Home & Hobbies

Dec 02 0 Responses

10 Best Christmas Songs You’ll Actually Want To Listen To

Christmas songs don’t have to be bland and boring. This list of the 10 Best Christmas songs feature everything from original indie rock to fresh takes on classic tunes. In a sea of same, these are definitely worth a listen:

The Killers – Boots (iTunesAmazon)

A beautiful nostalgic reminder of the of the power of Christmas and forgiveness bringing families together.

Death Cab For Cutie – Christmas / Baby Please Come Home (iTunesAmazon)

Rolling Stone rated the original version of Christmas as the number one rock-and-roll Christmas song of all time. Death Cab’s alternative take on this classic is better.

My Morning Jacket – Silent Night (Google)

On a cold Austrian night in 1818, a broken organ at St Nicholas’ Parish led a writer and a composer to collaborate on a guitar accompanied Christmas carol. My Morning Jacket stays true to the song’s roots with this stripped down version.

Summer Camp – Christmas Wrapping (Amazon)

This time of year, we can all relate to just wanting a break. UK indie pop duo, Summer Camp, does justice in their faithful cover of the Waitresses’ cynical holiday song.

Kristy Starling & Jim Brickman – Sending You A Little Christmas (iTunesAmazon)

Sure this is a homer pick with Kristy being my sister-in-law, but it’s not my fault she married my brother.

Ohbijou – Last Christmas (Google)

Canadian indie band, Ohbijou lends some much needed cool in this de-synthesized cover of Wham’s Christmas hit.

Pearl Jam – Someday At Christmas (Google)

We can all hope like The Jackson 5, Justin Bieber  and the dozens of other artists who’ve covered Stevie Wonder’s plea that we can all someday live in a world full of peace. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder  adds an additional dimension with his take on this socially conscious carol.

Frightened Rabbit – It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop (iTunesAmazon)

In addition to kilts and bagpipes, Scotland also has some amazing indie rock and folk bands. Frightened Rabbit is no exception with this heartfelt and raw Christmas song.

Coldplay – Christmas Lights (iTunesAmazon)

Christmas lights is classic Coldplay. If you’re like me, and you think that’s a good thing, this is a must add to your Christmas playlist.

The Raveonettes – Come On Santa (iTunesAmazon)

I’m a sucker for this Danish garage bands harmony.  This is just a good Christmas song.

Bonus Song

Richard Cheese – Ice Ice Baby (Google)

While it’s not  technically a Christmas song, it does talk about ice which is kind of like snow. If you grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, there’s no way you can listen to this and not at least smirk. In the end, Christmas is all about nostalgia.


Happy holidays to you and yours.

Jul 16 1 Response

NeverWet Review – Hands On Test

When you see something that blows your mind, you’re pretty much obligated to write a review. With that in mind, here’s my obligatory NeverWet Review.

In one word, awesome.

In a 45-second video, look down.

In a whole lot of words, look down farther.

I’m sure Rustoleum’s NeverWet will be incredibly fun to play with on all kinds of things that don’t matter, but I started off using it to solve a real problem. We have a gutter downspout that floods our flower bed every time it rains. Of course, this flooding kills anything we try to plant here.

Initially, I installed a fibre landscaping edge to divert the water around the corner which worked to an extent, but there was still too much water weaseling its way around the edging and into the flower bed. I was to the point of figuring out a way to live with it when I saw NeverWet was available. So I hatched the plan you can see in the video above.

  • Tape off the concrete.
  • Apply 2 layers of both base and top coat.
  • Remove tape and see what happens.

The NeverWet worked better than I expected. It does a great job of not only diverting the water around the flowerbed (see video) but also of causing any water that hits it directly to bead up (see image at the top of this post).

I don’t review many things, but NeverWet is well worth the $20 for the entire kit.

Why it’s awesome:

  • You get to play with a super hydrophobic spray.
  • It protects virtually anything from liquids.
  • It’s very easy to use.
  • Limitless applications.
  • Have you not watched the NeverWet review video?

Why it’s not 100% awesome:

  • It leaves a slight milky haze.
  • It takes a bit of time to apply (mostly drying time).
  • You can’t buy it in large quantities, yet.

But mostly, why it’s awesome:

This type of technology will change everything. It’s still early on in commercial applications, but it’s very exciting to see where they could end up. If they can fix the haze problem, imagine windows coming from the factory with the stuff. There are already some phones that come waterproofed with NeverWet, why not all electronics? It’s fun just to sit around with some friends and think about what you could possibly use it for.

It’s awesome stuff, and you should definitely pick up a kit for yourself.

Jun 10 2 Responses

The Nest Thermostat Review: 1 Year In

Is it the Nest the single greatest invention in human history? Probably not. Is $250 a lot of money for a thermostat? Of course.

That being said, after a year of using the Nest, I’ve become an evangelist.

I’m going to break down my real costs, and while there are all kinds of variables to consider when making comparisons between what I have seen and what you might see, this should at least give you a decent idea of what your savings could look like.

For us, the plan was simple. Our energy bill from June 2011 – May 2012 was $2,010.That’s a whole lot of money, and we were looking for ways to cut cost. Thermostats control about 50% of any energy bill so that seemed like a good place to start. Less than an hour after picking up a Nest, our old thermostat was off the wall and the Nest was up and running. Installation is crazy easy.

So here we are, a year in, with at least anecdotally good results. Our energy bill for the first 12 months of Nest usage was $1,352. That represents an energy cost savings of $658 (32%).

I really think the Nest does 3 things better than even very good programmable thermostats.

  • It’s very easy to program. If you can use a smart phone, you can program a Nest – without a manual.
  • Auto-Away – I don’t know how it’s so good at knowing when you’re gone, but it’s impressive.
  • Airwave – Coolest thing, it cuts off your A/C but keeps the fan running across the condensor to get every ounce of cold into your house.

All in all, the Nest saved us a lot of money, and I’d highly recommend it.

By the way, here’s a pretty chart showing our energy saving month to month:

I have the Gen 1 version so I have no idea if Gen 2 would have the same results. It should, but I don’t know.

Mar 27 2 Responses

Graduation Letter To Students

Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s graduation season, and I had the great opportunity to be asked to write an advice letter to a soon to be graduate. Here is the letter in full, added here in hopes that some snippet might make a difference to someone or this might help you write a graduation letter to students:

It’s been nearly 15 years since I was in your shoes, or in your eyes, nearly a lifetime. No matter how many times someone told me, “time flies”, “life is short”, or some other sage fortune cookie wisdom, it went in one ear and out the other. I’m not so naïve to think you’re different than I was. So I’ll go a different route. If you only remember one thing from this letter, remember this: don’t live your life for anyone else. Don’t waste your limited time on earth following someone else’s dreams.

People like to talk about savings and retirement, especially to young people in your spot. That’s all well and good, but you’ll regret sacrificing your youth much more than not having your 401K where it needs to be.

Choose great work you love, and you won’t be tempted to surrender the best years of your life just to get away from it. Live in the moment, and don’t worry about finding yourself. Create yourself.

Everyone gets breaks, and you’re no different. You don’t know when they’ll come; all you can do is be prepared for them when they show up. And when your opportunities do show up, squeeze them until they scream, and even then, don’t let go until you’ve wrung everything you can out of them.

Most of your life’s book is yet to be written, and only two things limit your future: your imagination and your willingness to make bold moves. Trust in your gut and in God. Don’t take anything too seriously. Be flexible with your path, and always be learning.

Now is the time to take risks and make memories. Love who you are, and enjoy the ride,

Greg Starling

Jul 22 0 Responses

Move Files From a Mac to a PC External Hard Drive – The Quick Way

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need. – The Rolling Stones

I’m not a huge fan of making technical posts; there are a lot of people a lot smarter than me when it comes to most of these topics. Every now and then though there is so much wrong information out there that I don’t mind dipping my toe in Nerd Lake.

Despite what you may have  heard or read, it is possible to move files from a Mac to an NTFS-formatted (PC) external hard drive. That being said, in Steve Jobs’ infinite wisdom, NTFS drives are not natively supported by Apple computers.

You’re going to have to follow these steps to make the your computer work like it should:

  1. Disconnect the external hard drive from the Mac
  2. Download and Install MacFuse (website)
  3. Download and Install NTFS-3G for Mac (website)
  4. Restart your computer
  5. Plug in your external hard drive.
  6. Start moving files

That’s about as straight forward as it gets. Usually with Macs, they just work like you think they should. This is one of those rare cases where they just don’t. Hope this post saves you the headache I had.

Jan 14 0 Responses

An Explanation and A Mea Culpa

So here I go, another member of the unwashed masses throwing his hat in the blogger arena. I know there are tens of thousands of blogs and bloggers already out there on the web, but I’ve yet to find a blog that is really geared to people like me. I don’t work for a Silicon Valley giant or an independent software vendor, and I’m not a consultant. I’m like most of you. I work for a mid-sized privately held company that on its best days will win a fight or two against the big boys.

We have an average sized development team of about 15 programmers, and I wouldn’t trade for any of them. They are all ridiculously smart, embrace constant change, and are always learning something new. In order to compete with the giants on Wall Street, we’ve had to get nimble by going agile. We’ve had to throw a lot of the traditional development methods out and cut our own path through the jungle. This blog will be an insight into the journey we’re taking. We’ve taken a lot of what we saw working in other shops and combined some of the best methods to form an agile environment that works for us. So we won’t call it XP, lean, or scrum. We’ve taken what we feel are the best of those worlds and apply them daily.

For the mea culpa: right now, I know what I know, and everything I write is the most intelligent way I know of doing something. If I knew of a better way to do something, I would be doing it that way. Seems kind of like a no brainer, but I thought it had to be said. Hopefully, two or three years from now, I’ll look back on some of these posts and think, ‘wow, I had no idea what I was doing.’ That’s the process of learning and growing that I love so much. I hope you enjoy the ride as well.