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Recommendations

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Here are some things I can recommend because I've experienced them myself :

Looza B-3 - The stuff is yummy, especially when cold.
Apocalypto - Broadcasting locally tomorrow, already seen by me. Enjoyable.

About to head off to bed soon, early shifts starting tomorrow.

Watchmen (the movie)

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I went to see Watchmen last night. Fast and Furious 4 was also a contender for my attention - featuring the incredibly hot Michelle Rodriguez - but when I arrived I decided to follow my instinct and pick the lesser known movie in which none of the actors sounded familiar. I definitely haven't regretted my choice as Watchmen is so much more than a fight between good and evil, right or wrong.

For those who've seen Iron Man last year, I found the atmosphere to be similar which is a good thing as I enjoyed that movie a lot as well.

Back to Watchmen however : the movie is an adaptation of a DC Comic book series published in 1986-87 that features the rise and fall of a gang of super heroes in the 1940's and 1960's. I have never read those comics, nor did I have any background knowledge about these heroes as I sat down. It didn't take me long to realize that Watchmen is not just another Hollywood creation where Good triumphs over Evil and everything is well - there's a dark side in everyone and sometimes in order to do good, you have to be bad and lies can be necessary to create a truth more fitting to the world.

Plenty of special effects and visual roller coasters, but I could easily see through that flimsy layer of eye candy to dive into the background and really get to know our super heroes who turn out to be as human - or inhuman - as you and I.

I usually prefer to watch women over watching men but this a 2 hours and 41 minutes of my time well spent.

Randy - The Ram - Robinson

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As I'm writing this post, the 2009 Oscar winners have not yet been announced, but in my humble opinion The Wrestler definitely deserves to come out as a winner. Mickey Rourke is simply magnificent and the plot never really falls apart. If you ain't seen it yet, go do so... I'm rather confident you'll like it.

On the Moov

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After last weeks experience regarding unannounced maintenance on roads that seriously affected my ability to get to work, I decided to step into the era of mobile navigation.

I hope this new toy will help my avoid wasting my time and swiftly move me around, over or under traffic jams. I realize that it is not a chopper that'll fly me directly to my destination, but it should come quite close.

I had the latest issue of CT magazine handy, where a bunch of affordable personal navigation devices (PND) were tested and compared, so after spending a morning searching for some more info, I set out to shop. One of the devices that had already caught my eye was the MIO C620T, which was top of the line and had a TMC receiver built in. It had quite a good review, though it was a bit more expensive than I preferred. The new Moov line of Mio wasn't tested yet, as the devices came in after the deadline.

I came home with the new Mio Moov 370, sporting bluetooth (so I can pair it with my mobile phone and call hands free), TMC that should guide me around traffic jams and accidents, a 4.3 inch color display with 2D and 3D maps for Europe. Including a protective bag to safely carry it around when not installed in the car, it set me back about 270 euro, which is not all that hefty if you ask me. If I spend a couple of more hours in a traffic jam, it would cost me as well.

The second I walked out the store and stepped into the car, I set the PND up and let it guide me home. I'm rather impressed by it's performance. The map is updated quickly and upcoming turns are announced right on time, not too early, not too late. Sure enough, testing a new device when drive a route well known may seem like a bit of a fake attempt, but I gave it a bit to chew on as well, lol. Once the route was calculated, I headed off and then decided not to follow the proposed route, but instead make an early turn to see how quickly it would pick up and reroute me. Seconds after deliberately leaving the route, it had noticed and given me a new route to follow. Nice, very nice!

Once I got home - of course - I hooked the device up to the laptop to see if any new updates for it were available. It also sports a database with the locations of speed camera's and such, which could come in handy, though I usually stick to the limits pretty well.

Beam it down, Scotty!

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Many of you may not know this, but I'm not much of a people person. Mind you, if I'm around people I know rather well, I have a great time, but I could do without people as well. It's not that I am scared of people, or dislike them, but if no one is around, I don't miss it either. I've always been a bit of a loner, perfectly capable of entertaining myself by watching some TV, reading a ton of books or surfing the internet. One could argue that watching TV and surfing the internet is also a form of communication with others, and you're probably right.

Give me the opportunity to go live somewhere in the Canadian woods, or in the Nevada desert (though that would probably be too hot for my liking) and I'd probably jump on it.

However, I would most certainly need high speed satellite internet access. I doubt DSL or cable is available when in the middle of nowhere and to satisfy my inner geek, I just can't go without a way to reach the wonderful wonky waste of time also known as the internet.

No way I'd fall back to dial up access - though I still have my trusty old 56k modem standing next to me - as that would frustrate the heck out of me. I've got little patience and if things don't go according to - my - plan, I'm known to throw a fit, lol. So, hypothetically speaking, let's say that I move to the Nevada Desert today. I've got a home or a trailer to live in and I want to be hooked up to the internet now. I head over to the US Satellite website see when they can install my satellite internet access, and what it would cost me.

Oh, there are several different plans, let's take a closer look. The Home plan gives me 700Kbps, Pro delivers 1000Kbps and Pro Plus has speeds of up to 1500Kbps. Small office and Business Internet plans go up to 2000Kbps, but the monthly fees for that are through the roof too.

Maybe it would be wise to go for the Pro Plus package that sets me back $79.99 a month and see if I need more speed later on. Now that I know what plan I want, let's find out how soon this thing can be installed. I'm inpatient, remember? Look, search... aha! Their FAQ says that from the time the order is placed, a professional installer with hook everything up within 2 weeks.

Two weeks is a tad bit too long for my taste, but it could as well be much sooner as it seems to depend on the demand on the local installers. Any other questions? Well, I could always call their toll free number 7 days a week to make sure I've got all the details I need, but I think everything is explained pretty well on their website. I think I'm ready for some satellite internet!

Planet Terror

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As I'll be starting a series of graveyard shifts tomorrow - well, technically it would be today - I decided not to head off to bed too early. Instead of watching TV or browsing the web, I headed off to the movies as I noticed that Planet Terror was released. As you may recall, that's the twin sibling of Deathproof which was released earlier this year. I really liked Deathproof and I could almost write that Planet Terror is even better but it's not : it's different.

Both movies are slashers, blood and gore are the key ingredients, both do an excellent job at setting a certain atmosphere, so you may wonder where they actually differ? Planet Terror is fucking hilarious, that's what sets them apart! While Deathproof had it's funny moments, Planet Terror had me laughing out loud several times, and so did some others in the audience. The whole movie is so over the top that you can only laugh with it, and then Robert Rodriguez throws in a couple of jokes that just make it even better.

Nadia, I think you'll like this one.

Note to self : add both movies to wishlist

Lines that Count

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I don't know if glam rock, leg warmers and jackets with shoulder pads make you think of the eighties, but they do bring back memories for me. Another thing that I connect to that era is barcodes. Which is kind of surprising if you realize that modern barcode technology dates back to 1948, but was only commercialized around 1966.This makes the same technique that we still rely on almost 60 years old, and it's far from gone, even with newer solutions - such as RFID - peeking their head around the corner.

Of course, all the slim and broad lines and numbers mean nothing without some barcode verification equipment to read the codes and let the system know what product is being scanned. Each time a code is read, a hand held or static reader sends the data to a central system and stock is updated. This can be used to track incoming (deliveries at the warehouse) as well as outgoing (sales passing the register) goods and be tied to automated order processing, making the margin of error much smaller.

You probably wonder why a technique that's over half a decade old still stands in this day and age of new technology and constant improvement? Barcode verification is all over the globe and not all that easy to replace, even if one really wanted to do so. Sure, you could move to the emerging RFID technology - where each item separately can be uniquely identified - but apart from a need for a huge investment, there are quite some concerns about the tracking of goods and people when turning to RFID. From a business and economic point of view, RFID gives one the ultimate tracking ability, but when it comes to privacy, barcode still has the upper hand, and I don't see that changing in the next 5 to 10 years.

In that regard, one of the limits of the barcode system - the need for short distance interaction between the barcode itself and the barcode verifier - serves as a benefit, and not a disadvantage.

Initially developed as a tool to automate and facilitate business, one cannot neglect the impact barcode has made on our everyday life. Some people even go as far as having a barcode tattooed on them, whether it be as a statement of their uniqueness and non-conformity or because they like the beauty of the concept.

How can you fix...

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something that's broken by design? From a European view on things, credit is a bad thing, no matter how you look at it. However, in the USA, you ain't alive if you don't have a credit record. It even appears as if you don't owe anyone anything that you are simply non-existent as a consumer, and no company seems willing to sell you anything on a payment plan.

Imagine walking into a dealership and wanting to buy a new car, but they don't want to sell it because you have no credit history. Even if you want to pay for it in cash, you may be refused. Hence, as far as I can see, the whole credit business is flawed by design.

If you are forced to work with this flawed system and play along, you could run into a "bad credit" situation that prevents you from obtaining your goals. Enter legal credit repair, a service provided to erase damaging information from your credit report. According to the information I was able to gather from their FAQ, it mostly boils down to doing a full audit of your credit records and making sure that all the information kept by the credit institution is compliant with federal laws.

While they even admit that you can do it yourself - after all, you are only executing your right as a citizen to verify and correct information gathered - it is a bit like going to court and defending yourself : you have the right to do so, but using specialized services such as a lawyer will greatly affect the chance for success.

So, let's take a deeper look at the procedure to erase bad credit. I think it is quite clear that the service offered is not for free. According to information I was able to dig up, they first audit your credit history, then request removal from all entries held by credit bureaus that are non-compliant with federal law, and finally they come up with a plan of action to improve your credit history and increase your credit scores by going for the most damaging items first. Does that sound a little vague to you?

It definitely does to me... I can understand that they don't publish their business secrets for everyone to copy, and there is much money in bad credit repair, no doubt about it. On the other hand, their promise to educate and encourage clients to take their lives back in their own hands makes me hopeful that people will start standing up against what is a predatory (credit) industry to start off with.

Video Conversion

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Everybody loves technology, right? Well, maybe not everyone. I know - not many though, I admit - a few people that are challenged by the setup of their VCR, and if they get a new dryer they have to have someone from the shop come over to explain what all the buttons mean.

Nowadays there is DVD, DVD-R, DVD+R, Blu-ray, HD DVD, and a ton of other formats out there that compete for your attention and use. Some of them will make it, others won't. Some of my readers will be too young to remember the Betamax - VHS battle that went on in the mid seventies and eighties. Betamax was the technological more advanced solution, but VHS came out the winner. Around the same time, 8mm film was hot and miles and miles of pellicule have been used taping anything of interest. Good luck finding a way to actually play an 8mm movie in this digital age :)

Is there a solution to that? Of course there is! You can convert 8mm film to DVD. If you want to have a go at it yourself - do you still have that 8mm recorder to play back the film? - you will probably succeed in the end, but having a professional company handle your memories may be the best option. After all there is more to it than just a film transfer from one format to the next. 8mm films were often stored for years in a box, prone to be forgotten and no one pays any attention to humidity and heat, which are two important factors that affect the life cycle of pellicule.

A simple 8mm film to DVD frame by frame copy using software would decrease the film quality 30% to 50%, which would be unacceptable in most cases. To archive film at the same or even better quality, hardware frame by frame copy is the only way to go. When using that technology, each frame is captured as a digital image and later recombined to a movie. It takes much more time then a software real time copy, and thus is more expensive, but if you are committed to save your 8mm memories anyway, why not do it properly?

Online Casino Top 10

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We've all heard about a casino, you may even have set foot in one before but have you checked out an online casino yet? Of course, those online entertainment outlets can't mimic the atmosphere of the real deal, but some of them get pretty close. The setting and service is part of the global experience, but you have to admit that just the looks and not the odds are not what going to a casino is all about. If you play, you play for fun.

But you also play because you've got a shot at winning, beating the dealer or breaking the bank. There are tons of online casinos out there, so you wonder what each of them has on offer, don't you? Do you just head over to your favorite search engine and start clicking away, or do you go take a peek at onlinecasinobluebook.com?

I didn't know the site, but if you are a bit like me and love being and staying informed about everything web and gaming related, online casino bluebook gives you a Top 10 of online casino's and what bonuses they offer for playing with them. It's no secret that online casinos are big business and millions of dollars are spent and paid out every day, so the existence of a site such as online casino bluebook is not surprising.

While the site is far from flashy or even good looking - the font face used is so prehistoric internet that I have flashbacks to Pong - it has a review about each of their top ten entries, and a payout percentage listed. I couldn't find where they get the payout percentages, so they could be unverified and just taken from the casino site itself, or they could be verified. No real way of telling as far as I know. That sort of information is rather important, so it should be obvious and clearly stated, though I must admit that I didn't bother to contact support - to which a link is provided at the bottom of each page.

Is online casino bluebook your one stop site for everything that related to online casino gaming? I can't tell, and while your mileage may vary, the idea itself isn't bad.

Sharp knives cut well

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No doubt most of you people know that the title applies to pretty much anything in life, but mostly to cutting food. If you want to perform at your best, you better take care of your tools and make sure you got the appliances that are right for the job. If you think refrigerators or wine coolers, Danby Appliances are the brand to remember. Delivering truly the finest, you can simply not go wrong with their tools. It doesn't even matter if you're a chef or a single mum, a daily kitchen user or more of a microwave specialist. No matter how much you actually like spending time in the kitchen, that Danby Refrigerator keeps your cheese from sweating, the milk from going sour and your beer ice cold.

Hmmm... Ice cold beer. Yeah, there's also a specialized Danby Beer Dispenser that'll hold and cool half a keg of beer. You'll never have had that much buddies on that hot summer day :)

Ok, so you're more of a caterer then a home cook? You want to easily store and transport your delicious food creations to and from your working area to the fridges? Take a peek at the Avanti Appliances, will you? Maple Top kitchen carts, or do you dig the John Boos Cucina Avanti Outdoor Kitchen Cart in stainless steel more? Rest assured that it'll serve its purpose on those long summer barbecues that usually ends with Uncle Eddy tripping and falling in the pool.

Dishing out some Action with ActionDish

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You see them in the streets; you see them on the side of apartment buildings, high rises and even on the roof of news vans: Satellite Dishes. Sure enough hundreds and thousands of subscribers can't be wrong, now can they? I took a look at the Dish Network website and could hardly believe my eyes. They've got tons of Dish Network Deals, where you pick the offer that suits you best and they throw in a ton of extras. Take for example the Digital Home Advantage Offer : free installation, satellite TV in up to four rooms - no more work to do yourself - and a free DVR, HD or HD DVR upgrade (for first time residential customers).

If you realize that their Dish Network Offers come with 3 free months of HBO and Cinemax, you'd have to be blind not to sign up. HBO, that's the station that brought us The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Sex and The City and Deadwood, remember?! Hour after hour access to the best stations, premium movies packages and every sport and sports channel you can dream of. Free installations in the US and all the international content you want, whether it is Chinese (Great Wall Package), Italian, French or German.

You won't believe your eyes...

Untying the knot, the good way

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I've never considered marriage something for me. Even if I were seeing someone - which I'm not, I think marriage is an artificial happening, done to please the outside world. Sure enough, if you like all the ceremony surrounding marriages, it may be for you, but I never got the whole idea about getting some official paper that states that two people love each other. If it's about the legal paperwork, there are a bunch of other ways to accomplish the same and that being said, I for one am very happy that same sex people can legally marry in some (but not yet enough) countries.

If you want to get married, do so... but a lot of people also break up and then end up with a divorce lawyer. Who knows, maybe you have been considering the option of divorce, maybe you even looked up Divorce Lawyers online yet. All I'm saying is that you are prepared to tie the knot as they say, and you've put a lot of preparation and effort into that, you have to be realistic and take into calculation that the same knot may need untying someday in the future.

I've been in a long relationship before, and while we were not married, we were living together and then we split up. How do these things happen? Apart from some paperwork, there were no problems between the two of us, and truth be said : I often don't understand that two people can give each other such a hard time, but maybe I just have a too positive look on things.

If you're looking at a complicated situation, and you want to unravel the closely knitted fabric that both of you been working on for years, you don't just take scissors and start cutting. A lawyer that specializes in divorces may be a good source of information and help along the way. Don't use them to hurt the other party though, revenge may be a sweet dish - at least that's what's being said - but you never know who gets the bigger portion during the final serving.

Direct TV : a dream come true?

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I don't know if you know the hit 57 channels (and nothing on) by Bruce Springsteen, but I rarely think there is nothing on TV. In fact, if I had more time I might watch more shows and especially documentaries. Now, in Europe we're still lagging behind when compared with Direct Satellite TV that's on offer in the States. Man, I'd love to have one of those ultra sharp wide screen TV HD sets at home, total surround system and every channel you can dream of available at the flick of a button on the remote.

While I don't care much about sports on TV - though I must admit that women hockey for instance can be quite erm... captivating - I think with 185 channels there has to be something that is right up my sleeve, wouldn't you think? Let's take a look at the offers from Direct TV for instance, shall we? A ton of Music Channels, the most interesting for me would be 70's and 80's, and I think the Smooth Jazz channel could be something to enjoy as well. Then there is of course the SCI FI Channel, Comedy Central and Cartoon Network. Add The Learning Channel (TLC) and The Science Channel or National Geographic and I'm probably hooked for life.Oh, and that's probably even before I discover G4Tech TV :)

Yeah, there is something for everyone with DirecTV Satellite I guess. Maybe I should really start looking into the options for HD digital TV over here, though I doubt it can be compared with what US Direct has on offer.

Death Proof : review

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So I just got back from seeing Death Proof in the theater and what can I say - or rather write - about it?

Quentin created yet another masterpiece? Yes, I could write that, though I doubt that masterpiece is the word I'm looking for. If I'd have to wrap the complete movie and plot up in a single sentence, this would be it :

"Death Proof : Entertaining and at times very funny - a dark ride with twisted psycho's."

Yep, that's it. I totally loved it and now that think about other movies QT did, his forté is setting the atmosphere so well you are sucked right into the plot. Death Proof makes me want to go out, drink shots, smoke weed, drive a muscle car and fuck hot chicks with balls. Mission accomplished, Quentin...

The Bomb : A History of Hell on Earth

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I'm watching the last part of NYPD Blue, and then I'll head off to bed. I may read a few more pages in a book a colleague has loaned out to me, titled The Bomb: A Life, by Gerard DeGroot which gives a detailed view on the development of the first atomic bomb during World War 2.

It is both shocking as well as intriguing to read what was done and needed in order to succeed in accomplishing this scientific breakthrough - which (unfortunately?) also lead to a terrifying weapon being unleashed upon the world.

Melissa vs Helen

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It's time for a celebrity author deathmatch at friedkitten.com - I've read both 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed by Melissa P. and Brass by Helen Walsh.

Both books dig deep into the life of their young female main characters, showing the struggle and agony they go to, or they choose to experience. Sex and sexuality are to them a means to bring stability and love into their life, or at least that's what they assume.

Both novels lift the veil over the harsh life usually covered and hidden by the innocent looks and attitude of young girls. I can see how some people could be shocked when reading either book, but I found Brass to be more captivating and raw. The constant use of street slang and excellent description of life as experienced by the main character pulls you down and makes you part of it.

When comparing the language used in both books, Helen Walsh's "Brass" is a damaged, scratched and dented car with an absolute "fuck you" attitude, whereas Melissa P.'s "100 Strokes" is a bright and shiny polished showroom model.

Both novels are a good read, but my points go to Brass.

Pink : I´m not Dead DVD side

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As promised, here's my review of the DVD side of Pink's "I'm not Dead" Dual Disc... It starts off with a short promo for the DVD appearing in May 2006 containing shots of her European Tour.

The root menu of the DVD reveals that the complete audio album is playable from the DVD side as well, which is kind of strange, but I liked it a lot. It allows you to play all the tracks, or select the ones you like to hear. Unfortunately while playing the audio tracks, there is little eyecandy around. Just one photograph on the right hand side of the screen while the left shows the tracknumber and title, and a navigation menu at the bottom. I would have loved to see some more "action" in the album part.

The video section contains an interview with P!nk, about her new album, some comments about the various songs, and a full documentary about the making of the "Stupid Girls" video, which reveals things you simply don't notice at first when looking at the video. The combination of behind-the-scenes captures, Pink commenting on scenes and the shooting of the scene itself gives a very nice view about the production process of the Stupid Girls clip. After watching the documentary, the final video clip is shown, followed by some shots that didn't make the final cut.

Do I like this DVD side of the album? I sure do, but I wonder if I'll be looking at much after the first time(s). A biography would have been a nice addition while playing the album, to make up for the lack of action of the section. My final score on the DVD side of the "I'm Not Dead" Dual Disc is a 7.5 out of 10.

I'm not dead

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I should be at the store, buying foods, but instead I'm listening to the new P!nk CD titled "I'm Not Dead"I'm Not Dead, released on April 4th 2006. It just arrived this morning and when I had it in my hands, I immediately felt this was going to be something special. The case is not your regular CD case to start with. This one has a curved edge, and a special opening/locking mechanism for the case itself. That being said, it doesn't contain just a CD, but a Dual Disc.

One side features DVD content, the other side a full CD album. I'm not yet sure if I like the dual disc solution, as I know most of my CD's end up getting scratched and bumped after a couple of years, even if I'm very careful with them and try to place them back in their case as soon as I'm done listening. With both sides of one disc containing data, I can only guess it'll be sooner rather than later that one side fails on me. But that's a question Father Time will have to answer. If anyone has more real life information on how their Dual Discs compare to regular CD or DVD's, feel free to leave a comment.

For the time being I'm testing out the CD side of the disc, and I don't want to withhold you a full track listing :

1. Stupid Girls
2. Who Knew
3. Long Way To Happy
4. Nobody Knows
5. Dear Mr. President
6. I'm Not Dead
7. Cuz I Can
8. Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)
9. U + Ur Hand
10. Runaway
11. The One That Got Away
12. I Got Money Now
13. Conversations With My 13 Year Old Self
14. Fingers [Unlisted Track]
15. I Have Seen The Rain (featuring her father James T. Moore) [Unlisted Track]

Simply going by the titles, it almost appears as if she's struggling with something personal, and the songs themselves suggest the same. They are more introverted but still energetic. "Mr. President" is a protest song with a message :
Dear Mr. President, come and talk a walk with me
Let's pretend, we're just two people and
You're not better than me
I'd like to ask you some questions, if we can speak honestly.
What do you feel when you see all the homeless people on the street?
Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep?
What do you feel when you look in the mirror? Are you proud?

"Cuz I Can" is the first song on the album that reminds me of older P!nk albums, kicking it up a notch. I'm sure this new album will be played a lot over the next few days, so I can get to the bottom of it. For the time being "Fingers" (unlisted track 14) is my favorite. A review of the DVD side of "I'm Not Dead" is forthcoming as well!

On sunday October 1st, P!nk will be performing in Sportpaleis Antwerp. Tickets available from TeleTicketService for €32 to €36 (+ service charges). Concert starts at 20h30.

When someone you love is kinky

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Title : When someone you love is kinky
Author(s) : Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt
ISBN : 1-890159-23-9
Page : 155

I just finished reading "When someone you love is kinky", and I'm a bit disappointed by it. Not because the book itself was badly written, or an inappropriate subject, but it didn't offer me what I was looking for, as undefined or vague my expectations may have been. The authors focus mainly on BSDM as kinky sex, while I think there is much much else out there. Truth be said, they do mention other "kinks", and to some close minded people that think hetero sex in missionary position inside marriage for something else than making kids is a sin, kink or pure evil, this book will be both revealing as well as shocking (or maybe even choking).

However, I think it's quite safe to say that I'm far beyond that, maybe not physically, but mentally for sure. I know gay and lesbian people personally, I'm open to much and respect choices that people make, even if it's not something I'd do or prefer. With that in mind, I can honestly say I've not learned anything by reading this book, apart maybe the knowledge that not everyone is on the same level of acceptance as I am. On the other hand, neither have I lost anything by reading it.

Is it a book worth reading? Certainly, but it didn't "work" for me. I cannot clearly say what I was looking to get out of it, because that in itself is yet to be defined, but I can say that this wasn't it. Isn't it great to search for something you don't know yet yourself?

Now I'll start reading up upon something completely different : "remote viewing", something interesting, yet so far uncomprehensible to me. So, what does one do? Read more!

Brass

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Yesterday - or was it two days ago already - I finished reading Brass, the 2004 debut by Helen Walsh. Impressive, that's the least I can say. At first it takes a while to understand all the slang that's being used in the book, but once you stop trying to dissect every word or attribute meaning to each one of them and start seeing the emotion and context, you just dive right into the world of Millie O'Reilley. And a spectacular ride into her life it is. Millie is a "troubled teenager" for lack of the possibility to come up with a better description, that struggles with herself, her surroundings, the divorce of mom and dad, university, her sexuality, too much beak, ciggies and booze.

I can highly recommend it, and have to thank Marianne for the superb gift! Since I happen to have two copies of this book, I'll be giving one away, but... this time there is no contest on friedkitten.com or anything like that. Instead I picked a friend of mine from Finland to receive the book : Asurfael.

Nid & Sancy : Talk to the Machine

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As you probably recall, I bought this CD a couple of days ago, after seeing Nid & Sancy perform live. I've listened to it once on my HiFi, and I've got it playing right now using my headphones. Labels are pointless if you ask me, but the best way to label their music would be electro punk.

If you want to really grasp the power and vibe of Nid & Sancy, you have to see them live with an impressive sound system that just puts you in the middle of things. At home, on a regular HiFi much of the power is lost, unless you crank the volume up so hard the neighbors die of an instant heart attack. I guess with a zillion dollar surround system, you can achieve the "live" experience, but I don't own such a beast. When you put on the headphones though, you're back in business.

Kicking off with "69 Record Machine", followed by an impressive "No F*** All", things seem to slow down a little when "Be Yourself Tonight" hits off. That's just an incorrect first impression though :) The number is a bit more electro than it is punk, though they regulary cross over between genres.

"Yambalaya" and "What You Want / What You Get" should be club hits if you ask me, and "Plug and Slide" is a dirty nitty gritty track, but very enjoyable.

Meet Olga - she sucks (dust)

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I think the time has come go give some first impressions on my new Roomba SE, which I named Olga.

When opening the large box, I noticed everything was presented and wrapped well, with eye for detail. Sure enough, the box is nothing but a means to transport the unit itself, and advertising apart from that, but it (hopefully) says something about the time and quality assurance that went into it all.

After taking the plastic covers off, I had the following items in front of me :

1 Roomba SE
1 wall mount unit
1 remote control unit (requires 2 AA batteries - not included)
1 remote control holder that attaches to the wall mount
1 base station with charger
2 virtual walls
1 comb to clean the brushes on the unit
2 spare filters
1 bag of screws and plugs for the wall mount
a set of (basic) documentation in several languages

As soon as the Roomba SE is unwrapped you are excited to see what it does, how it functions and whether or not it'll live up to expectations. After all, this unit is supposed to take most of the work out of your hands, leaving more time for you. The last thing one wants to do, is chase your Roomba SE because it ran into trouble or managed to get stuck somewhere.

Well, let me tell you right away : I'm very impressed with the "intelligence" of the Roomba SE. I've watched it closely - believe me, it's lots of fun - while it was finding its way around my place and was presented with a number of obstacles.

However, before you can start playing around and let your unit chase dustbunnies, you need to charge the battery. The manual states it needs 3 hours to fully charge, in the store Peter told me to let it charge for 24 hours, so I plugged the unit in and pressed the "clean" button after only an hour or so. Bleep bleep, and Olga came alive. A little music played and off she went!

She softly bounced into the door, slightly adjusted her course, bounced into it again and then started following it, leaving 2 to 3 centimeter of space between her body and the door itself. She took the small transition between the hardwood floors in the bedroom towards tiles in the hallway without problem and happily hoovered around. Then she met her first real challenge : my drying rack. Four legs, just high enough to get stuck under and positioned close to a wall. I monitored her closely as the bounced into the first leg, turned a little and tried again. She sailed past it, running into the connecting bars only centimeters later. During all this manouvering, she managed to get into a rather small space with only one exit left, but without too much problems she got back out, no intervention from me required. As I said before, I'm very impressed with the intelligence and object avoidance routines of the Roomba SE!

However, the question is not whether or not it drives around your place in a smooth and trouble free way, but does it suck dust?

Yes it does, but... It's a small vacuum cleaner with an even smaller dust container, so you can't expect it to compare and come out on top of recent almost industrial vacuum cleaners that have entered the market. I've not yet had the chance to allow it to clean the full place, but the parts it has done were quite clean. It had no problems getting on the carpet and cleaning that too, sometimes going into "dirt detect mode" when it noticed spots that needed extra attention. Was my rug as clean as if I get vacuumed it personally, using a regular vacuum? No, it wasn't, but I think it would be unfair to expect such a thing. When you clean your carpet, you go over some spots several times, you can pick up small particles and/or apply more pressure on the brush when needed. A robot cannot do these things, though it gets pretty close!

Getting the Roomba SE to return to its base station proved to be a challenge at times, since the range is a bit limited. If the Roomba SE can't see the rays, it doesn't know where to go to get charged. Easy as that, yet also a bit annoying at times. Best is to just pick it up and put it on the charger yourself, depending on how much time you want it to waste, or how much fun you're having seeing it cross the room looking for new juice. The manual suggests that if this proves to be a problem, to try another spot for the base station, something I may try later during the day.

Positioning it on the charger is very simple, yet one time when she parked herself, something must have gone wrong because the power led came on, indicating a full battery load, yet when I told it to go chase dust about 2 hours later, it gave me a sad beep, a red power led indicating an empty battery and it went back to get more juice. I took the battery out and put it back in, put it back on the base station and it started charging correctly this time. Something you may want to keep an eye on.

Conclusion

The Roomba SE is worth the money, providing your unit works quite well. Online sources report some failures, but on the other hand iRobot has so far been very good at replacing units it seems. I think this type of vacuum has certainly matured from a "geek toy" into a device for a larger public. I doubt the Roomba SE can thoroughly clean a room itself, but it's perfect to keep everything cleanish in between manual hooverings once a month or so. Much will come down to what environment it has to work in (tiles, carpet, layout of the rooms), but I'm rather impressed!

Pro : easy to operate, fun to watch, no assembly required, impressive "intelligence", good choice of operation modes, relatively low noise
Cons : bit expensive, possible charging difficulties, lack of sheduling options (due to change with newer models)

Traffic, it is fun, I tell ya!

| 5 Comments

As I left for work I was under the impression that things were going quite smoothly, so I happily took a spot in the very slowly moving traffic jam that the ringway around Antwerp has become. By the time I passed the Kennedy Tunnel, I had already lost 10 minutes when compared to my regular schedule, but figured I would be able to make up for it and still arrive in time. Boy, was I wrong!

Right after the tunnel, the exit I needed was completely saturated and then a nice sign above the highway announced an accident in St-Anna. Shouldn't be too bad, once I can get myself on the left hand side of the road I can pass the others that are blocked by the accident. So I carefully and gently move over to the left side, and then I notice all the blue lights. The accident ain't in the direction of St-Anna, but in the direction I have to go! Crap!

To make things even better, the firedepartment and cops decided to close the road down completely, forcing everyone off in the wrong direction (at least for me) and more trouble was brewing - I just didn't know it yet. When I finally get of the expressway, I start figuring out what route to follow to head back in the right direction. Sounds quite easy : follow the exit, take the first right till the traffic lights, go left, cross road and off we go. Well, first of all you can't do that when a route can swallow about 100 cars an hour and now has to deal with 700 cars an hour. The figures are probably wrong, but you get the idea.

So I slowly continue and then suddenly we're blocked again. A truck attempted to take a left hand turn and got stuck, blocking half of two roads. More joy! To make an already long story short : I arrived at work 45 minutes late and after 2 hours of travel. I hope things will be better tomorrow.

I just put Skype to the real test : I called Ash in the USA, on her mobile phone. I first tried the home phone, but she replied to a chat message that it has been disconnected for like a year, which explains the "this number is being checked for trouble" message that I got. So I switched to the mobile and a couple of rings later, I had Elise answering the phone. (Hi Elise!) You know what? Skype works. The connection wasn't always superb, but what do you expect from a call spanning something like 3000 miles, originating in Belgium and connection to a mobile phone in Michigan?

The mailman had been doing a good job the past couple of days. First he dropped off a gift that I ordered and will be needing in about 2 weeks time and then today he rang my bell again because he had another package that wouldn't fit in my mailbox. This time it was the preordered and long awaited Catch The Men Live DVD by Front 242! Yay!

It was recorded at the Lokerse Feesten performance they did in August 2004, a show that I - of course - attended. Listening to all the tracks (check the tracklisting at the end of this post) and seeing the live show again just wants me to right back out there and bounce around with the other fans!

Catch The Men Live DVD Tracklist :

01 Happiness
02 Body to Body
03 Religion
04 Together
05 Im Rhythmus Bleiben
06 Crapage
07 Animal
08 First In First Out
09 Moldavia
10 Melt
11 Headhunter
12 Welcome to Paradise
13 Punish Your Machine*

* and that's exactly what we all do at those shows - exhausting and you feel as if you've been ran over by a truck the day after, but it's soooo rewarding and lots of fun.

Industrial Fans, attention!

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I don't know if you know the following DJ's and their shows yet, but if you don't, make sure you check them out.

DJ Morgana has a weekly industrial/EBM/Goth radio show, and alternates with DJ RaZoRGrrl. Both of these fine ladies are also active in TiK Distro if I'm not mistaken. They offer a nice collection of EBM/Industrial CD's through TiK Distro from bands you'd probably not hear from otherwise, and their shows have MP3 as well as RealPlayer downloads and streams for your enjoyment.

If you're looking for a European up and coming label that keeps on growing, check out the Belgium based Alfa Matrix and especially their awesome compilation CD's. When it comes to magazines, all Dutch fans should take a look at Dark Entries, as they just celebrated their 50th issue with 2 free CD's!

Shelley pointed out Jordan Reyne's new album called Passenger, which is a bit more vocal and has - in my opinion - less of a "wall of sound" appearance than most of the EBM/Industrial music I listen to, but it's a nice album with some softer edges.

What can I say about it, except maybe avoid it at all cost? It sucked majorly and is a very very lame sequel to the quite enjoyable original Starship Troopers, released back in 1997.

Starship Troopers 2 - The Hero of the Federation basically comes down to this : more bugs and cgi, less plot and stolen ideas from Alien (Alien (1979) , Aliens (1986), Alien � (1992) and finally Alien : Resurrection (1997)).

I wouldn't even give it the 4.4 score it currently has on imdb, but rather a 2, possible a 3 because it shows Kelly Carlson's very nice body a couple of times. It still makes me wonder why any private would go running around naked while in the middle of a war, but I'm not one to complain. More boobies please!

Hell, even that idea was kind of a rip off if you recall Species (1995) or Species II (1998) where Natasha Henstridge has some nude scenes. At least in Species they were kinda functional since "Eve" escapes from a testing facility if I recall correctly, and during an escape one doesn't necessarily have the time to grab a bunch of clothes and get dressed.

Final verdict : if you've got the bandwidth, the resources and over one hour to totally waste, you could consider (illegally) downloading this movie. Not that I suggest you do so, but it's not worth any other allocation of time or money!

Loomax DVD X-50

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I've never really needed a standalone DVD player, since I've got everything I need DVD wise on my PC. However, as I was browsing some stores yesterday, I noticed the Loomax DVD X-50 player for a mere 99 euro.

That seemed quite reasonable to me, especially if it were capable of playing everything the leaflet claims : DVD, DivX (3.x, 4.x and 5.x), CD-R, CD-RW, MPEG4, CD, MP3, Photo CD (JPEG). Quite a long list, and to be honest, I never heard of the brand before, so I wrote down all it's details and started browsing the web this morning.

I've found quite some positive posts about the Loomax DVD X-50 unit, and they all reported that Loomax had upgraded the firmware for the drive, and this would enable it to also play subtitles on DivX movies. One post even stated that it also plays XViD, although I've not seen it listed on the Loomax site itself, nor have I tested it (yet).

To make a long story short(er) : this afternoon I picked up one of the players, a scartcable and some Jackie Chan movie that was discounted to 2.99 euro. Lol, even if it sucks majorly, it's still worth the price, right?

Installing it was no problem at all, and I immediately downloaded and flashed the player to firmware version 2.0 to enable all functions. It's capable of displaying PAL/NTSC formats (not that I'll ever need it) and it can be switched to whatever region my heart desires simply by pressing some buttons on the (included) remote control. A remote that comes with batteries as well - nice.

So far, I'm quite pleased with my purchase... anyone wanna join me for a porn-a-thon? Lol! Nothing as good to test a new DVD player as a bunch of DivX, XViD and DVD porn movies : fastforward, rewind, slow, double slow, zoom, 8x zoom, pause, switch disk... <grin>

While I might have to adapt my final score later on, based on my first impressions, the use of the unit, the packaging, design, firmware updates and the price, this one gets an easy 8.5 out of 10, maybe even a 9. If you don't have a DVD player yet, and are looking into buying one soon, make sure you take a look at this baby, baby.

E-Puppy.

| 6 Comments

Now I forgot what I was gonna blog about. Damn me! Let's see... Nothing special going on right now. Ah, I remember! Last night Mike turned up after all to see if we could get that e-Puppy installed on my machine. Installation was pretty easy, no problems which suprised me a bit. Usually those gadget things that come from Taiwan/China etc lack a lot of stability, but it seems the e-Puppy is an exception to that rule.

We played around with it a bit, squeezing it's right (or was it left?) paw to let it send/receive mail, set up what mails to read out loud and such. And suprisingly enough it also worked flawlessly with Eudora, although the system requirements mention Outlook or Outlook Express. The quality of the internal speaker was suprisingly good as well and even at maximum volume, the sound didn't distort.

Streaming internet radio, CD's, MP3's... Puppy played it all without too much hassle. Apparently you've gotta set up a lot of things before you can access all features, and we skipped some of those parts, but hey... it works. The only thing that we couldn't get to function was the ability to read out word documents, but that could be due to the fact that I didn't allow replacement of some files, nor did I reboot the machine. Mike got that function working at his test PC, so I assume it does work.

Below's a picture (click for full size) that I took yesterday, so you can see for yourself that the thing looks cute. It comes with animated puppy on your desktop as well, so there's enough entertainment to go round. I do wonder how long such a thing can keep one interested, or before it becomes totally annoying, but I'm not your average computer user either. I want total control over whatever happens on my box, and (almost) all bells and whistles are disabled here. I guess I'm not the intended target group either :)

e-Puppy tested and photographed by friedkitten.com

Overall Quality : 7/10
Stability : 7/10
Cuteness : 8/10
Gadget/Geek factor : 7/10
Usability : 7/10

If you wanna get yourself such a cute e-Puppy, take a look at the Amerone webshop and order yours now! And definitely don't forget to let them know that you read the review on friedkitten.com!

I rub my duckie : review

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Yes! After quite a while and some serious testing - thanks to Ash and Kat - I've received the first test results on the adult toy of the year 2002 : "I rub my duckie".

I was rather suprised to read the reviews however as they turned out quite different from what I expected... but, I won't spoil anything yet, here are the reviews.

Ash writes the following : I was recently given the generous gift of "I Rub My Duckie", a waterproof, vibrating rubber duck. Try to picture me excitedly cutting open the packaging to free my new-found friend from his confines! What can I say? I was anxious to see what it could do!

To begin with, Duckie isn't exactly rubber. He's more like an inflexible matte finish plastic. I loaded him up with batteries (which were included) and set out to find his "on" switch! It turns out there's a spot on his back that's just flexible enough to push in, and that's how you turn him on and off. Now to see if he would turn ME on...

I examined it for a few minutes, trying to find which part of Duckie had the strongest vibrations, found it to be at the tip of the tail, and set about seeing if
he could do the trick!

"Hmm, not too bad. Damn this thing is hard to get in the right spot. I wonder if ServMe REALLY wants pictures of me trying SO ATTRACTIVELY to jam this thing between my thighs. Boy, that sure would be erotic? It might help if this thing weren't so WIDE. Heh, usually width is a GOOD thing, a VERY GOOD thing.

Heh, heh heh heh, heh heh heh heh heh, heh heh heh heh heh heh heh. Dammit, this isn't working, but hey, it feels pretty good on my neck and shoulders? Yeah, I think it's staying there instead."

In conclusion, I'd have to say that "I Rub My Duckie" makes a great conversation piece, and a pleasant shoulder massage, but it's really not suited for more erotic pleasures. And that's unfortunate.

The batteries are now in "Mr. Egg", my best friend. :)

Wow... that sure is not what you expected as a review from a toy that for the Best Sex Toy Award of 2002, is it? Let's hear what Kat has to say about it...

"I Rub My Duckie - A tale of love and hate by Kat Chronister."

Recently, I received the joyous gift of a sexual enhancing device. Sweet rapture! Every woman should receive something so wonderful from their friends!

Upon arrival, the package was gingerly opened and placed on the table in front of me (while my roommate savagely ripped her packaging apart and ran straight to her bedroom). I stared at it for a bit then realized that the only way to find out if this contraption worked was to take it into the 'adult novelty test site' (aka: my bedroom).

Batteries in place, I set out to find the on switch. There was none. As I turned the duck over and about I accidently pressed it's back and it turned on. I screamed and the mood was lost with every giggle that escaped my lips but I was a woman on a mission. I would test this and I would test whether I could orgasm with plastic eyes staring at me - accusing me of doing 'fowl' things with it.

*shudder*

Pressing on (no pun intended), I set out to find the part of the duck that had the most vibration. Hrm...the head wasn't it. The side didn't work so well either. Aha! The tail! Hrm...quite honestly, the vibration wasn't too intense and unfortunately, it was difficult to hold on to. I found myself adjusting and fidgeting and cursing - not a good thing when you're trying to have a good time. I found that as far as orgasmic experiences you'd be more apt to have an orgasm riding your home speakers than with Mr. Duckie.

It's a cute conversation piece and a great massager but as soon as the testing was over, the batteries got put back in my bullet and I was a much happier girl. All in all, I think my Duckie will be better left out of the 'test site' and left on my window sill.

And there it is again!? It surely doesn't seem like this toy does what it should be doing! I'm gonna send both of these honest reviews off to the manufacturer and see if I can get a reply from them. I hope they stand by their product and can shed a light on something the test team has missed?

Shameless plug for a CD

Hooverphonic - The Magnificent Tree - Just fabulous!I just bought this CD and am now listening to it. I actually decided to buy it coz it carries "Jackie Cane" and "Mad About You", their two latest hit singles. These tracks remain great, but I've discovered another beauty on the CD as well! Listen to track 1 : "Autoharp"... it kicks ass!!!

I wonder why people (and especially belgians) think belgian artists can't mean anything, or produce only total crap? Front 242 in the EBM scene in the 80's and 90's, Hooverphonic now with their great tracks... and don't forget all the fab. dance projects that are either 100% belgian, or mixed/produced here. Belgium might be a small country, but we do mean something on a musical level.


The fact that C�line Dion will live in Belgium for a few months, will just be ignored here. That is just an unfortunate coincidence. C�line : get the hell out of here. Even with the best Belgian producers, mixers and artists, your music sucks!

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