Monday, August 27, 2012

Tropical Storm Isaac

I find Google Maps amazing. I could spend hours exploring the planet via Google Earth. Now the good folks at Google Maps have gone and created a special map that is tracking Tropical Storm Isaac. You can check it out here: Make sure to click the boxes to the right of the map on and off to see the various features of the map.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


This iPhone app is absolute magic. It uses incredibly innovative software, along with the camera from your iPhone, to measure your heart rate. And get ready for's accurate to within 3 beats per minute. That's right....a completely touchless system that lets you toss that ridiculous chest strap you used to wear.

You simply pull up the app, aim the iPhone at your face and within a matter of seconds it reads your heart rate, displays it and then stores it. It uses the light reflected off your face to convert the data to RGB channels. Their algorithm then determines your heart-beats-per-minute based on reflectivity.

The app is available from the App Store and costs $4.99. I've been using it for a week now to measure my pre and post CrossFit workout heart rate. It's incredibly interesting...except for the bizarro readout that gives you your life expectancy. And that of an unknown cougar.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Jeep Pickup?

Chrysler execs have said they are considering producing a Wrangler pickup truck. Given that a new Jeep Wrangler is tentatively scheduled for a 2015 launch, we may only be a couple of years away from seeing that. Pictured above is the Gladiator concept that Jeep previewed at select car shows a couple of years ago. That is one sweet looking truck. While you are at it, Chrysler execs, please consider doing one with a diesel engine.

If you want a Jeep pickup now, there are two ways to get that dream realized. The first way requires you to have your own two-door Jeep Wrangler. Then you can head to your favorite Jeep dealer and order the Mopar JK8 kit to convert your Wrangler to a pickup. The kit costs $5,499 and does not include assembly. The final product is quite striking, although I find the bed too small to be really useful:

But my favorite way to get a Jeep pickup in 2012 is The Brute from American Expedition Vehicles. They are taking the four-door Wrangler Unlimited and converting it to a crew-cab pickup. Pricing has not been released yet, but production is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of this year. This would be my choice for a pickup truck:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Under Armor ColdBlack

I love CrossFit. I'm there five days a week with the rest of the noon crew taking on some of the toughest workouts around. Thanks to CrossFitMN, I'm 20 pounds lighter and a helluva lot stronger than when I first walked through their door three years ago. You can check them out here:

One thing that happens at CrossFit is that you sweat. A ton. During the heat of last July, you could easily lose 5 pounds or more of water weight in a single workout. You start sweating the minute you walk through the door and don't stop until about an hour after the workout.

First, there's a warm-up that could pass for a full workout at a big box gym. Then there's a strength component, which usually involves heavy Olympic lifting. This is followed by the WOD (Workout Of the Day), which is typically a very intense metabolic conditioning regimen.

There's no air conditioning at CrossFitMN, so moisture management is a necessity. The last thing you want to wear is a cotton t-shirt. You need a synthetic fabric that will wick away the moisture and stay dry next to your skin. So this summer, I decided to pit two industry leaders in head-to-head competition for moisture management: Nike Dri-Fit and Under Armor ColdBlack.

As you probably surmised by the title of this blog, Under Armor ColdBlack was my hands down favorite. Yes, the shirt is more expensive, $34.99 compared to $24.99 for the Nike Dri-Fit, but you feel the difference immediately in the fabric. The ColdBlack fabric feels much more expensive. It's feels like a fine-knit cotton and wears like one, too. See how nicely it drapes in the photo above.

The Nike Dri-Fit feels like a synthetic fabric. It's rough to the touch and does not hang as nice as the Under Armor. While they both are on equal ground when it comes to moisture wicking abilities, the Under Armor wins because it just feels better. It feels softer and lighter in weight.

There's also an added bonus for the Under Armor product. It uses the patented ColdBlack technology on the fabric. Fabric that has been treated with ColdBlack reflects infrared and heat rays. So when you wear a black t-shirt that has been treated with ColdBlack in the feels like you are wearing a white shirt. It's really remarkable stuff.

After wearing both shirts extensively this summer, I have become a huge UnderArmor ColdBlack fan. In fact, I just ordered up four more shirts. They come in a huge variety of colors. Check them out here:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

3D TV: Meh

When my Sony Projection TV died at the end of June, I decided to go for a major upgrade. My AV gurus,  The Wire Masters, set me up with a JVC DL-RS55U projector. This projector features a resolution of 4K, nearly four times the resolution of 1080p. While the amount of native 4K material is few and far between at this point, the projector up-converts a 1080p picture to 4K. Playing Call of Duty has become a whole new experience.

What took my video game room to a new level was the addition of a Black Diamond Zero Edge screen from Screen Innovations. Unlike previous generation screens, which require a completely dark room, the Black Diamond screen is so reflective that it can be used in a well-lit room:

So when I upgraded, I went all in and added 3D capabilities as well. While I love every 1080p and 4K experience I have had with the new equipment, the 3D experience is a big, giant meh. I have tried 3D video games, 3D television and 3D Blu-ray movies. While it was indeed a novelty the first time I tried them, the fun and excitement of 3D viewing wore off in a big hurry. Here is the enemy:

There are two types of 3D glasses, active and passive. I have active glasses, which must be charged, but do actually deliver a better picture in 3D than passive glasses. But the problem is they are glasses. I already wear glasses, so now I have to wear two pair of glasses to see 3D. That is a deal breaker. The 3D glasses are heavy compared to my regular glasses. Even if I could get by with just the 3D glasses, I still do not like them. They are just too big and clunky.

The next problem for 3D TV viewing is the lighting. 3D TV is darker than regular TV. Noticeably it's a strain to view the picture. When I just spent the money for a 4K projector and a super-bright screen, using it for dark 3D images does not make a whole lot of sense.

The next problem for 3D TV viewing is the resolution. Going from a 4K picture to a 3D picture is like going from 1080p to 480i. In 3D, the images are soft and of the same quality when we used to watch all of our TV on a CRT. There are exceptions to movies from Pixar and DreamWorks look beautiful. But how many kid's movies do you want to watch just because they look cool?

And there's the final nail in the 3D coffin. After I watch a 2-hour movie with active shutter 3D glasses, my eyes are ready for a 30-day sabbatical. You cannot believe how tired your eyes feel after 2 hours of straining to see a dark image with soft resolution through two pairs of glasses. Stick me with a fork...I'm done.

So I'm here to tell you that 4K resolution and the Black Diamond screen are the greatest things since sliced bread. It makes for the most incredibly immersive video gaming experience I have ever had. Watching movies, TV shows and sporting events (especially Formula One races) becomes a real treat. But if you are giving thought to adding 3D viewing capabilities to your household, take a pass. 3D is not ready for prime time. It's a's a compromise...and it's no fun after the initial ten minutes of "oh wow" viewing. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Webcasts About Nothing

I'm a big Jerry Seinfeld fan. Love his stand-up comedy. And I loved his smash TV show about nothing. Jerry Seinfeld also happens to be a huge car fan, just like me. Unlike me, he has over 100 rare and highly desirable Porsches in his stable.

Jerry has taken his love of cars and and created a new series of webcasts about cars. Once you view them, you realize there are cars in the webcasts, but the content is really about nothing. He'll pick a car of interest...a fellow comedian of interest...and take him out for coffee...and then he explores nothing.

He has made two webcasts so far. They truly are about nothing...but they bring a smile to my I watch them. The series is called "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee". If you have nothing to do and want to spend that time on nothing, check it out: