Google Sketchup v. Punch BathroomMar 05 2010 | 15:23:35 | No Comments

Winner, Google Sketchup.  Punch Bathroom Design really sucks.

Spent $10 on Punch, Sketchup is free.  Sketchup rocks.  With no training and very little ramp-up on the interface, I had a working model of our master bath remodel and was able to mock up the custom shower stall that we want to build, found 3D models of toilets, sinks, vanities, clawfoot tubs, fixtures, you name it.

Caveats: Sketchup has no 2D view (although you can swing around to a bird’s-eye view and look through the ceiling without too much trouble once you get the hang of it).  Sketchup does require some patience when your toilet is 300 feet away from where you want it and you can’t quite get Sketchup to intuit what you are doing.  That said, nine times out of ten it is unbelievably good at intuiting what you want to do.  A lesser program would misinterpret most mouse movements, but there is some intelligent engine at work in Sketchup that seems to be aware of what you are seeing and almost always does what you mean.

Punch was infuriatingly dumb.  You had to tie everything you put into the space to a wall, and if something overlapped temporarily while you were adding something else or resizing a wall, the items on that wall just get deleted.  You couldn’t just grab things and move them with the mouse, and the 3D walkthrough was impossible to navigate.  Simple things like looking right or up or backing out, making walls temporarily see-through, etc. are SO easy in Sketchup and simply not possible in Punch.

A few tips to get you started in Sketchup — you definitely want to use a three button mouse with a mouse wheel.  Rolling the wheel zooms in and out, and holding down the wheel button while you move the mouse rotates/swings your 3D model around (this is a very powerful and satisfying feeling) no matter what tool is currently active.  Press H to get the “hand” cursor (grab and slide the model in any direction), Press space to select things, hold down shift to select multiple things.  Press M to grab things and move them.  Selecting and moving a face of a box will adjust the rest of the box as necessary to remain intact.

Hide walls, ceilings, whatever, by right clicking it and selecting ‘hide’ on the popup menu.  Sketch away!

Careful kid, they’ll break ya heaht…May 15 2009 | 09:02:45 | No Comments

I have cancelled my cable TV. Man did it feel good to tell Comcast to go **** it. Net gain $840/yr. Well, minus whatever it will cost to buy episodes of Top Chef for my wife (ok I admit it, she’s got me hooked too).

tim_thomasRabid sports fan that I am, I did not take the plunge until I discovered and the wonders of p2p live streaming sports. So far this has turned out to be a mixed bag. When it’s good, it’s mid-to-low-res but you can follow the action. Veetle is pretty cool. When it’s bad it really stinks. The players and plays are fuzzy. The score is rarely legible. The keyframes drop out and for several seconds at a time blotchy pieces of the previous shot carry over for that “they’re playing in a vat of pea soup” effect. The best is when the feed stops for buffering just when Ray Allen has released the shot that will send the game into triple overtime.

But hey, the Bruins are in the playoffs (well, until they choked in OT last night), the Celtics are in the playoffs, and I have found that I will endure quite a lot of low quality picture to be connected to the hunt for a championship.

Some nights the only available feed is from Taiwan, with audio in Taiwanese Chinese (although I have to say, I don’t speak a word and the Taiwan commercials are still hilarious).

I find it ironic that in this age of higher and higher def, my own TV viewing quality experience is moving in the opposite direction. It’s consoling to think that a generation earlier I might be slapping the side of the TV fonzie-style before a big play to try to reduce the static from a bad over-the-air signal. Now I move around the room and adjust the angle of my laptop in the hopes that our wifi is the bottleneck.

However fuzzy the broadcast, last night proved to me that they can still break your heart, and that stings in hi-def. Bruins out of the hunt. Magic force game 7 on the Celts. Sox fall in the 12th. To cap it all off, the Yanks win. I guess we had it coming?

Baby Happy, Baby SadMay 05 2009 | 22:35:37 | No Comments

You can only stomach so much Green Eggs and Ham – unless you’re two, then it never gets old – but I’m well into my 30s so I’m always pretty stoked to find a good new children’s book to bring into the mix.

A new crop of talent is staking its ground in the children’s book landscape so long dominated by the likes of Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle.  It’s a good time to be a new dad.

Mo Willems is hit or miss, but when he’s on it’s pure gold. Dont Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, for instance, is a clear winner.  Other pigeon books in the series don’t always measure up.  My Friend is Sad is one of a new Willems series featuring the new Piggie and Elephant duo (occasionally joined by a wise squirrel). This looks to be heavily in the rotation for some months to come.

The award, however, goes to Leslie Patricelli.  Nothing tops Yummy Yucky or No No Yes Yes except maybe her tour de force Baby Happy Baby Sad.  These board books are just the right length for the short toddler attention span, and just the right size for little hands and budding imaginations.  It’s only natural for our kids to imagine themselves as the baby protagonist in these juicy canvases with ultra saturated colors and friendly, thick black lines.

Honorable mention to Byron Barton.  I don’t know if girls would be quite so excited about the Boats / Planes / Trucks trilogy, but our two boys have a whole new appreciation for transportation thanks to Mr. Barton.

Oh no they didn’tMay 05 2009 | 00:06:20 | No Comments

Oh yes they did.  There is a Where the Wild Things Are movie coming out this October.

My first thought was, “What!?  How do you stretch a 20-page children’s book into a full feature-length movie?”  My second thought was, “uh-oh, there’s no way they can do the book justice.”  But then I saw the trailer.  Holy cow.

Not only have they done it, it looks like an instant classic.  Spike Jonze is a genius.

This is one of Mo’s favorite books.  We only have the spanish translation, which I fumble through poorly but he still asks for it again and again.  Definitely one of the best children’s books, uh, ever.  Maurice Sendak.  He must have passed on other offers before Spike & crew came along.  This really looks like something special.

iPhone App EnvyMay 04 2009 | 16:46:59 | No Comments

Argh, it’s such a timesuck upgrading my jailbroken iPhone to the latest iPhone firmware/OS.  I have T-Mobile so I have to keep my iPhone jailbroken/unlocked.  It’s easier than you would think (initially) but I’m still reminded of how annoying it is (1) every time I try to install some cool-looking app just to find that it runs only on the very latest iPhone OS, and (2) every time I open iTunes and that damned dialog pops up (‘Hey, you haven’t updated to the latest iPhone version.  I know I’ve asked you like 527 times already but gosh, don’t you really want to upgrade?’)

Yes.  I’m looking for the button that says “Yes, damn it, I do want to, but I don’t have five hours right now to waste re-jailbreaking and re-unlocking my phone afterwards, and then re-syncing 15GB of music and apps, just so I can run Sportacular.”

Why is it so hard to write iPhone apps that are back-compatible with “ancient” 2.1 which everyone was running, what, two months ago?  Aren’t they all just glorified javascript apps anyway?  Blurg.

I miss my sidekick.  Kinda.

I want this jobMay 01 2009 | 08:33:40 | No Comments