Angela is Awesome at Drawing Blood

As part of her medical assistant certification, Angela has to learn to draw blood from patients in case she has to do it as part of her job. She just did it for the first time yesterday and, before she left class, she managed to snag a few materials so she could practice on me at home.

She did such a great job! I honestly didn’t even know the needle went in even though I was watching her the entire time. To commemorate the occasion, I took some video. Don’t mind the shaking of the camera, I was kind of contorted into a weird position so I could get a good angle for the video and my arm got tired. Check it out:

My Birthday

My birthday this year was pretty amazing. Nick started it off wonderfully by letting me sleep in, followed by a dual-effort of French toast (since Nick is not exactly culinary-inclined). Then it was off for a nice pedicure before hitting what ended up being a ghetto mall. Nick bought me two perfumes I’ve been eyeing for a while – Ralph Lauren Romance and Burberry Brit (Nick’s favorite) and I of course received my free Sephora birthday gift, which was quite stingy in size compared to the gift last year. What’s up with that, Sephora?

Nick had made reservations at Society Cafe at Encore for dinner and it was delicious! I had a birthday cocktail that had a hibiscus pod in it. It was pretty and delicious! We started with an appetizer of fried rock shrimp and calamari served with zucchini chips and an aioli. For entree, I chose seared scallops with an English pea puree and pea shoots. They were cooked perfectly! Nick, of course, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to eat some type of cow product and chose the 8oz filet that came with a ‘potato and bacon cake’ which was essentially a molded hash. Nick says it was “delicious” and I would have to agree. I’m pretty sure the filet was seared in bacon drippings, so how could you go wrong with that? We also shared two of the most delicious sides I’ve ever eaten –  roasted mushrooms & cipolinni onions and truffle mashed potatoes. Nick eschewed his hash cake  in favor of the truffled potatoes ;)

Then it was off to the Wynn Theater to see Le Reve.

LE RÊVE – THE DREAM, presented exclusively at Wynn Las Vegas, offers breathtaking performances in an intimate aqua theater-in-the-round. The show features aerial acrobatics, provocative choreography and artistic artistry.

The cast of 93 captures the imagination with daring feats of strength and agility. Live music and special effects immerse the audience into a world of fantasy, adventure and intrigue.

The “stage” is actually a MILLION gallon water tank and no seat is more than 40′ from the stage. Also, we has seats by one of the canals that the performers use to come in and out of the performance area so we were extra close to them at times. In fact one of the ‘dream demons’ came and sat by us giving us creepy stares for part of the show! The show doesn’t have much of a story. The central character is female; she has a bunch of dreams; some involve what I suppose is her lover/boyfriend(?). Anyways, the show isn’t so much about a central story as it is a bunch of mini stories that are supposed to transport you to other worlds. Oh, and it is jam packed with amazing acrobatics as well as ballroom dancing (in water, of course). We loved it. One of my favorite acrobatic shows on the strip (along with the Cirque du Soleil shows Zumanity and O, which also takes place in a giant pool of water).

Goal Progress – Q1 2012

I’m quite goal conscious and have become more so in the last couple of years. I think that writing down and thinking about measurable, concrete goals is the way to a happy life. Writing them down and having measurable targets makes sure that you know what is required to get to where you want to be and you’ll know when you reach that point.

I have some pretty ambitious goals for 2012 and, as we’re 1/4 of the way through the year already, I thought it’d be a great time to think about where I’m at in relation to where I want to be. I’m not going to go in-depth for every goal, but I do want to hit the highlights.

Fitness

I divided my fitness goals into two categories: speed/strength/power and endurance. I’m doing OK on both at this point, but have suffered some injuries in the last two months that have been a little bit of a setback. I’m confident that I’ll reach the following goals this year:

  • Squat 405 Pounds for 12 Reps
  • Deadlift 405 Pounds for 12 Reps
  • Bench 275 Pounds for 12 Reps

You’ll notice those goals are all endurance related. I took some time off from going heavy with weights to practice going for higher reps and it has been going pretty well. That’s why I think I’ll hit the above goals for sure.

The following goals are a little iffy, and I’ll explain why after the list

  • Squat 545 Pounds for 1 Rep
  • Deadlift 575 Pounds for 1 Rep
  • Bench 405 Pounds for 1 Rep
  • Run 1 Mile in 5:30
  • Run 3 Miles Contiguously in Less Than 20:00

First, I haven’t been running as much as I should be. Quite frankly, I think that running is boring (outside or inside) and just do not like it at all for some reason. I’d much rather do plyometrics or iron cardio style workouts and that is holding me back.

Second, I’m starting to get afraid of going very heavy with my weights. After suffering a strained or torn shoulder tendon and some knee issues so far this year, I really need to give my body a break from the heavy weight to heal up a bit. I plan on doing that over the next few months and then trying to train heavy again. At that point, it may be too late to actually hit my strength goals in 2012, but that’s OK.

Career

My career goals are proceeding along just as planned and I’m on track to hit all of them. For review:

  • Gross $180,000 in Revenue – I’m on track to make over $200,000 this year based on average daily income extrapolated out
  • Keep Contractor Expenses Under $12,000 – This does not look like it’ll be a problem based on the fact that I’ve only paid out $2,500 this year and we’re already 1/4 of the way through it
  • Increase Effective Hourly Rate to $250 / hr – This seems to be the least likely to happen as I’ve had some projects that ran over by a lot but it is still hovering up around $180 / hr
  • Reduce Business Maintenance Expense to Less Than $100 / month – I believe I’ll hit this as I’m hovering around $100 / month and have a few places I think I’ll cut in the next few months
  • Go to a Professional Conference – I’m heading to Future Insights Live here in Las Vegas in about 4 weeks, so that will cover this one
  • Release Another Product for Sale – I completed this one earlier this year by releasing Viral Downloader with Chris Guthrie. It wasn’t a raving success, but it was a good experience and just about paid me back for the time I spent on it.

I’m pretty excited about the progress I’ve made here and a lot of that is due to better organization and heartier work patterns. I don’t see anything going wrong here, hopefully.

Personal

I’m not doing so great on my personal goals. That doesn’t mean that my personal life is bad or anything, I’ve just been shifting my energy in different directions and may need to rethink some of these things based on the fact the weather here is ridiculously nice and most of my personal goals involved staying inside (something I’m not sure I want to do that much as long as I’m living in Las Vegas).

The goals I’m closest to are write 200 articles on a personal website and get picture in Muscle & Fitness. This website is something I enjoy writing on and I’m trying to stay consistent (that’s why I’m writing this post!) and Muscle & Fitness recently introduced a section where you can send in your picture and they’ll feature you. Based on the last two months, I think I should be able to score a picture in that section in the coming months.

Review

Overall, I’m happy with the way I’m going this year. Angela and I are really happy and enjoying our lives here in our (still new) city. I may not hit every goal that I set at the beginning of the year, but they’re helping me experience life and become a better person.

My Dual OS Development Setup

In a previous post, I talked a lot about the hardware that runs my development PC. Getting that all set up and going was only half the battle, though. In this post, I’ll be talking about how I configured up my dual OS development environment to take advantage of the strengths of my hardware. There’s a lot to cover, so this is going to be an epic and totally geeky post. If that’s your thing, great!

OS Choice and Setup

As discussed in the hardware synopsis, I purchased four hard drives. Three of the hard drives were intended as OS and application drives and the fourth for backups and shared storage. The first thing I had to do upon assembly was install my operating systems. The following are what I went with:

  • Windows 7 Ultimate
  • Windows 8 Consumer Preview
  • Ubuntu Linux 11.10

I installed Windows 7 first because that is the OS that I’m most familiar with. I won’t bore you with the details of the setup and update process, but it went smoothly and all my hardware was recognized immediately.

Next, I installed Ubuntu on the second SSD. This went fairly smoothly, but I did hit two snags:

  1. Ubuntu didn’t want to install until I modified the installation directive with nomodeset and acpi=off – I’m still not sure why I had to do that
  2. Getting all three of my monitors to work was a pain in the butt – I had to download and install NVidia’s proprietary drivers and then fiddle with the settings for three days until they would work the way I wanted them to

Eventually I got everything running the way I wanted in Ubuntu (although there is still some weirdness with dragging things across the desktop) and moved on to setting up Windows 8. Again, that was a breeze and everything was recognized immediately. I installed Windows 8 because I love the Metro desktop paradigm and want to develop apps for the platform.

Hard Drive Partitioning

After getting all the OSes I wanted to use setup appropriately, it was time to partition the bigger magnetic drive into the pieces I wanted. There were several things to consider:

  • I wanted to make sure both Windows and Ubuntu could read and write to all shared partitions
  • I wanted to make sure I used a sizable portion of the shared hard drive for backups
  • I wanted to make sure that I could share development and virtual host assets between OSes so I could work on projects from either platform

Making sure that both Windows and Ubuntu could operate on all the partitions meant they had to be formatted as NTFS or FAT. Because FAT limits file sizes to 2 GB, I went with NTFS. Windows uses NTFS natively and it is easy enough to mount NTFS partitions in Linux when you need to, so it is really the only route you can go.

The following image shows what the hard drive partitions look like in Windows Explorer:

Each is labeled so you can probably tell what they’re each used for, but I’ll explain a bit more anyways:

Backup
Holds Windows 7/8 and Ubuntu backups
Windows 7
Holds the Windows 7 installation and all installed programs
Windows 8
Holds the Windows 8 installation and all installed programs
Sites
Holds all the active website projects I’m working on (archived ones, too, as they don’t take up that much room)
MySQL
Holds all the database files pertaining to MySQL – in Ubuntu and Windows 7 I changed the data directory for the installed MySQL service to point at where this drive is mounted (drive letter or path)
Other
This holds miscellaneous other stuff that I want to share between Windows and Ubuntu

The only drive / partition that isn’t shown in that image is the one for Ubuntu. It is just a standard ext4 formatted drive with 17GB of swap space.

This partitioning strategy has held me in good stead so far. I wish I could share Apache virtual host configuration files between Windows and Ubuntu, but that just seemed like it was going to cause way more problems then it would solve.

Installed Applications

I tend to not install a bunch of things on my computer. I install the tools I’m going to use and that’s pretty much it. Here’s what I’ve got installed:

Windows

  • Microsoft Office – bookkeeping, long-form documentation, etc.
  • Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 – reading and writing Photoshop files, PDFs, etc.
  • WAMP Server – all in one web server install so I can do minor development on Windows (mostly frontend stuff so I can match Photoshop comps)
  • Sublime Text 2 – general text editing and development
  • Microsoft Visual Studio – so I can do awesome .NET programming
  • Google Chrome – general web browsing
  • Mozilla Firefox – testing HTML / CSS
  • Skype – communication with the world at large

Ubuntu

  • LAMP Stack – for my day job
  • Sublime Text 2 – general text editing and development
  • Google Chrome – general web browsing
  • Mozilla Firefox – testing HTML / CSS
  • Node JS and Node Package Manager – So I can build awesome things
  • Pidgin – IM chat with my friends and colleagues

So as you can see, I’ve got a very limited selection of things that I actively installed and use on a day to day basis. I’m pretty happy with the setup, though.

Finishing Up

That’s pretty much all there is to say about my setup. It has worked out exceedingly well for me at this point and I can’t really think of any drawbacks. Everything I need to be able to do is easy and accessible and I don’t spend any time fiddling with my setup anymore.

The Hunger Games – Movie Review

Angela and I are both big fans of the Hunger Games series of books by Suzanne Collins, so when we heard they were making a movie we were really excited. We went to see it last Friday and both enjoyed it, but would recommend the books above the movie any day of the week. This review will go over the parts we enjoyed and the things we didn’t. If you haven’t seen the movies or read the books you should stop right now because I’m going to give everything away.

Casting

Every character looked exactly as Angela and I envisioned them. The only two that we personally didn’t see the way the casting director apparently did were:

  • Haymitch – We envisioned him as a burly bearded dude (like Hagar the Horrible) and instead got a svelte Woody Harrelson
  • President Snow – I (Nick) thought he would look a lot more transparently evil, but Donald Sutherland played the part as a type of low-key evil (which Angela really enjoyed)

Everyone else was pretty much perfect.

Plot / Storytelling

The director followed the books almost to a tee. A major deviation at the end to humanize Cato was present but understandable. Other than that, the only issues we had with the story was the fact that so much was left out. Some major things were:

  • Lack of exposition on relationship between Katniss and Gale
  • Not nearly enough attention was paid to the fact that Peeta actually loves Katniss and Katniss is just using that as a tool
  • In the book, Katniss gorges herself on food before the games because she’s never been so sated before – that is not even peeked at in the movie

Not major deal breakers, but we thought they were things that were missing.

Cinematography

This was the worst part of the movie. During the first few minutes you get the effect of the cameraman walking unsteadily around District 12. That was pretty bad – I felt a bit queasy for that part. After that, you get random out of focus shots at various parts throughout the film – I wasn’t a big fan of the effect and it gave Angela a headache.

It wasn’t enough to kill the movie for us, but neither one of us thought that the film was very well presented in terms of camera and editorial work.

Conclusions

The movie was pretty fantastic. They didn’t mess with the plot too much and the casting was great. They did leave out some parts of the exposition that Angela and I feel would have helped the film along, but they weren’t that important and we can’t fault the director for making the choices they did.