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Stephen and Erica's Next Adventure
What I do for photo management
I 'have' vs. I 'am'
FDA Launches new Pet Health and Safty Widget
Converting to MACs - Part one, the phone.
Broad Axe Tavern
Frog on the porch
4th of July
Review: Zahav
Father's Day



The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.

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# Thursday, 16 September 2010
Thursday, 16 September 2010 07:41:35 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00) ( Family | Personal | Announcement )
A teaser for our next adventure.
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# Wednesday, 03 March 2010
Wednesday, 03 March 2010 14:28:36 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) ( Photos | Software )
The biggest struggle in photo management is that most software created for managing your photos works against you instead of with you with organization. (The same is true for music management.) Whether you work on a MAC or a PC, the issues are the same. What I am outlining in this topic is how I have come to manage the photos my wife and I take, as well as photos (digital or physical) which we receive from others.
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# Sunday, 14 February 2010
Sunday, 14 February 2010 11:18:36 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) ( Personal )
A few weeks ago a colleague and I were having a conversation and it turned to a discussion of ADHD. During the conversation, my colleague had no idea I was ADHD, but he noted how I referred to it. I stated "I am ADHD", not "I have ADHD". This is something I had not even occured to me or really thought about. It is a big distinction between the two statements, even though they only differ by one word.

 The 'have' denotes a condition, something which does not define me, but is rather like a cold or a cut or bruise. It is something which says it is temporary or at least something which can go away. For me, the "I am ADHD" has always been more appropriated. It denotes something which defines me as a person, as part of who I am and not some outside force acting on me like an illness.This simple observation in the words I used, turned the conversation from being about ADHD and instead about how I handle this aspect of my life.

What intrigued my colleague was not so much the outward appearance of ADHD behavior, but how did it affect me internally and what in essence was going on in my head. This is something I had never really had to describe to anyone (no one ever asked). I instead would get "Man, your a pain in the ass!". For me ADHD is something I am always working with and against. The majority of the time I am fine, I am able to function and act normally. However, when my ADHD is acting up, I really have to fight to focus and to keep a single train of thought.  

During the day, I can at least have something to help me get that single train of thought, even though I may have to repeatidly go over the same ground in my mind. Whether it is work, reading. Sometimes the more rote or monotonous the task, the easier it is for me to help reign in my brain. If I am at home, its video games.

At night it is a different story. If my ADHD is acting up, my mind simply cannot turn off. I am trying to go to sleep and my brain wants to continue going 100 MPH in all directions.  For me, on these nights any type of stimulus (TV to a simple noise outside)  just keeps my brain going. I can toss and turn for hours on end.

The things I learned about being organized and focusing help me during the day, but I still struggle to find a solution at night. Recently using mediation has helped me a bit to turn off or calm down my brain at night. Though I still have a long way to do.

I have never been formally diagnosed as ADHD, nor have I ever been on medication for it. Growing up, I was just a kid who was rather hyperactive as a child and tended to get distracted. This was most evident in school. My parents chose to deal with this by getting me help in learning how to study, how to focus and how organize myself to help me be better equipped to learn.  I don't think the thought of going to the doctor to get a drug ever entered their minds. This has lead to a profound affect on how my personality and outlook on things have been shaped growing up.

I look in comparison to another colleague who also has ADHD (not formally diagnosed either) and how he deals with it, not having the same background as I did in study and organization classes I did in growing up. I also look at friends and family I know growing up now and seeing some of them who were diagnosed as ADHD and the medication that they are on affects their behavior and personality.

I also have seen friends in college who like me were not diagnosed with it as a child, but they do have it. Since they didn't get anything more then just being considered a 'trouble-maker' or 'hyperactive child', they developed their own tools to cope - such as drugs and alcohol.

I have never thought of going to a doctor to get medication, to me it seems to be an admission of defeat, that somehow I was not strong enough to deal with this on my own. I am not knocking anyone who is on medication, though I think ADHD medications are over prescribed. I don't think families are taking enough time to look at the slightly harder road, but one which I think would help kids learn to handle the condition more then just popping a pill.

I have definitely seen individuals who need the medication, they have such a severe case of ADHD which they really need more then lessons on how to focus. They have it much worse then I do and even with medication life can be a struggle. But those with moderate or mild forms of ADHD should look at trying to manage the problem without drugs first.

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# Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Tuesday, 22 December 2009 15:30:35 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) ( Animals | pets | health )
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today launched its pet health and safety widget for consumers as part of an ongoing effort to provide timely, user-friendly, public health information.
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# Sunday, 02 August 2009
Sunday, 02 August 2009 19:56:35 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00) ( Review | Technology | Phone )
We recently switched to iPhones and I have used it long enough now to offer up a review in comparison to what I looked at for alternatives in getting a new cell phone and our experience with our previous cell phones. And now I have purchased a MAC for her and for my father as replacement computers. My workstation at home is "adequate" for now, so I have not gotten one for myself yet, though when I do replace it, it will be a MAC. In this first part I will cover the conversion to the iPhone.

Now here is the thing, it has nothing to do with the operating system. It is the hardware platform. Starting out at the phones, Erica had a Motorola Krazr with a proprietary carrier OS, and I had a Windows mobile Pantech duo. My wife began to have problems with her phone over time, and trying to keep her contacts and calendar synced with Motorola's proprietary software was just horrendous. My phone running Windows mobile just worked. It synced w/o issue using Active Sync. The only issue I had over time was that the phone would reboot itself. Which was tied to a design flaw in the hardware of the Pantech Duo. Basically the sliding of the keyboard would cause it to reboot. It really became annoying. The other downside was I had a proprietary connector, so if I was out somewhere and needed a charge, I was SOL since it didn't have a standard USB mini adapter. Motorola at least had a standard USB mini so chances were always good you could bum a charge off someone.

Over time we have had various iPod incarnations and I had a 1st gen iTouch. I had seen and played with the iPhone a bit from colleagues.

So when we were due for new phones. I looked into all the phone available with our carrier and narrowed it down to either the iPhone or a Windows mobile device. Additionally for the Windows mobile it needed to use a standard USB mini connector, non of that proprietary connector crap. Given our travel, the phone needed to support international travel. If it had Wi-fi, that was a bonus but not a requirement. The iPhone is a proprietary connector, it has enough share such in the music player and phone market, that it really is a "standard".

I was very happy with Windows Mobile software, in that it just worked. My big concern with the iPhone was that Apple's delivery system for it, iTunes, is a piece of crap. It bricked my iTouch on many occasions. And I was not eager to see my phone get bricked and leave me high and dry before a trip the way my iTouch bricked itself just prior to us leaving for our two week road trip. Windows mobile never did that, it synced contacts, calendar and music w/o a issue. The applications on the iPhone/iTouch were compelling, but I could live without it.

In looking at all the phones given the criteria, the iPhone really stood out. I went and checked out all of the Windows mobile devices that fit into the criteria: HTC Fuze, Samsung Propel, LG INCITE and the Nokia E71x. The last device in the list, the Nokia wasn't windows mobile, but the design intrigued me. I went to an AT&T store to try out all the devices. Basically, all the devices, except the iPhone failed. Why? Simple, they were "clunky" and very difficult to use. It felt almost painful with some to use it. And not just in non-phone applications, but the phone applications as well. They were not simple, elegant or easy to use. The best of the pack was the Nokia, however I could not bring myself to like it because it was proprietary operating system. The foremost the feature after usability as a phone, is that had to be dead simple syncing of contacts and calendar items to the phone. Of those phones, the ones that had "touch-screen" capability felt wrong. They felt cheap and like they were not solid devices. Given that all of them were around the same price as an iPhone 3GS 16GB phone, that was not acceptable.

I brought Erica in later in the week to have her try out phones from the list of candidates I put together so we could make sure she got a phone that works for her. Hands down without blinking she picked the iPhone after looking at them all.

We have had the phones for several weeks now and they have been working great. We both love the over the air connectivity of the applications - maps, weather and web browsing mostly. It really makes it easy when you are somewhere without Wi-Fi and can still look something up. The ability to be able to check traffic as you are walking out the door, or look up something is tremendous. My concerns about using it as a phone and music player have been appeased. Despite my issues with the iTunes software, the device itself has worked great. The reason it works, and the iPod works, is that it is just a very natural and intuitive to interact with the device. Anyone can pick it up and within a few minutes get where things are and how to use them. Even as a technologist I struggled to figure out how to use the other phones. Their interfaces were severely lacking in ease of use when stood up next to an iPhone. And these were phones that are supposed to be in the same class and price range as an iPhone.

- Stephen
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# Monday, 13 July 2009
Monday, 13 July 2009 23:41:09 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00) ( Food | Resaurant | Review )
     901 West Butler Pike
     Ambler PA 19002
     (215) 643-6300
Cuisine: American/Modern
Overall rating:

We went to the newly opened and renovated Broad Axe tavern Friday night for dinner. The outside and the inside have been completely renovated. The interior is nothing like it used to look, it has been completely re-done. The cuisine is what I would call "American modern", it has a slightly upscale bar/restaurant fare with some international influence.

They have a tremendous beer selection, on draft and bottled. They have the standards on tap such as Guinness and Yuengling, part of their "Starting Eight", but they also have a rotation of other beers that called the "Changing Eight". They not only have a selection of wine, and other cocktails (quite a nice list of custom martini's and mojitos), but their focus on beer selection is great. Too few restaurants treat their beer selection as an after thought.

Erica and I split an appetizer of fried calamari which was good. Nothing over the top about it, a pretty standard dish. I had the Grilled Ahi tun and baby bok choy in a dashi broth. Erica had one of the specials, a scallop noodle bowl. For desert Erica had the Tripple chocolate brownie (OK, I had some too :).

The meal was pretty good. The seared tuna I had was well done, and had a nice flavor to it. The bok choy it sat on top of in the dashi broth was a bit bland. There just needed to be something more in the broth to stand out more in comparison to the tuna. I really like bok choy and it can have a great flavor to it. Unfortunately the dashi broth seemed to wash it out.

The service was great from when you walk in, through the entire meal. Our waitress made sure to check up on us regularly, and Eric the host even came by at the end of the meal to see how things went. It was a really nice experience and we look forward to going back there again.

- Stephen

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# Sunday, 12 July 2009
Sunday, 12 July 2009 13:46:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00) ( Animals | Home )
Last night while sitting on my back porch enjoying the thunderstorm, I had a visitor join me. This frog came along on the porch heading towards the back door, or just wanting to get out of the wet weather. I have never seen a frog anywhere near our yard before.


You can see more pics on my Facebook album, or my Picasa album.

- Stephen

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# Sunday, 05 July 2009
Sunday, 05 July 2009 12:15:36 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00) ( Birthday | Family | Holiday | Party )
We spent the 4th of July at my Uncle Jerry's for his birthday and 4th of July party. Quite a lot of family came out from all over on both sides for the festivities. It was a lot of fun meeting some new friends and re-connecting with some family we had not seen in a while.

We were introduced to the game of Stump. I can't believe that I have gone this long in my life and not come across this game before! Basically you stand around a stump and take turns attempting to hammer another persons nail into the stump fully. What makes the game hard is that you have to flip the hammer first and catch it before taking your turn and in one fluid motion, without readjusting your grip, you take a swing at one of the nails. (Preferably not your own.) It is actually quite a lot of fun. And of course I managed to find a site dedicated to the game:

Pictures from the party can be found in this Picasa album, or on my Facebook album. I kept the sizes large so that they would be printable.

- Stephen

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# Sunday, 28 June 2009
Sunday, 28 June 2009 23:47:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00) ( Resaurant | Review )
         237 Saint James Place
         Philadelphia, PA 19106
         (215) 625.8800
Cuisine:  Israeli/Middle eastern
Overall rating:

Last night we we out to dinner with Wayne and Katherine. This place is the top rated places to eat in Philly and for good reason. Outside the building is pretty non-descript. Inside it is a completely different atmosphere. Everything is open, pretty much in two rooms. From anywhere in the place you have a view of the kitchen working on orders. It is warm and inviting.

Service is tapas style, basically small plates which are meant to be shared and should be. The recomended starter and speciality for the table is the Salatim & Hummus with Laffa. The Salatim is a selection of different dishes from chick peas to beats enjoyed with or without the laffa. Their hummus was some of the best I have ever had. As we went through and placed our orders, our waiter Eric asked us if we were sure we had not been there before. He said we were hitting all the best plates in our ordering.

I spotted the Jerusalem Grill, which was a mixed offal - "all the good stuff". I wasn't sure what it waas, but I from the vague description, I had a pretty good guess. Eric confirmed that it was heart, liver and testes from different animals. Mainly duck and lamb. I rouned my order out with Kibbe Naya (raw ground lamb) and The Jaffa (Branzino - a whitefish). Fried cauliflower, stuffed baby peppers, The Read Sea (seared tuna) The Turk (ground beef), The Farsi (lamb), The Galil (eggplant) and Fried Kibbe.

Nothing I had disappointed. The Jerusalem Grill was tremendous. It came with a side of a mustard like sauce, more sweet then spicy and laffa. The spice was only needed as an accent as the heart, liver and testes were extremely tasty on their own. I had not had raw lamb before, but it had a great flavor and texture to it, again the spices not overwhelming and letting the food stand on its own. Everyone really enjoyed their food and a good bit of sharing. The only off-note was in the Turk which Erica ordered. It was just too much spice for here and she felt was overwhelming. Not from a heat perspective, but just being too much seasoning.

For a drink, I tried their "Tel Aviv Black & Tan" which was a half and half of Goldstar Larger and Malt. I followed it up with just the Goldstar Malt as the meal progressed. Overall both were OK. There were good beers, but didn't really blow me away. They just seemed to be good middle of the road beer.

We finished up the meal with desrt. Erica and Wayne got the Roasted peach which was a cashew baklava, a peach and white chocolate panna cotta. Katherine tried their drink "The new milk and honey", which I had a taste of. It was really good, not overly sweet and I am sure could knock you back without realizing it. I had the Konafi which has a shredded, crunchy phyllo dough on top of ricotta, rose water and pstachios. It was deliciously sweet.

It was a great night overall and I look forward to going back there.

- Stephen

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# Monday, 22 June 2009
Monday, 22 June 2009 00:19:33 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00) ( Family | Holiday | Zoo )
Today we started off by visiting Erica's grandfather in the morning. And then we  met up with my parents, Thomas, Veronica, Miquel and Nina at Oreland Pizza for lunch. From there we headed down to the Philly zoo for the afternoon.


The morning was overcast and rainy, but by the time we hit the zoo it was warm and sunny. As it turns out, they were also taping an episode of "Dinner Impossible" with Robert Irvine at the zoo. They were doing a dinner for local armed forces, police and fireman at the zoo.

We came across where they were filming and hung out for a while watching what they were doing. It was pretty interesting to see that what you see from Chef Irvine on the show was actually going on in person. We managed to get some good shots of him in action.

The menu apparently was inspired by different animal groups - reptiles, primates, big cats, and birds. And apparently on the menu under reptiles were chocolate covered crickets!

Everyone had a great time at the zoo. Afterwards we headed up to Giuseppi's near Oreland for dinner before everyone headed home.

More pictures can be found on Facebook, or my Picasa page.

- Stephen

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