Micro Mini Ramp

Time for a confession. I stink at doing any skateboard tricks on coping. I grew up in a non-coping environment. Never really got into skating mini ramps, and never really got good at vert. I’m not a total spaz. I can drop in, doing the basics grinds, slides, etc, but the whole coping thing has never been my scene.

So, inspired by some videos on the interwebs, my friend Chris and I are going to build this comically low quarter pipe. Really, not a quarter. More like 1/16 of a quarter. Anyway, it will have coping. The idea is to just build little easy to move ramp to do some grinds on.

We’ll put some coping on the back too, so it can be an ollie-to-grind kind of thing on that side. Only 8 inches high. should be fun.

Kindle – thoughts

As technology marches on, my profession of librarianship has to change and adapt. On a personal level, that means if I don’t change and adapt, my skill set becomes outdated, and soon I’m a dinosaur.


I’ve managed to stay ahead of the curve with regard to web technology and multimedia production, and that fact has served me well. However, until now, I have not taken the eBook plunge. 
It’s not that I have hated eBooks or anything, but I simply didn’t see that much use for them in my life. However, a lot of our patrons love them, so I have given in!

For the last few weeks I’ve been researching the various eReaders on the market. Initially I was drawn to the iPad, since it is a multi-functional device and a nice toy. However, for the reasons below, I opted for a different device.


After much consideration, research, and lost sleep, today I decided against the iPad and instead purchased a
Kindle Touch 3G . I decided that my need for an iPad is really minimal — I sit at a computer all day, and have a laptop at home, and hardly travel. I will use my MacBook until it is unable to do what I need, then I will simply buy an undated MacBook.

 
So to be clear, I was looking for a device first and foremost that is good for reading books. Not magazines. Not blogs. Not webpages. Books. Text. I was not looking for something to watch movies on, or otherwise “consume media”.

The Barnes & Noble Nook is also a very nice device. I decided on the Kindle for two reasons. 1)I think Amazon.com is more likely to be around in five years than B&N, and 2)Just looking for some eBook offerings that might be a bit more “odd” – some Henry Rollins stuff and whatnot – I discovered that Amazon.com just seem to have a much better and larger collection from which to choose. 


I had never really looked at the Kindle seriously before. It is really cool! Here are a few notes:


The E-ink: For someone like me who looks at an LCD monitor all day – Kindle’s E-ink display is just a lot easier on the eyes. A very pleasant reading experience. I was frankly shocked at how easy this thing is to read. I seriously think it is easier just from an optical standpoint to read than paper.   

Free 3G: Amazon.com is very clever. They have set these devices up with free 3G as well as Wifi capability. So you can log into the Kindle store from anywhere there is cell phone coverage and buy books. Very convenient for customers, and I’m sure a great investment payoff for Amazon.

Quality: The Kindle feels like a well-made device. I had expected it to feel kind of cheap and shitty, based on its much lower price than the iPad or other tablets. Nope. It feels really good.  

Size: Initially I had thought the larger display of the iPad would be superior for reading. Actually the 6″ tall screen of the Kindle is ideal. With the clarity of the E-Ink display, it is a perfect size. About the size of a paperback book. It is relatively light – a lot lighter than an iPad. 

Setup Ease: There is really very little setup required for this device. You don’t have to install any software on your computer. It will help if you already have an account on Amazon.com, but it will guide you through that process if you don’t. Here is how it worked for me. Took it out of the box. Plugged it into the USB port on my computer to power it up. Once it had a little power, I turned it on. It guided me through some basic setup stuff. It asked me for my Amazon.com account email and password. Mind you — this is all happening via 3G — seamlessly. There’s a button in the main menu that says Kindle Store. I pushed it, searched for the book Blood Meridian, and purchased it. Within 20 seconds — maybe less — the book was on my Kindle. The Kindle Touch without 3G is a little less expensive, but in my opinion the 3G is worth it.  

Turning pages, etc.: To turn a page, you just have to tap the screen. If you tap the left side of the screen — maybe the left 15% of the page, it will go back one page. Super easy. You don’t have to “flip” it with your finger.  

Dictionary and Notes: My first book on this thing is Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, which uses a lot of archaic language. I’ve run into quite a few words I didn’t know. By simply touching and holding your finger on word for a second or two, you engage the device’s built-in dictionary, which brings up a little window displaying the definition. Really quick and helpful. The window that pops up also allows you to enter notes, like writing notes in the margin of a normal book.  

Cover: I always hate buying covers for mobile devices. THAT is what kills me. I hate spending $30 or whatever on 3 cents worth of molded plastic to cover my iPod. However, knowing how rough I can be on gadgets, I forked over for this leather Cover for the Kindle. I was just looking for something that didn’t look like Tinkerbell designed it and that would actually fit the device (not some generic thing that wouldn’t work that well). When I got back to my office and put the Kindle in this cover, I was delighted to discover there is a built-in light at the top, that swings out and provides just the right amount of illumination to read the thing in low light or the dark! Cool! I hadn’t even noticed this feature when I bought it.  

Other stuff: There are a lot of other cool features related to social media, the ability to see comments and annotations in books from other people you follow on Amazon’s Kindle site, etc.  I really haven’t scratched the surface of this stuff.

So as you can probably tell, I’m really very happy with this purchase. After buying the device, the cover, and the $40 extra warranty to replace the device if I run over it with my car or something I spent less than $300. You could of course do this much cheaper, but I really recommend getting a Kindle that takes advantage of the free 3G. It is worth the extra money. I think if I’d spent $600 or $700 on an iPad I would be feeling some buyer’s remorse right now. Instead, I think the Kindle Touch 3G has delivered more value than I was expecting.

On Rights…

George Carlin, on “rights”:

Personally, when it comes to rights, I think one of two things is true: I think either we have unlimited rights, or we have no rights at all. Personally, I lean toward unlimited rights – I feel, for instance, I have the right to do anything I please. But, if I do something you don’t like, I think you have the right to kill me.

New Freestyle Board

I think I may have mentioned that my friends seem to think I skate flatground better on a standard newschool street board. So I’ve been riding one for a couple of weeks. In fact, the video I just posted is done on this board. it’s a standard 7.75″ wide newschool board, from Index Skate Supply (in Dallas), with Ace 22 trucks and 50mm Bones STF wheels.

After a short time adjusting to it, I really feel like my skating is better on this size board. It’s light. It is big enough to provide a good landing platform. The narrow contact patch of the wheels, which offer less traction, seems to offset the longer wheelbase when doing shove-its. The longer  wheelbase also give me just a little more room to move my feet around for footwork. Overall, the thing is light, very responsive, and simple. I even think my fingerflips are better on this board — much better landings, now that I’m used to it.

IMG_6595

Training the Magic Weasel

A new skate video…

Warning – I shot this video mostly to analyze my own skating – so yes — it is mostly the same footwork sequence over and over, from different angles. But some of it was kind of cool, so I decided to put it up here on youtube.

My friend Tony Gale says that freestyle skater Stefan Albert moves like “a magic weasel”. I decided to learn some footwork inspired by Stefan. The Magic Weasel is 2 end-overs into a 1-footed tail 360 into 2 end-overs, but the trick is making a smooth transition from endovers to 1 footed 360s and back to endovers, so it all appears to be one continuous movement.

This was my first day working on this sequence. Thought it went pretty well.

One really nice thing about freestyle is that if you get to your spot and you are tired, you can warm up by working on low-impact stuff like this, and then move to harder moves as your body wakes up.

 

An excellent Saturday evening…

So, Saturday evening was quite excellent. My friend Dale is in from California, so I took him over to see my mom, who was delighted to see him for the first time in about 22 years. Then we went over to my freestyle spot at Richardson Public Library and skated. Dale could seriously be right on top of things with regard to freestyle with a tiny amount of practice. You can see his familiaritywith how to do FS — he has never lost it.

As it got dark, some BMXers showed up and of course that sucks. They weren’t being dicks — it was just too crowded. We went around front of the library and continued to session, sat on the park bench and brainstormed tricks, and enjoyed the mild Texas night. Nothing quite as refreshing as skating in the heat, then the sun sets and it cools down into the low 80s, and it feels like a nice cool breeze. Then we went back to mi casa, where I gave Dale a new FS board and some wheels, plus instructions on trucks and stuff to buy. Muy excelente!

Seen from the Road in Texas: #2

Another picturesque scene from highway 1314, between Porter and Conroe, Texas.

Here we have the signs for Thunder gun range. You can’t tell from the image, but the gun often has actual smoke coming from its barrel. F’ing awesome. Actually there are a lot of signs related to guns on this little stretch of highway. One would think that the Red Army is about to invade Porter.

More pics soon, as I have another road trip planned! This next skate-related trip will take me through the cultural wonderland of the Waco metro area. What wonders will I find?

Click for full size awesomeness.

Seen from the Road in Texas: #1

Unlike communist Europe, here in Texas you can see lots of interesting stuff on the side of the road. Here is a sweet and picturesque  scene on 1314, between Porter and Conroe, Texas.


You will need to click an enlarge this pic to see the fine details of someone’s entrepreneurial dream…


Awesome tapestries to improve your home decor. From left to right: tie-die leopard?, Rebel Flag, pot leaf, US Marines, US Army (I think), Playboy (with awesome dood light a cig in front of it), Justin Bieber, Hello Kitty, Harley Davidson, some cartoon cat, Sponge Bob, various football teams.

Podcasting update

As of episode 4 of the Freestyle Podcast, I feel like I’m getting a better feel for volume levels. I got the levels really nice on Ep. 4, but I had to really spend a lot of time adjusting it in GarageBand. The trick is getting my voice, on my mic and mixing board, and the other guys on Skype, all talking at about the same volume.

But while adjusting the volume took a lot of time, it was worth the effort. Much better sounding podcast.

I also began using a new piece of software on the final edit of the audio file — Levelator. It requires converting the file to WAV format (which I did in Wondershare Converter Pro), then running it through Levelator, which does a nice job of cleaning up the sound, eliminating the spots where it gets way to loud. Actually, it makes the audio sound better all the way around. Read the description. Now, if the levels are REALLY horrible it won’t totally fix it, but it does help for a well-edited audio file.

I also got a USB microphone for recording voiceovers and other solo podcasting stuff. I have been doing the end of the podcast using the built-in mic on my MacBook (I always forget to do it while I have all my stuff set up) which sounds like shit. So I purchased this Audio Technica At2020usb Cardioid Studio Condenser Microphone System with USB.

I did some research and this thing got good reviews. I wanted a mic that is compact enough to take on road trips, but something that will sound good. I’m very happy with this little baby. Just plug into your USB port, turn on GarageBand or other software, and you’re ready to go. It draws power from the USB bus, so no batteries or external power supply needed! It comes with  long USB cable, a nice zippered carrying bad, and this killer little tripod mount, so you don’t have to buy any additional stuff to use it. Lastly, it is very solidly built. Metal body, metal tripod. Really nice little mic. Anyway, I highly recommend this microphone for podcasting, voiceovers, etc., in situations where you don’t need a mixer or multiple microphones.