Jul 29 2015

Show Review: Silicon Valley

Published by under Entertainment,Tech,Television

Silicon Valley PosterOne of the things I do when I am stranded alone in New York (Hmmmm, “Stranded Alone in New York” sounds like a new play) is catch up on binge watching TV shows. My latest obsession is the HBO comedy Silicon Valley and I just started watching it a couple of days ago (thank you HBO GO®) and it took a couple of episodes to really get me going but now I am really into it. Maybe because it speaks to the field/industry that I am in but I like it.  Tonight I just finished the Season 2.
Silicon Valley is a comedy from the mind of Mike Judge (Office Space, King of the Hill, Beavis and Butt-head) and tells the plight of a struggling programmer, Richard Hendricks, as he breaks off from a large tech conglomerate called Hooli to form his own startup company, Pied Piper, Inc. Richard pulls with him several of his colleagues to launch their revolutionary compression software. But before he decides to leave the company he sends his alpha version of the program to some others in the company and now they are trying to reverse engineer the programming behind it to try and beat Pied Piper to market.
Silicon Valley draws parallels to many of today’s top tech people/companies. Hooli was created in a garage by 2 people, Gavin Belson (Matt Ross), a marketing genius (like Steve Jobs), and Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch), a free thinker (like Steve Wozniak), but as the company grew Gavin bought out Peter to make the company in his image (sounding a lot like Apple, huh?).  The work environment at Hooli looks very similar to the workplace at Google, so it is safe to say that nothing in the tech industry is safe here.  Hooli continued to grow and buy up all of the up-and-coming startup companies that showed any promise but when Peter started backing Pied Piper, Gavin starts trying everything in his power to stop them.
Silicon Valley brings more of a dry humor than Office Space did but it still has that tech version of David vs. Goliath that keeps you coming back for more.

Silicon Valley stars:

Thomas Middleditch Thomas Middleditch as Richard Hendricks
– Founder and CEO of Pied Piper, Inc.  Richard is a stressed out entrepreneur trying everything in his power to keep his dream of making Pied Piper a success amidst all of the corporate greed and backstabbing in the industry.
T.J. Miller T.J. Miller as Erlich Bachman
– Erlich is an ex-programmer and owns the house that Pied Piper operates out of and therefore has made himself a 10% owner of the company. He really doesn’t show any discernible skills except for B.S.’ing his way out of the situations he get the group into. (Every time I hear T.J. speak I can still only picture him as Tuffnut in the How to Train your Dragon franchise)
Josh Brener Josh Brener as Nelson ‘Big Head’ Bighetti
– Richard’s ex-best friend who started Pied Piper with Richard but stayed at Hooli when he left.
Martin Starr Martin Starr as Bertram Gilfoyle
– One of the programmers at Pied Piper and their resident Satan worshiper.
Kumail Nanjiani Kumail Nanjiani as Dinesh Chugtai
– Pied Piper’s CTO (a title that is contended between he and Gilfoyle) and programmer.
Amanda Crew Amanda Crew as Monica
– Assistant for Peter Gregory and ally to the Pied Piper group.
Zach Woods Zach Woods as Donald ‘Jared’ Dunn
– Pied Piper’s link to the “Corporate” side of the tech industry. Not tech savvy but more like their PM.

Silicon Valley wrapped up Season 2 back in June and has just been announced for Season 3 to air in 2016 along side Game of Thrones (another fav).

Show Rating: 3.5 Mutants



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Jul 29 2015

Social Network Rant

Hello Viewers (if I still have any)

social_networksI have not posted to my blog in a loooooong time so I thought I might kick it of again and start writing to give me something to do outside of work.

Let’s start this off with a a topic that is pretty hot in the tech community right now, Google’s decision to ramp down Google+. Now, as you will see, I am an advocate for G+ and love every aspect of it so this post may be a little one-sided, but it is my blog so deal with it. I have been seeing a lot of negative posts about it in the trades and I don’t understand it. OK, I will admit once they started requiring everyone to have a G+ account in order to post a comment on YouTube that was going a little far but I think the majority of the people that were complaining about that were the ones that would flame videos and wanted to keep their anonymity because it would empower them more. G+, in my opinion, has a far better UI, response time, and less junk then Facebook. Using Circles you are able to group your friends, follows, or likes into certain areas and then sort them so the people/items that are most important to you will show up before those that you only want to casually see.  You can then, click on one of those circles and only see the posts from the items in that circle and ignore everything else which makes it really easy to find information easily.  Maybe that is what most of the people are confused about, in G+ I find that I use it more for information from people/companies that are more in my field and Facebook is more a “playground”.
Google/FacebookIntegration is another key point that I like. More and more applications are getting the “Sign In With Google” integrated into their applications instead of just Facebook. I do not like the Facebook sign in because if I don’t sign in with it then the app will continuously throw up a screen when I open it wanting me to add my account. Yes, I get it, that’s how you make your money, but No means No, stop trying to get me to sign into it. And if I get tired of the pop ups and actually do sign in then I start getting ads for other apps like that one in my feed. Google may track items in the background sometimes unless you opt out(see here) but that is the price for being on the internet. If you try and tell me Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other Social Media apps don’t then I say you are very naive. Go and use any search engine of your choice (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc) and then tell me in a couple of days you do not see ads items similar to what you searched for do not start showing up in the ads in the app (BTW, that is another thing I do not miss on Google+ is the advertisements you see cluttering up the UI on Facebook.)
Most people that I hear yelling about how thy hate G+ seem to be the ones that just like to have everything spoon fed to them but then yell about how they don’t have the flexibility to do anything. For me, I like having my data synced between all of my devices (Galaxy Note 3 phone, Laptops, Desktop Computer) so I will continue on my path and they can continue on theirs.

Lately, I have been doing less and less posting on Facebook and I am almost non-existent on Twitter but I have been posting and doing more on G+.

That’s it for now, <stepping off soapbox>, hopefully I will get back to posting my regular stuff (reviews, tech stuff, etc.) and keep it more upbeat.



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Oct 22 2013

Yes! It’s BBVD New Album Time!

Published by under Entertainment,Music

It Feels Like Christmas Time

One of my favorite groups, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, has just put out a new album just in time for Christmas, It Feels Like Christmas Time!  For those that do not know them (shame on you), Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is a Swing Jazz band that does great music of their own but also puts some interesting twists on old classics. Their first album, self titled but also referred to as American Deluxe, still stands as my all time favorite, but they have 7 others that are close behind including a tribute to Cab Calloway and their 1st Christmas album, Everything You Wanted for Christmas. This time around Scotty and the boys put their spin on classics such as Rudolph, Frosty and even the Grinch! On a couple of the songs they team up with jazz trio She, Her and I (Lennon Sisters sounding trio on “It Feels Like Christmas Time”) and newcomer Anna Kasper (on Amazon bonus track “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”)


So what are you waiting for? Head on over to your favorite music site, Google Play, iTunes, and Amazon (which has 2 exclusive bonus tracks), and pick it up!


Google Play  iTunes  Amazon.com



Track Listings

  1. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
  2. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
  3. All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)
  4. Jingle Bells
  5. It Feels Like Christmas Time
  6. Frosty The Snowman
  7. Run, Rudolph, Run
  8. You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch
  9. Christmas Is Starting Now
  10. We Three Kings
  11. Walking In A Winter Wonderland

    Bonus tracks only available on Amazon:

  12. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
  13. Auld Lang Syne


Album Rating: 5 Mutants


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Jul 08 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Published by under Entertainment,Movies

My wife and I went to see the latest incarnation in the Spider-Man franchise tonight, The Amazing Spider-Man directed by Marc Webb. Ever since I can remember I have been facinated by Spider-Man. When we used to take family trips comic books were a standard in the car for the kids, they helped to keep my parents sane on the long drive. My oldest brother liked Thor and X-Men, my middle brother liked Iron Man, and my superhero of choice was Spider-Man. Since I have been into this particular corner of the Marvel Universe for so long please forgive this post if it gets a little nitpicky.

The movie stars Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Emma Stone (The Help, Crazy Stupid Love) as Gwen Stacy and Rhys Ifans (The Replacements) as Dr. Curt Conners/The Lizard. Rounding out the supporting cast is Denis Leary (Rescue Me) as Captain Stacy, Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, The West Wing) as Uncle Ben and Sally Field (Forest Gump, Steel Magnolias) as Aunt May. This version retells (again) the origin of Spider-Man except this time the story focuses on the relationship of Peter Parker not with Mary Jane Watson but with his first love, Gwen Stacy. The story also includes a glimpse into the backstory of Peter’s parents and begins to delve into their disappearance.

I liked this movie and it will be interesting to see what they do in the future with the other two movies (it has been confimed that it will be a trilogy), but I feel that it falls short of the Sam Raimi films (Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3). The special effects are fantastic but some of the action moves by so fast that with the 3D technology that it can sometimes be hard on the eyes.

From here on I will be discussing the movie itself so here I must place the standard….

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Jun 30 2012

Travel Log: United Airlines – Incompetence Edition

Published by under Delta Airlines,mishaps,travel

So here’s the story….

Do you remember the time when most airlines used to cater to their customers and tried to do everything in their power to make your travel experience enjoyable?

Yea, me either.

I am constantly traveling for work and I usually fly United Airlines because they usually have the lowest fares. But no more. I have put up with the late flights, irritable gate personnel and Customer Service Representatives and after reviewing all of the extra fees I have accrued by this airline I have found it ends up NOT being cheaper.

Here’s what transpired that finally put me over the edge:

I went out to Salt Lake City to do some work for a client. They way out I flew United on a Sunday from Harrisburg PA to Washington DC to Salt Lake City and none of the flights were on-time. Pretty much par-for-the-course for United. But on the way back I was supposed to fly back on Friday from Salt Lake City to Chicago IL to Harrisburg PA on a Friday. My first flight left close to 45 minutes late (big surprise) and when I got to Chicago I saw my connecting flight was delayed also. So this delay worked in my favor. So I checked the boards and saw my connecting flight that was supposed to take off at 6:30 PM get pushed to 7:00 PM, then 8:00 PM, 9:30 PM and finally 10:00 PM (along with a gate change) claiming it was “Awaiting Aircraft”

Now through an app I have on my Android phone (the Driod Razr — LOVE IT!) I can track the inbound flight and I saw it land at 8:00 PM but we were never notified that our flight was ready to board, it still said “Awaiting Aircraft”. It was only later that I found out that they took that plane and commissioned it to another route (HUH?). Later I check the boards again and see the flight is now set for 9:30 PM, a good sign, right? And then the time changed again to 9:45 PM along with another gate change. So our plane gets here (finally!) and they board the entire plane along with filling any remaining seats with Standby travellers. We are sitting on the plane for approximately 30 minutes before the Flight Attendant comes on the speaker and states that the Pilots have reached their contract time limit and will not be flying any more tonight. This resulted in a lot of very irate passengers asking why did they not let us know this before we boarded the plane?

Well, the Flight Attendant spoke to the Customer Service rep who said they found another flight crew and they were on their way (cheers arose!) But after an hour of waiting on the plane for the new crew we soon became wary that they were telling us the truth. And then the lights came up and they told us in fact there was not going to be a new crew and we had to go to Customer Service to get re-booked.

Now, standing in a VERY long line we were all handed the phone number for reservations so we could call ourselves to cut the time down. I called immediately and was able to secure a flight that would get me back home at 2:00 PM the next day (Chicago IL to Philadelphia PA to Harrisburg PA on US Airways), not ideal but at least I was having better luck than others (or so I thought). So at this point I was helping others get in touch with the reps and find other flights. The Rep I spoke with on the phone said I was all booked and I just needed to go to the desk and have them confim it. I got to the desk and the Rep told me I was all set and wrote down the flight numbers and times and gave me a voucher for a hotel room. I got to the hotel around 1:30 AM and didn’t fall asleep until around 2:30 AM. Woke up again at 6:00 to get back to the airport and get my tickets.

<evil music>DUM…DUM…DUMMMMMM</evil music>

I get to the US Airways desk to pickup my tickets and they tell me that my bording pass is showing as “Used” so it did not hold my reservation and there were no more seats on that flight. Then they found another flight that would get me back home at 8:00 PM that night (UGH!). So I was told I had to go back to the United desk and have them release the ticket so I could get that reservation. Now I am fuming and I have to walk back outside to change terminals where it is ver hot so that does not help my temper.

So this is where it gets better (no thanks to United). I called our company’s Emergency Travel Rep at Atlas Travel and she was able to find a flight on Delta (Chicago IL to Atlanta GA to Harrisburg PA) that would get me home at 3:50 PM (YEA!). I boarded the Delta flight (on-time!) and it took off (on-time!) and We landed in Atlanta (early!). So far, So good.

So that is all for now as I am waiting here in the Delta terminal in Atlanta waiting for my final leap and hoping that it will be the leap… Home!

(I finally got to use a Quantum Leap reference in conversation!)


**UPDATE** The last leg was delayed slightly but I finally made it home.  (Thank you Delta!)

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Sep 11 2011

Movie Review: CONTAGION

Published by under Entertainment,Movies

It all started with a cough…

Hypochondriacs do not want to go anywhere near this movie!  Contagion is a medical thriller starring Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon to name a few.

Laurence Fishburne and Kate Winslet star as employees from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) trying to track down the origins of a deadly epidemic that is sweeping across the world.  Matt Damon is the husband of the possible Patient Zero to this disease, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law stars as a whistleblower/blogger/conspiracy theorist that reports on all things dealing with the governments dealings with vaccines.

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Mar 29 2011

In Memoriam: Sweetie

Published by under Pets,Sweetie

Sweetie“All good things must come to an end”

It is a sad time in the Smelser household today as yesterday afternoon we had to put our beloved dog, Sweetie, to rest.  She was approximately 16 years old and lived a long and full life.

In June of 1997 my wife, Diane, and I went to a dog show at the University of Cincinnati where my wife was studying to get her PhD in Genetics.  Diane was not feeling well that day but I convinced her to go with me to the show.  We were just going there to look at all of the cute puppies and not planning on getting a dog but as we were walking around I noticed the edge of a cage sticking out from the banner for the “Butler County Corgi Rescue”.  The amount of the cage sticking out was about 2″ and I noticed a little black nose sticking out so I nudged Diane over that way and we asked about the dog in the cage.  The woman manning the booth, Pam, told us that the dog was not a pure Corgi but a mix but she was up for adoption and asked if we would like to see her.  We said yes and for the next 45 minutes we sat on the floor of the Shumacher Center at UC and played with this little 1 ½ year old puppy.

We were hooked.

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Feb 05 2011

DVD Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

Published by under Entertainment,Movies

Oh boy did this movie ever SUCK! (“But Big Mutant… How do you REALLY feel?”)

OK now you know the direction this review is going.  I really love movies and I have never said this about a movie, but that is an hour and a half of my life that I wish I could have back (my wife got so bored she didn’t even finish the movie).  Since this is a remake I am not going to bother putting up the “Spoiler Alert” sign.  Don’t worry, it won’t matter.

This is a remake of Wes Craven‘s 1984 movie of the same name but this time it is directed by by Samuel Bayer.  Checking him out on IMDB shows his last directing project before this was a music video for a video release called “Absolute Garbage” which is what this movie should have been titled as well.  I guess they didn’t want to make it a sequel. Continue Reading »

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Dec 19 2010

Movie Review: TRON LEGACY

Published by under Entertainment,Movies

Greetings Programs!

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few months (years?) you know that this weekend TRON LEGACY opened.  Disney’s sequel to the movie TRON in which a computer genius is transported to the digital universe and must fight the evil MCP from the inside.  A sequel 28 years in the making.  Yes I was a TRON fan back in the beginning (my wife says I liked TRON before TRON was cool) and I was totally geeked out when this opened.

The Story

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Nov 29 2010

R.I.P.: Leslie Nielsen (Surely, This Can’t Be True…)

Yes it is, And don’t call me Shirley.  (Yea, you saw it coming) 😉  Leslie Nielson

Late Sunday we received the sad news that Leslie Nielsen, star of stage screen and television had passed away from complications due to pneumonia.  A great actor that will be truly missed greatly.

Most people know Mr. Nielsen from his comedic work in films like the Airplane and The Naked Gun series’, but many do not know that he started off his career doing serious roles like The Poseidon Adventure and the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet as well as many roles in various early television programs.  You can view his extensive list of credits here.

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