Conclusion]

That is all I got this week I hope you found it amusing. Instead of telling you to read my blog at it's original source, I have just been manually posting the link in the places where I auto-fed. There have been some issues with auto-updates so I just started doing it manually and I think the whole setup is way better. If you need to reach me, you can email me at blog at joeylombardi.com.

On a final note - I just found out the owner of my favorite bar is in a band called Welcome to My Face. Ponder that one all week.

As always, don't take shit from anybody!

Smell You Later
~ Joey

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Joey vs. Ticketmaster: Part Two

Howdy true be-loggers! This is the 2nd part of my issues with Ticketmaster. Long story short, nothing happened. But I will get my feelings off my chest. If you didn't read part one, you can do so here.

So lets see what Ticketmaster's latest response was:



[My Thoughts]


Ticketmaster is a company that has a reputation of fucking over their customers. Even on this small scale, they have proved this reputation is valid. I didn't ask for money, I asked for them to look at their customer experience and leverage their relationship with the vendors they support to improve quality. They washed their hands.

They make mention that as a company the satisfaction of their customers is of their utmost concern, yet they did nothing to help me achieve satisfaction in this matter. They brushed it off because they can and they will get away with it.

I am not going to stop going to concerts which means I am going to have to use these assholes, paying their outrageous service fees and there is not a damn thing I can do about it (looks like they are going to merge with Live Nation, so there is no alternative).

One more failure for the little guy.

I am going to write a letter to the Trocadero box office manager; I am sure I will get the blow off too. I will share that failure with you because, it's amusing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Moment in my Head: The Surprise Weekend

In an effort to break out of the "Sunday Leftovers" style of writing that has been featured on the blog lately, I have decided to recount (and offer commentary to) a series of recent conversations with a friend. This is one of those "this is how my mind works" sort of things and I am most definitely making fun of myself and the friend I am telling the story about. I know he is going to read this and I hope he finds it amusing.



A few weeks ago one of my good friends called me and told me he had a surprise for me and was going to stay over a weekend in July. I enjoy this friend's visits and always try to make sure he has a good time (sometimes I do well and sometimes I feel like he wasted his time; so I feel a little pressure to deliver when he comes over). I checked my calendar for the weekend he mentioned and I noticed it was another friend's birthday - this friend sometimes wants to celebrate and sometimes does not, but I always keep the weekend opened. So I go back to my visiting friend and ask him if his plans are flexible, he said that he didn't have a specific agenda for when he was coming. For the moment I think "this is good": it means we could potentially go to my other friend's birthday celebration should there be one and if not, we would do something else. Then I started to think "this is bad; if he doesn't have plans, what the hell could the surprise be?"

My friend has baseball season tickets and he often goes to Sunday games. He usually times his visits with those Sunday games because he lives a few hours away from the baseball stadium and my house. It is a good setup: Less driving for him, and we get to hang out the night before the game. I started to put the clues together. The surprise had to be either a person or a thing, and I know he isn't much of an items person, so I focused my thoughts on people. I surmised that this person must be going to the baseball game. I narrowed my list down and came up with two candidates and I was leaning towards one heavily. I will digress for a moment and say that the reason I put so much thought into this is because I might be having another guest at the house that weekend, and I needed to know what the room situation will be and most importantly, if someone is going to stay over I like to be prepared (this is where my crazy lives).

Flash forward to last night; I am in Hartford, CT and my friend calls. I step outside of the restaurant to talk to him (I had been in an all day team meeting and it would be good to hear some irreverent filthiness coming out of his mouth) and he tells me he is all pumped out for the surprise weekend. I hadn't thought about it for a few weeks, so this was a good opportunity to pump him for information. I mentioned my other friend's birthday again and he assured me it wouldn't be an issue, so I said his surprise has to be a thing or a person. He said he didn't want to tell me anymore because I would guess. We did this dance for a few minutes, and then I said "I think you are bringing Bla Bla Bla (good Christian name isn't it?) and then you will go to the game the next day", he kinda gets quiet and says "that's your guess eh?" A few minutes later he is calling me an asshole because I had guessed correctly. As he is confirming the additional guest I am thinking "okay I am going to need more beer, what else does this guy drink, I should probably buy two boxes of microwavable white castle because I am not cooking when we get drunk, oh shit where is he going to sleep if Allison's friend is staying over..." and then my mind starts to shift into "well this is one hell of a surprise, now I got to make sure two people don't have a sucky weekend, thanks alot buddy!".

I tend to think about the way I think about things (Stop. Re-read that. Get it? Good.) So during the 4-hour drive home from Hartford I thought about my initial mental reaction to hearing that this other guest, a friend I haven't seen since my wedding, would be visiting. The reaction wasn't happy or sad (or any of the other dwarfs) it was "Oh shit, I need to prepare". I don't think this is good or bad, I just think this is me. But I also thought about the nature of surprises; was this really a surprise? Should it even be a surprise? If I was bringing someone over to someone else's house I would let them know, but I am also the same person who wrote 850 words and counting about such a situation. So what do you think blogger-verse? Am I too uptight? Should a guest inform a host of another potential guest even if it is under the guise of a surprise? Does that even count as a surprise? Get back to me here, I need to be validated or shut down.



You can reach me via facebook comments (if you are reading this post there) or via email: blog at joeylombardi.com (screw you spammers!). I will post the replies for amusement's sake.

PS: I'd like to thank my friend for giving me an additional 1000 words to write about this week (Well 985 to be exact).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Leftovers: Volume 01: Issue 32

Howdy true be-loggers - welcome to Sunday Leftovers! To honor father's day, I will be offering some thoughts about my father, share a fatherly DIY, and talk about father of three Jerry Seinfeld. The fridge is full of leftovers, so lets get cooking.

[Father's Day]



Today is Father's Day and it would be a lost opportunity not to incorporate my father into this article. Over the course of my life, I have discovered that my father is most certainly not like other dads or other human beings, unique is an understatement. You don't meet my father, you experience him: that experience is usually silence with a few well timed jokes/insults. He is very much like a spider, sitting on it's web waiting for the foolish fly to come to him. Beloved by his nieces and nephews for being the youthful rebel during their formative years (and encouraging and developing the famous Lombardi mean streak in each of them). In my own time, my father has charmed, fascinated, and terrified every single person I have brought before him. With my father there are no shades gray, no black and white, there is only acceptable and unacceptable. In his own way, he has developed a set of ethics that are surprisingly saintly: work hard - extremely hard, don't screw anybody over but keep your eyes open for a good deal, keep the company of outstanding friends and disregard the rest, take shit from nobody (absolutely uncompromising in this aspect of his life).

Is he a role model for the modern day by incorporating the hard working ethics of days past and today's conventional street wisdom? Or is he the first and last of his kind; too rare to live, too mean to die?



[Recipe of the Week: Strawberry Rhubarb Parmesan Crisp]


From the No Recipes Blog. This looked light, summery, and delicious:

Ingredients

1 lbs strawberries cored and quartered
1 C rhubarb chopped
1/4 C sugar (more if your strawberries aren’t ripe)
1 tsp corn starch
1/2 C old fashioned oatmeal (not the quick cook kind)
1/2 oz grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 Tbs dark brown sugar
2 Tbs melted unsalted butter
1/4 tsp vanilla

Read the rest of the blog for directions - HERE

[DIY of the Week: Spider Catcher]

My cousin Anthony always used to yell at me if I attempted to kill a spider in our travels together. The Reason? Spiders eat mosquitoes - his most hated natural enemy. So in honor of my cousin, who is a father of two, here is a DIY Spider Catcher; Catch and Release is better than smash.

DIY Spider Catcher

Materials needed:

* An empty (audio) cassette tape case.
* A rod or piece of PVC pipe
* Some superglue or epoxy
* A piece of string

Tools that may be helpful:
* A file
* Duct tape
* A drill or leather-punch
* A paper-clip

Go to the link to check out the the instructions (that dude could use the hits too!)

[Review: Jerry Seinfeld @ The Kimmel Center]


Date: 06.20.2009
Time: 9:30 PM Show

Last month my friend Kam hijacked me during a meeting and needed to know if I wanted to see Jerry Seinfeld immediately. I thought Allison would like it so I said yes and never thought about it again until last night. When we entered the Kimmel, I notice we kept walking closer to the stage until we were 2 rows back from the stage. No wonder why Kam was so hell-bent on getting an answer out of me quickly, excellent seats. Our friend Tee joined us as well and she made an observation that she might be the only African-American in the audience (it never dawned on me that Mr. Seinfeld might not draw a large crowd from the African-American community, but I guess it makes sense - same argument/criticism as "Friends"). We looked around as I tried to console her that there must be other black people at the show and we were relieved when we found a gentlemen whom she promptly informed me was a homosexual. Tee was quite pleased with the opening act....

Mario Joyner came on stage to entertain and warm up the audience. He executed a perfectly acceptable act: family friendly and in the super-observant vein that Jerry has made popular. His act was no more than 20 minutes and I wasn't looking at my watch waiting for him to get off, but he didn't have me rolling on the floor either. He was a good, solid opener (I enjoyed his rant on cell phone service).



Seinfeld immediately came out and did at least 70 minutes. I have never seen his stand up so I didn't know what portion of his act was old material (the people in front of me who seemed to be experts said he recycled two bits). Jerry was funny, engaging, made us all laugh. He kept saying Philadelphia like he was trying to remember where he was which I found amusing. I noticed the tone of the act reflected his older age; he reminisced about childhood treats, he had an air of grumpy-old-man, and made several references to being tired and lazy. At the end of the show he came out and answered questions which I liked but the crowd asked lamed questions (which he beefed up to make more interesting).



Good time, good show. Glad Jerry is still doing his thing.

[Random Clip of the Week]

I saw this on Seth Godin's blog. Behold the power of the follower...



[Conclusion]


I have to prepare for my business trip to Connecticut, so that's all I have this week. Hope you had a good weekend, and have a great upcoming week. As my father has practiced his whole life, don't take shit from anybody. If you aren't reading this blog at the original source you are not really reading it (you facebookers are missing all of the videos and slide shows). If you need to contact me: blog at joeylombardi.com.

Smell you later,
~ Joey

Friday, June 19, 2009

TEST POST: 06.19.2009 - #1

Something is fishy with the blog feeds. It is sort of working, not seeing any issues on the blogger blog, but something is definitely wrong.

TEST
TEST
TEST

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Joey vs. Ticketmaster: Part One

A few weeks ago, I attended a concert at the Trocadero in Philadelphia (reviewed here). I decided that since I had such a shitty experience, I would write Ticketmaster, just to see what would happen. Here is the summary so far:

[My First Letter]

June 02, 2009

Ticketmaster
attn. Customer Care
1000 Corporate Landing
Charleston, WV 25311

To: Ticketmaster Customer Care

On Saturday, May 30th I attended the Avett Brothers Concert at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia, Pa. I purchased tickets via Ticketmaster. Regretfully, I would like to inform you that the quality of the venue seriously detracted from our enjoyment of the show forcing us to leave early.

My issues are as follows:
* The show was oversold: 90% of the capacity was standing room only, but the bar section contains seating in a balcony. Behind this balcony there is an area to sell alcohol and behind that, a full bar. Both of the aforementioned sections offer no view of the stage at all. It is my belief that tickets were sold with that space counted as stage capacity.
* Since there was no space in the upper section, as the main act – The Avett Brothers - starting playing, hordes of people came down from the upper area blocking views and forcing us to move to the side.
* The acoustics in the building focus the sound down the middle center, making the sound in the area we were forced into muddled and dampened.

We could not see, would couldn't hear the band well, and it was incredibly cramped. We left.

I have been going to concerts for years and while I have been to some I did not enjoy for lighter variations of what I mentioned before, it has never been as bad as it was Saturday evening at the Trocadero, and I never felt the need to write a letter before. Is there anything you can do to correct this? I would appreciate a response via mail or by phone at the number listed above. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Joey Lombardi


[Ticketmaster's Response]


[My Second Letter]

NOTE: At this point I said to myself "fuck it - I have nothing to lose, I might as well have some fun". You may be wondering why I removed the customer care associate's name - it's because I am sure this is a low level person and I don't want this to come back on them, working for ticketmaster must suck enough already.

Ticketmaster
attn. [Name Omitted] | Customer Care
1000 Corporate Landing
Charleston, WV 25311

To: [Name Omitted] & Ticketmaster Customer Care

I want to thank you for your response to my letter regarding my bad experience with the Trocadero Theatre and the Avett Brothers Concert held there on May 30th 2009. I understand that Ticketmaster acts as a middle man selling tickets for the venue, but I would have hoped the corporation would hold the venue/themselves to some level of quality standards. Scenarios like the one I experienced on May 30th greatly discourage me from wanting to spend my entertainment dollars on concerts.

As a consumer, I feel there should be a channel/accountable party when the event is sub-standard. I honestly never complain, never write letters regarding bad experiences at concerts (and there have been many). The Trocadero took it too far and to have my initial complaint arbitrarily dismissed because they successfully completed a ticket sales transaction and managed to get the band on the stage doesn't preclude them or you as a service provider from trying to make amends & improvements.

I would like contact information to the Trocadero office. I could not find an address to send a letter to get them involved in this issue. This isn't about money, its about acknowledgment that these events can be improved and as the ticket service provider your company has the ability to influence the venues instead of throwing customers to the wolves and taking every available penny on the table.

I want to go to concerts. I want to enjoy them. You should want me to go to concerts and pay your ridiculous transaction fees (I know – cheap shot, but I had to do it). Let's help each other out.

Sincerely,
Joey Lombardi


I honestly don't know how far I am going to take this; I don't expect a refund - it would be nice, I don't need it. Writing letters the old fashioned way and taking shots at a business that I loathe is far more entertaining. I hope they come back to me with the Troc's business address, I do plan on sending some letters there (if any of my readers know a contact, send it my way blog at joeylombardi.com).

I will post the rest as it comes.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Leftovers: Volume 01: Issue 31

Howdy true be-loggers, Welcome to Sunday Leftovers! This week I will be recounting recent guitar purchases, spinning an informative tale, and Christopher Walken? Lets open up the fridge and see what's leftover:

[Guitar Shopping]

In the summer of 2000, my friend Jack helped me pick out an acoustic guitar. We spent several months going to stores, playing instruments, and talking about what makes music great and what makes an instrument have mojo. Over the years Jack has shepherded me through several instrument purchases and we have had many conversations about what makes great music great. I look forward to those conversations more than buying the instrument. I haven't purchased new musical gear the last few years because I was content with my collection (I had a guitar I wanted to trade up, but nothing that couldn't wait) - I was waiting for a mission. A few months ago my other friend Drew suggested I buy a bass so my home would be more conducive to jamming when he visited. No offense to Drew, but he comes over 3 times I year, but I liked his idea as it might encourage more music to be played in the house so I started discussing bass guitars with Jack. During that time I went to Nashville, visited the Gibson shops, and started to become interested in their line of guitars.

All of these experiences converged this week. I had gone bass shopping with Jack last month and we went to a place with a very limited selection, His time was limited, so I started going off on my own researching and testing and having informed discussion with him to focus our attack on the days we went out. Last Sunday I was bored and decided to go to a small music shop in Pitman, NJ - which is very close to my house. I have had hit or miss experiences in this little store, but I had time to kill.

When I walked in, my attention was immediately drawn to what I thought was a Gibson ES-335 - a guitar Jack had suggested I look into when I was ready for a new one. When the owner came out from the back, I inquired about the guitar and he informed me it was a limited edition ES-333 which had modified pickups, a satin finish (instead of the gloss), and was 600-1200 dollars cheaper than the various ES-335 models. I played it and really liked it. Going around the store I noticed a bass that might fit my requirements as well and after talking it over with Jim the owner, he said he would do a trade for my un-used Mexican made telecaster for this Squire/Fender Bass. On paper - this might not sound like an even trade since Squire is Fender's low budget brand, but the Mexican telecaster had very weak pick ups and I hated the guitar - I knew I was only going to get $200 bucks for it at best. The Squire was Korean made (not their best, not their worst) and it was obvious someone had done some modifications for the better on it (it has outstanding action).

Since I don't know basses all that well (when it comes to what the pickups SHOULD do), I asked Jim if I could make the transaction a few days later and have my friend come in and try out the gear. He agreed and on Tuesday, Jack and I came back to test everything out. Jack immediately went for the ES-333. He admitted later that he didn't think he was going to like it, but when he plugged it in he realized it was a great guitar and a good price (and having researched Gibson's lowest priced ES-335 and comparing the two, I knew I had a winner as well). One decision down. When Jack plugged the bass in, the whole store started to rattle (very small establishment, lots of things on the walls) - while we both found the rattling snare drums distracting, we both realized that the Squire had some real balls to it. He readily encouraged me to make the trade (confirming my suspicions). So I walked out with two guitars, and got rid of one that I hadn't played in over two years and all for a great price.



[DIY of the Week: Replacing Guitar Pickups]

Since I am so guitar focused this week, here is a DIY on how to replace the pickups in an electric guitar. I know - limited audience with this one, but at least I am keeping a theme:


Replacing the Pickups in Your Guitar - More DIY How To Projects

[Recipe of the Week: Chicken ala Christopher Walken]

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken
8 pears
2 cups of salt
1 cup of pepper


Directions

You need a chicken throne for this (see the video). Cut off the fat of the chicken and put in at the top of the throne. Seat the chicken on the throne. Pull back the flap and secure with a tooth pick. Cover the chicken with salt (it should come off during cooking) and then dust with pepper.

For the pears, slice off the bottoms so they can stand upright. Skin them a bit, but leave some on (to your preference).

Get a cooking pan to put all of this on, grease with vegetable oil or pam. Place the throned chicken in the center, and the pears around it. Keep the sliced bottoms and use as coasters for the main pears so they don't stick. Place in pre-heated (400 degrees) oven for 60-75 minutes.



*** New Feature Alert ***


I would like to introduce a new feature that won't be weekly; it will pop up when I have the urge to write them. They are called Friend Fables and it is some of the wisdom I have gleaned in my life in an amusing all-ages story form. I certainly hope you enjoy it and if you don't, go fuck yourself.

[Friend Fable: The Wall]

This is a simple tale about two boys: one boy who was outgoing yet very worrisome and the other who was polite but very apathetic. The two boys were friends for many years and enjoyed a carefree yet unchallenged existence. The outgoing boy constantly imagined things to do to exhaust his nervous energy while the polite boy watched and laughed, glad to be entertained and not have to come up with ideas himself.

One day while riding their bikes, the boys came upon a hill with a very large brick wall at the bottom. The boys marveled at the sheer uselessness of such a wall and wondered why it would be put there; it became the topic of many conversations and the punchline to their inside jokes. One day the polite boy called the outgoing boy, which was very unusual for the polite boy to do, and told him to meet him at the hill. When the outgoing boy arrived, the polite boy was at the top of the hill staring at the wall. "I am going to ride my bike down the hill" said the polite boy. "Why would you do such a thing?" said the outgoing boy more wondering aloud than asking a question since the only possible outcome was smashing into the wall. "Just to see what happens" said the polite boy. The outgoing boy dismissed the polite boy's idea, telling the polite boy he was going to smash into the wall and hurt himself. The polite boy agreed but it was very obvious that he wasn't convinced that the wall would do him harm.

The next Saturday the outgoing boy found the polite boy starting at the wall again and once again, he managed to stop him from going through with his plan. This went on for several years; the outgoing boy was always there to stop the polite boy from hurting himself. Over the years, the outgoing boy could tell that the polite boy was beginning to resent the his interference; but was too polite to say anything and the the outgoing boy was too worrisome to allow the polite boy to go through with his plan - a perfect stalemate of personalities.

During the winter, the polite boy usually put aside his plan because of the weather, but on one fateful Christmas Eve which was particularly warm, the polite boy took his bike out thinking he could avoid the outgoing boy. It was true that the outgoing boy didn't think his friend would attempt to execute his foolish plan but he had a bad feeling that particular day since it was so warm and he hadn't heard from his friend on Christmas Eve. So he want to the hill and found his polite friend with his feet on the handlebars of his bike careening down the hill towards the huge brick wall. Since the outgoing boy was already at the foot of the hill, he ran towards his friend and tackled him off his bike badly bruising and cutting them both. The polite boy was shocked that the outgoing boy would go to such lengths to stop what he considered to be such a harmless act. The outgoing boy was now upset and told his friend "I won't try to stop you anymore, if you want to crash against the wall and hurt yourself go ahead." The polite boy just looked at him and said "but I am not going to hurt myself." While the boys talked after that, they didn't spend all of their free time together anymore.

When the weather got warm, the outgoing boy wondered if his old friend would attempt to ride his bike into the wall and decided to take a stroll to the hill on a Saturday morning. When he got there, a crowd was dispersing. He asked a young girl what was going on and she told him that a boy ran his bike into the wall and was hurt badly. Even though he knew it was going to happen, the outgoing boy felt very badly for his friend. When the polite boy returned from the hospital, the outgoing boy went to visit him. "I suppose you came here to tell me I told you so." said the polite boy. "No, what is the point in that, I just wanted to see if you are okay." said the outgoing boy. The polite boy was not okay, he had broken his arm in two places, knocked out a tooth, and broke a toe; he was in a lot of pain and would be forced to stay inside the whole summer (but that part didn't bother him all that much). The two old friends stayed quiet, avoiding eye contact until the outgoing boy finally said "was it worth it?" The polite boy shrugged his shoulders as if he never thought about it and would never reflect on it again. "At least I did something" was all the polite boy would say about it. The outgoing boy left the room of his childhood friend confused and wished he could understand the polite boy's motivations better.

As the years passed, the two boys became men and continued to drift apart until they didn't speak at all. They both reflected on the good times they spent in each others company. When it rained, the now polite man's arm ached from the old injury and wished he had listened to his friend, he often told associates "most people don't die from a mistake, they just have to live with the outcome." The polite man often wondered what happened to his outgoing friend. As it happens, the now outgoing man often thought about his polite childhood friend as well. Whenever he passed a tall brick wall, he would touch it and say "what kind of a moron would purposely ride their bike into a wall" and he would go on his merry way.

~ The End ~

[Random Clip of the Week]

Fonz in the Future? WTF!



[Conclusion]


I am blasting some Joe Strummer as I clean up this mess; as the album ends, so must this week's article. I hope you all had a great weekend and have a great week. As always, don't take shit from anybody. I am flirting with an email address for the blog in case people want to offer feedback, but I can't make a direct link because of spammers. It is blog at joeylombardi.com (I am sure you can figure it out). Remember, if you aren't reading this blog from it's original destination you are not really reading it.

Smell you later,
~ Joey

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Open Document Productivity Suites Improve

Remember when you had to plunk down $250.00 for Microsoft Office (if you are lucky and got the student discount) and wondered how to get around it without stealing a copy from a friend? I know... you just stole the software, most people do because paying several hundred dollars for a word processing program doesn't seem right. Sure there have been alternatives like Word Perfect, but it is hard to use and and an overall piece of shit. A few years ago Sun's developers came out with a free office suite that was compatible with Office called "OpenOffice". The general public didn't seem to notice, while open-source nerds everywhere celebrated. Over the years it has gotten better, and Microsoft started to panic, so they created thedocx file formats so OpenOffice can't read those files, until recently.

OpenOffice 3.1 came out two months ago and I didn't notice that they added support for DocX. This is great news for people who don't want to buy Office or steal it from a friend. It looks like the same interface of Office 2000/2003/XP (it did not emulate the radical redesign of Office 2007). In 90% of the cases, OpenOffice will translate word documents with no problems. If you are doing advanced charts and tables embedded in the document, you might run into some issues (I am not going to bullshit you and tell you different). I have been using Open Office for two years now, and I have never looked back. PS: I am not putting down MS Office; It is a great tool, but some people don't need Outlook and Access and don't want to pay up to $600.00 for Word, Excel, andPowerpoint.

You can download OpenOffice here: OpenOffice.org

While I use OpenOffice when I am disconnected from the internet. Most of the time I use Google Documents to do everything (I am using it right now). Google Docs recently added support for Docx files as well. Imagine being able to type a document in a web browser and save that document so you can access it on any computer or phone with an internet connection. That's Google docs. If you have a Gmail account, you already have Google Docs and I suggest using it, if you don't, sign up today

Monday, June 08, 2009

Astounding

A few months ago I installed Google Analytics on all of my websites. I have been enjoying reviewing the trends of my site usage and trying to improve and grow my website empire. Last week I noticed that Analytics offers a map feature telling me where my content are being read and my mind is blown.

I assumed that most people reading were in the New Jersey/Philadelphia area with a sprinkle of New York and California because of friends and family, which is true; but I am surprised to see hits in states that I don't know anybody AND I am seeing views in countries like Australia, England, Germany, Canada (CSA all the way!), Italy, France - you get the idea.

I certainly hope I am not propagating the "stupid American" stereotype with my refusal to run spell check, persistent grammatical mistakes, and of course the fact that I can be a raging asshole. Thanks for reading World, you made my day, even if you do think I am a moron.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday Leftovers: Volume 01: Issue 30

Howdy true be-loggers, welcome to Sunday Leftovers! This week we are reviewing a few movies and a book, talking about cooking as always, and bitching about the new digital age. I wish I can sit here and tell you that I bettered myself in so many ways this week or have fantastic stories, but some weeks are just about living. I went to work which was fine, fixed some computers for family, my cousin visited on Friday night and got me a little drunk, went out to dinner with the wife yesterday, and I am goofing off today. Solid week with no regrets and no false packaging, so lets find out what is leftover:

[Facebook]

I have commented on Facebook before and will continue to do so. I am noticing that real friends are starting to manage communications with me via Facebook (or one of the other social networks). I don't mean some kid I went to grade school with and haven't thought about for 20 years, I mean friends who have my real number that I only give out to people I like, friends that come to the house, people I cook for - now suddenly can't be bothered to pick up a phone.

Facebook is great to share pictures, say hello to old friends that you don't want to have awkward phone or personal conversations with, and to keep tabs on people without putting it out there that you are nosy (let's be honest with ourselves - Facebook is the ultimate cyberstalking tool and we put our info out there loving every fucking second of it). Facebook should not be used to manage real personal relationships. Personal contact is a needed chemical reaction. The more we dilute that experience with technology the less effective human beings we become. Chew on it for a while and then call some friends, go outside, and let your pasty ass get some light.

[Recipe of the Week:Kumquat Lamb Tagine]

I am not normally a lamb fan (bad experience in Italy) but over the years a few friends have encouraged and recommended dishes at select establishments. I saw this article on No Recipe Blog and it looked amazing. I don't have much experience with lamb, but this is a great recipe to experiment with.

I am going to put the ingredients here and then link to the full article for directions:

INGREDIENTS:

For spice rub

2 whole cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tsp whole coriander seed
1/2 tsp whole cumin seed
1/4 tsp whole fennel seed
1/4 tsp all spice
8 whole cloves
3 green cardamom pods
1 tsp black peppercorns
1/4 C kosher salt (use less if using regular table salt)
3 lbs lamb breast

For braising
water
1/2 large onion roughly chopped
1 large carrot roughly chopped
1 large celery stalk roughly chopped
1 cinnamon stick
2″ piece of ginger sliced

For tagine
1 large onion sliced thin
1/2 lbs kumquat cut in half, seeds removed
1 1/2 cups of braising liquid
braised lamb breasts
1/2 C honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground cloves

You can find out how to cook this dish at the No Recipes Blog: Kumquat Lamb Tagine - Norecipes.com

On a side note, I asked my dad to get me some lamb (he is a butcher) and he was like "I didn't know you liked Lamb" and I said, I don't really, but I wanted to try this recipe out and described it for him. He then says "you must not like lamb then, the kumquats will overpower the flavor of the meat". I don't know how I feel about that one... it isn't like I savor the flavor of lamb, on the other hand, I don't think a sauce should overpower the flavor of meat. I still want to try this. Might have to go off the reservation to get the meat.

[DIY of the Week:Build an Outdoor Movie Theater]

Writer Dave Banks from wired figured out how to make an outdoor movie screen for $130 bucks. He also goes into some details about the other equipment you need. As some of you know, I plan on doing this and I am just doing my research. Take a look:

Build your own theater

[Reviews]

Speaking of movies, I watched a few over the last two weeks and wanted to share my opinions:

Movie - Terminator Salvation:

I went to see this movie last Thursday with my buddy Frank and didn't have high expectations. I have been reading the reviews and they were brutal but I felt that the reviews common points were that that the movie wasn't fun and I don't think I minded that going in. The movie is about a computer apocalypse - I wasn't expecting to see the fucking Care Bears making cameos. With expectations set, I went to the movie to make up my own mind...

Having seen the film, I think the reviewers opinions were off base. The movie had a popcorn summer flick tone mixed with darker elements, so in that regard I think the professional reviews were bullshit, but I don't think it was a great movie either. My main problem with the film is that in the overall Terminator plot line, nothing happens. The movie starts off with the resistance fighting the machines, and in the end they are doing the same thing. They are no better off and no worse (except more human beings died which the movie didn't reflect on very well).

If you have seen the commercials, you know there is a character named Marcus who may be a robot but is sympathetic to humans. This character could have been a great anti-hero in the franchise but was wasted for reasons I do not know. I have read reports that the movie was supposed to be completely focused on Marcus but when Bale chose to play John Conner, the script was re-written with a larger role and story for John Conner. The rumor is believable because John Conner doesn't have anything to do in this movie, and the end is bullshit (which I also read was re-written and re-filmed due to poor audience reactions).

This could have been a great launching point for Terminator movies set in the future dreamed up by James Cameron 25 years ago, but instead it came off as bad episode of the Terminator TV show (which was just canceled). Nothing progresses and everything is status-quo by the end of the film. Lame.



Movie - Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

At the time of writing this I have watched 75% of this movie and I am unsure if I will continue. Having seen the first two, I know how it turns out, but it seemed like an interesting prequel premise. It wasn't. I am unsure if this was direct to DVD or if it was actually released in the theaters but watching on Blu-Ray, the movie looks cheap. The special effects are terrible (Sci-fi network original programming looks much better), the script is terrible, and the acting is...not horrible.

Going back to the technical, on Blu-Ray this movie looks like pure shit. Obviously just copied to the format and nothing was done to improve the picture. It looks grainy for most of the movie, and the sound goes from hardly audible during conversations to ear bleeding during action sequences.

Save your time and your $4 bucks; don't rent this steaming pile of were-wolf shit.



Movie - Doubt

How clever - a movie about a priest who may have molested a boy in the 1960's when everyone turned a blind eye to that sort of thing except... wait for it... the mean nun that is all about the justice. The movie feels hollow and like it going through the motions. The actors do their jobs well, I won't say their performances were mind blowing like everyone else did... they were solid (Streep's New York (I guess?) accent was terrible). The conclusion of the movie leaves the audience feeling "DOUBT" about what actually happened. Aren't those movie makers fucking clever?



Book - "Thunderstruck" by Erik Larson

While I was in Nashville, I wanted to check out a few local bookstores. I tend to judge places on the quality of their bookstores. I was pleased with what Nashville offered. While browsing at Good Man, Good Woman Books I happened upon "Thunderstruck" by Erik Larson. Larson wrote "Devil in the White City" which is one of my all time favorite novels. I quickly purchased it and looked forward to starting it later that night.

"Thunderstuck" is the story of a murder investigation during the time of emerging wireless communication technology (most notably Marconi's wireless transmitter system). Like "Devil in the White City" Larson used actual people and their own notes to progress the story. The story begins with a ship's captain remarking on how wireless technology has truly made the world a smaller place; Larson then goes back and begins to weave a tale about a meek doctor with an overbearing wife and the history about an obsessive-compulsive amateur inventor who changed the world. The two will never meet, but their actions will have a profound effect on each other.

While I enjoyed this book, I did think it wasn't as well executed as "Devil". Marconi's two narratives in the book didn't really intertwine until the very end. I suppose you would classify the doctor as the antagonist in the story, but you feel badly for him and his situation, unlike the antagonist H.H. Holmes in the "Devil" book who was a small scale Hitler. The book is a superb historical account, but as a novel it is lacking. I would still recommend reading the story, it will give you a perspective of what it was like before communications overthrew peace and quiet permanently.



[Random Item of the Week]

Get your 80's brat pack fix to less cheesy music...



[Conclusion]

That's all I have for this week, got to feed my little obsession happening with some instrument purchases at the moment, so I am going to run to the music store to test out more stuff. Hope everyone had a great weekend and as always, don't take shit from anybody. If you aren't reading this blog from it's original destination you are not really reading it.

Smell You Later,
~ Joey

Monday, June 01, 2009

Great Ryan Adams Performance

Ryan Adams did a acoustic show on June 7th 2007 in Ireland. A gentleman named Jameson compiled the songs on a blog & youtube...

Check it out: Ryan Adams @ St. James Church, Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland

Stars Go Blue



Two



Let it Ride



WildFlowers



Cher's Ass



Looks like someone has MP3s of the performance:
The Steam Engine: Ryan Adams & Neal Casal @ St. James Church

Concert Etiquette

As a follow-up to my review of the Avett Brothers concert, I started to compile a list of reasonable expectations while attending a concert. Here is a list of commonly accepted rules of etiquette for a rock concert:
1. Put Down Your Cell Phones: Taking pictures or making a friend listen to a favorite song sounds like a cool idea, but you look like an asshole and nobody wants to see your phone wallpaper.
2. Don't Invade People's Space: If someone does, don't let them ruin the show for you... unless it is a whole group of invading assholes and then ask nicely for them to tone it down.
3. People paid to hear the band, not you: Its okay to sing with the band when they are asking, but remember most people don't want to hear your version of what is being played on stage.
4. Don't make out: Nobody wants to see you express your love. Please stop it. Immediately.
5. Shut. The. Fuck. Up.: Stop talking. Nobody cares what you have to say.

Common items from the references that I don't agree or care about:

6. T-Shirts: Most of the writers seem to be hung up on wearing the band's t-shirt. I don't do it, but I don't think it is a big deal either.
7. Tall People: Once again, I don't have an issue with a tall person at shows as long as they don't move around too much. People will move around them.

Some of this comes down to personal research on venues and the band's audience. The wife and I decided to stop going to summer outdoor concerts because the teenager factor was just too high. We starting going to smaller shows but the economy being what it is, 21 and older shows are becoming a thing of the past (a band isn't going to miss out on potential ticket sales). Most older people have the same idea and try to find refuge in the restricted bar areas, but alas, they are too small to fit everyone.

If you read this, just remember that people over-paid to see a show, and they don't want to be distracted by ANYTHING. Our job as concert-goers is to blend into the background and not stand out. It's all about the music. Try to have a good time and don't bother anyone, and if you are being annoyed, don't choke-slam anyone either.

References:
Concert Etiquette from Rock Music 101
Rolling Stone
Spinner.com's Guide
One Man's Experience
Choke Slamming Teens