Samsung Chrome Book: 1st Thoughts.

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I picked up Samsung Chrome book a couple weeks ago. I bought it at best buy, for about $215 as it was an ‘open box’ item. I’ll expand upon this at a later date, but here’s some quick thoughts.

-Instant ON is great. Most of the discreet instances that I turn on m computer are to check email, social networking, etc. Not having to wait for a boot is GREAT
-Nice Keyboard. It’s a basic ‘chiclet’ keyboard, but fits my needs, and is far superior to a tablet, at least in my opinion.
-Runs netflix, video pretty well. Netflix works great: Now, youtube and some other things bog down a bit.

Issues
-occasionally, randomly, shuts down. since it takes literally 1 second to reboot, this is not a huge problem, but I’m curious.
I still need my mac occasionally for excel, and other things, but the google docs are very nice.

Ping me with any questions. But, thumbs up.

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The Yeti Arc-X Cyclocross bike.

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“Blue Aluminum?”

A sort-of review of My Yeti Cyclocross Bike.

Cyclocross racing combines shoulder to shoulder racing, and maximum effort for 40 minutes to an hour, over a mix of dirt (mud), gravel, and pavement.  It also requires a VW Caravan, an extra bike, etc., so, if you like spending money, it’s for you.  I’ve raced a couple times, finishing comfortably near the back of the pack.  Luckily, because there are like 8 million people racing at one time, no one knows how they did until the results are posted – I’m usually miles away by then.

In all seriousness, it’s a hoot.  It can be pretty hard on the gear, with crashes, flats, and mud induced “technical” leaving your expensively stranded mid race.  But, I enjoy it.  And as an all around, get around bike, a cyclocross bike is hard to beat. 

The combination of 10-speed sportiness with slightly wider tires let you cover the miles, while also dealing effectively with the occasional debris in the bike lane, or even a bit of trail riding, if you don’t mind the lack of suspension.

I have a history of getting my gear stolen.  It’s my way of always having the latest and greatest gear.  Unfortunately, I never seem to have renter’s insurance when the crime happens, but, such is life.

I can’t speak to the incidence of property theft from ME, vs America as a whole, but, since 1997 I’ve had 3 bikes, and 2 cars stolen (technically, it was one car stolen twice).

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be on the lookout…

The bikes are our reference point today.  My first stolen bike, was my beloved Takara road bike, purchased for $20 in seattle in 1997.  It was at least 15 years old, but in mint condition.  The crime was never solved, but I’m pretty sure that it was that nefarious villain Strawberry Shortcake, based on the bike left in it’s place.  Apparently the great recession has really put a hurt on the local CSI, as finding a pink pixie on a 60 cm road bike shouldn’t be that hard.

I replaced it with a fun Felt road bike, which I still enjoy today.

A couple years later, my equally well loved, but significantly newer Haro Mt. Bike was stolen from my place of work.  A High School.  During daylight hours.  Awesome.  I replaced this a couple times, but I’ve since moved up to the Maverick Durance, discussed HERE.

But eventually, finding that money deprived me of common sense, I bought a Felt FX1 Cross bike, and even raced it a couple times.  I’d even upgraded the wheels, etc..  I assume that a group of ninjas of the foot clan scampered over my fence and made off with it.  Suffice to say I was miffed.  But, on the other hand, I ended up with this sweet Yeti Cyclocross bike.

The Yeti is cool on many levels.  The way it was engineered, it handles a lot more like a mountain bike than a road bike, giving an oafish galoot like me more nimbleness on the trails.  The downside to this would be that I give up some high speed stability, but, I have a road bike for that type of foolishness, and I seldom reach those speeds where it matters.  And I never reach them comfortably.

I have a fairly standard set up.  I use clincher tires (that is the kind that you put innertubes in).  I also have two chain rings (the front gears), where a racer might just have one.  This is more versatile, and more appropriate for just knocking around, but if I do get into / back into racing, it’s more stuff to become fouled with mud in a race. 

If I get the baksheesh, I may start running tubeless tires on it:  Real pros run something called “tubulars” which is basically French for, “spend a lot more money.”

The tubeless tires let me run lower pressure, which makes the bike handle better, but also makes the bike less likely to get flat tires.

It’s a fun bike, and I’m not looking forward to replacing it when the law of averages hits, and it gets stolen (I’m kidding, hopefully my loss rate is WELL above the mean: I hope to keep this bike for years to come).

It is often said, if you only have one bike, make it a cyclocross bike.  With the versatility and trail worthiness of this bike, this is very true.

 

 

StarTrek, Into Awesome

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Been super busy writing a lot of frisbee stuff.  It’s all at mlsmith.blogspot.com, if you’re interested.  I’ve also drafted my Yeti review, but, it’ll wait a couple days.  But, here’s a Quick spoiler free StarTrek review.

I liked it.  Benedict Cumberbatch brings requisite gravitas as the token British dude.  They really do act circles around Americans. Except for Daniel Day Lewis he’s… (he’s what?  He’s a flippin’ pommie?  Good grief.  And we let him play Lincoln).  Whatever.

Cumberbatch was sweet in the BBC’s Sherlock, one of my favorite PBS mini-movie series (also starring that guy from the Hobbit).  Playing the mysterious John Harrison, he steals the show when he appears on screen.

But the cast plays in very much an ensemble manner.  Simon Pegg as Scotty brings his Brit Wit to the proceedings… damn, can’t I find an American Actor to rave about?  How about Chris Pine! Never once does he say ‘bro’ and wear a baseball cap backwards! Actually, he captures the spirit of Kirk for me, without actually mimicking Shatner’s cadence.  And Shatner was the Bro of all Bro’s as starfleet commander.

I think it is funny that Pine and Scott Bakula are the “greatest American Actors to helm the enterprise” with Canadian Shatner, and Englishman Patrick Stewart (Picard).

It’s largely a straight action flick with some character development.  I feel we’re in good position for the next one, assuming JJ Abrams can find time from owning the entire geek canon when he makes Star Wars, episode 7, Jar Jar’s Revenge.

Morrison Luke Smith

Let’s see, I’ll take a 7 layer burrito and a coke… wait, you don’t have coke… no I don’t want a Pepsi it’s totally not the same. I’ll take a Dr. Pepper. Bones?

Yours, Morrison Luke Smith

Coffee, Explosions, and Thee. — A Review of Iron Man 3

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Iron Man III.

I recently wrote about Super Hero Investment Strategies HERE.  One of the  strategies got a little funnier after watching the post-credit scene in Iron Man III.  (No major spoilers).  I’d been writing all day, so I hopped on the bike to get a little fresh air, and went to see the matinee for Iron Man III.

The trailers alone had me fired up.   They warrant as much mention as the movie does, if for no other reason than that spoiler free movie reviews are pretty short.

Thor:  More whiz bang action from the Marvel Avengers initiative Hit machine.  Wasn’t super keen on the first one, even directed by Kenneth Brannagh, but you can bet I’ll see it opening weekend.  Tom Hiddleston, as Loki, will probably steal the show again.

Star Trek Into Darkness:  Big fan of the first, er, newest first one.  I think it was actually the 9th.  But JJ Abrams is the man, and his movies will bring well filmed scenes, good pacing, humor, pathos, and more lens flare effect than, well, a JJ Abrams movie.  And Benedict Cumberbatch will join Tom Hiddleston in proving that a sneer and a slight British accent makes for a riveting villain.

Fast and Furious 6:  I think, based on the effects I’m seeing in the trailers, that the F&F movies have moved to some gravity free alternate universe.  Don’t care.  Going to watch it.  Two words.  “The Rock.”

The Lone Ranger:  Early on, I was very concerned about this.  The early trailers were lackluster, and Johnny Depp is starring as some wacked out version of Tonto.  But the trailer I saw tonight was good, and Johnny Depp is starring as some whacked out version of Tonto.

Wolverine: After the tremendous “meh” of the first wolverine standalone movie, I’m surprised that this film was green lighted.  But I’m getting moderately excited to see this.  Plus, it’s filmed in Japan, giving ample opportunity for sword fights, neon, and dark wet streets for dramatic cinematic effect.

After a cup of  coffee, and some Reece’s pieces (fun fact: Coffee is by far the best value at a movie theatre), I settled in for Iron Man III.  It was Written and directed by Shane Black, the one man Hollywood hit machine author of Lethal Weapon I  and II, and The Last Action Hero.  He also played the first guy to die in the original Predator.

After the spectacle of inter-dimensional aliens, nuclear bombs, and other far fetched inclusions into the Avengers, I was ready for this little personal character Study, centering around the effect PTSD has had on the relationship between Millionaire Tony Stark (Spoiler: He’s actually Iron Man) and Pepper Pots (spoiler: She’s actually Gweneth Paltrow).

Iron Man III also stars Sir Ben Kingsly, Don Cheadle, and Guy Pearce.  Kingsly, in particular, seems to be enjoying himself quite a bit.  The movie is well paced, and had a couple of real surprises in it.  Director Shane Black clearly knows how to shoot an action scene, but he also invests the whole thing with sort of a wry feeling that ‘we’re all in on the joke’ so when things DO start to get a bit over the top, just remember, it’s a movie and America!

There’s also like, 10000 explosions, so, America.  Go see it. Two thumbs up.  And stay through the credits.

Enjoy

Morrison Luke Smith

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Good Crichton vs. Bad Crichton

In today’s Book review I’m going to again give one positive review, and one negative review. First one of my all time favorite authors of escapist fiction, ladies and gentlemen, the successful and prolific Michael Crichton.

Image morrison luke smith jurassicJurassic park is classic beach reading.  It’s fun, it’s light, it’s suspenseful.  There’s a little science, but it’s not over anyone’s head.  And It has DINOSAURS!  Yeah Baby.  What’s not to love. It’s the kind of book that keeps me coming back to read a few years later.  I DID think that the protagonist and some of the other characters were written as movie characters… but even if that’s true, more power to Crichton.

Morrison Luke Smith State of Fear

Michael Crichton died at a tragically young age.  But like Tu Pac,  he kept publishing.  If live Michael Crichton is one of my favorite authors, dead Michael Crichton is one of my least favorites.  I was probably 10 pages into Crichton’s posthumously published MICRO when I figured out what was going on, rolled my eyes and plowed on… a bit more.  I just couldn’t finish it.  But, don’t let it stop you from reading some of his other works.  I particularly like Eaters of the Dead (from which the movie the 13th Warrior was developed), Air Frame, Rising Sun, Andromeda Strain, Timeline, and the Great Train Robbery.

Next week, Steve Hockensith’s Holmes on the Range Series.

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Bloggin’ My Brains out

Morrison Luke Smith

Review: The Maverick Durance

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My Maverick bike, code named BLOOPER

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I’ve moved my Blogger reviews site to WordPress as it seems to search better.  Maybe an irrelevant choice, but, whatever.  I was going to review my 1984 volvo here next, but it’s just such a POJ (Piece of Junk) that I thought I’d review my Maverick Durance Mountain bike.  I’ll leave the original on my Blogger HERE, but here’s a slight revision so you don’t have to change sites.

I bought the Maverick Durance 4 years ago, from Bend Bike n’ Sport, in Bend, Oregon.  Now the company is out of Business!  Is this the end?  Obsolete! Am I now the proud owner of the cycling equivalent of an Edsel, a Rotary Mazda, a Beta-Max, a Laser Disc?

Is my bike now a Dodo, a Passenger Pigeon, an Auk? Or even worse is my bike like the now extinct Trek Flying V, (below) destined to by re-purposed as an Electric Guitar?

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the trek V

trek flying V

the trek V- Ted Nugent Version

Naaaah.  I got the sweetness.  See, That’s the focus of this blog.  Why the stuff I like “rawks.”

I am the proud owner of the Maverick Durance:

My Mt. bike cost more than my car, and my other 2 bikes put together.  (Yes, my car is an outrageous 1984 Volvo 240DL  POS wagon, held together by dirt and duct tape, but one that is awesome, for reasons to be discussed later).  And yes, it’s a little juvenile that I spend that kind of money on bikes, and my car is… well, tune in Monday for the big reveal.

But let’s discuss the strengths of my bike.

It climbs:

… like a mountain goat:  The Durance has a 2 height front fork:  It’s can switch from either 5″ of bouncy up front, or 6.5″.  And when it’s set to 5″, the geometry is such that you hug the dirt and rocks like world class speed climber Ueli Steck. (Plus, he’s amazing, so enjoy).  And there is some unique aspect to the rear linkage that takes out all the bouncy in the back, and makes it hook up like mad. “Bouncy” is a technical term.  If it matters, it’s triple patented, ultra trademarked, and it was invented by Paul Turner, Mr. Rock Shox, etc.

It’s light:

With the amazing Maverick fork, it looks like a motorcycle.  The large diameter aluminum tube make it look like a downhill bike.  But, through crafty design, and in my case, overpriced, shimano dura-ace parts (pronounced due-ah-chay for proper italian accent) it weighs in at a pretty svelte 26 pounds: Not bad for an XL frame with 6.5″ of travel.

It’s Bitchin

It just looks sweet.

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The one pictured here has the nifty attachment where you can lower the seat with a flick of a switch for descents, and then, when you start to go cross-country, flip, whoosh, and you’re upright again.  It is ‘mazing.  Of course mine does not have that feature.  Who wants all that weight.  (ounces, OK, maybe this was just me being cheap).

But what about my concerns about obsolescence? Naaaah.  This is the best part.  At least for now, my shop can service this bad boy.  That’s a huge deal in bicycle shock world, where you often have to mail off the suspension parts for repair replacement.  In Bend, I drop it off, 2 days later, I’m rocking the huge hits of like 6’.  (Translation, I’m enjoying amazing squishyness and performance as I gingerly maneuver my 43 year old non-athletic bag of bones over intermediate trails)

And here’s the judgemental part.  Maverick, If you’re going to pay too much for a toy, make it this one.

(Yes, I am, in fact, a Macintosh Guy).  Sweet.  All this bike-aggrandizement has me stoked to ride.

I’m moving this blog to wordpress…

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Morrison Luke Smith

don’t i look smart

Where I will do gear reviews, book reviews… and…. ….disses.  As much as I’d like to just talk about awesome gear I own, I don’t own so much stuff that I can drive frequent blog postings.  Barring a Lottery win, within a matter of weeks, I’ll be reduced to extolling the certain merits of my brand of Chapstick (It’s Burt’s Bees if you must know).  For now, I’ll stick to reviews.  Today, it’s books for people who fly on planes, go to beaches, or otherwise read for escape.

I purchased Ted Bell’s Phantom on the way to USA Ultimate championships.  It seemed like something that would be exactly my kind of  fun.  The reviews on the cover say it all.

“Bond, Eat your heart out… There’s a new spy in town.” (NPR).

“Bell knows how to build a plot that moves at breakneck speed.”  (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

I read three of Bell’s series.  They are solid ‘beach reading.’  They are fast paced, solid escapist fare.  I got stuck some inconsistencies, and weird erratic text.

“Pablo strode into the room, and brushed off the trail dust with his hat.  Esmarelda’s eyes met his and her spine tingled as she looked at him.  She licked her lips as ….” Wait.  That’s totally the wrong book.

My bad. The Book: Phantom, by Ted Bell.  The Setting: Palo Alto California.   “A trail snaked through the redwoods that led to an overlook where you could see the Pacific on a clear night.  It wasn’t clear…”

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Now, you can say, that I’m picking nits, but the fact of the matter, he set his scene in suburbia, and Then turned it into Mt. Mckinley.  Beyond that, the protagonists main ally is uber-mensch and all around bear slayer Vladimir Putin.  In other words, it’s pretty much like later books by Tom Clancy without the detailed research. But as I mentioned, I was bothered so much I bought two more by the same author.  DoH.!

In other words, pick it up for a plane trip, but I have a couple other books I’d recommend more.

For instance, There is Jack Reacher.  These are great escapist novels, written by Lee Child.  They are all fast reads.  There is a whole mess of them.  I truly don’t want to spoil the pleasure, and, I’ll let you go look them up (unless you comment me: I’ll post the links then). I’ve seen them listed in chronological order, or in the order that they were published.  I don’t think it matters a lot.

To be fair, the later ones are a faded product, but just slightly, and there are 17 of them.  And frankly, I enjoyed them a lot more than even the Clive Cussler books I enjoyed so much in my child hood. Basically, the guy is a brilliant investigator, who also happens to be 6’4 230, so on the rare occasion he can’t sleuth it out, he beats the truth out of ya.  And he drinks lots of black coffee.  Classic.

It’s a recommendation, not a review.  The link to Amazon has a ton of reviews.  I hope you enjoy it.

Morrison Luke Smith

It’s good to be the Karzai.

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Intrepid reporter Morrison Luke Smith here.  Blogging the news, out of a simple desire to write, and a desire to sharpen my writing.  

Today numerous sites reported the revelation that millions of dollars “ghost money” is being funneled by the US CIA and the British MI6 intelligence agencies to Hamid Karzai to gain access.  I’d call that some deep pocked lobbying.  The Guardian covers it well HERE.

The risk is blowback.  Karzai is of dubious popularity, and his greatest strength from the perspective of the west is that he is “our guy.”  We’ve been down this path before, in every country we’ve been involved with dating back to the 30’s and the era of the Banana Republics.  

Once we engage in these nations, we’re engaged in nation building, and engaged in protecting our national interests.  The intended goal is to develop stability, and promote American interests abroad.  

The danger is that we create a leader like Chiang Kai-Shek who’s grip on power leads to further resistance, and long term problems.  The pattern has been repeated over and over, in Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and through out Latin America.

The goal to further our own interests leads to unintended consequences.  Do we work to reform our plans, or do we become isolationist.  It is impossible that our empire, military or economic cover the world.  How do we then protect our national, and economic goals, while protecting ourselves from later blowback?

I’m looking for a model of success here: And one that lasted more than 20 years.