This is the personal Blog home of Brian M. Westbrook. I make no guarantees you will like what you see here -- or receive any value. If you're looking for my radio stuff, it has (for the most part) moved to:

22 August 2008

Back-to-School Technology Guide

Smaller, faster and less expensive are the trends in portable computers this year. Apple announced this past year the super-slim Macbook Air, and computer makers on the other side of the aisle were quick to match. Look for

HP 2133 Mini-Note PC -- "Honey?? I shrunk the laptop!" Once you get this (large) paperback-book sized notebook in your hand, you likely won't be able to set it down. Sporting an impressive 8.9" screen, I was especially drawn to the durability of this sub-notebook -- the thing just feels like it can be tossed in a backpack among the school books and gadgets. I will say, use caution when buying -- there are a few different models, the basic configuration comes with an Open Source Linux installation, if you're hoping for a Windows Vista-based machine, it's $100 more. Take a look for yourself here.

On the Apple side, there are two products worth mentioning. The first, my favoritate, is the super-slim Macbook Air. You've probably seen the launch commercials where it slides, no kidding, out of an envelope. It's eco-friendly and made from recycled parts. The keyboard is perfect for long hours of note-taking, and the brilliant display perfect for unwinding with a movie.

Both of these options are best as a second machine. While both are completely capable and run full versions of their respective Microsoft Office software (check with your school for academic pricing), you may consider taking a full-sized computer with large music-storing hard drive and standard keyboard for those all-nighter typing sessions.

Other must-haves? An external USB hard drive. Western Digital makes my favorites for around a hundred bucks. Cheap insurance against lost, stolen, or malfunctioning computers. Plug it into the campus computer lab and you're back up and running.

Finally, textbooks are an expensive part of any back-to-school budget. There's a great website that lets you rent the essentials, and it works a lot like Netflix. For more information on check 'em out online. They'll even let you keep the books if you decide you can't give it up at the end of the quarter.

Listen to this report, originally broadcast on KXL-AM Friday Aug 22: kxl_techexpert-backtoschool_20080822.mp3 (MP3)

Got questions? Feel free to drop me a line (techexpert (AT) brianwestbrook (DOT) com) and I'll do my best to steer you in the right direction! Happy studying! :-p

12 August 2008

R.I.P. "Kadoka" - Our Family Dog: Sept. '94-Aug. '08

With appropriate apologies for dominating this infrequently-used personal blog with memorials (previously on this blog), I regret to inform of the passing of my family's first canine: Kadoka. My parents called to share that she had been laid to rest today after prolonged illness and deteriorating health.

"Kadoka" was fourteen years old.

South Dakota Roots
Shortly after graduating High School, the remaining members of my family (with Sister in college and Dad already there) packed the (ugly) green Ford Taurus, the pop-up tent trailer (yes, we were *that* family) and headed East from Vancouver, WA. Destination: Homestead, AFB, Florida.

Years later, I've blocked out most of the trip (as you can imagine) ... but one memory remains vivid: South Dakota. At the time, the State's tourism board offered cassette tapes explaining the various sites and history along Interstate 90. The "rental" was free, so we picked up a set. Along the way we learned more interesting facts about South Dakota than any of us ever thought possible. (Seriously, South Dakota?!)

Among the many factoids: The City of Kadoka, South Dakota is famous (again, we're talking South Dakota here) for it's annual International Outhouse Race (sorry couldn't find a link). After the obligatory round of jokes, puns, and amusements that would make our cassette-tape narrator proud, we collectively came to the conclusion that "Kadoka" would make a great name for our dog. (We liked the name and the story, without trying to extract any symbolism or create correlations between dogs and outhouses.)

Meanwhile, Back in "The 'Couve"
It wasn't until we (to be fair, I flew ahead) trekked back to Vancouver, WA later that Fall (having deemed the Florida experiment a humid disappointment) that we found the family's first canine. A newborn Shetland Sheepdog puppy.

Kadoka was a playful dog, happy and content. Never argued with you, always enjoying company and great with kids. Kadoka was well-traveled and has left her mark on more States than many humans can claim to visit. Kadoka is survived by her two cocker spaniel siblings and a family that misses her already.

I learned a lot from that dog... patience, appreciation, and most importantly, an extended appreciation for our 40th State.

Next time you find yourself in South Dakota (after accepting my apologies), think of Kadoka...

Yes, I'll post photos when I can find some...

Update: Thanks to a reader I'm reminded that Tom Brokaw is from South Dakota. Brokaw, as you may know, is something of a hero of mine. I watched him nightly on NBC growing up and he tops he list of "people I'd like to meet". And, for the record, I enjoyed South Dakota -- I've been there a few times... just, well, you know: a bit of a "flyover State". Ehh? ;-)

06 August 2008

Vote For Me! Washington PCO for 37-1895

UPDATE 11/12: I won... but didn't... but... Read MORE here.

I'm pleased to officially announce my write-in candidacy for position of Precinct Committee Officer for Washington State Precint #37-1895.

Now, since it's past the deadline for me to have my name on the ballot (dammit!) I'm asking everyone in my neighbourhood to write-in my name and party affiliation ("Prefers Democratic party").

Please tell everyone you know in the 12 square block area in the map shown here to add my name ("Brian M. Westbrook") to the ballot as-shown.
Your assistance in helping me be elected during the August 19th primary is appreciated.

If you would like to help with my campaign, door-to-door efforts, or have ideas that can help me get elected -- please send them to: elect AT brianwestbrook DOT com.

For more information on the position of Precinct Committee Officer, view: