Friday, 11 August 2006

Fly in and out of enough airports and you'll end up dazed and confused. After flying something like a zillion miles so far this year and transiting who knows how many gates at how many airports, combined with the fact that Arizona has a history of operating on it's own unique clock like a separatist nation... Well anyhow I got to Phoenix (at least I know where I am) and realized I have no idea what time it it here. I am also too lazy to get up and find a clock (a device you'd think you'd find in abundance, but which is actually desperately missing from almost every airport).

So, Google to the rescue. Did you know Google will tell you what time it is anywhere you like? Just ask:

What time is it in Phoenix, AZ?

Google-time

There ya go - It's not just about keyword search!

Friday, 11 August 2006 19:13:03 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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My name is Greg, and I am a workaholic. It's been two years since my last escape vacation.

By vacation, I mean taking a trip to get completely away and check completely out of my world. One that does not include work travel on one end or the other (that's more like work plus a side trip, doesn't really count for decompression time). So, now I'm in the Portland International airport, on my way to Minnesota (by way of Phoenix, because that costs a lot less than flying direct, and how exactly does that work by the way?) where my friend Cory will pick me up and we will go north to The Middle of Nowhere, which is where he lives, almost. The airport is running like a finely tuned watch, by the way. When you consider the happenings of yesterday and the resulting increased security measures, it's good to see things moving and that people are not getting stupid or scared or otherwise freaking out.

Anyhow - vacation. Yeah.

We're spending about a week in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness doing some fishing (that with an"F" not a "Ph" - like I said, no work). I have never been there, but I am told it's amazing and have always wanted to go. The fishing should be fun:

"The Canadian Shield lakes of the border waters gives an angler a wide variety of fishing opportunities. Fishing experts attest to the fact that the smallmouth bass fishing can't be matched anywhere. The deep cold lakes are home to the lake trout. Every lake has northern pike waiting to give you a battle while walleyes are sitting on the reefs ready to fill your frying pan . Don't overlook the slab-sized panfish. Spring and fall fishing is usually the best, although because there is very little fishing pressure on most of the lakes, fish can be caught at any time."

Most of all I am looking forward to catching up with my friend and spending a week resting the brain. See ya when I get back. Meanwhile you can just be jealous or feel good for me, whichever your personality supports, heh:

Located in Northeastern Minnesota, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) includes around a million acres of wilderness, with over 1,000 pristine lakes and streams, and over 1,500 miles of canoe routes.  It is considered by some as the most beautiful wilderness they have ever seen.  National Geographic named it one of 50 Destinations of a Lifetime.  In other words, a vacation you do not want to miss.

The BWCA is a true wilderness experience, without motors, no electricity, no telephone lines, and no roads to the inner lakes. Summer and Fall are wonderful times to visit the Boundary Waters and its surrounding award winning resort communities of Ely, Gunflint, Grand Marais, Isabella/Finland, and Crane Lake. 

Friday, 11 August 2006 15:21:05 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 10 August 2006

Don't think terrorism isn't ever coming back to our shores. As many as 20 aircraft were to be targeted for bombing in a plot in the UK. Sky News is just now reporting that an "alleged plan involved people boarding flights and detonating explosives on planes over UK and US cities" and that "the threat was imminent." The security level in the UK has been raised to "critical" and flying onto and out of the UK is definitely impacted. "This will mean immediate and severe disruption at all UK airports," officials are saying on TV.

20 people have been arrested in London. British officials are stating that this would have been bigger than 9-11.

I for one am glad there are good people out there thwarting these kinds of plans. Thank God for them.

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Thursday, 10 August 2006 11:05:55 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 08 August 2006

Commenting on his motorcycle helmet, a friend of mine incriminates himself. Name changed to protect the innocent. Only 80?? Heh.

Joe Smith says:
I got rid of that halo thing I had on my helmet and put on retro reflective vinyl stickers

Greg Hughes says:
why?

Joe Smith says:
It didn't stay on above 80

Greg Hughes says:
oh hehehe

Greg Hughes says:
maybe you should put it back on then?

Greg Hughes says:
hahah

Joe Smith says:
Ummm, hehe

Joe Smith says:
and 80 is where it started to come off

Wednesday, 09 August 2006 01:24:20 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 05 August 2006

A new spoof video on YouTube take a different direction (as in, levity used to make a point rather than get a laugh) on making fun of the Apple marketing TV campaign and, well... just watch it. Not sure how accurate it is (but I bet someone will research this and let me know).

"That's iLife!" OUCH...

Click to watch:

(via MacSpoofs)

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Saturday, 05 August 2006 18:45:00 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 01 August 2006

Yesterday I was in Seattle and had a couple extra hours between appointments, so I headed over to Kirkland to check out the Smart Cars being sold at the Green Car Company. I climbed in a few of the ones they have on the lots there, and then I took one for a test drive.

Obviously, there's something appealing about a small two-seater that the EPA states will get 42 MPG, but which real-world people say they actually get anywhere fromSmart ForTwo Demo Car at Green Car Co. 45 to 60 or so MPG. Seriously - 60 miles to the gallon. For someone like me, which commuted 80+ miles a day in a full sized pickup that gets about 15 or 16 miles to the gallon, that's a big difference.

The Green Car Company gets these cars from ZAP in California. ZAP imports them into the United States from Europe, where you see these little things quite literally everywhere. When I was in Germany earlier this year I saw bunches of them.

You might think safety would be an issue, but not really - check out a crash-test video here. ZAP does all the "Americanizing" retrofit process so it is legal to license in the states, and the emissions stuff has also been taken care of. All those changes add to the price, though - the Smart ForTwo sells for just under $27K - and the convertible is $2K more than that.

Anyhow, about the car. I was impressed. It's well put-together and if you ever get a chance to sit in one you will be shocked by how much room is inside. I mean, there's a lot of room - much more than I need to fully stretch out. Even a person much taller than me should be able to sit comfortably. The seats are good and the finish is what you'd expect to get from a real car. In other words, this is not the Yugo or Metro style little car. It's for real. A number of modifications to meet the U.S. auto standards have been made, and overall it appears to be a solid, well-made machine.

After staring at these things for awhile, then sitting in them and being more impressed than I had planned on, I asked if there was one that could be taken for a test drive. Truth be told, after sitting in one and hearing the gas mileage stories (and even after hearing the sticker price), I wanted to see what they're really all about. The car has - get this - a 0.7 liter engine (heheh) that's (not get this) superturbo-charged. It has an electronic shifting system, and you can run in in automatic mode or  shift by hand using the electronic lever that has become common in many cars these days. A step-up option on the car includes shift paddles behind the steering wheel, for those who don't want to move their hands the 24 inches from the wheel to the shifter.

This car is fun to drive, for sure. It will do 85 miles per hour, so highway driving is perfectly realistic. In fact one of the employees at Green Car Co. drives one four days a week on his long commute (his is much like mine - lots of miles each way), and he is getting around 65 miles per gallon on the highway. Wow. It also turns on something smaller than a dime, and can fit in the smallest parking spot you can imagine (in fact you can fit two of them, at least, in a standard parallel curb spot by parking them nose-to-the-curb).

So, the test drive. After being shown the controls (nothing unusual) and handed the keys, I took it out on the road to cruise some corners, neighborhoods and hills. Kirkland is good for that sort of terrain. I headed out the lot and stepped on the gas, and the car wrapped up and took right off - with a bit more power than I'd assumed it could muster. This was going to be fun, I thought.

The car handles well. The wheelbase is quite long and wide for  such a small car, and I felt completely comfortable driving it around corners and in all the street conditions.

There are two things that stand-out as somewhat unusual about this car when you drive it for the first time.

The first thing in the brake pedal, which feels quite strange when you apply it because the pedal is attached to a mechanism that lowers into the floor rather than being hung from above on a pivot. So when you step on it, its kind of sinks down as you push it with your foot. It's not bad, just unusual.

The second things that stood out is the automatic shifting, which lags between gears. I mean that as it shifts, a clutch mechanism (there must be a clutch in there somewhere) disengages and the transmission shifts, then the clutch re-engages. The result is a period of a second or less when the engine is not powering the drive train. It's weird feeling, but not that big of a deal. This car is designed differently than any other I've driven, so I can accept the fact that it's different. And in this case different is not bad - it's just not what you are used to. By the way, if you are doing electronic shifting using the floor shifter or the paddles, you don't experience the lag between gears. And if you're interested in maximizing both power and fuel economy, electronic shifting by hand is the way to go anyhow.

The air conditioning was better than I thought it would be on a tiny car. The stereo was adequate but not something that will blow you away or anything.

Overall, this was a fun and interesting car. The fuel economy is insane, it handles very well, and it sure got stares and waves even during my 15 minute test drive. If it was less money I'd buy one without hesitating, but the thousands of dollars that are added to the sales price of a European one (one assumes to cover the cost of the "Americanization" and then some more dollars added on for the "new and cool" factor) cause me to have to do some serious math. I could save lots of money every week in fuel costs, but to get to $27K, it would take a huge amount of savings to justify the purchase.

But chances are I will be sitting down and doing the math.

And this video shows just how, uhh, versatile the car can be...

Tuesday, 01 August 2006 15:48:23 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 28 July 2006

Lots of people get credit card applications in the mail. Recently (possibly as a result of increasing interest rates and therefore the potential to make more and more money) it seems like the number and frequency of credit card applications arriving in my mailbox has gone though the roof. Last week alone I received over 20 of these pre-approved applications. It's just nuts.

Another crazy thing is, one credit card company will send several each week. They're spending lots of money mailing me fancy color-printed paper to try to get me to sign up for a credit card at an interest rate (and a variable one at that) which I'd never touch. The ones with the low fixed rates are more appealing, but I really don't want or need more credit cards.

There's a lot better deals out there. What's the best credit card deal these days? Is there such a thing?

Saturday, 29 July 2006 03:59:17 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 26 July 2006

Forget "Hello, World." More like "Look Out, World!" Greg's gonna learn how to program. Just enough to be dangerous, I am sure... I mentioned this more than a year ago, but have yet to take advantage of it. And at the time all the content was not yet available.

Microsoft has more than 10 hours of online video training geared toward beginners (that would be me) on how to program using Visual C# 2005 Express. Woah, cool.  Dubbed the Absolute Beginner's Video Series, it takes you from "Hello, world" to a RSS reader app. This is totally for me. Not only that, you can choose to stream the video or download it, and the project files are right there to download, as well. Nice - I can spend some airplane time learning how to program!

There's also a C# Windows Forms Controls video series and for those wanting VB.net instead of C#, the same series is also available for that language.

I'm glad to see this kind of content available - it's exactly what getting-old management types like me who wish they'd learned to program a modern language need.

The content of the C# and VB.net tutorials was provided by http://www.learnvisualstudio.net/, which has a whole slew of great looking content available for people wanting to learn programming, from absolute beginner to more advanced level programmers, as well as people in-between.

Thursday, 27 July 2006 01:11:49 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Jay Rosen at PRESSthink has an idea, and one that is certainly quite interesting. In his post "Introducing NewAssignment.Net," Rosen describes his idea, which would meld the best of what the Internet mob has to offer with the typically-careful approach of professional Journalism, into a new hybrid-type of news gathering and creation process.

What can "networked journalism" do in the real world? What does news without the media look like? Check out Rosen's thought provoking and interesting post for that and more:

Alright, what is it?

In simplest terms, a way to fund high-quality, original reporting, in any medium, through donations to a non-profit called NewAssignment.Net.

The site uses open source methods to develop good assignments and help bring them to completion; it employs professional journalists to carry the project home and set high standards so the work holds up. There are accountability and reputation systems built in that should make the system reliable. The betting is that (some) people will donate to works they can see are going to be great because the open source methods allow for that glimpse ahead.

In this sense it’s not like donating to your local NPR station, because your local NPR station says, “thank you very much, our professionals will take it from here.” And they do that very well. New Assignment says: here’s the story so far. We’ve collected a lot of good information. Add your knowledge and make it better. Add money and make it happen. Work with us if you know things we don’t.

But I should add: NewAssignment.Net doesn’t exist yet. I’m starting with the idea.

Tuesday, 25 July 2006 22:25:24 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 23 July 2006

ZuneEveryone and their brother has already written about Zune, Microsoft's planned new digital music player, service and whatever else comes of it (rumors and facts abound).

But have you seen the latest MS marketing virus? As in Zune viral marketing?

http://comingzune.com/

So, yeah... There ya go. Not sure the whole petting-rabbits thing is all that comfortable for me, but it's weird enough to get me to post this, so I guess it worked. Heh.

Oh, and if you are interested the background music is by Regina Spektor - visit her myspace if ya like.

Check out the Zune Insider blog (authored by - yes- a MS employee working on Zune):

"So what’s Zune? It’s Microsoft’s new, holistic approach to music and entertainment. And yes, this year, we’ll be releasing a device as part of the project. Under the Zune brand, we’re looking to build a community for connecting with folks, all to discover new music and entertainment."

The device (and service) better kick some serious butt - it will have to in order to beat the iPod, and let's face it... There's no goal worth Microsoft's time other than doing just that - in the long run. After all, iPods will eventually break (or get scratched into oblivion). What will you be buying when that happens?

Adding in WiFi to the portable device is cool, and so are some of the related ideas. One has to wonder about power consumption though - what will that look like? I especially like the "connected entertainment" ultimate goal - not just music, but video and other stuff, too.

This will truly be interesting to watch.

Sunday, 23 July 2006 16:13:50 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 21 July 2006

Honestly, I can't tell you how tired of the typical, average, mundane, same-old PowerPoint presentation I have become. 99 percent of the time, as soon as any given PowerPoint presentation starts, I can feel the bile and boredom start to slosh and boil in my gut - in part because I sit through so darn many presentations, but even more so because most presentations - well - they just suck.

There's nothing quite like a slide deck with all the bulleted words the presenter that will be coming right out of the speakers mouth, if your intent is to say to your audience, "Hey, you're an idiot, so let me read this to you." Who's the idiot, really? There's nothing more redundant than reading and listening to the same thing. Or even worse, a zillion words on the screen and the speaker is talking about something else entirely. You lost me at "Hello."

So more and more I feel like I'm wasting my time. "Read to me, speak at me, bore me with bullets ad nauseum." Please, don't.

Don't get me wrong - I know people don't do this on purpose, they're trying hard and - well - it's the way everyone else does it, right? I also know I'm being a bit harsh (in order to make a point, really). It's just that for most every presentation anymore it doesn't matter all that much what it's actually about, because it's so much like everyone else's. PowerPoint is PowerPoint is PowerPoint, and it's tiring.

If you sell a product, or an idea, or some thing, you don't want it to be just like everyone else's do you? Apply that rule to your presentation style - How do you differentiate yourself from the crowd?

We actually love the crowd, of course, because it's easy to stand out when everyone else is doing the same thing. But it's worth risking having to work harder at it if a few people will revisit their presentations and get out of the common PowerPoint traps.

Anyhow, I got to a point where I was also hating giving presentations with PowerPoint (which I do quite often), not because of the PowerPoint application itself, but because of the fact that all my presentations seemed to be basically the same, and all the templates out there seem to encourage it: Long bulleted lists, points to read aloud, graphs and charts and nasty nasty nasty clip-art. Seriously, using clip-art should be a felony. No, really. Seriously. Like as in prison.

So, a couple weeks ago I took a chance on a presentation I gave at a conference, and went all Lessig-ish with it. A couple words on each screen to punctuate the salient points, a plain white background with big, readable black letters centered on the screen, and the rest was all talk. No handouts (and believe me that was a real surprise for the attendees - but it's not like they walked out or rioted or anything). It took some concentrated effort to create the new presentation. Not rocket-science level effort, mind you - but extra work it was. Time well spent.

And - get this - it worked. The audience was engaged and the conversation (which is what it's all about - exchanging thoughts and ideas, as opposed to making a speech, right?) was interesting, for everyone including me. You could tell the format and style was something new for the audience, for sure, but the looks on people's faces were certainly fun to watch. And the thing is, they actually had looks on their faces. Gone was the blank gaze. Everyone in the room was looking at me as I spoke, and that means making a connection. They'd glance at the screen momentarily and then look back to me for the information, not the other way around. We actually looked in each others' eyes. Now, it's not that I have some kind of problem where I desperately need that kind of attention - it's just that it's clear as day that direct, personal communication is much noticeably more effective and meaningful.

The questions from the crowd at the session were good - They were thoughtful, and the audience was obviously tuned in. Not that my audiences aren't tuned in in general - quite the opposite. But in this presentation you could sense the difference - One could feel the connection and involvement noticeably more.

After the conference, we sent my spartan slides, along with the relatively detailed speaker notes printed on the page below each slide, in PDF form to anyone who attended and wanted it. Gotta provide those handouts at some point, you know... Unless it's caught on video or something.

One of the best and most effective presenters I know personally, Scott Hanselman (it's my week to link to Scott, heh), called it "Existential Presentation." I assume by that he means free, individual, unique, possibly even rebellious. I can see that. 

Personally, being the practical and somewhat-less-eloquent guy I am, I see it as a kind of resurrection of some form of miraculous goodness from the hell of a bloated and obese PowerPoint existence. Ah, existence. I get it, Scott!

Anyhow -- What do you think?

P.S.  Great resources for presenters and presentation authors (hey - you do write your own presentations, right???):

  • Presentation Zen Blog (which has been subscribed in my aggregator for quite some time)
  • Garr Reynolds presentation tips
  • Scott Hanselman's Tips for a Successful Microsoft Presentation (great stuff)

From the comments, Jim Holmes points out a couple more great ones:

and Shane Perran also has some excellent suggestions:

  • Steve Jobs - Simply brilliant when it comes to presentation. That goes for most of the Apple design/marketing team
  • www.guykawasaki.com - Guy Kawasaki - A one time Apple guy turned VC and absolute master of presentation
  • sethgodin.typepad.com - Seth Godin - Author of the ever popular Purple Cow and another master presenter and storyteller
  • www.alertbox.com - Jakob Neilson - While wildly hard-nosed about design, he knows content usability like no other - mostly web oriented, there is a lot of carry over

Those are all good ones, and most all those blogs I subscribe to (and the rest I just did, heh). Presentation is about content, style, design, personality, conversation... All important components.

Friday, 21 July 2006 20:51:58 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 18 July 2006

Last week it was Toronto, and this week I am headed to Atlanta. I'll leave Portland in the early morning Wednesday and fly across the country and then back, once again. This time I decided to use a couple of those 500-mile class upgrade vouchers I've been earning and hoarding, since this is the last flight I have scheduled for at least the next few weeks (I have over 100,000 total miles accrued on my frequent flier account, including about 70,000 real, actual miles flown since February and 45 flight segments flown since the beginning of the year - sheez). I've been flying my body into a deep, dark pit of cramps and generalized pain. So, I figure I might as well try to make this trip a nice one, eh? Then when I get home and spend a couple or few weeks in my own bed maybe I'll eventually get back to "normal." Whatever that is, heh.

So... I'll be in the Columbus and Atlanta, Georgia areas Wednesday night plus all day Thursday and Friday. Then it's back home again. If I am lucky, my travel calendar will remain fairly close to what it looks like today and I won't have to fly again til sometime in August. Fingers crossed!

The travel can get in the way of fun. My friend Norm called me tonight to see if I could help shoot a big fireworks show (on a river barge) this Saturday but I had to say I'd better not unless he gets in a bad bind for crew members, since I don't get back home til late on Friday night. All this travel really takes a lot out of me, and I'd hate to only be partially effective while everyone else on the crew was out there working their butts off. At any rate, I do wish I could work this fireworks show - it will be a fun one, and with a good crew of people. Oh well - next time!

I think maybe United Airlines owes me something more than a few upgrade coupons and some miles that can only cash in on a limited set of flights/seats. What do you think airlines should do for their customers that travel a zillion miles a year on their flights?

At least they aren't charging to use pillows and blankets like Canada Air was on my last trip. Wow, talk about penny-pinching. It's not very attractive.

Wednesday, 19 July 2006 02:59:46 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 17 July 2006

Yeah, it's cliche and random, but truth is Oregon's a great place to live. Heck, the whole Pacific Northwest is terrific. Here's just three among many reasons I say this...

Sunrise Mount Hood

MultnomahFallsMay2006

Wild Iris

Tuesday, 18 July 2006 02:16:08 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 10 July 2006

I'll be on the road (well, in the air actually) Wednesday through Friday this week, as I am traveling to Toronto, Ontario (Canada, of course), where I'll be speaking at a conference this Friday on the topic of strong authentication for web sites and the role of web site users in the security process. They say there will be somewhere around 2,000 attendees, so it should be an interesting conference. I've been doing a lot of this kind of presentation recently - there are many changes in the works in the financial services industry for performing strong authentication of people who access online banking and other secure web sites. That's pretty much everything I've been doing for the past year or so, in fact.

It's been several years since I have visited Toronto, so I am looking forward to the time there. It's always been one of my favorite cities - clean and attractive.

If anyone happens to be in the Toronto area later this week and wants to try to catch up, be sure to let me know. Email and phone info are in the menu bar on the right side of the page on this site.

Tuesday, 11 July 2006 02:06:34 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 08 July 2006

Remember that guy who decided last year to start with one red paperclip and trade it up for a house?

Well guess what?

He succeeded.

Kyle MacDonald will soon be moving into a house in the small town of Kipling in Saskatchewan.

The two-storey house in Kipling was built in the 1920s and has undergone renovations in recent years. Roach admits some touchups and yard work are needed before turning the keys over to MacDonald, and a work party is scheduled for Saturday, July 8 to do just that. He is hoping residents will jump on the bandwagon and that there will be lots of help that day, in preparation for welcoming Kyle and Dom to Kipling.

Here is the progression of trades (with a link to the details of each item):

one red paperclip fishpen.JPG knobt.JPG  coleman.JPG  generator.JPG one instant party skidoo2 yahk2 Cintas  Cube Truck1995 one recording contract phoenix one afternoon with Alice Cooper one KISS snow globe one movie role one house

Tenacity and a blog. Wow.

Saturday, 08 July 2006 20:03:03 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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I'm feeling rather thoughtful and somewhat random today. I even cleaned the island counter in my kitchen. Well, sort of. How's that for unusual? It's nice to have a "down" day, for sure.

So anyhow, this morning I took this Jung personality type test online after surfing around on Portland craigslist for random stuff and finding a not-where-you'd expect link to the test on there somewhere (no idea where, craigslist is this infinitely random web of always changing complex stuff where one can always go to see how much more screwed up than oneself people really are). I took the profile test for kicks, and basically just because I like those sorts of things. They make me think. I ended up classified as type INFJ, which it seems is pretty much spot on when I read the description. I don't especially like everything about the fact that it's right on the mark, but hey - what can ya do? Heh.

Infj-profile-results

Then I took the short version of another online profiler that assesses your entrepreneurial business type. the results of that were also interesting. I'm fascinated with the questions these profile systems use, especially the whole group of them in combination. Depending of how the answers pattern out, I can see how one could accurately draw certain conclusions. Not sure how accurate these are in reality (they sure seem to hit the mark), but they are fun to run though nonetheless. It makes me think.

Biz-type-profile

Hmmm, always interesting to see what the robots think of you, eh?

So that got me thinking about something else that always seems to be on my mind: What do I want to be when I grow up? Sure I'm 39 and turning bald and grey (prematurely by the way, I really don't feel this old). But there's a part of me that wants to do things that matter - to somehow change the world, if you will. So, I have to indulge that part of me from time to time, if for no other reason then just to stay happy and sane. To make me think.

Earlier this week we did a big ol' fireworks display for the Clatskanie (Oregon) Heritage Days on July 4th, which was a lot of fun and quite successful. One of my friends from the pyro crew - Brad - brought along a friend of his who had not worked a fireworks show. Jake is his name and he works for a non-profit called Action Without Borders, and they have this interesting and cool web site at idealist.org that is basically a clearing house for, well, non-profits and idealists. Check it out, it's cool. It makes me think.

Anyhow, I enjoy what I do today because there are parts of it that "matter," and that drives me to do more. There are many other things I'd like to do someday - other things that might in some way change the world, or something like that. But I'll leave the descriptions of those things for another time.

Ask yourself this: How can you change the world? What will you do? What makes you think?

Saturday, 08 July 2006 17:33:25 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 06 July 2006

Just when you thought you'd seen it all, well - you'll just have to check this one out for yourself (from KGW.com).

Straight from the Portland Bureau of Ridiculousness...

A Northeast Portland man is suing basketball superstar Michael Jordan and Nike founder Phil Knight for a combined $832 million. Allen Heckard filed the suit himself, June 29th in Washington County Court. Heckard says he’s been mistaken as Michael Jordan nearly every day over the past 15 years and he’s tired of it.

 
kgw.com

“I'm constantly being accused of looking like Michael and it makes it very uncomfortable for me,” said Heckard.

Heckard is suing Jordan for defamation and permanent injury and emotional pain and suffering. He’s suing Knight for defamation and permanent injury for promoting Jordan and making him one of the most recognized men in the world.

Uhhh... Yeah, right. You can read the whole story here. And roll your eyes like me. Rolling eyes is so much fun. What an idiot.

My favorite quote from the story:

Some might wonder how he decided to sue Knight and Jordan for $416-million each. "Well, you figure with my age and you multiply that times seven and ah, then I turn around and ah I figure that's what it all boils down to."

Wow. Scary thing is he might get a few bucks tossed at him to go away. Or if we're lucky he'll lose hard and get stuck with the defendants' attorney's fees. You think he considered that possibility?

What an idiot. Sorry, but there are times when you just have to come out and say it.

Friday, 07 July 2006 04:41:02 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 05 July 2006

Today was a good day - more so than most. I realized this a few minutes ago as I stood in my freshly-mowed front lawn and surveyed my work.

First of all, the fact that the sun was still out and I was actually standing in my front yard (heck, the fact that I was even on my own property at 6pm on a weekday) was a minor miracle. Between extensive travel and the time spent at work catching up on all the stuff I miss while traveling, time spent at home has been very little. So a better-looking lawn and the fact that it's still plenty light out as I type this are both great things.

On top of that, an old friend from back when I lived in New Mexico - John Turner - called me today out of the blue. Seems he'd been searching for "Redneck Yard of the Week" and found my blog. Hmmm, interesting psychological questions about that search come to mind, heh. But anyhow, JT's one of my all-time favorite people and it was great to hear from him after a few years of disconnect and to catch up on the phone. People ask me why I put my cell phone number on this blog - now you know. JT mentored me (whether he knew it or not) and was a big factor in convincing me back in '98 and '99 to leave law enforcement and move into computers and technology. Mostly he helped me get past the risk/fear part and into the take-action part. Plus he believed I could do it and make it work when I was not so sure. He was also there for me during some very difficult times, and I will always appreciate that. He's an awesome dude and all around good people, and it's great to be back in touch.

Finally, I had a day where my schedule at work wasn't meeting after meeting after meeting. I am realizing more and more just how much endless meetings rob from your soul. So it was very nice to be able to sit still and catch up with the people I work with and to close a few loops.

And to top it all off, I am at home and done with yard work in time to catch a full hour of South Park on Comedy Central. The dogs were shocked to see me and to get a chance to play around, and the crazy cat is trying to get me to play fetch (what a weirdo). Ahhhh, the life!

Thursday, 06 July 2006 00:03:20 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Lighting the showUpdate: Both Rich and Travis have posted blog entries about our fireworks show, check 'em out.

Once mortars (the tubes that the shells are launched out of) are installed (which takes a while and represents the bulk of the manual labor that goes into a show), it's time to load the shells. This is the last fireworks show post until I can get some video or images of the show itself from others, since during the display I have to watch the line crew and supervise for safety and light some shells myself - no time for taking pictures, so I rely on others.

(Update: Crew-member Erik Dake shot the picture at left, which shows us from a distance lighting off the shells that are launching into the night sky. Note that it's a long exposure - so you're seeing several shots worth of flame and lit up smoke. It gives you an inkling of an idea of what it's like, though.)

After installing the mortars, the remainder of the afternoon was spent loading the show, doing some walk-through training to show how we light the shells, lots of redundant safety training all afternoon, and finally getting some dinner before blowing the whole thing up. Several new crew members that were here for their first show had the chance to light the show and experience the smoke and noise. There's really nothing quite like it.

The show was terrific (lots of extended cheers from the crowd, which is pretty much the only real litmus test) and the crew did a great job from beginning to end. Here are some pictures of the crew members setting up and loading shells in the evening, in preparation for the show. Note that we spend about 6-7 hours setting up a show that took 22 minutes to completely destroy. It was worth it.

Here's the pics...

Travis (who got his pyrotechnician license from the state recently - congrats!) loads some of the mortars that will be used to fire the finale:

Travis loads the finale shells

Rich and Desann - first-timers - load a five-inch shell:

Loading more shells

The "other" Scoble (Alex, that is, also a first-timer) loading five-inch shells:

Alex loading

Jake (another first-timer, lots of those today) loads more shells:

Drop a shell

The crew loads the line:

Loading the line

Dave loading another mortar:

Dave drops a shell in

Jake, Jenn (also recently got her pyro license!), Brad and Erik (both repeat offenders) loading mortars with shells:

Crew loading

Thanks to a great crew for putting on a great show. I'll be glad to work with any and all of these people again.

Wednesday, 05 July 2006 06:22:14 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 04 July 2006

Thank goodness for The Crew. Having plenty of people around to help makes all the difference in the world. This year I can actually man a shovel (before my back surgery I was mostly just giving directions, which always feels stupid). We've run througfh some initial safety talks and talked about how the whole process works. After we ge everything installed and ready we'll do some training. But much to do before then.

Setting up is a lot of work, but hey it's worth it when you hear the crowd cheer at the end of the show. Besides, where alse can you blow up several thousand dollars worth of high explosives legally in someone's neighborhood and have everyone love you for it?

A mortar is a tube that basically acts as a cannon - the sheel is loaded into the bottom of the tube and the lift charge sends it out of the tube into the sky. It's, well, pretty exciting when it happens.

But before you can shoot them off you have to install the mortars, in our case in the ground. That means people, shovels and hopefully a good breeze. We're lucky today - not hot and a breeze to make it bearable. Last year was sweltering hot.

Everyone installs mortars - 4 and 5 inchers:

Installing Mortars

Back-filling the trench (which was dug by a back-hoe):

Installing more mortars

Lots and lots of tubes - hundreds of 'em:

Lots of tubes

More to come later...

Tuesday, 04 July 2006 20:19:49 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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One again, I'm out setting up and preparing to fire off a fireworks show with a bunch of friends and helpers. I'll post a few updates here and hopefully be able to impart a little bit of what goes into setting up and executing a public display. EVDO rocks, by the way. A bit slow out in this neck of the woods, but still it's the only way to be able to write this from a field.

First of all, there's a significant amount of hurry-up-and-wait involved. I arrived early this morning (before 9am) to meet the truck that delivered the explosive shells. All 1.3G commercial fireworks have to be delivered by someone with a commercial driver's license and a HAZMAT endorsement, and I have been too lazy to get mine. I really need to do that. I've read the book and just need to get my butt in gear.

Dave showed up earlyAnyhow, so since I had to get the shells at the early drop off, that means a bunch of time before the crew shows up to help set up the show. Luckilly, Dave (at left) showed up early, too. He got here at the same time as the delivery truck. Talk about a glutton for punishment. Heh. Nice to have someone else around in the intervening hours.

And it suddenly got cold out. Turns out there's a 30% chace of rain mid-day, but by late afternoon it should warm up and the chance of rain drops off to pretty much zero. That's always nice when you have to shoot fireworks. Wet is bad, dry is good. And as I type this, it starts to rain. Go figure.

The picture set is at Flickr.com so look there for everything. Here's a few to start. I will add more later:

We start with an empty trench. Into this trench we will install about 400 mortars (you'll see those later).

An empty trench

Dave showed up really early. So he gets trench inspection duty.

Dave inspects the trench

A truck full of mortars and boxes of shells. Nothing exciting really, and it doesn't look like much until it's out of the truck. But we do that part a bit later, after the crew shows up. Right now they're all stuck on the other end of town calling me on my cell phone while the massive three hour parade goes on. For a realtively small town they sure have a huge parade! Heh.

Truck with equipment and shells

More later.

Tuesday, 04 July 2006 17:35:32 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 01 July 2006

Winners are not determined by who gets the last word or who attacks whom.

Or as one common user just said: "What I see here is ego overcoming ego." Could not be better said. The ego in this room is suffocating. The thought leadership is suffering as a result.

Typical of me, I didn't realize the first day of Gnomedex that the guy sitting on the floor behind me was oh, one of the co-founders of Firefox.  I figured that out pretty quickly when I did the "okay so that name sounds familiar, ummm, uhhhhh.... Oh!"

Yeah. So I'm getting old. Hey, at least I figured it out.

At any rate, I enjoyed the few quick chats over the past couple days while sitting with Blake Ross, who as it turns out is a nice guy and and is obviously wicked smart. He also cares about what he builds and the people who use it, and it shows.

Unfortunately, what I will call "the predictable regulars" here at the conference apparently seem to think they have a monopoly on caring. Unless you agree with these people, you lose. They scream and bitch and moan if they can't finish a sentence, and they complain about one person controlling the conversation, yet they cut others off when they try to participate in the conversation or when they - God forbid - try to defend themselves.

At any rate, Blake stepped on the stage today to talk about how Firefox went from zero market share to millions of downloads without a marketing budget and almost exclusively through community driven effort. It's a success effort worthy of review and notice. But the conversation - predictably - was dragged off by the predictable few into a pattern of argument and conflict. Blake tried to steer the conversation back to the topic at hand (which is what discussion leaders were supposed to do, let's be clear on that point) and was attacked for doing that, too.

What it specifically wasn't intended to be: A talk about features, bugs, roadmap or the future of Firefox.

And as Jeremy Zawodny said at the start of his presentation, which followed Blake's, the participants in this room sure do like to bitch. And so it goes.

So let me say this to Blake: Thanks for a great browser, and keep it up. Winners are not determined by who gets the last word or who attacks whom or how loud our little tiny echo chamber is. We all know that when it comes down to it.

And next year, maybe we should suggest they rename this conference if this is the way its going to be. BitchCon maybe. Or give each person two comment tickets at the door, and when you've used 'em up you can listen but not bloviate. I dunno - I love GnomeDex but I also long for the days of the enthusiasts and the practical, even while enjoying the debate that Gnomedex has brought us this year. But the change has been fundamental, core and pervasive. It's a whole different show. Not a bad thing necessarily, just very different.

Saturday, 01 July 2006 20:34:45 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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A Gnomedex discussion took place earlier in the conference about sharing intimately personal things on weblogs and in public forums. There was a lot of other stuff in the conversation, too - but what I took away from it was the "what do you write about, why, and is it a good idea?" theme.

Some people are a truly and completely open book (crime, sex and all) on the Internet, while others who used to be quite open in their blogging have since changed and have pulled all the personal stuff back in, only writing about things that are not descriptive of real life. Kids these days (that's my old dude comment for the week) seem to post all kinds of things that some find both shocking and concerning.

For my part, I write both. I would never write about certain things that are definitley best kept private, and there are a number of specific things that happen in my life which I choose not to post here. But people do sometimes comment about things I write that are quite personal. It really doesn't take courage (people often say "I wish I had the courage to..."), just some common sense and a desire to think things through sometimes, which I find works out well by writing.

I often write (both the personal and the tech stuff) to clear my plugged up brain so I can sleep better. So I guess whatever comes out just comes out. With a filter. Like it or not. Good or bad.

Saturday, 01 July 2006 14:59:30 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 30 June 2006

Chris Pirillo just mentioned onstage (at Gnomedex) that he wrote: TechMeme Hacked!!

Also - noted the launch of blaugh.com. Cool. The un-official comic of the blogosphere.

Friday, 30 June 2006 14:48:18 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Time sure flies when you're having fun (or when you're working like crazy). I can't believe it's already here: Gnomedex starts Thursday evening, and I'll be heading to Seattle Thursday afternoon to check into the hotel and disconnect from the rest of the world and plug into the ultimate geek fest. It looks to be a very interesting and exciting time. I am sure Chris and Ponzi will once again outdo the past shows.

If you'll be there, let me know. My mobile number is over on the right side of this blog, as is my email address. Or just comment here.

Thursday, 29 June 2006 03:20:54 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 19 June 2006

Now, this is a great idea. Heard about it today on Startup Nation (which is a great radio show and podcast, by the way):

VocationVacations allows people to test-drive their dream job completely risk-free.  A VocationVacation isn’t job-shadowing, and it isn’t a fantasy camp. Instead, “Vocationers” work one-on-one with a credentialed mentor to see what their dream job is really like.  Currently, the company offers more than 200 packages in 31 states – and is growing each month including: TV producer, brew master, dog trainer, B&B owner, professional photographer, comedy club owner, race team pit crew member, baseball team general manager, chocolatier, sports announcer, white water rafting outfitter, animal shelter director, costume designer, talent agent, horse trainer, wine maker, baker, private investigator, film events producer, cheese maker, wine retailer, fishing outfitter, wedding coordinator and many more.

See what might fit your desires with their Dream Job Finder.

Looks very interesting. I'll have to dig into this and maybe try something out.

Tuesday, 20 June 2006 04:40:42 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 17 June 2006

logo.jpgI first discovered and wrote about Pandora some time back, in December or so. Well, since then the Pandora crew has been hard at work and there's more new features that make the great thing they'd developed even better.

To re-cap, Pandora lets you enter the name of a musical artist, and it creates a "station" of similar, complimentary music based on the original selection. That music streams and plays in the web-based player like a radio station. And it's complete songs that play, not just clips. You can also rate the tracks and there are links to do things like buy from iTunes or Amazon. You can also take discovered songs you especially like and create new stations from those.

In a nutshell, use Pandora and you'll find lots of music you'll like that you'd never find otherwise.

But anyhow, about the new stuff...

On the Pandora blog just yesterday they announced some new features, one of which is called Backstage. It's a back-end into much of the information that drives Pandora. Here is how they describe it:

We created Backstage as your door to the music universe that lies behind Pandora. Search for an artist or song to start your exploration.

... whenever you hear a song you love, just click the song, album, or artist name to learn more. That click will take you "backstage" where you can browse an entire universe that tells the story of more than twenty thousand artists and their collected works.

Sample entire CD's, read about the history of your favorite bands, look at artist photos, build your musical profile, buy albums and tracks from iTunes or Amazon, and get all kinds of great recommendations for songs, albums, and artists you might enjoy.

Find something you like? You can create a new station with just a single click. Have some time on your hands? Just want to browse? Want to settle a bet about how many albums The Cure released in the 80's? Hop over to http://www.pandora.com/backstage and search for your favorite artist or song to get started.

Very cool stuff.

There are some other feature tweaks to the main Pandora interface, too. You can now rate a song with a single mouse click. Just mouse over the song you want to rate, and click the thumb (up or down) graphic that pops up. They've also added the ability to create a new station from any artist you encounter while listening. Just click the song menu and select "New Station: from artist" and Pandora will instantly create a new station for you.

And if you're wondering how the Pandora team does all that music comparison and correlation so you can find music you like, well guess what? It's a people-driven process, not automated. No wonder it works! Learn more about the people that manage the musical cataloging here.

Saturday, 17 June 2006 18:08:26 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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What podcasts do you listen to? Which ones actually keep you coming back?

Honestly, there are so few podcasts out there that I can stand to listen to anymore. I deleted a whole slew of podcast subscriptions the other day because I felt like I was wasting massive amounts of time on those occasions when I did listen, and because many of them have simply turned me off completely and therefore got skipped over and never listened to (and honestly that's most of them).

What are my pet peeves? Okay, here's my harsh list for what will cause me to kill the audio before the podcaster even gets started.

  • Any podcast that opens with anything even remotely like "your speakers are about to blow up" or "warning, "the sound you're about to hear may cause damage." Give me a break. Everyone says that, and the only potential damage is me pushing a pencil through my ear to drown out the un-original intro.
  • Don't say "welcome to the world of (anything)." That's as lame as the movie trailers that start with "In a world..." People laugh and cringe at the same time. And it's sad when cringing is accompanied by uncomfortable laughter.
  • Open your show with "blahblah podcast" plus the date and then never use the word podcast ever again. Use of the word "podcast" more than once in any single sentence, or in more than one sentence in a row should be a felony. Agh. I know it's a freakin' podcast, it's not like it magically found its way onto my computer - I had to do all kinds of work to find it and access it. Tell me something I don't know and (here comes the 'o' word again) original.
  • As much as it might mean to you, chances are nobody else especially wants you to pontificate about how you and your girlfriend celebrated her 31st birthday this past weekend. In fact, your girlfriend probably doesn't want you saying it either...
  • Podcasts about podcasting. Uh, yeah.
  • Crappy indie music. Note that I have nothing against independent music if it's good. But any music that's bad (indie or otherwise) is bound to drive away listeners. The operative word is 'crappy.' If you played "We Built This City" on your podcast opener, I'd probably click the 'Close' button, too.
  • Repetition
  • Repetition
  • Repetition
  • Seriously, you don't need a blog entry with the same copy/paste text on the page for every episode. I'm reading to see what's different, not what's the same. I already unsubscribed from the podcast, don't tempt me to do the same with the blog.
  • Snot noises (sniffling, etc). Seriously, blow your nose or take a decongestant or something.
  • "So I thought I would talk about something like that and so ummm yeah so uh I am going to talk about that now..." GAH!

They can't all be that bad...

Anyhow, my new goal is to find 10 awesome podcasts that attract, deserve and retain my attention. Let me know if you have suggestions.

Saturday, 17 June 2006 16:14:26 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Not exactly my typical blog topic, but I found this to be very interesting, and somehow I think people like Bill and Melinda Gates might think so, too.

It certainly might be worth putting some serious thought and effort into. Is this possibly the changing face of education?

The Fairhaven School in Upper Marlboro, MD is not your typical school. Instead of the standard educational model, this private school takes a radically different approach - Kid-powered learning, if you will. 73 students and a few teachers have turned the traditional model on its proverbial head. Done right, this could be a powerful form and method of education. It sure looks like the kids are well-educated, smart and (perhaps most importantly) involved in their world.

There's a DVD that a film maker made about the school and its students, and you can view the trailer here:

Saturday, 17 June 2006 14:14:36 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Love it. The bathroom: It's not just for laptops anymore.

Introducing iCarta (click to view larger size). Thank goodness there are people out there inventing these things and making a zillion dollars as a result. Is it really that simple? Who the hell funds these things, anyhow?

ICarta

Specs:

  • 4 Integrated high performance moisture-free speakers deliver exceptional
    clarity and high quality sound
  • Charges your iPod while playing music
  • Audio selector allows you to play iPod shuffle or other Audio device
  • Integrated Bath tissue holder that can be easily folded as a stereo dock
  • Requires AC Power (AC Adapter included)
  • Easy to remove from Wall Mount
Saturday, 17 June 2006 13:23:47 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 16 June 2006

Okay, so the video of the Bellagio style fountain show with Diet Coke mixed with a bunch of Mentos was cool. But what happens when you mix them up in your body? Makes for some serious gas, I guess.

Wonder no more. Here's yet another video where the subject performs another Mentos experiment that succinctly proves the theory (click to view the video):

Pepsi-girl

Thanks, Sean.

Saturday, 17 June 2006 01:42:50 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 15 June 2006

Stellarium-logoStellarium is a free open source planetarium program for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.

It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.

If you're at all into telescopes or the night sky, this one's for you.

in version 0.8.0:

sky

  • over 120,000 stars from the Hipparcos catalogue with info
  • asterisms and illustrations of the constellations
  • images of nebulae
  • realistic Milky Way
  • very realistic atmosphere, sunrise and sunset
  • the planets and their satellites

interface

  • a powerful zoom
  • time control
  • multilingual interface
  • scripting to record and play your own shows
  • fisheye projection for planetarium domes
  • spheric mirror projection for your own dome
  • graphical interface and extensive keyboard control

visualisation

  • equatorial and azimuthal grids
  • star twinkling
  • shooting stars
  • eclipse simulation
  • skinnable landscapes, now with spheric panorama projection

customisability

  • add your own deep sky objects, landscapes, constellation images, scripts...

 

Click the image to view a full size screenshot:

Stellarium1

More great screenshots here.
Friday, 16 June 2006 03:42:22 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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What are you doing this July 4th? Well, if you're in the area (meaning the Pacific Northwest) and have a little "crazy" built up inside, here's your invitation to join me and a few of my pyro-friends as we spend the day setting up a big-ol' public fireworks display and firing it off for a community here in northwestern Oregon.

And I don't mean the fireworks you buy at the store or over on the reservation. I mean the real-meal-deal -- a commercial fireworks show bought and paid for by a town for the community.

Come on -- You know that hidden pyro deep down inside is clawing around in there, just trying to get out. You know you can't help it. You must give in. Say yes and experience the smoke, explosions and flames that go into getting those huge aerial displays off the ground and into the air. Or just help dig and bury equipment and then sit back and watch from the best seat in the house. Your choice.

In other words, come spend the 4th of July this year with us. It will be fun.

So - What exactly do you get/have to do?

Well first of all, you don't have to do anything you don't want to. Many people who come to help out are much more interested in setting up and watching the show than actually lighting it off, which is fine. Crew-members (yes, you'll get to truthfully tell people you're on the Pyro crew woohoo!) do everything: Install the mortars (4- and 5-inch mortar tubes for this show), load all the shells (hundreds of them), get trained on how this stuff works and - most importantly - how to be safe (training by yours truly), and finally we actually light the show and man the fire extinguishers - or whatever you are comfortable with. Then we clean it up and head out. By that time, it's been a long, fun day.

On the day of the show, after setup (read: manual labor involving shovels and dirt) is completed, we'll do some knowledge and safety training where you'll get to learn how the components work when you light them, and generally what to expect. It's fun. And fact is, not a lot of people get to do this kind of thing. So, this is my open invitation to the people who read this. Assuming you're 18 or older and you've not been convicted of a felony or are otherwise restricted from handling explosives (seriously, that's a hard-set rule from the feds and there's this piece of paper you'll sign saying you're cool), and assuming you don't show up drunk or anything (again, safety), it's a great time.

So, yeah... If you can talk the significant other into it (or bring him or her with ya), and you're up for it and not like completely freaked out by fire, explosions and lots of noise and smoke, let me know by sending me an email or giving me a call. Both the email link and the phone number are over there on the right side of the page (assuming you're viewing this on the web site).

Links from past shows to get you acclimated and prepared:

So, if Travis' account of things doesn't completely scare you away, be sure to get in touch!

Coolio. See ya there.

Friday, 16 June 2006 03:11:54 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Gnomedex 6.0I'm taking a quick break from my work-all-night-at-home mode, and I see that Chris says Gnomedex 6.0 is officially sold out in the main hall (you can still attend in the "cove" hall via video feed, though). It promises to be yet another good year for this Gnomedex show/conference/event (it will be my third). It's all happening June 29th through July 1st.

If you're attending this year, let me know (my email and mobile phone are over on the right side of the page) and let's catch up!

Also, the OPML of attendees' blogs is here.

Thursday, 15 June 2006 02:38:47 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 08 June 2006

I've made three trips from Portland, Oregon (where I live) to Washington DC in the past month. I love DC, but that's enough for me for now. Especially when you add in all the other trips I've made in-between. Try expecting to fly from DC to Omaha, but getting to Chicago and finding out your flight to Omaha was cancelled, so you decide to fly to Kansas City and drive to Omaha. at 1 a.m., then five hours later you get back on a plane to fly to your next stop

Crazy. I have spent most of the past couple months on the road. Or in the air, as the case may be.

Anyhow, time for a couple days off, no matter how much I may be needed elsewhere, so I am heading up to Scranton, PA to catch back up with my friend, Mary Beth. Her brother's getting married at West Point this weekend so we'll be up that way for a couple of days. What a cool place to get married. He graduated there last year and is an officer in the U.S. Army in Arizona. It will be a fun weekend.

Then it's back home so my dogs and cat can stare at me in disdain again for a day or two. Heh.

Thursday, 08 June 2006 11:34:10 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 07 June 2006

http://www.zachbraff.com/

Sure, he's had the Garden State blog going with an occasional post here and there for a while, but Zach Braff - one of the few actors I can actually stand to listen to (actually I think he's a rather good, decent, funny cool person) for more than five minutes at a time - has started a new blog with video and text entries. Check it out.

Needs RSS though.

Thursday, 08 June 2006 01:58:02 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 05 June 2006
Is it just me, or is it kinda strange (and maybe a little ironic) that "anti-freeze" and "coolant" are the same thing?
Tuesday, 06 June 2006 03:26:12 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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JK posted a cool picture that turns out to be a visual representation of his weblog. So, I went to the site that creates them and made one of my own (click the image below to view full-size):

greghughes.net site graphical representation

Color Legend:

blue: for links (the A tag)
red: for tables (TABLE, TR and TD tags)
green: for the DIV tag
violet: for images (the IMG tag)
yellow: for forms (FORM, INPUT, TEXTAREA, SELECT and OPTION tags)
orange: for linebreaks and blockquotes (BR, P, and BLOCKQUOTE tags)
black: the HTML tag, the root node
gray: all other tags

Tuesday, 06 June 2006 03:20:32 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 04 June 2006

Diet-coke-and-mentosI know, I know - it's sooo lame to link to Internet videos, blah blah, but seriously I only link to the ones that make me go WOW... This one certainly got me to play it more than just once.

The Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments:

What happens when you combine 200 liters of Diet Coke and over 500 Mentos mints? It's amazing and completely insane.

This has to be one of the better orchestrated Intarweb videos I have seen in awhile. Two guys take 200 bottles of Diet Coke, drop a bunch of mentos in the bottles, and end up with a terrific - albeit kinda messy - display. It does cause one to wonder, though:

If I eat Mentos and drink Diet Coke will I blow up????

Watch it here. Some of the earlier tests are also viewable online. Heh.

Sunday, 04 June 2006 13:29:08 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 03 June 2006

If there is one thing I have learned lately, it's that I have been wrong all along about how to solve problems between businesses. It's become very clear to me over the past few days of industry observation that the only way way to solve a problem is to serve some form of aggressive legal notice just as soon as humanly possible. So, as part of my top-secret role as a representative of an organization I am not actually allowed to tell you about, the following notice has been formally served on America Company and its CEO.

Background: America Company has infringed on the property rights of the organization I represent, and it's obvious they have done so intentionally and without even asking or offering to cook dinner or anything. That phone call back in February where they asked if it "would be cool" to use the trademark doesn't really count - it was purely a discussion of hypotheticals and whatever was said was certainly not really meant.

So, I regret even having to go this far. It is a very difficult thing to have to do. Unfortunately, it's now officially the only acceptable way left to solve real problems...

Dear AMERICA COMPANY and RORY BLYTHE, CEO:

I am counsel to AMERICA THE OTHER COUNTRY LLC (herein referred to as "SHADOW AMERICA"). Working closely with THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (and its predecessor, THE COMMONWEALTH OF SALEM) as well as its various divisions and entities, SHADOW AMERICA is the creator and producer of of the ATM/NIGERIAN SCAM MACHINE and ATM/NIGERIAN SCAM CONFERENCE, and has been constructing and distributing these machines, and conducting these conferences, since 2004. As a result of our investment of time, energy and resources in the production of the ATM/NIGERIAN SCAM MACHINE and related conferences, and the associated ATM/NIGERIAN SCAM MACHINE service-marks and product trademarks, members of the industry and interested members of the public have come to associate the mark "ATM/NIGERIAN SCAM MACHINE" and the ATM/NIGERIAN SCAM MACHINE conferences with SHADOW AMERICA and THE COMMONWEALTH OF SALEM.

It has come to my attention that you have marketed a service and/or device entitled in whole or part ATM/NIGERIAN SCAM MACHINE. Through this title, you are misinterpreting and misrepresenting, and recipients are given the direct and false impression that you are providing them with SHADOW AMERICA'S ATM/NIGERIAN SCAM MACHINE device. We have received numerous complaints related to confusion among our highly confidential and sensitive list of customers surrounding your marketing materials published on or about June 3, 2006, and other similar items.

SHADOW AMERICA has a pending application for the registration of ATM/NIGERIAN SCAM MACHINE as a service mark for the production, marketing and sale of devices, namely combination ATM-scam machines, associated devices and services related thereto in various fields of technology and services. You use of the ATM/NIGERIAN SCAM MACHINE mark without our authorization or consent directly violates our exclusive rights. Selecting this title can only been seen as a deliberate attempt to trade off the good will of SHADOW AMERICA and causes confusion in the market. You mis-use, ironically, is exacerbated by your use of the term "AMERICA COMPANY" in your marketing material, which is close in language and terminology to SHADOW AMERICA, and due to the little-understood yet existing connection between SHADOW AMERICA and THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, your company's name further complicates matters for consumers. Moreover, such actions contribute to unfair trade practices, unfair competition and are a flagrant violation of SHADOW AMERICA'S trademark rights.

SHADOW AMERICA hereby demands that you immediately cease and desist from utilizing ATM/NIGERIAN SCAM MACHINE at the name or title of your products and/or services, and from making any further use of our mark, or any mark that is confusingly similar to it. SHADOW AMERICA further demands that you provide us written assurance within ten days that you have ceased to use such name and title and that you will refrain from using and SHADOW AMERICA marks in the future.

Any further actions by SHADOW AMERICA will depend on the nature and promptness of your response. SHADOW AMERICA will retain and reserve all of its rights with respect to your actions to date.

Very Truly Yours,

Sosu Mie
SHADOW AMERICA
(AMERICA THE OTHER COUNTRY LLC)

Rory, you've been served. Again, I blame you.

Ok. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Sunday, 04 June 2006 02:07:34 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 28 May 2006

Cathy Rigby as Peter PanIt's slightly out of character for me to go to a live theater performance, but I'm glad I bought a couple tickets in early April to the stage production of Peter Pan, starring Cathy Rigby, for the second to last night of the show's farewell tour. The show was performed last night in downtown Portland at the Keller Auditorium, and I can tell you this: It was a lot of fun and an amazing show, both technically and for it's entertainment value.

First of all, no matter who you are, Peter Pan is just a great story. It speaks directly to the kid hiding within each of us and reminds us that youth is something that passes, but growing up is something that happens in its own time and in accordance with our individual wills. Few stories can make you think about what's possible like Peter Pan does, and for that it's a timeless classic story. It was actually written a hundred years ago.

This show was very well done all the way around. The set was terrific and the lighting made it all work. Of course, one of the most amazing aspects of this show - and the thing that truly sets it apart from most others - is the fact that Peter quite literally flies in the window and all around the stage. At one point, Cathy Rigby, who plays Peter and has done so for years, even flies out into the audience, over your head while the orghestra plays loudly and the crowd cheers (see some back-stage footage here). And when she flies, the former gymnast in her shows through, as she twists and turns and somersaults and spins through the air. Let's just say it's a fantastic flying effect. There's something about the Peter character, one of a young boy who is determined never to grow up, a desire many of us probably share in our own individual ways - and who can fly because he believes, something we all wish secretly we could do. If only wishing and believing could make magical dreams come true and keep us young forever... It's a universal appeal that the story of Peter Pan carries.

When Rigby and the other actors fly across and around the stage, one can't help but wish there was some way to give it a try yourself. It's powerful enough to invoke a wish to actually be able to fly, the same feeling I had when I was a kid lying on the grass and getting dizzy watching birds circle around overhead in the summer. I always wondered what it would be like to be a bird. Tonight I wondered what it would be like to be Peter Pan.

From what I've read, it seems this is Cathy Rigby's farewell tour and therefore the final weekend for this show - it will be no more after Sunday. She flies out in true style, as incredibly athletic as ever (this is an amazingly energetic and athletic production). Sunday evening is the last performance on their schedule during this "farewell tour," which is a sad moment because the filled auditorium tonight was quite pleased and into the performance. Certainly there's more opportunity for the next Peter to take on the role of a boy who woudl not grow up, to please future crowds of both young and old. I am glad and feel quite fortunate to have seen this show before it closed. Magic and pixie dust can really make a lasting impression.

A few press links from the Portland final run of Peter Pan:

It looks like a few Sunday tickets are still available, and if you like the story and can swing it, you should check it out. There's an afternoon show plus one final evening performance. Here's the link for tickets, which will be good only on Sunday - After that, this particular Peter Pan will have grown up, and will be gone.

Sunday, 28 May 2006 15:14:30 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 26 May 2006

unitedIf you're like me and spend 50% or more of your life reading the Sky Mall and United Airlines magazines in the seat back pocket in front of you, and if you also happen to have a Blackberry with a web browser enabled, or some other SmartPhone-ish thing that lets you browse the web, be sure to check out United 2 Go:

http://www.ua2go.com

Among the things you can do or check on this mobile-enabled site:

  • My itineraries: View your United Airlines and United Express segments regardless of where they were booked.
  • Flight availability: View domestic and international flight availability up to 331 days in the future on United flights. For Palm OS device's without a wireless connection, the downloadable electronic timetable is available monthly on united.com.
  • Flight status: This gives you up to the minute flight status that includes departure/arrival times, gate numbers and departure/arrival status for United flights.
  • Flight paging: Much like the Flight status alerts feature on united.com this allows you to request flight paging for future United flights
  • Mileage Plus summary: This function provides you with access to a summary of your Mileage Plus account.
  • Red Carpet Club locations: View Red Carpet Club information including location, hours and phone numbers.
  • Airport codes: An easy to use airport code lookup tool is at your fingertips for reference.  

If you're a frequent traveler on United, it's worth a bookmark.

Saturday, 27 May 2006 04:40:20 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 25 May 2006

I’m sitting here at work at 7:30 p.m. on a Thursday along with Philippe, one of the guys I work with. He’s over glued to his laptop there running SQL queries and doing randomly crazy, scary-smart developer stuff like writing WinForms apps to parse and munge huge datasets and other stuff I really only pretend to understand. Good to have the brainiacs around, let me tell ya!

Anyhow, I asked him what he thinks I should blog about. You see, I’ve not been as prolific recently in the writing department and have been a bit short on ideas, so was fishing for topics. He says – now get this one – it’s not his job to think for me. Hehehehe… Nice one. Actually, I was looking at more as thinking for himself and sharing some topic ideas with me, but hey whatever. Heh.

Then I realized – he hasn’t posted anything to his blog in the past five and a half months. And I’m asking him for writing advice? What the heck was I thinking??

Friday, 26 May 2006 00:45:31 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 22 May 2006

If you're not into x-rays or thinking about surgery and stuff like that, you can just skip this one. Many people have had me promise to show them pictures of the artificial disc that was implanted in me three months ago once I got them, so - well - here you go. This is a pretty amazing and relatively new (in the USA anyhow) area of medicine.

The Kineflex artificial lumbar disc is a three-piece metal-on-metal mechanical replacement, which is used to treat chronic and severe lumbar pain due to degenerative disc disease. It's in FDA trials right now, which makes me a bit of a guinea pig. It's not the kind of surgery you decide to do without a lot of serious thought and only after trying every other option. It replaced my natural disc, and now my severe back and leg pain that I lived with 24 hours a day for years is practically gone - and as a bonus I am a little bit taller than I was before the surgery. As I've said here before, I have my life back thanks to the doctors and the people that built this little device.

How'd they get it in there? The made an 8-inch horizontal incision just below my belly button (yep, they approach the spine from the front), spread the bones apart, removed the disc that was damaged, and put this new one in place.

You can click each image to view them larger-sized. I've removed any sensitive personal information.

Kineflex - High contrast side view

Kineflex - Reverse image high contrast

Monday, 22 May 2006 05:58:57 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 15 May 2006

I had to go to the Seattle area for my three-month post-op followup with my surgeon today. My back is in great shape he says (more x-rays were made today that look pretty darned cool), and the doc thanked me for doing so well. Heheh... I think maybe he had a lot to do with that, though. So I thanked him, again, for helping me get my life back. I owe him a lot.

After my appointment with the doc, I drive the ten minutes from the hospital over to the Microsoft campus and met up face-to-face with my online acquaintance, Trevin Chow. He's on the Windows Live ID team there, and I've always though he was a good guy. Come to find out I was right - we had fun meting and discussing a variety of things. And Trevin, thanks for the coffee!

Shameless plug time: Go read Trevin's blog - it's well worth the read. And, of course, subscribe. Here, let me make it easy for you: Subscribe to Trevin's RSS feed.

It was especially fun because although we'd never met face-to-face, it was much like the natural continuation of a conversation. Trevin emailed me this afternoon in reply to my saying thanks and said, "Your personality oozes into your blog, so you weren't a surprise in any way :) " Well, I hope it's not an infection, or we're all doomed... Heh...

Seriously though - that's exactly the impression I got from him. Glad to have met ya, Trevin. And he'll laugh that I posted all this, heheh...

Random Side-bar: Trevin has his motorcycle endorsement, but he's smart enough (read: much smarter than I) not to buy one because a couple people he knows have been in bad motorcycle accidents recently. I worry about that, too. If you ever ride a motorcycle, you must pretend you're invisible on the road - others simply will not see you. And even then, there's no guarantees.

So... Who was the last person you met, whom you met first online, but eventually caught up with face to face? And, who is the one person you've met online, but not met face to face, whom you'd most like to meet in person?

Tuesday, 16 May 2006 01:42:57 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 14 May 2006

My friend and coworker Alex and his brothers Robert and Ben are in Montana with family and most importantly their mom, who had a stroke last week and is not doing so well. It's a hard time, and I imagine it's both extra important and extra difficult today, since it's that one day a year we define as Mother's Day. Robert's been writing about some of the experience on his blog, and it's been a daily read for me. I don't know Robert as well as I know Alex, and I've never met Ben, but somehow it's good to know they're all together at an important time.

Mom and GregI talked to my mom today using the webcams I bought a few months back along with Live Messenger 8's video conferencing capabilities. She let me know yesterday she wanted to do the "video camera call thing" and I've been kind of bad lately about having my camera hooked up when she wants to do a call. She really likes being able to see the person on the other end. The things that many of us take for granted are really pretty special for others, you know?

We had a good conversation about it all today. Mom asked me why this video chat thing is free - almost like there must be something wrong with it if you don't pay for it. I explained it's not really free, there's advertisements and all. She said something like, "Ahhh" and then paused and got that thoughtful look on her face (which I could actually see, of course, since it's video chat heheh), and then she asked me the zillion-dollar question:

"Well if that's the case," she said, "why do people use telephones, then?"

Ah hah, she gets it! Heh... I explained the whole "telephone of the future thing" to her. She sees the light.

After talking throughout the day to people about moms, reading about moms, and of course sending my own mom some flowers and doing a live Internet video chat over the thousand-plus miles between us, I was left with one thought. Why do we relegate this celebration to one day a year? Moms truly deserve more than that.

I was thinking back about life recently. When I was a kid, my mom was a single parent faced with real challenges. I realized that it must have been a darn scary time for her, really. It took real courage and strength to handle a couple of growing boys like she did. She sometimes tells me she wishes it could have been better for me and my brother. For my part, though, I can't imagine having it any better than we did - with a mom who really and truly cares and who pushes on - even if it is scary, and hard, and tough.

Thanks mom. For everything. You're awesome. Truly.

Monday, 15 May 2006 04:15:11 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 11 May 2006

Anymore I'm not even sure what city I'm in on any given day. It's been a bit hectic in the travel department lately. I shifted jobs at work a few months ago, and as a result of that change and various circumstances I have been flying all over the place. It's tiring, and I have a new-found appreciation for the similar difficulties that others I work with have had to deal with. I do enjoy meting a lot of new people and seeing some nice places, but it will wear you out, for sure. That and my dogs and cat hate me (but at least they like my Neighbor, Mike. Thank God for Mike!).

So this week, I was first off to upstate New York for a couple days, and not I am in Washington DC, followed by two trips to Seattle tonight and again on Monday (home for the weekend), and finally five days next week in Asheville, North Carolina - where we are hosting our company's Security Summit. I'm very much looking forward to that event, which will feature some darned bright and interesting presenters and attendees. Plus Asheville is simply a terrific area.

I'm hoping to be able to stay a week or two at home after that (but I'm certainly not holding my breath on that one, heh). Between the press interviews, customer visits and all the speaking engagements I am involved with, travel has become a bit of a way of life. One thing's for sure - the automatic upgrade United Airlines gives you to some fancy-dancy fly-a-holic status (and which they pinned on me a couple months ago) sounds cool and all, but in reality anyone who is bestowed that "honor" has truly earned it. Having the elite frequent flyer card is a lot like carrying a Blackberry: People who see it think it's cool, but to the person who actually has it, it's just another reminder that your world is significantly consumed by work.

At any rate - although I am pretty well booked, there are some gaps in my schedule in the different places I am visiting. If anyone is around Seattle on Monday, or in the Asheville, North Carolina area the remainder of next week, be sure to let me know, and if time allows I'll buy the coffee (or whatever suits ya).

Thursday, 11 May 2006 16:35:29 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 08 May 2006

I lucked out last night - big time. We dropped by the Best Buy store in Beaverton (that's Oregon) after a fun day hanging out at OMSI and cruising Portland, just in case by some random chance they had any of the complete Xbox 360 kits around (as opposed to the "core" system version). Sure enough, a hand-made sign inside the door read "Xbox 360's in stock!"

We headed back to the place where they have the consoles, and sure enough, there were about 15 white and green boxes stacked behind the table. So I bought two - one for me at home and one for work, where all the people that work for me can play during breaks (I have been promising them one for quite awhile now - they work hard, they should play hard now and then). Added a few games and extra controllers, and walked out poor (for what it's worth, the funds have been set aside for some time waiting for a store to stock them and for me to show up before they got bought up), but also a bit excited and with a feeling of accomplishment. Finally!

I hooked mine up at home last night. I played Battlefield 2 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted. I also got Quake 4, but have not played it yet. Maybe tonight. The graphics, digital sound and animation on this thing are all freakin' A-MA-ZING.

And today, my Xbox 360 decided to start blogging. Yes, seriously. My console has it's own blog. Go figure. I guess new posts will start showing up soon. And you thought those blogging Aibos were cool eh? Nahhh... Heh.

I have to say, this is one seriously nice gaming and home entertainment console. Projected on my wall at 120 inches, that's some serious game play, and of course DVD movies look and sound great, too. I need to fire up the Media Center PC (need to fix a hard drive issue first) and tie these things together - that will be a killer combo for sure.

(Thanks, Trevin for the blogging link)

Tuesday, 09 May 2006 01:53:14 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Thanks to Omar for the links: I had already seen Stephen Colbert's roast of President Bush from the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner, but I didn't know about Bush's own roast of Bush from the same event, until now.

    Bushandbush

Now that's pretty funny. Heh...

Tuesday, 09 May 2006 01:19:32 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 05 May 2006

I've been a Vonage VoIP phone service customer for quite a while now, and I'm on their unlimited calling plan. It works great. I am quite happy with the service. And as of today, even more reason to be happy.

They've announced that Unilited plan members can call Italy, France, Spain, the UK and Ireland for free (not cell phones or 900-numbers or anything, but pretty much everything else counts).

So, if you do a lot of calling to those countries (or wish you could afford to on you old-skool regular phone service), you might want to take a look at Vonage. Let me know and I can refer you - then we both get some free credits toward service, which is nice, eh? My email info is over there on the right.

Friday, 05 May 2006 22:34:35 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 23 April 2006

I've used Mike Singer's little SysSense tool to keep an eye on my Google AdSense for quite a while now. He keeps it up to date whenever Google changes their AdSense system, and I really appreciate that. Since I was over at his site upgrading the tool today to a new version he just released, I looked around at some of the other software he has built.

I downloaded one of the apps, called Weather Watcher, because it looks very cool and seems to be a great little app that displays things is a very usable and concise manner. Turns out it's really very cool, very configurable, and very free. Use it and if you like it, make a donation.

Weather Watcher from Singer's Creations

Monday, 24 April 2006 03:08:49 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 22 April 2006

Stacked boats - Warehouse marinaI thought this was just about the coolest thing ever when I saw it a couple weeks ago in Florida.

Many people park their boats in the water at a marina. But at the place where my aunt and uncle keep theirs in Florida, the boats are all stacked in these huge racks in a warehouse and are moved around by great big fork-lifts. Want to take your boat out on the water? No problem, they'll get it for ya. They drop it right in the water alongside the dock and pick it up from the same place. High, dry, and presumably safer from storms than if it was stored outside in the water. Sure keeps the boats nice and clean and secure. Pretty cool.

A couple weeks ago I visited my aunt and uncle, Gail and Scott, in St. Pete while I was in Florida for a work conference. We went out on the boat and hung out for a while on the beach. It was a great weekend.

Scott pilots the boat:

Uncle Scott

... and cleans it afterward:

Scott and his boat

Me and my aunt Gail on the beach - you can tell I'm not from Florida eh? I didn't pack any shorts.

Aunt Gail

Saturday, 22 April 2006 19:26:22 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Back before the iPod was in anyone's hands, Steve Jobs introduced the new product to the world. It's interesting to look back at his introductory speech, which was presented back in 2001, in the context of what's happened between then and now.

View the video here.

I'm glad we've been able to switch from FireWire to USB 2.0 though.

Apple had a powerful vision back then, and made it came true. It's returned them to the true center of the stage. The company is three times the size it was just a few years back  (and they're building a whole new campus in Cupertino - click for video) and - of course - it's once again the major household name it used to be back in the 80's. It will be interesting to see what else they come up with next in order to completely define an industry. And I mean define an industry and a market that does not exist yet, much like they did with the iPod.

(via Presentation Zen)

Saturday, 22 April 2006 15:47:10 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 04 April 2006

Travel, travel and then some more travel... That's where I've been lately.

This week I'm in (well okay, near) Orlando, Florida at the Omni Orlando Resort (which is a very nice place), where I will be speaking on a panel Wednesday morning about operational security of online banking web sites and working with law enforcement. Then I will be hanging around for the rest of the conference through Thursday or Friday, learning and exchanging ideas.

Anyone in the area wanna grab coffee? Let me know. Comment, email or phone (it's in the menu bar at the right).

Wednesday, 05 April 2006 02:57:16 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Matt points out that tonight is a special, won't happen again in our lifetimes event:

Tonight, at 123 seconds past 1 a.m. the time will be 1:02:03 04/05/06. Now if you take into account that we're only using two digits for the year this event won't happen again for another 1000 years in the year 3006. If you happen to be out and about at that time of the night you way wish to find a 7/11 and purchase a lottery ticket :)

Now I have to decide if I am going to stay up or not. Gah!

Are you staying up? One time chance!

Wednesday, 05 April 2006 01:52:42 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 02 April 2006

Manager 2.0 chartOver on the Creating Passionate Users blog, Kathy writes about "Manager 2.0," which many would say is the desired role and style of effective managers in technology companies today. It's a good read. Once you get past the fact that anything with "2.0" attached to it is cliche hyped, click over and read a bit.

I have to agree that community is something that should be a part of every team in the tech world. It's not always easy to do. Professional managers are those who work not only for the company, but for the team as well. Not in a counter-productive, dysfunctional be their best friend kind of way. Rather, the idea is to empower the team to drive the ship, determine the routes to the destinations, and maybe even when the ship should arrive.

This, of course, flies in the face of traditional management (which is more dictatorial and doesn't always respect the ideas and input of the team members). So, it's not something everyone is comfortable with implementing. rely on others to do their part in my success? Give up control??? Huh?!?!?!?

It takes the strongest kind of manager to allow others so much control and influence, and to still effectively be the boss and manage. When it comes right down to it, the real value in management is in it's ability and willingness to stay out of the way and to enable and empower the people that create and do amazing stuff to - well - create and do their most amazing stuff. Let good, smart people be good, smart people. Quite a concept.

From Kathy's post, over to the right is a table comparing management styles. Which style would you rather work under? Which manager are you most comfortable being? Be honest... I can see a couple things here that I could improve on, but I'm glad to see that at least some of this I already buy into and try to execute on a daily basis. And if this is even remotely interesting to you, be sure to go read more at Creating Passionate Users (which is a great blog, by the way).

And her April 1 blog entry about a new book, "The Emo Programmer Book," is great.

Sunday, 02 April 2006 14:20:01 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Last week I was in Dallas, Texas for a conference. Typical of my way of doing things, I landed at the DFW airport and headed for the hotel and realized that somewhere in the back of my mind there was a lingering thought that was hinting that Dallas, Texas might have some importance, like maybe there was something (in addition to the conference) I needed to do since I was there. You know what I mean: One of those "seems to me there's something important I am supposed to do if I ever travel here, but I can't think of what it is..." kind of things.

Eventually it popped into my mind: My mom had told me that my Aunt Marsha and Uncle Mike had moved to Texas a couple years ago. Maybe it was Dallas? My memory was not helping me much. I called them up, and sure enough they're living in Richardson, which is northeast of the big city. So, I got to spend a couple fun evenings at their home catching up, eating dinner and meeting their dogs. It was a good time.

During one of my visits, my aunt brought out some old family photos and things that she thought I might be interested in seeing. It was fun and interesting to run through the old photos, but there was also one piece of paper in the stack of things that especially caught my eye. It looked to be a family tree reaching back many generations, showing a history of the family dating back several hundred years. Wow! I've always wondered if something like this existed, and have never really known where to look. Score!

What I found our really caught my interest - Thirteen generations back, on September 6, 1628, my ancestors arrived at "Naumking" on the Massachusetts Bay (which they would eventually rename to "Salem") with John Endicott, who would become the first governor of the Massachusetts colony. They were the first group of Puritan colonists in Salem, and had left from Weymouth, England June 20 of the same year.

Encouraged by one sheet of paper, a few names and some rough dates, I have once again personally discovered the truly awesome power of searching with Google.

My Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather was named Charles Gott. Charles and his first wife, Gift and their two young daughters sailed from Weymouth, England, on June 20, 1628, aboard the ship Abigail with Captain Endicott. They landed in Salem, Massachusetts, on September 6, 1628 and the sea voyage must have been harrowing ("the sea roared and the waves tossed us horridly ... it was fearful dark and the mariners made us afraid with their running here and there, and there was loud crying one to another to pull this or that rope."). The passengers of the Abigail were Salem's first settlers, and in 1635 Charles was made a deacon of the first Puritan church established in America. Gift apparently died in about 1636, and Charles then married Sarah Mansfield, with whom he had three children. One of those children was named Charles as well, and the line runs from there.

I've located on the web - again thanks to Google - several people who have traced the genealogy of their families back to the Gotts, and who's lines intersect mine. Distant relatives. I'll have to start sending some email to those people and say hi. I'll also have to finish this research and post it here so people can do the same with me.

On a loosely-related note (no pun intended), I read recently where Buzz Bruggeman sent a DNA sample off to Family Tree DNA, and the service found some relatives of his in their matching process. I ordered a kit and yesterday I completed my ritual cheek-scraping and will be sending the samples back to the DNA lab on Monday. The test focuses on the paternal side, so I wonder what I will find out about my dad's side of the family? My wild guess is Ireland, but hey who knows? I'm excited to possibly find out.

Sunday, 02 April 2006 07:29:59 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 01 April 2006

The other day one of my coworkers, Brent, asked me if I've given up blogging.

No, Mr. Sarcasm - I have not. But with the recent wholesale replacement of part of my spine, plus travel, work, a variety of stressors, the need to rest and a ton of other things, I have not been writing much here lately.

I have a lot to write about, though - eventually. I just need to get better caught up with life. Heck, we're losing an hour of sleep tonight. That doesn't help any!

So don't worry. I'm not dead yet.

Sunday, 02 April 2006 05:00:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Google's got some beta UI changes kicking around in the background, and you can check them out yourself if you like. Here's how:

1. Go to http://www.google.com

2. Copy and enter this line into your address bar:

javascript:document.cookie="PREF=ID=fb7740f107311e46:TM=1142683332:LM=1142683332:S=fNSw6ljXTzvL3dWu;path=/;domain=.google.com"

3. Do a Google search and see the difference

Of course, if and when Google implements thes new UI changes, this tweak becomes useless. But for now it's fun.

Thanks, Trevin.

Thursday, 30 March 2006 05:21:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 23 March 2006

If you ever end up at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, be sure to rent a car. Especially if you fly into Terminal B (which is pretty much every flight that's not American Airlines (which is the airline that RULES the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex)).

Board the bus that delivers you to the rental car complex, and if you're lucky, it is there that you will meet Stewart.

Stewart is to rental car shuttle bus driving as Texas is to the rest of the United States - one great-big personality. From the second you meet him, it's apparent that Stewart is here to welcome you to the place where Everything Is Bigger™. He doesn't have a think drawl, but you can tell where he's from, if in no other way, by his personality, which is Big and Friendly.

I boarded the bus for my ride from the B terminal to the Avis desk, along with some other people and a whole slew of college-age guys sporting "North Carolina State Ultimate" garb. Who knew Ultimate (a game played with a flying disc and seven men on the field (and often incorrectly called Frisbee™ Football)) was a college sport? Well, it is.

Anyhow, Stewart saw the jerseys, too. After launching into a friendly and boisterous rendition of Helpful Hints for Visitors to DFW (which was very useful, BTW), he started a friendly over-the-loudspeaker conversation with the Ultimate guys and the rest of the passengers. He asked if they thought they'd be champions (and they said yes, of course). "Hey," asked Stewart, "do you want to hear a true story about the man who was perhaps the greatest sharpshooter ever?" Everyone (of course) said yes, and so he started to tell the story, which was approximately seven minutes long (and which, he explained, also happens to the the amount of time it takes to drive from B terminal to the rental car facility). It was clear that Stewart has a knack for telling stories and captivating an audience.

So - about seven minutes later, we got to the rental car terminal and as I stood up to get off the bus, I realized (seriously) that I'd completely forgotten to go to the baggage claim to get my suitcase when I got off my flight. I guess umpteen hours of flying and time zone changes incurred while crossing the Atlantic twice had baked my brain or something. I told Stewart what I'd done and laughed at myself, and he smiled and looked a bit concerned about me having to go back for my bag. Maybe he thought I had to be somewhere or something. No big deal, I told him - I'd just stay on the bus and ride back around and get my bag at the terminal. He looked a bit pained when he had to tell me he wished he could do that, but that I would have to go up to the upper deck and take the out-bound bus from up there. That last time he tried to return someone to the terminal on his bus, he'd gotten into some trouble.

Not a problem, I told him, and thanked him. He told me where to go and I located the upper deck access and then rode the bus back to Terminal B. I retrieved my bag after some searching and speaking with the United baggage office, then went back out to the curb to catch one of the buses back to the Avis desk.

Along came one of the buses, and off came a zillion people. When I climbed on, there was Stewart, smile on his face. We were the only people on the bus. "NOW," he exclaimed, "now you're ready for a rental car!" I laughed and agreed. "You want to hear a story?" he asked. "Yeah, but not the one about the sharpshooter," I said. He laughed and turned to me. "I have a repertoire, you know," he said. "Three stories. They're all about seven minutes long." And then he told me the story of Goldsmith Mare, perhaps the greatest race horse that ever lived. If you want to know the details, you can either Google for it or you can fly to DFW Terminal B and jump on the bus to go to the Avis counter. Maybe you'll be lucky enough (as I was twice in a row) to get Stewart as your driver.

My point is, EVERY airport should have people like Stewart. Hell, I'd fly to Texas and rent a car once a year or so, just to enjoy the seven-minute ride on the bus, along with a good seven-minute story and a smile.

Welcome to Texas. Thanks, Stewart.

Friday, 24 March 2006 00:53:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 22 March 2006

For the zillion of you who have asked me for Windows Live Messenger (note - this is for Live Messenger, not Mail!) invitations, Trevin says this link will let you sign up even without an invitation now.

Or, if you want to feel extra-special through personal treatment, email me (greg-at-greghughes-dot-net, you know) and tell me something about yourself - like where you are from and your name and something else interesting (not optional - seriously - share and share alike!) and I will hook you up personally.

Wednesday, 22 March 2006 18:32:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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My co-worker, Milind, recently posted a link to the web site of Julian Beever, who does 3D pavement art and some other cool artistic stuff such as his wall murals.

Check it out - these 3D sidewalk sketches are way cool. Below are a few examples - and he has many others that are just as amazing. Clicking each image takes you to the artist's web site.

 

Wednesday, 22 March 2006 18:13:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Heidelberg Castle - TopPrior to my business meetings today, I was able to spend a short time with my friend Florian here in Germany. His parents hosted me at their home and shared a bit of real, small-town Germany with me, including some of the food and customs. Florian took me all over the countryside to a few places, including a few that most tourists never see - off the beaten path, as they say. It was a great weekend, one that I will remember for many, many years.

The Heidelberg Castle is a common tourist stop, but we went there anyhow, and I am glad we did. It was actually the second castle we visited (the first one, Hardenburg, I did not have a camera for). It's a pretty amazing place, and we first climbed the hill on the opposite side of the river from the castle (called the Philosopher's Walk), which has a great view of the old city and the castle. Then we crossed the old bridge and walked through the city, then up 315 steep steps to the castle. Given my recent condition, this was a healthy climb, to say the least. But I made it.

Heidelberg at Night from the RiverFrom the top one can walk through the castle and see all sorts of interesting things. There's a huge wine barrel in a lower level of the castle - like huge as in you have to see it to believe it. And of course the architecture is amazing.

Actually, the smaller castle we visited the day before, called Hardenburg (follow link for pics), while smaller and relatively hidden away at the far end of a valley in the town where we stayed (in an area called the Rhineland-Palatinate), was probably more fun to explore because it's not heavily visited and almost every nook and cranny is accessible, with the exception of part of the lower levels. It's interesting to learn about the history of the construction - and periodic destruction, typically by the French armies - of these castles. The Hardenburg Castle was built sometime shortly after 1200 A.D. That's some serious history.

Limburg MonasteryAlso in the same area is the Limburg Monastery, on top of another hill across from the Hardenburg Castle. It is a large and spectacular ruin, as well. It's been added on to recently, so some of the structure is a little too modern looking, but luckily you cannot see it while walking the grounds, at least once you leave the parking lot. This is a huge structure, and was built in the 9th century. It was first a castle of sorts and then was converted to a monastery for Benedictine monks. It's an interesting and rich history - the Hardenburg Castle was actually built illegally on Limburg land by the governors who were responsible for protecting it, but it seems that did not make the Limburg residents happy. Read more here. As is typical, the history is colorful and full of interesting stories over the years.

If you even get a chance to visit Germany, be sure to take some time to get off the common paths followed by tourists. While the Autobahn is fun (for us Americans with our annoying speed limits and all that), taking your time by taking the back roads through smaller German towns to get to your destination is worthwhile. It's there that you get to see Germany in it's full color, not on the superhighway.

747 at Teknik MuseumWe also visited a museum that has lots of aircraft (including an actual 747 you can walk though and a whole slew of military aircraft from around the world), a U-boat, and many fine cars on display. An amazing selection of very cool items.

Thanks to Florian and his parents for a terrific few days - I hope have the opportunity to visit again soon. Germany is a beautiful country.

I'll post a few more pictures and some details shortly from the other stops and things we did along the way.

Wednesday, 22 March 2006 17:42:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 18 March 2006

I had the pleasure of visiting the School of Science and Technology here in Beaverton, Oregon on Friday for the junior class career day. Along with a whole slew of other talented and much-more-interesting-than-me adults, I was able to converse with a wide variety of students about what they're about to face in their lives: Financial aid forms, the Real World™ and not really knowing what life has in store (but wishing they did).

It was a great time, and it gave me a chance to reflect on where I've been and how I got to where I am today. there have been many highs and lows in life along the way. But (and this is probably one of life's most important lessons) regardless of what all happens in life and why, I'm a better person for having experienced all the things that have happened around me over the years.

So, for the couple of you students who manage to find your creative and inquisitive ways to this blog, thanks for the opportunity and don't forget the open-ended offer: Send me an email or call me (the number is over there on the right) if you have more questions or want to see what the crazy world of software, Internet security, catching online bad guys, and IT is all about.

For everyone else: When was the last time you spent half a day at a local school talking with the students and staff? Everyone should do something like that at least once a year - participate in some event and give back a little of what you've got - your experiences, good bad or otherwise. Share it with the upcoming generation of geeks, actors, cops, lawyers, engineers, recruiters, sales execs, dentists, marketers, accountants, entrepreneurs, nanotechnology physicists, and rocket scientists. Call a school, give half a day. All you have to do is ask, and you might be surprised what you learn.

Okay. I'm outa here. Pray for WiFi on the airplane. Deutschland hier komme ich!

Saturday, 18 March 2006 06:22:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 16 March 2006

I haven't posted much recently because I have been out of pocket quite a bit, and during the few days I've been in town and functioning normally, it's been quite busy for me. So, even though this blog's been quiet, I have quite a few things stacked up and waiting to be written. I'll get to them soon. Plus I think the slow down in writing is good for me for a little while. Creativity recuperation you might say.

Hopefully they'll have WiFi on the flight to Europe this weekend - that would make it easy to catch back up some. And easier to get some work done.

Meanwhile, I went and saw Scott Willis, one of our past IT interns where I work, in his school's performance of An Ideal Husband (by Oscar Wilde). Had a good time, and I am once again amazed at what young people can do all on their own when simply provided the opportunity and support when requested.

More to come soon. Hopefully some pics from Germany, too.

Friday, 17 March 2006 05:38:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 11 March 2006

Starting next week, I'll be healed enough to able to travel again. That's good, since travel is - relatively speaking - low impact, and because I'm scheduled to be several places around the world in the next few weeks for meetings and speaking engagements.

  • This week I'll be up at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington for some can't-really-talk-about-it-yet kind of stuff, and to meet with a few people up that way. I also have a surgery followup appointment with the doc. I'll be in Redmond Monday, Tuesday morning and Thursday. On Wednesday I'll be back home so I can see one of our recent IT department interns, Scott Willis, performing in a play called The Ideal Husband.
  • On Friday I'll be doing a community even and speaking at the School of Science and Technology in Beaverton, Oregon about my job and career with a group of high-school juniors interested in information technology careers.
  • On Saturday, I'm off to Frankfurt, Germany for some business meetings and I hope to catch up with a friend while I'm there. I'll arrive on Sunday the 19th and be there through Wednesday the 22nd. I took four years of German language classes in junior high and high school many years ago, and this will be the first time I've ever been to that country. I wonder how much of the language will come back to me?
  • Then it's back home to the USA, by way of a stop in Dallas. I'll arrive in Texas on the 23rd, and will be speaking on Monday during a session at Microsoft's Convergence conference - that's the big annual Microsoft business solutions event (now they call MBS their "Dynamics" product line). The topic of the presentation is Customer Relationship Management for service, and I've been asked to give some color commentary of the when's, how's, why's, pitfalls and process of complicated CRM and related projects along with a Microsoft partner we've done a lot of great work with, InterLink Group.
  • After a few days back at home, It's off to Orlando, Florida April 4th-6th, where I'll be speaking during a session at the Forward Financial Bank Security Forum on the topic of combating cybercrime and partnerships between private industry and law enforcement.

If you have plans to be in any of the same places at the same time, send me an email and let me know, and hopefully we can meet up - greg@greghughes.net.

Sunday, 12 March 2006 05:03:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 07 March 2006

MDA Lockup LogoMy good friend and co-worker Simon is being his typically great self, and has accepted the fact that he's going to jail for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. This is a great chance to make a donation to bail him out (it's a tax deductible charitable donation, and if your company matches donations, even better! Hey Microsofties!). I've been locked up for MDA before, and my friends and colleagues have always come through for me and posted my bail.

And to all Corillian employees - I'm challenging you here and now to contribute!

Below is the information from Simon's campaign. I've already done my part and contributed to the cause - will you do yours? Even the smallest of contributions makes a difference, and it doesn't matter where you live or who you are. If you have any questions, let me know (email or comment here) and I'll get 'em answered for ya. Contribute as soon as you can - the deadline date is March 9th, just a couple days away!!

Mda_togetherThis year, I have the honor and pleasure of participating in MDA's Hillsboro Lock-Up 2006 to help "Jerry's Kids®". To reach my goal I need your help!

I'd like to include you or your company on my list of contributors who are helping me reach my goal. Your donation would help MDA continue the important fight against muscular dystrophy. Check out my web page by clicking on the link below. There you'll find all kinds of information about MDA, and be able to make your tax-deductible donation on-line using your credit card.

MDA serves people in our community with neuromuscular disease by providing clinics, support groups, assistance with the purchase and repair of wheelchairs, braces and communication devices, and summer camp for kids. MDA also funds research grants to help find treatments and cures for some 43 neuromuscular diseases that affect people of all ages, right here in our community.

I sincerely hope that you'll take the opportunity to support MDA.

Here's the link to donate!

On behalf of the families MDA serves, thank you!

Wednesday, 08 March 2006 01:04:25 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 06 March 2006

Many of you who read this know that I had back surgery recently. The surgery was an Artificial Disc Replacement at the L5/S1 level, with a Kineflex artificial lumbar disc. It's been almost three weeks, and my current assignment from the doc is plenty of rest (and so I am at home almost all the time), combined with walking as much as I reasonably can, but without overdoing it. I'll soon be able to go into work part of the time for very light duty. Right now I am able to do some work from home, which is one of the things that helps to keep me sane day after day.

Progress milestones while healing - big and small - really stand out in a recovery like this. I was able today - for the first time - to walk the half mile trek to my mailbox and back. It's the longest single outdoor walk I have done so far. I live at the end of a long gravel driveway, up and down two steep hills. As I was climbing the first hill and neared the top, it dawned on me that I was not slowing any, and that it didn't hurt!! Wow! By the time I got back to the house, I was quite worn out (exhausted, really), but no worse for the wear physically. Progress! Not to mention it's a great psychological milestone. Before the surgery I would have been staggering, clumsy and in pain before I got a hundred yards into it. Three weeks ago I was re-learning muscle movement just to walk at all for the first few days.

So, slowly but shurly, getting better. I just have to make very, very sure I don't over-extend myself or bend the wrong ways (I am limited in certain motions for now), and I have to pace myself so I don't wear out. Unfortunately when I do wear out it happens quickly and I tend to crash from an energy standpoint. Other than that, I feel much better overall than I did before the surgery and, despite some surgical side effects that take time to work themselves out, I'm encouraged.

One of the things that has made this whole Artificial Disc Replacement surgery thing bearable is an online forum called the ADR Support Forum over at at ADRSupport.org. ADR is a newer technology in the United States, although it's been prevalent in Europe and other places for many years. There are lots of great people on the forum who have either gone though ADR surgery or who are looking into it and wanting to find out more, so it was a great resource for me pre-op and it still is after surgery. Highly recommended for reading and participation if anyone is considering an ADR procedure.

Tuesday, 07 March 2006 03:08:43 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 05 March 2006

I noticed that the nominees for this year's Academy Awards in the "Best Live Action Short Film" category are downloadable on iTunes. Wow, so cool - I'm a fan of good film quality, and nothing beats the under-thirty-minute format for making a real impact, without the typical fluff and other Hollywood-formula junk.

So, I downloaded. And watched. And so here you go - my own impressions, which will hopefully inspire you to watch. It doesn't have to be in your local theater to be good. In fact, if it's in the local theater, well... Never mind. Let's just stay focused on these short films.

First of all, if you have iTunes and a spare $10 (like as in total - you can get them all for less than ten bucks), then my first suggestion is that you should download them and watch (links to iTunes music store). They range in length from about 14 to 28 minutes, there are five films in the category, and they're certainly worth watching. It makes for a great evening, and it's an easy, painless way to expand one's film horizons, just slightly.

The second thing is, you won't want to watch all of these with the little kids. There's nothing really gross or pornographic, but there is some explicit content (nudity, language and violence) in a couple of them, and the content in others can occasionally be a bit heavy or dark for some.

That said, here are five short films you should watch, and what I thought of each:

Our Time Is Up (in iTunes)

This is the story of an American psychologist who finds he has a short time left to live, and how that impacts his relationships with his patients. It's well-done and the main character is played by Kevin Pollak. I liked this film at times. It's funny in a smart kind of way, and it's well-shot and the direction is interesting. But in the end, something about it felt, well, thin. Kind of like the way fast food fills your stomach but leaves you wishing there was something more. Certainly worth watching, but probably not one I would vote for, given the competition.

Six Shooter (in iTunes)   UPDATE: Oscar Winner

From the opening line, this is a dark, confrontational Irish film, which won the Oscar in the category of Best Live Action Short Film. The story plays character off of character to show how people deal with death and emotion, and how those differences - in hyperbole - affect one another. It's a smart film, one that slaps your sensibilities in the face and challenges the viewer to stay with the film, in the same difficult way the characters either choose to stay or go, I suppose. This is one of the two short films that gets an explicit label, for the violence and language. Be forewarned - If you have a hard time with dark themes of death and violence, this one may not be for you. For me, knowing ahead of time was enough. It's well-shot and the direction is very good. A young actor named Ruaihidhri Conroy steals the scene later in the film. Be prepared for the violence and murder/suicide themes and you should do okay.

Cashback (in iTunes)

From the UK comes a great short that will leave you thinking and laughing. By the way, this is the other film that gets an explicit rating, but for a different reason: This time it's because of the camera imagery of the female body, and I will leave it at that. The contrast of the characters is very subtle and the premise if great. A young man works nights in a grocery store, and the film examines the others who work there and how the pass the time. It's clever and funny, very well-directed and filmed. Sometimes simple and clever combine in a writer's mind to create something special - this is one example. Again, there's full-frontal nudity in this (not really distasteful, just a hard-to-explain surprise if you're watching with the young kiddies) and that's not explained on iTunes specifically, so watch appropriately and all. I really liked this one, and I laughed out loud at the last line.

Ausreisser (The Runaway) (in iTunes)

This is a great film. Of them all, it's right up there with two others for my vote (If I had a vote, that is). This German film shows a one-day interaction between a boy and his father, who never knew he had a son and has never wanted one. But it's much more special than that, and writing anymore would just take away from the film itself. The little boy portrays the part well, the direction cuts the scenes craftfully to keep things moving effectively. It's a sad, happy, sad, happy, sad again film that leaves you wondering if it was really only 23 minutes long. Well-directed, well-acted and well-shot, the only people who won't like it will be those who find themselves sitting there at the end muttering to themselves "I didn't get it." I love a good smart, emotional, intimate and personal film about two people and what really matters, and this is it. Well done.

The Last Farm (in iTunes)

This film comes from Iceland and is an amazingly well-crafted set of visuals and character play that paints a vivid picture of a man in deep sorrow. You may know what's coming, but in the end, don't we all? I think that's the point, or at least it's one of them. This film does such a terrific job of conveying so many complex, intertwined messages in such a short time. It's very sad and quite touching. If nothing else, it shows the simultaneous detailed complexity and abstract simplicity of the human spirit and how one's spirit can be so tightly tied to another. Excellent film. (Note: the iTunes reviews seem to have some twelve-year-olds that are giving it one star because the preview is not helpful, which skews the overall rating of the film itself, which is quite positive) 

So, which one do I like best? Well, honestly the one that stands out in my mind the most is The Runaway. It's a personal story that connects. The others that I rated with five light bulbs (heh) are also terrific, and any of those I think should get the award. More important than which gets the Oscar, I think, is the fact that not enough people get to see these types of films. My intent here was not to convince someone which I think is best, but rather to convince people to watch all these great little films, ones that they otherwise might miss.

So, go buy your tickets - all of them for ten bucks - and watch!

If you happen to be in a really big city, you might be able to see them in a theater, too.

Sunday, 05 March 2006 17:10:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 02 March 2006

Okay, Dork fightclubI just have to say something here. I can't help myself. Like CBS hasn't already done enough to ruin things for us in its own studios, now it's reporters are taking it to the streets, too.

You know, Fight Club used to be cool, one of the best movies of the last several years for sure, then these guys have to go and freakin' ruin it.

Grrr...

Let me put it this way: This is to Fight Club as "What are YOU doing???" is to "WAZZZZUUUUUUP?!?!?!?"

Someone should go find these guys and kick some @*$ for real for breaking the first rule. Where's Tyler when you need him? Not to mention what this does for the image of software engineers in our world. That's it, might as well just give up now.

Alright, anyhow, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Thursday, 02 March 2006 23:52:00 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 01 March 2006

You see a link to http://www.ie7.com/ and click it. What do you expect to see?

Oh...

Oops.

Thursday, 02 March 2006 01:18:58 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 25 February 2006

OrigamiScoble posted a few days ago about the Microsoft-registered Origami Project web site. It's all the buzz around the net, people guessing and sometimes seeming to know a bit about what it is.

JK posts some info that is interesting and worth checking out... A video on Digital Kitchen's web site titled "Microsoft Origami."

Click on http://www.d-kitchen.com/launch_center.htm

  • enter the site,
  • click WORK,
  • and then click BRAND THEATRE,
  • you'll find the first entry says "Microsoft Origami"

Nice find by Kevin Tofel, who noticed it on the Engadget site in some post comments.


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Saturday, 25 February 2006 20:42:53 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 12 February 2006

If the knife doesn't kill me, the stress just might... On Wednesday at around 7am I'll be up in the Seattle area on a table in a surgical suite, and with any luck about an hour and a half (or so) later I'll be hallucinating and stuff in the recovery room as the proud and successful recipient of a artificial disc replacement at the L5/S1 joint in my lower back. I get to lay around in a hospital bed for a couple/few days, then can head home to lie around a whole lot more.

It's not quite Steve Austin style stuff, but the plan is to replace a collapsed, herniated and generally failed lumbar disc with a mechanical replacement. I'll be like a scaled-down version the bionic man. Not quite six million dollars worth of work (more like in the tens of thousands), but I am told they can rebuild me, they have the technology.

MRI picture from a while backTruth be told, I'm just a bit scared. I've never been through surgery anywhere near this extensive before, and the decision to do this has been a long and tedious process involving a lot of risk and personal decisions. In the past I've had epidural injections of cortisone, lots of physical therapy, a minimally-invasive microdiscectomy surgical procedure, more physical therapy, medication, rest, exercise, you name it. But when a body part's shot, it's just shot.

Since then I decided - after meeting with a few highly regarded and experienced surgeons who told me I'm just delaying the inevitable fusion or artificial disc surgery - to stick it out for a while and see if I could just deal with the pain. The problem is, in order to do that I've had to keep myself from doing a lot of the things one needs to do in a normal life from day to day, as well as a lot of the things that help make life enjoyable, and that's no good.

So, here I am. Surgery could mean a great improvement in my quality of life. Of course it's not without risks (you really want someone operating on your spine?), and the past year has been mostly about deciding whether the risks of the procedure are worth the potential benefits and avoiding surgery. The pain has not improved much if at all, it always limits me, and at many times it's quite unbearable. Life's no good like this. So, it's time. My doctor is very experienced and I have lots of confidence in him. The facility is great. No more excuses.

As always seems to happen (Ask Murphy why, I sure there's a law about it), workplace and life situations, stresses and pressures are coming to a head right about the time I have to do this surgery, but I've decided that I really only get one life, and one body for that life. Jobs are something that can flex and be molded and true friends will wait, so while I'm wanting to get back to work and life as soon as it's realistic, I have to take care of this other stuff first, slow and steady as they say.

But I'm not just worried and scared. I'm also excited. The prospect of healing and being able to do many of the things I used to take for granted is truly something to look forward to - things like loading the trash cans into the truck to take to the dump, or walking the dog more than a quarter mile, or riding a bike or my motorcycle, or sitting in a chair for more than 15 minutes at a time, or even just being able to pick things up off the floor. 

That and not falling flat on my face in the hallway because I twist or step the wrong way, or because I drag my leg and pain shoots out my foot - That's just one of many things I am looking forward to no longer experiencing.

Anyhow, It'll be lighter than usual posting here probably for a little while 'til this is behind me. Maybe a little bit more to write over the next couple days, but some Wednesday I think I'll be rather out of it. Cross your fingers for me.

Sunday, 12 February 2006 19:30:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 10 February 2006

My co-worker Alex sent this across in email today...

Programmer or Serial Killer?

Take the quiz - can you tell the programmers fro the serial killers?

My score - 7/10.

Friday, 10 February 2006 23:56:28 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 09 February 2006

The DualCor cPC running Windows XP Tablet PC EditionRecently, I was approached by DualCor, a company that is working now on the release their cPC product, about serving on their newly-formed board of expert technical advisors. I had a conversation with the company's CEO, Steve Hanley, and was impressed with what they're doing. Their product line is of great interest to me, so I accepted. I'm honored to be on the advisory board and to have an opportunity to provide input as they launch and continue to develop a very interesting product.

I'll probably write on this weblog about the DualCor products - in fact I can't imagine not doing so. I've already written one brief entry about the cPC device (but that was actually before DualCor approached me about their advisory board). Since I'm now on their board and have a formal relationship with the company, I think it's important to say so here - full disclosure and all.

All that aside - I'm truly excited to use the new cPC device. Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and Windows Mobile OS on one device. Phone, too. Dual processors, a gig of RAM, and fast, fast, fast...

Learn more at http://www.DualCor.com and see my past post here. And there's a c|net video from CES about the cPC here.

Friday, 10 February 2006 02:23:50 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 06 February 2006

The Super Bowl commercials are on the web at Google Video.

You can play them all back to back by clicking here. My favorites? Here they are:

 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 

  Bud Light
  Hidden Bud Light

 

And because you have to have the one that makes you turn your head and and say, "Whaaa???"

  Emerald Nuts

 

Monday, 06 February 2006 06:52:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 05 February 2006

UPDATE 2/7/2006: Looks like bmw.de is back in the index - details here...

Google's been saying for some time that it would be paying more attention to search engine spam on web sites, including internationally, and apparently they really mean it. They just virtually executed German automobile manufacturer BMW when they killed the BMW.de domain from their search database and sent their page rank to - you guessed it - zero.

Ouch. That'll teach 'em not to use spammy doorway pages, I guess.

Matt Cutts of Google explains on his weblog. Good to see that if Google's wielding the sword (and I think they can and should), at least it appears that everyone's held to the same high standards. Now if they'd just step it up a notch and do more of the same for all those splogs at blogger.com... But that's a whole different can of worms.

Sunday, 05 February 2006 17:41:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 04 February 2006

I use TurboTax Online - the web-based version of the software you can also buy in a box from Intuit - to do my taxes every year. For someone like me, it does a great job of helping me make sure I cover all the bases and think about everything.

The one thing that's frustrated me to no end in years past was that the State of Oregon never seemed to get it's act together soon enough, and when I'd finish my taxes and then try to file electronically, I'd find out that while the feds were ready for me, Oregon wasn't accepting electronic returns yet. I'd typically be doing my taxes right about now (first few days of February), and Oregon would start accepting electronic submissions in mid-February.

But this year, for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to submit my federal and state returns together, right away and without having to save and come back later. That's the way it should be.

So, as much as I hate to say it, someone in Salem did something right this year. Or at least someone down there didn't do something wrong. Either way, I'm happy about it.

Sunday, 05 February 2006 01:09:10 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Crusader_evangelist1Rory Blyth makes me laugh so hard, so often. Dude, Rory - you gotta stop... Heh...

In his post the other day, "DO NOT RESIST THE EVANGELIST," Rory warned that unless viewership of his Windows Mobile development screencasts (called TinyThings - and they're great - go here to see them) grew by ten fold, he threatened to eat a full bag of... Oh, here let him say it:

"If traffic to TinyThings does not increase by ten-fold during the next revolution of the planet Earth around its axis, I WILL EAT ONE ENTIRE BAG OF GOURMET LOW-FAT CHEEZEE-POOF SNACKS. IF THE LACK OF TRAFFIC CONTINUES, I WILL EAT ANOTHER BAG EVERY TIME THE EARTH COMPLETES A REVOLUTION"

But it gets worse - if the lack of ten-foldedness (?) continues, Rory will resort to letting a viscous microbe loose on a lone fluffy Ewok, unless... Oh here, just read:

"AND IT SHALL DO SO IF, BY THE TIME THIS PLANET HAS THRICE REVOLVED FULLY UPON ITS AXIS, TinyThings HAS NOT BEEN VISITED BY TEN MILLION NEW MOBILE SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS. AND YOU BETTER MAKE ‘EM ENTHUSIASTIC ‘CAUSE WE DON’T LIKE THOSE MOPEY ONES AROUND HERE."

Yeah, so ummmm - the first day results - well, go see the video:

I sure hope there's ten milllion visitors by day three....

Saturday, 04 February 2006 14:54:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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The power went out at my house last night, due to a rather impressive wind storm. I haven't heard howling wind like that - well - I guess since I live in Missouri. And that was usually due to a tornado.

Anyhow, the power's been out at my place for like 8 hours, and driving down the road into town was a lot like driving through an ocean of tree branches - quite literally. So now I'm in town at Starbucks. 

It was pitch-black dark when I was trying to get ready to leave (had a early doc appointment), and I found that - in classic geek fashion - I have not yet bought a generator (procrastination and cost aversion), and my flashlights (all three) were dead. But of course they were...

So much for the classic, common sense emergency plans. What to do? Well, I have made all these investments in geeky stuff over the past few years, and there's a couple devices I carry around for work. So, what are the Real Geek Tools that can save you in a blackout?

Well, actually, there's just one: The Blackberry 8700.

In the pitch black, a little blinking red light told me not only that I had mail, but also where the device was located. I grabbed it, rolled the thumb-wheel, and voila! Instant night-light! Seriously, the 8700 spills enough light to illuminate the area around you quite well. Up stairs, down hallways, you name it. It's bright when it needs to be.

And it's a phone. And a loud alarm clock. And an email client. And a chat client for everyone else you know who's bumping their heads into walls who has a Blackberry. Go ahead, call your local public utility, check in with them and ask when the hell the power's gonna be back on. You can't watch your TV or use the computer to surf the net or anything, so email is nice. Oh wait - but you can surf the web! Ahhh, Blackberry you rock my wind-swept world. Or something. Yeah. Anyhow, everything works.

If you don't have a Blackberry 8700 and you live in an area where the power goes out with any frequency, you just don't know what you're missing. It's your one-stop-blackout-shop.

Update: The power came back on at 4:10 p.m. Power lines were down all over the place, and it's amazing actually that they got the power back up so fast, considering the damage that was done. Nice job, Columbia River PUD.

Saturday, 04 February 2006 14:31:50 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 03 February 2006

UPDATE! SuitSat1 is not dead - it's just transmitting at a low power. From Bil Munsil comes the following info:

"SuitSat1 is still alive and ham operators and other folks all around the world are receiving the audio, telemetry and SSTV picture.

"Go to http://www.aj3bu/blog/ to listen in."

So, they tossed an empty spacesuit out of the International Space Station earlier today, and it's out there orbiting the planet, but the radio transmitter they stuck in there that many were hoping they'd be able to listen to on their police scanners apparently went dead.

From SpaceWeather.com:

Space is cold - apparently too cold for SuitSat's batteries. The Earth-orbiting spacesuit stopped transmitting shortly after it was thrown overboard from the International Space Station on Feb. 3rd. Probable cause: lack of power.

This doesn't mean that SuitSat was a failure. The experimental satellite was "launched" to answer questions such as "Can a spacesuit-satellite function without internal temperature controls?" The answer, apparently, is "no." Next-generation SuitSats will take this into account.

SuitSat will continue to orbit Earth for weeks, spiraling slowly into the atmosphere. Stay tuned for information about seeing SuitSat in the night sky.

Visit http://spaceweather.com for updates.

Saturday, 04 February 2006 04:09:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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TelegramWithout fanfare or even much notice, Western Union quietly shut down it's telegram service last week. No more ability to send a message for delivery. I kind of liked them, though I rarely used the service. That's too bad. The Internet has grown, evolved, consumed the space and taken completely over.

Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a customer service representative.

(via Adam Gaffin)

Friday, 03 February 2006 13:18:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 02 February 2006

Bubble gumball for auctionJosh Bancroft, who publishes the TinyScreenFuls.com blog and podcast, posted a link to an auction on eBay for his Nephew's giant ball of chewed gum.

Well, now - that's different.

Josh's nephew, Marcus, apparently has a patient and tolerant mother, as she allowed Marcus to store the gumball in her refrigerator for the past six years while her son grew it over time.

"For you gum manufacturers, this could be quite the centerpiece on your boardroom meeting table or displaying in your reception lobby."

There's bound to be someone out there who wants this thing. Just doing my part for a good cause. Auction ends today! 

Thursday, 02 February 2006 13:13:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 30 January 2006

Mom_airportI had a layover at the Denver International Airport for several hours today, so I called my mom, who lives over near Boulder. She jumped in the car and drove over to the airport for coffee and lunch.

The Pur la France chicken pot pie in the main terminal upper level is highly recommended. And so are those deals where they announce they have over-booked and will give a round trip ticket to anyone who will volunteer to take the next flight. I got lunch with my mom, a free round trip ticket, first class seat for no extra charge on the next flight, and on top of that I am able to work right now in the airport during business hours instead of being on an airplane during the time that counts. So I was able to test a very cool new demo version of one of our security software products and test market it to my mom. She provides good feedback.

I sent her a Logitech Quickcam Pro the other day so we can do video instant messaging and calls with Live Messenger v8, and I was showing her how to use the notebook camera I bought for my end of the connection. That's her right there, snapshot taken with my notebook Logitech cam (which is a great little camera).

Well, off to North Carolina... Then back home to Portland.

Monday, 30 January 2006 17:25:01 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 29 January 2006

Ask-A-Ninja-CoverArtDude. You think Robert Hamburger's the bomb? (You're right if you do, by the way)

Well then you MUST check out the Ask a Ninja video podcast blog thingie.

"You've got questions. Ninja's got answers."

Go here, don't delay: http://askaninja.blogspot.com/

Hahah. Sweet, super sweet. You can also subscribe to the video podcast in iTunes.

Sunday, 29 January 2006 06:04:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 28 January 2006

CNN has an article that covers the 25 worst words you can use in your resume. Why are they so bad? In a nutshell, because:

a) everyone uses them, so there's no originality, and
b) they don't really mean anything

Seriously. Read the article and then do something about it. I've looked at a couple hundred resumes in the past month or so and this article is spot on. Good advice that needs to be read by all.

Resumes are (or, rather should be) about standing out from the crowd on the merits and saying something real, so take the time to do it well. That's what the potential employer is looking for.

Oh, and never be your own resume editor. Always rely on a hard-core, ruthless and smart copy editor to point out your flaws. And if that makes you uncomfortable, find a therapist or trusted friend to help you with that character problem and you'll not only get over that hump, you'll also probably interview better.

Sunday, 29 January 2006 03:49:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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If you're a geek and you don't know what Gnomedex is, you're truly missing out on something amazing. It's an annual conference, spawned from the brain of Chris Pirillo, and it's an event where a whole slew of the ultimate geeks and even some nerds gather and talk about all kinds of cool stuff. For example, last year IE7 was demo'ed for the first time at Gnomedex, where the IE team announced and showed off RSS integration in the browser and Longhorn/Vista OS. And many, many other interesting presentations were made. But most importantly, the people you meet are awesome.

There are 300 seats in the main hall. 100 are already sold. If you're going (or think you might be), act now! If you know a true geek and want to give him or her a great gift, a Gnomedex ticket and a trip up to Seattle is a terrific thing to do for someone.

Be there and be square. Word.

Sunday, 29 January 2006 03:25:51 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Southpark1I've been a South Park fan ever since it came out. Who woulda' thunk these cartoons would become such a phenomenon. I laugh my ass off every time I watch it.

I have to say that at $1.99 an episode, it's a bit pricey - maybe buying the DVD sets online (you can find some good deals if you look) might work better for some people. But for the convenience factor, and in terms of iTunes store's expansion into the video content arena, this is cool.

South Park on the iTunes Music Store - click here to open in iTunes

Comedy Central and Apple just added South Park, Drawn Together (never really watched that one) and Best of Comedy Central Standup to the iTunes store.

Saturday, 28 January 2006 19:38:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 23 January 2006

Life, work and everything else is pretty crazy these days. I'm tentatively scheduled for some major surgery on my lower back in February, and my day (and evening) job is hectic and quite challenging in many ways (but I'm not complaining). Add everything else that happens in life into the mix, well... Recently it's been just a bit overwhelming at times.

I've traveled more than usual lately. One of the things I found made it more bearable (besides wearing my rigid back brace on airplanes - thank goodness for that stupid thing) is the new iPod video model I recently picked up. I discovered Battlestar Galactica, the revived show that everyone and their brother has apparently seen and raves about. Now I can see why they rave. I used to watch the original series when I was a kid - it was the greatest show on TV for a period of time, at least in my book. So, I purchased the pilot mini-series of the new, modern version via iTunes a couple weeks ago and watched it on my flights to Philly and Pittsburgh. What a great show. Definitely made a couple long flights much more sane. I downloaded the first season of the show the other night and will start watching that soon.

Some of you know I've had back problems for some time. I now have back surgery set for February 15th in Seattle. There are some tests that I have to get done before then, too (bone scan, labs, etc.). From what the doc says, I guess I will be relatively out of it for a while - at least a few weeks. It's quite an intimidating prospect, actually: I have never had major surgery before, so I am more than just a little nervous, even though the doc is terrific and has tons of experience. More on that later, maybe when the day gets closer. Afterward it will certainly make for an interesting and geeky bionic-man kind of tale, assuming all works out and the surgery actually happens. First things first.

Have you ever had major surgery? Care to share your experience? Mine will be an anterior (read: from the front) approach to the lumbar spine (at L5-S1), where they'll remove the disc and then do their handiwork. Not too common, but maybe there's someone else out there who's been through that sort of thing. If so, let me know.

Tuesday, 24 January 2006 00:30:48 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 21 January 2006

DragonIllusionThe mind can really play tricks with what the eye sees. This short video is a great example of a really cool optical illusion.

Update: Reader Rocco points out the Grand Illusions Web site, where you can download a PDF file that contains the pattern to cut out and fold. along with instructions. Very cool! Print it on your color printer and amaze the kids!

The site has a number of other cool optical illusions worth checking out, as well.

Know of any others? Drop a line!

(via Digg)

Saturday, 21 January 2006 20:45:28 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 18 January 2006

I'm in Pittsburgh, after spending the day with some cyber-forensics folk and seeing first-hand how law enforcement, business and academia are working together and actually sharing real information with each other to fight cyber crime. It's really very cool - A lot like taking community policing to the online world and its players. And best part is, it's a community that works. Lots of creative thinking going on there. Like a candy store for a forensics geek.

It's also similar in ways to the success of business blogging, actually. Why do I mention that? Robert Scoble and Shel Israel are out and about these days promoting the launch of their new book, called Naked Conversations, and I noticed one similarity between community policing and corporate blogging: The desire and success in getting the real faces and personalities of important people who would otherwise be inaccessible out into the community - the movers and shakers of the make-something-happen variety. In a community policing model, we expose individual law enforcement officers, business workers and citizens from the community to each other in a collaborative communication environment, allowing each member to own a part of the problem and solution. The corporate/business blogging model can do effectively the same thing - opening up the hidden world of the big, bad business machine, breaking down the traditional corporate walls, making it individual and human and allowing the customer to take some participative ownership in how things happen.

Anyhow, Robert's in Pittsburgh today, too, and it's his birthday (Happy birthday, dude). He was here to speak at the university and to do some book promotion. We met up for a quick breakfast this morning and I grabbed a copy of his book from the Barnes and Noble store to read on the way home tonight. So far it looks pretty cool, fun to read and it appears to cover the bases quite well. Recommended.

Oh, and since every entry requires a tangent topic: There's free WiFi in the Pittsburgh airport, just like Portland. And Pittsburgh's a cool city - lots of old buildings and bridges. It's been a while since I was here last, I'd forgotten what it was like.

Wednesday, 18 January 2006 19:43:18 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 15 January 2006

People are certainly interesting, especially when given the ability and opportunity to say whatever's on their minds uninterrupted. Whether they should or not. Of course, "should" is a relative term, determined by both listener and speaker. And they won't always agree.

Brad Fitzpatrick - of LiveJournal fame -  has created a continuous stream of public Internet audio blog posts recorded by LiveJournal users. I think I'll call it Brad's People Aggregator. It's colorful, random, strange and interesting. Sometimes funny, sometimes just crude. And you never know what you'll hear (good, bad or otherwise).

NOTE that the language and content of the audio posts is almost guaranteed to contain loud, crude, vulgar language.

People dial in to a number that allows them to post to their LiveJournal accounts. It's apparent that elevators and airports bring out interesting behavior in people. Now, I'm not so sure recording an audio post about your marijuana growing operation is really all that great an idea - but whatever. Also not convinced that talking about the court date you just had and how you have to go to the mental health office for your appointment is a great idea, but again, whatever... It's certainly an honest and unique slice of the real world, and that means real people (along with their collective reasoning, language, intelligence and behavior).

I suppose it's a great way to discuss and complain about stuff, but in a way where no one is there to tell you why you're SO FREAKIN' WRONG. Heh. Hmmm, there's probably some serious psychology to be done there - Something about how our interconnected world actually makes us more isolated even though everyone is so "close."

Here's the link...

Enjoy.

Sunday, 15 January 2006 15:11:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 14 January 2006

I laughed out loud for some reasons when I read some of Trevin's comments from his trip to the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, where he listed a number of not-so-hot items from the super-mega-tradeshow of the gadget industry.

One of the more amusing categories in his post is "Wierdest celebrities coupling: Snoop Dogg and Donny Osmond."

XM had Snoop Dogg appear, then about 30 mins (later) they had Donny Osmond.  They had to have met at some point -- wtf did they talk about? 
 
Snoop Dogg: "Hey Don-dogg, what's the shizzle?"
Donny: "What?"
Snoop Dogg: "Fo sho"
Donny: "What?"
Snoop Dogg: "Peace out dogg"
Donny: "What?"
Heh!
 
Check out Trevin's "Oddest and Worst of CES 2006" list here, and be sure to also read his "Best of CES 2006" list. That way you'll be sure to walk away well-balanced.
Saturday, 14 January 2006 21:41:00 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 10 January 2006

Ipod_blackI broke down last week and bought an iPod. I got the 60GB model (5G iPod Video, black) and its a pretty cool device. Not without its quirks, but cool for sure. I like it, and I'll be adding some of the available (expensive) accessories as soon as I figure out which of the zillion accessory manufacturers actually makes something worth buying. Talk about a zoo...

iTunes is all hooked up (pretty cool app dontcha know), a few podcasts are subscribed (small list below for people who are interested) and a couple movies have been loaded. Great video conversion information and help can be found here, by the way. I've only bought one song on iTunes so far, and that will probably change but I think it says something that after having this thing for a week I've used it primarily to load some video for traveling and to subscribe to syndicated content (audio and video podcasts).

I really, really wish - every time I look at an apple product package - that they would at least tell me what is included and what's not. I know, I know... I could just ask any random human being on the street what came with their iPod and the zoo of accessories they own, since I am like the last person in the world to buy one of these things, but seriously - no compact wall charger? Leaving out the iPod dock is crazy enough, but I figured there would at least be an AC-outlet-to-USB thing in there.

One thing I learned early on: When it says "do not disconnect" on the screen, regardless of the fact that the message stays there for-freakin-ever, it's best not to disconnect it. If you do, and your iPod starts an endless cycle of reboot, power up, power off, flash the display, reboot, power up, power off, flash the... Yeah, anyhow the iPod updater has a "Restore" option that nukes the iPod, reformats the hard drive and installs all the software from scratch. Works wonders.

Oh and another thing - I can only sync this $400 device to one computer? Seriously? Ok, so I can hook up to a second computer and as long as I don't choose auto-sync, I can manually move files to the iPod. But this is not so good: Mac and Windows synced iPods are not compatible? Jeez, there's something worth spending some serious dev time on. Using the iPod updater to reformat the thing so I can use it on the Mac mini doesn't solve any problems, it creates them. And there's no way I'm buying Apple computers just to work with the iPod.

Oh, and copy-protection and all that RIAA crap aside, iTunes is a service, and it should flow from computer to computer with the authenticated user's settings and content, and I should be able to sync to the iPod anywhere I am logged in. In other words, some content everywhere, and associate the device with my user account, not my computer.

Anyhow, in the accessories department, it's pretty clear I need an iPod dock. I'll have to break down and ask my friends if it comes with a USB cable, or if I have to purchase that separately, too. I won't be shelling out the $20 for Apple's video cable so I can play content on my TV or projector - I think I'll just use one of the almost-exactly-the-same cables I already have lying around the house and just mix up the plugs as described at the Mac Dev Center site:

  • Plug the red RCA plug into your TV's yellow RCA jack.
  • Plug the yellow RCA plug into your TV's white RCA jack.
  • Plug the white RCA plug into your TV's red RCA jack.

Pure. Freakin. Genius. If it works.

But don't get me wrong here. I'm complaining a bit about the proprietary, non-standard and closed nature of the Apple way of business, but this is a terrific piece of hardware, as the marketplace has clearly proven. Audio quality is great. The user experience is simple, flows and just works. But you already know that.

HKCarPlayI stopped by a couple stores the other night between appointments and checked out the plethora of radio-transmitter accessories. I spend a lot of time driving (two hours of commute time daily), so having something that does a good job of transmitting relatively high quality audio to my FM car radio would be nice. On the higher end of the car-audio purchasing spectrum (about $200), the Harman Kardon Drive+Play looks really cool. Not sure if it's video iPod compatible, but I have emailed them to ask. The Monster iCruze also looks nice and it is confirmed to work with the iPod Video models, but I need to make sue my car stereo is compatible - And it's on sale in a huge way as of the time of this writing: $99 for a complete kit. A FAQ page is here.

Oh, and (sidebar comment here) you gotta check out the videos on this page at the HK Drive+Play site - especially the "Title and Registration" one. Heheh...

Below are the few podcasts to which I've subscribed so far. Now that I am coming back to podcasts (my first round with them was more geeky in nature than practical, which is my approach nowadays) the number of shows I am interested in subscribing to is relatively small. I'm pickier. You'll note these all tend to be either professionally produced shows or well-produced indi ones, and that the only common denominator is that they're relevant and matter to me. And none of them are podcasters talking about podcasting. Thank goodness we moved past that phase.

Note: The iTunes interface makes it pretty much impossible for me to figure out where the real home pages are for these podcasts, so it's hard to link you to them, sorry. If someone knows a trick, please tell me (hey Apple - seems like easy access to a phobos.apple.com subscription link plus a standardized "home site" URL in the iTunes XML and UI would be a nice thing to do for sharing subscription links?).

  • Diggnation (video and audio podcasts) - these guys sit around and discuss what's hot on Digg.com
  • Ebert & Roeper - movie reviews from the top critics, weekly audio from the broadcast television show
  • Engadget podcast - ultimate gadget geek site and podcast show (but their RSS feed is broken and iTunes is out of date, ugh)
  • Major Nelson Radio - podcast from inside the world of the XBOX and XBOX Live!
  • NASACast video - this Week at NASA video podcast - just a cool, short video update on what's happening at the space agency
  • Security Now! podcast - Consumer focused security audio show - We really need more security-focused podcasts
  • Superman Returns, Bryan Singer's Journal - The director of Superman Returns video-blogs lots of interesting stuff in the process of the creation of Superman Returns, which is set to hit theaters this year. Professionally produced video shows (I don't think Bryan is shooting any of these, but hey...)
Tuesday, 10 January 2006 16:15:04 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 08 January 2006

HP ScanJet 4CIf you happen to have a HP ScanJet 4C lying around, check out this page and see if you can get it to play classical music for ya. Apparently there's a not-so-well-known command that plays "Fur Elise" using the ScanJet's motor. Cool.

Video of the scanner music is here (it's been removed from the original site)

(props to Dave M for the link)

Monday, 09 January 2006 00:54:25 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 07 January 2006

WTF1The beauty of this fancy new clothing line for the discerning sarcastic person is that those who understand what it says will laugh, while those who don't understand... Well - let's just say some things are perfectly self-defining.

I used to be a cop. I can't tell you the number of times the phonetic alphabet was used to contract colorful descriptions of situations, usually as a quick final status update on a radio call. Like "Tom-Ocean-Tom-David," which is short for Too Old To Drive using the non-military version of the phonetic alphabet. Probably more than you wanted to know, but you get the idea. The point is that there are some things you can't say out loud, and there are other things you can get away with. And hey, don't take any of this too seriously - there really are people who are too old to drive, after all, but it's all relative.

Anyhow...

Oh yeah, and when they say "there are no stupid questions," we all know what a huge lie that is. Hence these t-shirts.

So... For your dry humored, geeky enjoyment - the Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot shirts. Please wear appropriately. And remember the first rule of holding others accountable: Give them the ticket or give them the lecture, but never do both. Adding insult to injury is uncool. Analagize that and apply it to your own world. You'll go far. Whatever that means.

Ah, the t-shirts. Yeah. Click the images to go to the product pages:

Wtfshirt1  Wtfshirt2

Saturday, 07 January 2006 19:46:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 06 January 2006

I just went to do a quick Google search and noticed a new line on the page with a link, under the infamous "I'm Feeling Lucky" button:

New! Download the essentials to make your PC just work: Google Pack

One package, several pieces of cool and useful software. And a catchy name. You get a slew of established titles - check them out at http://pack.google.com/

I'm not completely sure I want Google monitoring and updating my software for me, and I'd recommend you take advantage of the "Add or Remove Software" link on the page so you can avoid stuff you don't need (a.k.a. "bloat") and the Real Player (a.k.a. "Evil"). Or whatever you like. Here's what you can package together:

  • Adobe Reader 7
  • Ad-Aware SE Personal
  • GalleryPlayer HD Images
  • Google Desktop
  • Google Earth
  • Google Pack Screensaver
  • Google Picasa Photo Organizer/Editor
  • Google Talk
  • Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer
  • Google Video player
  • Mozilla Firefox with Google Toolbar
  • Norton AntiVirus 2005 Special Edition
  • RealPlayer
  • Trillian
Saturday, 07 January 2006 04:15:43 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 05 January 2006

After something like two and a half years of blogging, another calendar year comes to an end. Here's a list of some of my favorites from 2005. A bit belated, since we're already five days into the new year, but what the heck. Why do this? Because I can, of course.

Here are 12 of my favorites - chosen from the 754 blog entries for 2005. And typically not-too-tech-related, I just noticed:

Friday, 06 January 2006 03:26:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Scott and Chris reminded me that there's a nifty feature in dasBlog that lets me put all the headlines from this weblog for 2005 on one page in a calendar-like view. So, here ya go:

Every single post from the year, listed in a chronological calendar view. All 754 of them. Wow, now that's scary.

Friday, 06 January 2006 03:08:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 26 December 2005

Plagiarism sucks, and Om Malik's weblog was apparently being copied verbatim, images and all, and repurposed sans-attribution on another site that was serving up ads and (potentially) making money. I've had this happen to me a few times in the past year or so, and in some cases found the only way to fight it was to quote the DMCA in an email to the host. Lord knows asking Google to hold them accountable for their terms of service did not work in my case - Google just wrote back and said "we can't do anything." Plus the bad guys were repurposing content from a whole slew of other sites. Lazy jerks.

By the way - this is really not exactly a trivial deal for many blog authors and publishers. I know when it happens to me, I chase it down and take it seriously. No lawyers needed - I am pretty good at that stuff and have some legal and courtroom experience, so why not put it to use eh? The ads on my site pay for my web hosting and my Internet access each month, and then some, so I have a little more than just an ego interest in what I choose to write and post.

Anyhow, below is an email I used last year to resolve a plagiarism problem involving full content from this web site. It's blunt, direct, complete and it worked. Also, note that this letter followed multiple attempts to get the site owner to remove plagiarized content. I'm posting the email letter here simply for the benefit of anyone who might become a victim of blog plagiarism and wants access to some ideas that have worked for others in the past.

And by the way - make sure you have a copyright statement and maybe a Creative Commons license on your main page that states what people can and cannot do with your blog content (mine's at the bottom of every page - it says people can repurpose it with attribution and for non-commercial purposes). It can't hurt to do this, and it helps set reasonable expectations and ground-rules for well-behaved people, while it can also be ammo for the ill-behaved later on...

Note that the problem I tackled with the below email was resolved within 4 hours of the email being sent to the hosting provider (the site owner never responded), and it happened a year and a half ago, so please don't go harassing anyone - this is just posted here to help people who might end up in a similar situation.

Where you see the word "(-- edited --)" below, I have removed identifying information to protect the innocent as well as those who complied with the requests to remove the offending content.

[via tech.memeorandum.com]

-------- Original Message --------
Subject:  ACTION REQUIRED: Illegal use of copyrighted content by one of your customers for commercial purposes
Date:  Sun, 3 Apr 2005 17:18:51 -0700

NOTICE: IF YOU ARE THE OWNER, OPERATOR OR HOSTING PROVIDER OF THE “MICROSOFT-DOTNET-TECHNOLOGY.INFO” DOMAIN, THIS IS A CEASE AND DESIST LETTER REQUIRING YOU TO IMMEDIATELY CEASE REPUBLISHING CONTENT OR ALLOWING/ENABLING CONTENT TO BE REPUBLISHED, WHICH IS SOURCED FROM THE “GREGHUGHES.NET” DOMAIN.

The owner of the web site(s) located on your servers/network at the below IP address and domain name is stealing and republishing - via an automated web-server application that gathers an XML feed - content owned and copyrighted by Greg Hughes at http://www.greghughes.net:

216.7.187.20 (MICROSOFT-DOTNET-TECHNOLOGY.INFO)

The following ARIN information identifies (-- edited --) Holdings, LLC (which is a corporation in Colorado) and (-- edited --).com (which appears to be a possibly defunct operation) as owners of the IP address/block in question:

Location: United States [City: Loveland, Colorado]

NOTE: More information appears to be available at NET-216-7-186-0-1.

(-- edited --) Holdings, LLC D393LLC-DC-INVERNESS6 (NET-216-7-160-0-1)
                                  216.7.160.0 - 216.7.191.255
(-- edited --).com VONOC-216-7-186-0-23 (NET-216-7-186-0-1)
                                  216.7.186.0 - 216.7.187.255
 
# ARIN WHOIS database, last updated 2005-04-02 19:10
# Enter ? for additional hints on searching ARIN's WHOIS database.

The person(s) running the web site at MICROSOFT-DOTNET-TECHNOLOGY.INFO have been contacted in the past via the “contact” form on the web site and told to stop repurposing this content, specifically because they have not obtained permission and because they are profiting from advertising revenue from said web site. This activity constitutes theft of intellectual property under copyright laws and the DMCA. The information being sourced is copyrighted as indicated on the web site, and is not in the public domain for re-use. The party(ies) associated with MICROSOFT-DOTNET-TECHNOLOGY.INFO have not responded to repeated contacts and requests to cease use of the copyrighted material.

We have sent a CEASE AND DESIST letter to the parties once again today (April 3, 2004) through their web site contact form at http://www.microsoft-dotnet-technology.info/contact.asp. At this time we request that you remove the offending web sites and pages from your servers, as they are clearly in violation of the common acceptable use provisions of the parties to this email:

http://www.(-- edited --).com/acceptable-use.asp#copyright

IN ADDITION, the same person(s) appear to be sourcing copyrighted material for commercial use from Yahoo!, Search Engine Watch, moreover.com, the Kansas City Public Library, National Geographic News, about.com, and Web Hosting News. Unless the situation is rectified immediately we will also be contacting those persons and companies to advise them of the misuse of the copyrighted property and data.

The WHOIS information on record for the domain in question is:

Domain ID:D8436219-LRMS
Domain Name:MICROSOFT-DOTNET-TECHNOLOGY.INFO
Created On:27-Nov-2004 15:34:17 UTC
Last Updated On:27-Nov-2004 15:34:20 UTC
Expiration Date:27-Nov-2005 15:34:17 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar:R136-LRMS
Status:ACTIVE
Status:OK
Registrant ID:C7727838-LRMS
Registrant Name (-- edited --)
Registrant Organization:(-- edited --)
Registrant Street1:(-- edited --)
Registrant City:(-- edited --)
Registrant State/Province:Gujarat
Registrant Postal Code:(-- edited --)
Registrant Country:IN
Registrant Phone:(-- edited --)
Registrant (-- edited --)
Admin ID:C7727839-LRMS
Admin Name:(-- edited --)
Admin Organization:(-- edited --)
Admin Street1:(-- edited --)
Admin City:Ahmedabad
Admin State/Province:Gujarat
Admin Postal Code:(-- edited --)
Admin Country:IN
Admin Phone:(-- edited --)
Admin (-- edited --)
Billing ID:C7727840-LRMS
Billing Name:(-- edited --)
Billing Organization:(-- edited --)
Billing Street1:(-- edited --)
Billing City:Ahmedabad
Billing State/Province:Gujarat
Billing Postal Code:(-- edited --)
Billing Country:IN
Billing Phone:(-- edited --)
Billing (-- edited --)
Tech ID:C7727841-LRMS
Tech Name:(-- edited --)
Tech Organization:(-- edited --)
Tech Street1:(-- edited --)
Tech City:Ahmedabad
Tech State/Province:Gujarat
Tech Postal Code:(-- edited --)
Tech Country:IN
Tech Phone:(-- edited --)
Tech (-- edited --)
Name Server:VOB1.(-- edited --).COM
Name Server:VOB2.(-- edited --).COM

(Note: I edited the names and other identifying infomration from the WHOIS record at the request of the person listed in the contact sections of the record becuase they asked me to do so. While the information is accurate as it was originally posted, it serves no useful purpose to keep that person's phone and other information here and the orginal issue was resolved, so I agreed to make the change).

Tuesday, 27 December 2005 03:21:05 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 24 December 2005

SantaTrackGEarthLooks like Santa's got himself a gmail account, and the Google Earth team has been working with him to set up a live map tracking capability for the big night. If you've got Google Earth, you can track Santa online. If you don't have it, now is a good time to grab a free copy.

Here's email from Santa that Google posted:

To: "Google Support"
From: claus@gmail.com
Subject: Naughty or Nice Layer

I love Google Earth and have been planning a big trip with it. Now I'm wondering if you've ever thought about licensing data layers for "nice" and "naughty." If interested, I've got a really good list -- I've checked it twice. Rooftop accurate data!

Let me know,
S. Claus

Google says: "While we didn't work a deal for Naughty or Nice data layers, we did negotiate the rights to track this user on his big trip. If you've already got Google Earth, you can too."

Saturday, 24 December 2005 15:43:23 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Philip Chu's Seven Habits of Highly Effective Programmers is a great read. He goes into the characteristics of what I would agree makes up a truly effective technical professional (regardless of whether you be a programmer, systems engineer, admin or whatever).

Anyone who works in the software or IT field should read this.

I like his final line, too: "Stupidity is contagious."

Nice.

[via a link from Digg]

Saturday, 24 December 2005 15:28:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 23 December 2005

As I mentioned here last year, you can track Santa's progress on Christmas Eve with your kids online at the NORAD Track Santa web site.

On December 24th kids can call toll free at 1-877-Hi-NORAD anytime after 9AM Eastern Standard Time (7AM Mountain Standard Time) to find out the status of Santa from NORAD. Or, even better, check out the NORAD Track Santa web site (available in several languages):

Santa2005

Looks like Brent's got a good list of online resources, too. Enjoy.

Saturday, 24 December 2005 01:30:58 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 18 December 2005

Mark Cuban posts a weblog entry today about his thoughts around what appears to be a lazy reporter for the New York Times (and by lazy I don't mean "doing nothing," but instead "not doing enough") and the content of a column by the Times that Cuban was interviewed for via email last week.

(You can read the actual email responses Cuban sent to the Times' reporter's questions on his blog, by that way. Amazing how things have shifted in terms of information availability over the years. Also, Cuban follows up with another blog entry asking "who has higher ... standards, your typical fulltime blogger, or the NY Times ? Who puts more effort into researching their articles? Who conveys more depth?")

Not like it's a shock or anything that the New York Times would research and publish content with an apparently predetermined end-goal in mind, and it is a column, after all, so opinion's completely within the realm of reason. And Cuban's known for opinions and ideas that writers don't always take at face value. But it's interesting to see what was asked, what answers were provided, and what was published.

Also of interest are Cuban's thoughts about the future of HDTV in the home and the much-higher-def projection they're starting to install in theaters. Personally, I like where he's going with this stuff, and as a former projectionist for a small chain of theaters way back when, I can tell you that I am happy there are a least a couple theater owners out there focused (no pun intended) on the quality of the experience and making it easier to bring quality filmwork to lots of people quickly. It's painful these days to go to theaters where the projection lenses are shoddy or even just not properly aligned and focused, and where the light box and shutter mechanisms simply suck. I've arrived at a point where if a theater doesn't have most or all of the following characteristics, I just don't want to go anymore:

  • The proper lens for the screen, meaning uniform brightness and sharp focus across the entire field, whether it's film or digital projection images being shown
  • Clean sound and acoustics that doesn't self-cancel or distort
  • Seats that you sit in and instantly wish you had at home (these are rare but they do exist, and I can almost predict by ownership when there will be good chairs)
  • Food selection that isn't cardboard and chalk derivative - and a bonus if the theater uses peanut oil (yes, be sure to prominently display the use of peanuts for safety) to cook the popcorn
  • A theater hall that doesn't smell like someone hosed it down with a mix of sweat and vomit juice between shows (remove the seats and bleach the place twice a year, seriously)

Anyhow, Cuban makes some interesting and valid points in his weblog entry. Again, it's encouraging to see someone focused on quality (as opposed to strict cost/return) as primary business drivers. That's smart. No point in good margins of no one wants to buy the product, and one thing that HDTV at home does do is raise the bar on the expectations of the theater experience - we'll always expect it to be one or two quality and experience notches better than anything at home. The Times article refers to and quotes leadership of Regal Entertainment Group, which is a company that doesn't tend to meet my wishes outlined above.

Someone has to lead and push the limits. Cuban tends to do this. Good for him. Good for us. And Randall Stross of the New York Times, well he probably just needs to get out more. Maybe a movie?

[via memeorandum]

Sunday, 18 December 2005 17:51:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 17 December 2005

Scott Adams says he recently quit caffeine. It wasn't exactly pleasant for him. Sounds like it still isn't.

I can relate. Except that I have not quit.

I drink coffee like it was, well, water. Like it's going out of style. It's easy to do - there's tons of free coffee everywhere I go. Which means work and home. And church sometimes. Free coffee everywhere.

Coffee is The Devil. So I am not sure why it's at church.

If I don't get my requisite dose of caffeine in the morning, I (seriously) can't see straight. Like as in my vision is blurry and my head hurts. That can't be good.

I stopped smoking a couple years or so ago. I've quit other things before, many years ago. But caffeine, well man oh man... Painful.

For the record, cigarettes was the hardest from a withdrawl perspective. Freakin' BRUTAL. It still is from time to time. I tell people I *stopped* smoking. I don't say I "quit." Nothing is guaranteed, nothing is forever. For today I am stopped, and it's better that way.

I guess I've learned that much fairly well. Heh.

But, back to coffee - It's the one vice I have left remaining in my life, really. I know I shouldn't drink as much as I do, but it just won't let me go. I've tried it - Ringing ears, blurry vision, massive headaches, general lethargy, an *inability* to sleep (seriously), and on top of that no more coffee, which I actually like (and I never actually liked smoking that much).

Argh. Decaf doesn't really appeal to me. All the decaf I've ever had tastes like crapola.

Any ideas?

Sunday, 18 December 2005 05:01:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I had a thought tonight. It's not a new one, not even all that original. Some might call it fleeting or warped. I think I've mentioned it here before, maybe over a year ago. Whatever, doesn't matter really. A thing over on Digg earlier today reminded me of it.

What, exactly, is "it" you ask? I'm getting to that. To "it," I mean. Whatever.

Let's face it, there is one question that any knowledge-centric computer system should know the answer to by now. So, with this hypothesis in mind, and with the belief that being proven wrong would be a strong indicator of certain impending doom, or something very similar, I set out to put a number of the esteemed AI-ish computer systems to That Ultimate Test.

And here are the results...

Encarta® Instant Answers - which I reviewed here last month - passes the test:

[18:00] greg@greghughes.net: what is the answer to the question the life, the universe and everything?
[18:00] Encarta® Instant Answers: Forty-two.

Nice. I like having Encarta Instant Answers in my IM list. Even more so now.

For fun, I also posted the question to Yahoo! Answers (beta), which is a service that gets answers from real people. The results come in email. Not exactly instant gratification, but what the heck. I wonder if I'll get flamed, since that's one of the more particularly unique aspects of human interaction, dontcha know.

Oh, wait! That was fast! Look what just arrived in my inbox, no less than one minute after my posted question - wow!

Good news! Someone has answered your question on Yahoo! Answers:

What is the answer to the great question of life, the universe and everything?

Here's the answer that bfeldman23 gave:
42

Cool. Not even a flame. Heh. Other answers received while writing this post included:

  • Alcohol  (ed: this was actually the first answer received, and it arrived at the same time as the answer above - this might mean something)
  • John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life."  (ed: nice - I like that one)
  •  7  (ed: someone's an optimist eh?)
  •  The question is why, the answer is why not!  (ed: heheheh...)
  •  sex  (ed: well, yeah, duh...)

Side-bar: I started thinking about flames and insults, and since this was distracting me terribly I decided to go back to Encarta Instant Answers to see if I could get the computer on the other end upset...

[18:32] greg@greghughes.net: screw you
[18:32] Encarta® Instant Answers: That's an insult, if I'm not mistaken. Why would you say such a thing?

Hahahah... Nice. But you know I had to keep trying...

[18:38] greg@greghughes.net: a**hole    (note: I edited the actual word I typed for this family blog post)
[18:38] Encarta® Instant Answers:
That's a fairly serious insult.
[18:39] greg@greghughes.net:
whatever
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Yes?
[18:39] greg@greghughes.net:
whatever
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Yes, whatever.
[18:39] greg@greghughes.net:
uh huh
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Yes.
[18:39] greg@greghughes.net:
hmmmm
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Hmm? What?
[18:39] greg@greghughes.net:
hmmmmmmmmm
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Hmm?
[18:39] greg@greghughes.net:
yeah
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Yes.
[18:39] greg@greghughes.net:
no
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
K, no prob.
[18:39] greg@greghughes.net:
whatever
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Yes?
[18:39] greg@greghughes.net:
huh?
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers: I don't know. OK, should we get back to the kind of questions I was designed to answer? You can type "?" at any time to see a list of questions you can ask me.

[18:51] greg@greghughes.net: WTF?
[18:51] Encarta® Instant Answers:
What up?
[18:51] greg@greghughes.net:
nothing
[18:51] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Here is the definition for nothing: not anything.
[18:51] greg@greghughes.net: uhh
[18:51] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Everything OK over there?
[18:51] greg@greghughes.net:
no
[18:51] Encarta® Instant Answers:
OK, whatever. Why don't you ask me something that's actually in Encarta? You can type "?" to see a list of questions you can ask me.
[18:51] greg@greghughes.net:
ugh
[18:51] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Ugh? What's wrong?
[18:51] greg@greghughes.net:
you
[18:51] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Me? Really?
[18:51] greg@greghughes.net:
yes
[18:51] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Are you sure? Maybe not me.
[18:52] greg@greghughes.net:
I'm sure.
[18:52] Encarta® Instant Answers: OK, whatever. OK, should we get back to the kind of questions I was...

Hahahah, I love messing with non-sentient beings. They can't get pissed off and punch you in the face. Yet. Cool.

Anyhow... I had a point around here somewhere...

Next comes Google Calculator, a quite useful tool built into Google's search engine. As expected, fast. clean and to-the-point:

  the answer to life the universe and everything = 42
    More about calculator

And of course there's MSN Search (which, for the record, is pulling it's data from Encarta, just like the Instant Answers, above). MSN Search does just as well, and is able to accept slightly more variations on the searched phrase than Google and still return the answer:

Web Results

    Page 1 of 564,343 results containing the answer to life the universe and everything (0.10 seconds)

Answer:  answer = 42

Finally, here's Amazon's A9 search engine conglomeration thing, which returns a lot of search results, and if you check the reference box there, it show Wikipedia's typically flashy, pithy and detailed answer (only part of which is below):

Wikipedia:

The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything
The Ultimate Answer
Enlarge
The Ultimate Answer

The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is a concept taken from Douglas Adams' science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In the story, the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is sought from the supercomputer Deep Thought. The answer given by Deep Thought leads the protagonists on a quest to discover the question which provides this answer.

Very cool.

To sum it all up, while it's not quite on par with a handheld Hitchhiker's Guide yet, there's at least a glimmer of hope. And that's nice to know.

So, for now, it appears to be safe to follow this sage advice: Don't Panic.

Saturday, 17 December 2005 23:12:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 16 December 2005

I suppose there's a chance I'm the last person in the world to watch The Polar Express. I rented it tonight, I suppose due to a subconscious need to find a little holiday something or another.

If you haven't seen this movie, you're really missing out.

I can remember (vaguely) being the kid on this movie. Each of them, actually. I think that's why it's such a great story and film. And what a great message.

If you've not seen it, or if you know someone who doesn't believe anymore, rent the DVD, settle in for the night, and get a little bit of your life back. I think you'll be glad you did. This has to be one of the better movie experiences in some time. I can't believe I missed it til now.

And if you're lucky enough to be near an IMAX theater, you might be able to go see it there - in 3D, which Roger Ebert says is an incredible experience. Here in Portland, it's 2D at the OMSI OmniMax theater, but it's on the big dome screen.

Saturday, 17 December 2005 03:51:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 15 December 2005

Such the conundrum. In my kitchen pantry I have four cans of Wolf Brand Chili. They taunt me. I stare at them every now and then an ponder the many Wolf Brand possibilities. I do this because they have been in my pantry now for, oh, a few years. I think seriously about opening one, scraping it out over a bed of Fritos, running some cheese on top and radiating it all in the Microwave. Health food at its best.

I'd actually do it, too, if I wasn't afraid I'd freakin' die. I mean, just how long is canned chili good for, anyway?

I mean, the answer must be either "a finite period of time" (undoubtedly substantially less than four years) or else it must be something along the lines of "forever." Like as in "put canned chili in your Y2K and terrorist attack supply caches."

So, in my quest for knowledge I did the most obvious thing your average 38-year-old guy would be expected to do when confronted with obscure kitchen-related trivia of such potential impact as to rise to the level of life-and-death.

I called my mom.

Her advice? "If it's not swollen or split open and as long as it doesn't hiss when you open it, it's probably fine." Hmmm... Probably?

I told her "Yeah, well I probably still won't open it."

Not that I don't believe my mom. It's just that, well, maybe I don't believe her. It's just not like her to be so non-committal. "Probably fine." Heh. Right. She's probably taking out an insurance policy on me right now. Nah, she'd never do that.

Okay, well... Time for some search engine research action, then. After Googling for a half hour and (uncharacteristically) coming up with practically nothing you'd consider useful (more proof that I'm basically just completely random), I decided to take a chance and just open the stupid thing, listen for the hissing, smell it, eyeball it, and nuke the living hell out of it before allowing it to reach my mouth.

What the hell, ya only live once. And I'm hungry.

So, if I don't ever post here again, I'm probably dead from botulism or some other nasty crap. Wish me luck.

UPDATE: Opening can... Hiissssssss... Woahhhh... Never mind, I'm not touching that stuff. Heh. I'll just go hungry.

Friday, 16 December 2005 00:52:42 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 11 December 2005

I'm supposed to be on my way to Portland by now, to meet up with the youth group for a evening thing, Christmas shopping and stuff.

Supposed to be. Just one minor problem.

My truck's sitting out there in the driveway, with my laptop, camera, phone, and everything else I might possibly need tucked inside. The engine is all warmed up, the heated seats are turned on.

And the doors are all locked.

And the extra key? Yeah, let's not even go there.

To solve this problem, after failing miserably at the Magic Wire Coat Hanger Method, I brought out the smallest Yellow Pages book in the United States and looked for a local locksmith.

I'm starting to see why there are times when it's easier to live in or near the city. My first call was to a guy who, it turns out, is over in the state of Washington. Another call or two went unanswered. My next call was to a guy three-quarters of the way to the city, and he said he'd be heading my way. That's about 30 minutes away.

Days like this make me happy I have that Hemi V8 under the hood, what with the truck sitting there in the driveway at fast idle for the past hour and all.

But hey, with the PC laptop locked up in the car, at least I can be glad to have this Mac sitting on my desk in the corner over here. And I can be glad I have time to apply the gazillion software patches and updates I apparently missed since I last used it who-knows-how-long-ago.

I just hope there's enough gas left by the time they guy gets it unlocked to get me to the closest gas station.

Okay, I'm done. How's your weekend?

Sunday, 11 December 2005 20:21:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Philippe Cheng made a rare couple of posts on his weblog this weekend (yeah, that's a friendly little jab right there, did ya catch that one?). He's spent the last, ohhh I dunno, 20 years or so building a new Chinchilla condominium. I guess that explains the light blogging activity. Looks like the family has grown a bit during the intervening time:

     Philippe's Chinchila 'Cloning' Experiment

Heh. Sorry, couldn't resist. Philippe's a coworker and he likes to make furniture and other non-digital stuff on the weekends, which is cool. Check out his blog. He writes now and then about interesting development stuff, too.

Sunday, 11 December 2005 13:52:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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"They all hold signs."

Dressed in ratty clothes, one guy stood on a busy corner with a cardboard sign inscribed with an offer to give away free Linux CDs. As you can imagine, the number of takers was not all that many, nor was it a quick process. How do you think the people this man encountered acted?

It was an interesting day of observation and insight for the man, and the end if the story is - well, you should just go read it.

[via Digg]

Sunday, 11 December 2005 11:58:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 10 December 2005

I have been awfully busy lately, with lots and lots of work projects, travel for work and personal purposes, and all the rest of life on top of that. As a result, there are over a hundred interesting tidbits of info I set aside with hopes of writing here about them.

But since I know in the real world that won't ever happen, here are the 48 random things that caught my eye ad attention long enough for me to save each one - These fall mostly in the tech category:

Saturday, 10 December 2005 17:22:06 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 05 December 2005

Always wondered who that dude was talking to...

"The Worst Job Ever"
(Windows Media video - contains strong language, etc etc)

Tuesday, 06 December 2005 01:04:23 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 01 December 2005

The Music Genome Project created a web application and site called Pandora that lets you discover music in a very cool new way. Niiiiice!

Enter the name of an artist, and it creates a "station" of similar, complimentary music based on the original selection. I'm a huge James Taylor fan, and I entered his name, and sure enough, it create a station that had a bunch more music I liked a lot.

This one's going to get some serious Greg playtime. Pun intended. Oh, and the Pandora Blog is here.

    

    

From the Pandora web site:

Ever since we started the Music Genome Project, our friends would ask:

Can you help me discover more music that I'll like?

Those questions often evolved into great conversations. Each friend told us their favorite artists and songs, explored the music we suggested, gave us feedback, and we in turn made new suggestions. Everybody started joking that we were now their personal DJs.

We created Pandora so that we can have that same kind of conversation with you.

Friday, 02 December 2005 02:10:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 28 November 2005

Because some things are truly worth repeating each year, and because sometimes people do things that are just so damn wrong... Everyone should have their own copy of this Christmas music classic:

Tuesday, 29 November 2005 01:40:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Leave it to the Oregon Lottery to come up with the holiday marketing stunts to top all stupid holiday season marketing stunts. Thank God for the lottery people... And here we were starting to worry people might actually take Oregon seriously for a second...

So, here you have it: Scratch-and sniff lottery tickets in a beautiful fruitcake flavor. Yeah, seriously. Scratch the card, and it smells like f-r-u-i-t-c-a-k-e. Uhhh... Yuck.

People actually want to buy this crap? Wow.

To top it all off, be sure to check out the (actually somewhat amusing) MP3 files being used to promote the seasonal cash-collecting game.

It's all at http://spiritoffruitcake.com.

Sheez...

Tuesday, 29 November 2005 01:30:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 27 November 2005

Ask-encarta-im1This one is perfect for students, who (we all know) spend way too much time on IM anyhow. So in the if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em department, have them add encarta@conversagent.com as a contact on their MSN IM people lists. Chris Sells pointed out this service - which ties into the Encarta online encyclopedia - the other day, and so I tried it out.

If you ever have to research things for classes or work and want a more accessible way to do so, you'll find it cool and useful.

Just open a conversation with the "Encarta Instant Answers" contact in your list and start asking questions. You'll get results right in the IM window. If there's information available from Encarta online (did you know you can use pretty much everything from Encarta online???), the agent will offer to share it with you in an expanded window (see below).

It works quite well, and has already tied up a bunch of my time. I'll be keeping this one in my IM contact list for sure.

Ask-encarta-im3
(click above for a larger view)

Sunday, 27 November 2005 12:45:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 26 November 2005
Microsoft's Major Nelson, XBOX Live Director of Programming grand poobah, says they're cranking out new consoles and shipping XBOX 360s to stores weekly, so there' still a chance.
Sunday, 27 November 2005 01:38:15 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 22 November 2005

Last night I contemplated waking up earlier than usual, getting in the car and going down to the local Wal Mart (well, as local as can be when you live in the sticks) to get in line to buy a XBOX 360 console. After doing some rough calculations in my head last night, I realized that between travel and work, I'll hardly be home between now and the end of the year, so maybe right now isn't the best time for me to buy one anyhow. Oh, but I will be buying one, no worries there.

Still, Wal Mart is on my drive to work, and so I decided to grab my standard morning coffee from the little store at the bottom of the hill, drive into town, and do some people watching. After all, I realized, it's more the excitement and the weirdness of the hype around the event than the console itself. An XBOX 360 today is the same box and hardware as you can buy later. But the launch fans? That only happens once.

So I headed out for the big ol' St. Helens, Oregon Wal Mart. I listened to the radio on the way there, and heard stories of gamers in places like Manhattan, NY, where apparently people had been lined up forever (like lots of places around the country) and Bellevue, Washington, where Bill Gates went to the local Best Buy and picked up his own console. Somehow I don't think he needed to do that, but hey - it was cool. 

Honestly, I was more interested in watching the people when they opened the store than I was in buying a console on Day One. I'm more interested, too, in how much they'll be selling for on eBay later today, and about when the day will be that they start dropping them off the backs of trucks at stores in huge numbers. One friend says he thinks it will be on Thursday night. Another person I know tells me the store he pre-ordered from called and let him know his delivery would be delayed, and that they were not sure if he would get his before Christmas. People are lining up everywhere. Clearly, the demand is high and the supply (either artificially or in actuality) is short.

Anyhow, back to the local Wal Mart. I wasn't sure what to expect in the Big Town of St Helens. I pulled into the parking lot and saw a small crowd of about 15-20 shivering people huddled right next to the front door of the store. A couple of people were (smartly) waiting in their vehicles with the heat on. I pulled up and deduced that the Wal Mart store has probably handed out numbers to the first people to show up, but that's where things got more interesting. Every employee that came anywhere near the front door was the target of sly, mean-sounding questioning. "Are they coming to open the door? Hurry up, it's f***n' cold out here! What?!? No?!?!? G*d d*mnit!"

When it came time to open the door and head for the counter - and keep in mind, everyone had a number - the race walk through the door turned into a jog, and then quickly into a sprint for the back of the store, where ten boxes sat stacked neatly behind a counter. I followed (at a walking pace, of course) to observe. A couple of people commented on the foot race and we all laughed a little. Mostly the people (at least those who didn't have a number) noticed how strange the whole thing was. All this for a video game console? Hey, for some it's what life is all about, I guess.

So, I started to think about the gamer personality. Some of the people were needlessly quiet and cagey, not really letting on as to who had what number, and some were not even providing information about whether numbers were even given out. It was amusing, really. There was this competitive hype attitude. The need to be first, to sneak around that metaphoric corner on the battle map and shoot your opponent in the back of the head.

It's really kinda interesting.

Fist fights, secrecy, celebration, celebrity, short supply, bright green boxes, launch hype, auction hype and even more random hype. Some will be upset they can't get one, others will be upset they pre-ordered and the kid down the street was first, and others will be holed up in their rooms for the next five days with lots of Mountain Dew, Red Bull, Doritos and Little Betty Snack Cakes turning a whole new shade of pasty white with a day-glow green tint brought on by the magical glow of the XBOX 360, only to emerge into a world where the colors are not quite as bright, the definition is not quite as high, and the people with guns in their hands are the ones you want to avoid. Ahhh, the life...

Merry Christmas and all that. Earlier and more bizarre every year. 

But hey, dude, it's a sweet console.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005 15:44:25 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 21 November 2005

Holiday_lightsYou think your house decorations are awesome? Are you one of those people who tries each year to out-do your neighbors? Or are one of the out-done that suffers the effects of Mr. Uber-Decorator?

Well, no matter who you are and no matter what your motivation, I bet you've never seen a house decoration display quite like this one. Seriously, the picture at right is not even close to what the video shows. Wow, cool...

UPDATE: As it turns out, the man who built it is named Carson Williams and he lives in Mason Ohio. Apparently, the show attracted so many people that when a couple cars had an accident, the police could not get to the accident because the streets were jammed up with other cars, so Carson had to stop the display each night, at least for a while.

Here are some other links for ya:

http://www.christmaslightfinder.com/
http://www.twasthenightbefore.com/webcam-2005.htm
http://www.pensacolalights.com/
http://www.christmasutah.com/
http://www.kindlachristmas.com/Videos.asp
http://www.welovechristmaslights.com/

Tuesday, 22 November 2005 03:27:51 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Hard core console gamers are already camping out tonight in front of Best Buy stores and other retailers hoping to get their clammy paws on a new XBOX 360 console, which are in predictably short supply at stores as the launch happens Tuesday.

And be sure to check out the XBOX360 Fanboy blog for all the latest news. Heh. Bill Gates is even going to show up at the Bellevue Best Buy store to hand out the first one and play some games with the crowd.

I'm not, like, old or anything (ugh), but I'm not as young as I once was. Still, I might wake up early (I tend to do so anyhow) and truck it on down to the local WalMart, where they have exactly ten consoles that will be on sale at 7am tomorrow. Word is the Fred Meyer store (for those not in the northwest, take WalMart and fancy it up significantly) in the next town over got seven units and will be doing a lottery for whoever is in line at 5am, then selling them when the store opens at 7am. In the city, people are lined up at Best Buy stores to get one of the 50 units that each store supposedly has.

When I stopped by the WalMart on the way home, the phone at the electronics counter was ringing off the hook. The guy at the counter just shook his head, and told me that phone's rung more than a couple hundred times today with people asking about the XBOX 360 console.

So here are the real questions we're all wondering about:

  • How many units shipped for launch?
  • When will the truckloads of consoles hit the stores? Should we start a pool?
  • Is this possibly a planned shortage thing, or is the supply really that low?
  • What will they be selling for on eBay tomorrow afternoon?

I dunno... I know I'll be buying one of these, but I'm not quite sure if I'll be getting up bright and early to scrape the windshield and stand in the sub-freezing temperatures to gamble on something I might not walk away with. Heheh... Maybe I am getting old.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005 00:15:58 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Engadget Holiday Gift GuideThat infamous and terrific gadget-lover's blog, Engadget, has launched it's Engadget Holiday Gift Guide for this holiday season at http://holidaygiftguide.engadget.com/.

We know sorting through the thousands of gadgets on the market right now can be a bit of a pain for anyone doing some shopping, so we’ve gotten together our annual Engadget Holiday Gift Guide in order to help make sense of what’s worth dropping some coin on this year.

Even though online shopping means no one really has an excuse anymore not to buy early, we’re going to be running up our gift suggestions once a day until December 24th, so high-tail over to
holidaygiftguide.engadget.com for the latest! And be sure to check back often, as we’ll be posting a variety of gift suggestions sure to please the full range of recipients everyone’s got, from nerds-extraordinarie to Mr. and Mrs. Enduser.

NOTE: These products are selected by the Engadget editors, not Best Buy, and we didn’t check to see whether they’re for sale at Best Buy or not.

That Sony VAIO XL1 Media Center PC is lookin' pretty nice...

Monday, 21 November 2005 23:57:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 20 November 2005

Just read a blog post over at HinesSight (a great Oregon-based blog, by the way) called "I pick up a hitchhiker." You know that feeling when you read or see something and you can literally feel your stomach bottom out? You know, the one's that stop you in your tracks and show you that your little world is not so bad after all?

Yeah, it's one of those. Read it, and remember as you go through like to take the time to stop, to take a personal inventory now and then, and to do what's right and good.

Sunday, 20 November 2005 21:49:41 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 19 November 2005

Recently I've been targeted by teenagers who are suddenly waking up and wanting to learn about things in their newly-discovered/interesting world. Well, okay so maybe it's a phase, but hey - you take advantage of these periods when they present themselves, you know? Often the reason for the Q&A is a science fair project, or else it's that magical "how do you hack computers" series of questions. Science fair projects I can help with. Hacking? Not quite so willing. But I'm always game to help people learn more about computer security and IT.

One thing that keeps modern teens and kids interested in learning is something that reads well, is on the Internet, and doesn't present itself like a text book. That's why I really, really like "How Stuff Works" (howstuffworks.com) as a resource for adults and kids to learn about cool things and, well, how they work. The power of the site is that it takes complicated topics and makes them understandable.

The How Stuff Works site has been around since before the Internet became uber-popular. I can remember reading lots of great content there many years ago. A guy names Marshall Brain (no joke) was the originator of the site and idea. His related books (appropriately titled 'Marshall Brain's How Stuff Works' and 'Marshall Brain's More How Stuff Works') are terrific for teens and younger kids. He's also written other great books. Parents should pick up a copy of 'The Teenager's Guide to the Real World' for every kid on the planet.

Anyhow, HowStuffWorks.com is one of the most visited sites on the Internet. you can learn all kinds of cool stuff there, explained in ways anyone can understand. That's what makes it so great. Here's a few examples I've sent various people lately:

Sunday, 20 November 2005 00:26:27 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Jeremy Zawodny linked to the Warning Label Generator, where you can make fun warning labels (what else?) of your own creative design:

Warning Label Generator

Eh, forgive the creative wording. Hey, it's accurate.

Saturday, 19 November 2005 23:46:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Want to instantly turn off a blogger? Ask them to link to you without a compelling reason. Seriously. Unless it's a truly compelling and timely topic, never ask for a link. If you do, prepare to be ignored.

Robert Scoble wrote a short-but-right-on-target post today that I can totally relate to. And keep in mind, my blog is like 1/100th of what his is from an attention perspective, so the impact of blatant link begging on me is nothing even close to what it is for him, I'm certain.

Like Robert, I've also been getting a lot of emails and even a few phone calls recently from PR people, bloggers, marketers and other people who don't quite "get it" asking me to write about specific things on my blog. Some have even gone so far as to offer something in return as payment. At first I just laughed and tried to figure out why anyone would actually take the time to ask me to write, then I looked at my pageviews and did some fuzzy math in my head. Okay, so lots of people read the content on this site, that's cool. Not as nearly as many as the big guys, but a lot nonetheless. My AdSense income amazes me more than anyone. But my voice is mine, and it's not for sale.

I'm not saying I don't want to hear about cool stuff - send it on. What I am saying is if your request takes the form of "will you please link to this?" or "hey you should link to this" or "you should write about this for me," I'm really not interested. Of course, if you think something is really cool and it catches my eye, too (and you're not pulling a fast one or crying wolf), I'm going to be interested.

I've gone so far as to reply to one or two of the more truly blatant, entitlement-laden requests with words like "I don't take requests" or "Sorry, I don't do performance blogging." Most of them I just ignore and immediately file in the electronic circular file. It's not that I don't want to hear about good and cool stuff. I just don't want to be anyone's hired or begged PR publisher.

PR people often operate in the old-skool world (been there in a prior career), one where lazy print writers looking for something new to write about love to get calls from PR agencies with some pre-written copy that can be regurgitated or copied verbatim and published. Bloggers don't work that way. If you (hypothetically) send me a book to review, I will try to read it when my schedule allows and if it catches my interest. If I find it especially compelling I might write about it. If I don't like it, I'll most likely just let it go. If it's really, really bad, I might just write about that, too. But probably not - I prefer to emphasize the positive here. So, unlike the print world, there' some risk involved. One thing's for sure: There's no promise or guarantee I'll write anything. And if the request is to take a book or software or anything else in turn for a guaranteed review, don't ask. I'm not for hire. Some people have asked if they would have a chance to respond to anything negative before I write it. I tell them no, but that my blog has comments and if they have a blog (they should), they can always participate in the conversation. It's amazing how many people that puts a stop to. Heh.

I agree with Robert's suggestion. If you see something cool and want me to blog about it, send me a link and tell me what's got your interest and why. I don't care whether it's a link to your site and your comments or if it's pointing to the original info, or whatever.

Now, don't let me scare you away. I write about many things - stuff I care about. Some of it I discover by reading something someone else wrote or sent to me. If I happen to have the same level of interest as you when you show me something, I might take you up on the info. Conversely, if you specifically ask a blogger to link to you for selfish reasons, prepare to be ignored unless it's something very special and urgent.

I've written almost nothing all week until today, partly because I got tired of these calls and emails with blatant requests. It's not fun. It feels like work, and that's one thing this blog is not. Plus, I have been pretty busy recently with my job and life. We all need a break now and then.

Anyhow, Robert - you got that one right, man.

Saturday, 19 November 2005 23:00:06 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 15 November 2005

Word's out that Bruce Willis has offered to give a reward of $1 million to any civilian that gives up Osama bin Laden. So if you know where he is, collect your reward. Add that to the $27 million in other rewards, and you'd be pretty well set.

Bounty hunters, time to go do your thing.

Wednesday, 16 November 2005 02:45:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 12 November 2005

If you already have a bunch of XBOX games, you've likely been wondering what's the dealio with the new console? Will you be able to play your old original XBOX games on the new XBOX 360? If so, will they play better? Will they be displayed in HD?

Well, Microsoft has posted the official backward-compatibility list of games you'll be able to play on the new console when it launches on November 22nd. There's also a Q&A page that answers a lot of questions about backward compatibility and how the legacy games will work. It looks like the list will likely grow over time, so you can check back to see if more games get added.

As of the time I am posting this, there are 207 titles on the list. Not too shabby, and definitely more than I expected.

And - even bigger news - every game title on the list will be up-scaled to HD resolutions of 720p and 1080i and will use the 360's anti-aliasing engine. Wow, that's great news! Yes, it's up-scaling, but the end result is better game experience on the old titles when using the new hardware. Nice. To do backward compatibility, you'll need a hard drive accessory (which is an option for the less-expensive "Core" XBOX 360 package, and is included in the premium package. 

Microsoft notes that: "A software emulator is required for each original Xbox game you play on your Xbox 360™ console. Please check back for more details as we approach the launch date."

From the Q&A page come these useful nuggets of information:

Xbox.com: How is your backward compatibility solution going to work?

Todd: As you’ve heard from us before, backward compatibility on Xbox 360 is done through software. Now that we’ve solved the technical challenge and the emulator is working, we’re certifying each original Xbox title by hand to run on Xbox 360.

What I’m really proud to tell you and your readers is that it’s easy to get the emulation software, and it’s free. We’ll give gamers a choice—you can get the latest software updates from Xbox Live, burn a CD from xbox.com or sign up on Xbox.com for a CD that can be delivered to your home at a nominal shipping and handling fee. Once you get the CD, put it in your Xbox 360 and you’re ready to go.

Xbox.com: Will there be any benefits to playing original Xbox games on my Xbox 360 console?

Todd: Absolutely. One of the great things about gaming on Xbox 360 is the satisfaction of knowing that every game will be playable in high definition. We are now proud to reveal that this extends to the original Xbox games as well. Every original Xbox game will be upscaled to 720p and 1080i, and will take advantage of Xbox 360’s anti-aliasing capabilities, delivering a picture that is clearer and crisper than anything available on Xbox.

UPDATE: Rory comments on the slashdot comments on the XBOX 360 backward compatibility announcement. Slashdot readers were typically (and predictably) assinine, and Rory is his typical genius self.

Saturday, 12 November 2005 17:24:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Bit-shit-shiftThe other day my co-worker Matt (a truly-all-around-good-guy who will almost certainly laugh (I sure hope) and turn bright red (like I certainly would) when he reads this) wrote on his blog that he was...

"...curious where I would rank if you searched for "bit-shift". So I loaded up my favorite web browser, pointed it towards google and off I went. Was I on the first page...Nope. Page two you say? Notta. When I loaded up page three I was beginning to get depressed. But Wait! There at the bottom of the page, second to the last link was Bit-Shit.Net. Woohoo! At least I beat out a link to an Intel article on 64 bit-shifting, HA! Take that Intel."

Heh. The emphasis in the above quote is mine. You see, the funny thing is that Matt made a similar slip (typo? psychological? Hmmm...) a couple weeks ago in a blog post, which I dutifully pointed out (in person), and which he promptly changed before I could do a screen-grab and post it here for all to see. I'm not sure why he has a recurring problem typing "shift," but I am sure it's pretty darn funny from a reader's perspective. No spell checker maybe? Or is that word allowed in the spelling dictionary? Heh... All in good fun here, Matt. I don't think he'd ever purposely type that word. Must be a deep subconscious thing.

Anyhow, hopefully some post linkage here will help drive a little search-engine-bot attention to Matt's site, where (by the way) he's writing about interesting thoughts of his and whatnot. I've subscribed to his feed and added him to the blogroll over there on the side of this page somewhere. Google indexing and ranking is driven by many things, especially inbound links. So, check out his blog. I like his writing style - some of my favorite weblogs are the ones that follow whatever happens to be on the author's mind at the time. Now all we have to do is get Matt to stop thinking about sh... Oh, never mind. Hah! (Just kiddin' ya there Matthew ).

So - What can we learn from this? Simple, really: Accidentally type about poop, someone notices, and hopefully it generates a little more traffic to your site. And it just goes to show, at it's core the universe really is awfully entropic.

Or maybe the lesson is something more like "type sh*t once, shame on you. type sh*t twice, shame on... well... you."

Thanks for the fun fodder there, bud.

Saturday, 12 November 2005 16:07:46 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 11 November 2005

I've spent way too much time in the past 24 hours driving my cat absolutely crazy with a little laser pointer. It's hilarious to watch her chase that bright red dot all over the room, across the floor and up walls and around/over furniture. But hey, it's great exercise. Heh.

I got the little laser pointer with my new holography book that recently arrived in the mail. I decided recently to give the one form of photography I've not yet done a try. The rest of the needed materials are on order, will be here before too long.

I've wanted to make holograms since I was a kid. My dad's a physicist and he has mostly always worked with lasers in some shape or form (and he still does today). I remember when I was a kid and he brought a laser home one night and showed me how it worked. I think he explained the inner workings, too, but that night I was amazed by what I saw. I was completely hooked and since then have been fascinated with them. I still enjoy learning about them. Add to that several years of professional photography experience, and - well - this is just a natural when-I-get-around-to-it hobby for me.

The book I just received is called Shoebox Holography, and I ordered a good, inexpensive laser pointer with the book. The book is very good, and any teachers or students looking to use holography for school projects would find it excellent and easy to understand, as well as quite complete in its explanations. Recommended.

But the cat's getting locked out of the room when I make holograms. Something about that combination seems unworkable.

Friday, 11 November 2005 21:39:47 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 07 November 2005

Time for a weather post, so someone out there can complain about how lame weather posts are...

The temperature has officially dropped below the freezing mark here in my part of rural northwestern Oregon for the first time this fall. Just a little crunchy effect walking across the lawn, and dang, it's kinda cold outside.

Snow is on the mountains and the ski hills have started to open. That's a lot more than you could say for last year, when the ski season was pretty much terrible. Maybe we'll end up with another of those storms that snowed us in a couple years ago. Well, we can always hope.

Tuesday, 08 November 2005 02:26:06 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 30 October 2005

HO-LY CRR-AP!!

Okay, so... When Microsoft says the XBOX 360 is a whole new level of gaming machine, they're serious.

I just played a couple shooters on a XBOX 360 game console and that's it, I'm sold. The graphics are GREAT. The visuals make the gameplay amazing, and it's clear the processing and video power is extreme. Add to that the Media Center connections and, well... Wow.

If you want to get your hands on one, go to the Best Buy in Beaverton, Oregon on Cedar Hills Blvd. Apparently, at least according to the sales guy there, that store is the second one to get a working display setup (the first one was a WalMart in California, he said). Some Microsoftie walked in with a bunch of boxes, set up the display, and just left. "No one knew what to do!" said the Best Buy kid. Heh. Cool.

The crowd was excited. A sign is taped to the end cap where the 360 resides that says "5 minutes, please." The crew of giddy people (mostly adults by the way) quietly contained themselves and politely took turns splattering people with their virtual firearms. It pretty much rocked. Ooohs and Aahhhhs abound.

Check it out if you can. I'll try to post some pics in the next day or two if I can get back there. This was the first day in months I didn't have my camera with me, go figure.

Sunday, 30 October 2005 22:41:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 29 October 2005

Let's just put it out on the table, get it over with and relieve ourselves of the emotional pain associated with holding in such a terrible secret for so long. It's time to let it out of the bag and to get honest with the rest of the world. We focus so much attention on expensive geek gadgets, software and hardware. There's a reason, too.

The truth is this:

The best thing about WiFi, laptops, long-lasting batteries, IM, email, Skype and BlogJet is that you can sit on the toilet and do everything there that you can do from the office, the couch or the desk. Email. IM your friends. Record a podcast (toilet noise on podcasts is considered funny). Write software that will be used by everyone under the sun. And yes, even surf the pr0n if that's your thing. Move from the couch to the toilet to the counter (you do wash your hands, right?) back to - you guessed it - the couch.

Even better, no one knows. Until now, that is.

You know it's true. Stop pretending.

There. It's out. Don't you feel better now?

Oh and dude, by the way - your keyboard is freakin' gross.

(and since you're already asking - no, I did not post this from the toilet...)

Saturday, 29 October 2005 21:46:34 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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For the record, I started blogging just to blog. Not to make it worth money. But some simple and usually relevant AdSense ads have been much more successful (wildly so, to be honest) than I ever thought, and now Technorati says my blog is worth nearly $90K as of today.

Hmmmm... I wonder what it could be worth if I actually put some concentrated effort into it?


My blog is worth $95,407.26.
How much is your blog worth?

So -- How much is your blog worth?

Saturday, 29 October 2005 17:20:51 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 28 October 2005

Omar knows what it means to work really, really hard. He also knows when to laugh, and this video made me laugh, too. Heh. Funny stuff.

And as a result, I'm discovering the wonder that has become of Google Video. If you like the Backstreet Boys, you should watch these. If you don't like the Backstreet Boys (I'm with ya), you should watch these.

      

Update: And if you like that, there's more here. And here. And here and here(?) and here. You can find even more if you look, if you want.

    

Of course, don't forget this one... And this cult behavior video followup. Weird, weird, weird world this Internet thing has made of us all, eh? (Thanks, Tim for the reminder)

And hey, Omar - I'll be down there and hanging out around Mountain View, Los Altos, etc. for a couple days starting on November 4th. Anyone wanna meet up? Let me know. Comment here or email at right.

Saturday, 29 October 2005 01:41:37 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 26 October 2005

Pumpkin-carving-patterns-tazCan you tell it's almost Halloween? I can. And I can also tell how much traffic one little blog article can drive. My stats for the past few days are awash with Google and other searches landing people on this site for pumpkin carving patterns, since I wrote about a great deal I found and how to get them them the other day. Here's a small, partial listing of a small portion of the search referrers for pumpkin carving, taken from today's web traffic stats on this site:

 
pumpkin carving patterns (www.google.com) 34
free pumpkin patterns (www.google.com) 29
pumpkin patterns (www.google.com) 29
free pumpkin stencils (www.google.com) 21
free pumpkin carving patterns (www.google.com) 13
pumpkin patterns (www.google.ca) 11
pumpkin patterns (www.google.com) 11
free pumpkin patterns (www.google.com) 11
pumpkin designs (www.google.com) 10
free pumpkin carving stencils (www.google.com) 10
pumpkin stencil (www.google.com) 10
free pumpkin stencils (www.google.ca) 9
free pumpkin patterns (www.google.ca) 9
pumpkin carving pattern (www.google.com) 9

And it just keeps going from there, too. Hundreds of similar search combinations and terms in addition to those. Definitely noticing the increase in the number of visits (still a small drop in the bucket, but interesting to see).

Wednesday, 26 October 2005 21:32:14 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 19 October 2005

Batman-pumpkinHalloween is coming, and for those who really get into the event, carving pumpkins is a lot of the fun. No better place to discover the intricacies and tricks of the jack-o-lantern carving trade than the Internet.

The Pumpkin Carving 101 site has lots of information, history, tips and tricks to make you a real pro in the carving biz. Whether you're doing traditional, old-fashioned carving or going the stencil route, there's lots of help there. They even have tips for photographing your carved work of art.

If you're looking for patterns and stencils, SpookMaster has a few free ones as well as a HUGE number (more than 200) of inexpensive designs, all of which you can get for a one-time fee of $5.95 - not a bad deal. When you subscribe, you get access to their subscriber site, which you can continue to use through at least January of next year. I just ordered them for a youth group even that's coming up, and I think it's a great deal. The patterns can be downloaded in PDF or JPG formats.

They've even got your NFL teams set up with stencils to carve, as well as stencils for other holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas (which is an interesting concept and another conversation entirely). Pop culture, famous people, traditional Halloween images - it's all there.

Enjoy.

(via Make blog)

Thursday, 20 October 2005 02:41:40 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 12 October 2005

So negative you are. Lighten up you must.

So - Before you say Microsoft sucks one more time, just let yourself laugh at what some of its employees manage to come up with from time to time.

Case in point: YODA, the programming language

Matt Warren posted his idea to build a programming language in Yoda-like English (can't quite call it plain English, can you?).

From Matt's post:


 

Instead of the cryptic c-like syntax below:

 

 

public void Main(string[] args) {

   Console.WriteLine(“Hello World”);

}

 

 

We will now have eloquent YODA-like syntax:

 

 

(args of string many are they) Main is what they seek yet return they do not.

 

Brace you must

     Written it is, the Console. “Hello World”

 

 

I know it’s difficult to believe, as strange as it seems. Yet, sometime in the future, everyone will be writing software this way. Knowing this, it makes my work so much more invigorating. I can literally feel the electricity in the air around here. It’s like some queer energetic force.

 


Go read the comments. They're just as good.

And by the way, for the record it only takes a little looking around to find out that Matt Warren isn't 100% joker. His real job has had him working at Microsoft with a supremely talented team on LINQ, which is "a set of extensions to the .NET Framework that encompass language-integrated query, set, and transform operations. It extends C# and Visual Basic with native language syntax for queries and provides class libraries to take advantage of these capabilities." I barely understand that, but I know it lets me (well, more like those code artists around me) do some cool querying of data in XML file, relational databases, in-memory data stores, whatever - which is cool. It's kinda like SQL syntax in .NET, is what it looks like to me. Linq is short for "language-integrated query." Makes sense. It's all for the next versions of C# and VB.NET.

[via Philippe Cheng [who also taught me some mad new beginner programming skillz today], via analog data transfer by Matt Lapworth]


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Humor | Random Stuff | Tech
Thursday, 13 October 2005 02:31:06 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Google-toothIt must be true. I read it on the Internet. On a blog even.

It looked pretty convincing, really. Someone started a blog called Google Tooth in September, under the guise of being Google's first live-in, on-site dentist. A plausible possibility, when you consider the benefits Google offers its employees.

But it's not for-real.

Google has already confirmed it's a fake, but the real fun is in figuring it out without asking the newest Internet giant for their two cents on the matter. Of course, the one group you can count on to do just that is a bunch of weblog readers. Not to mention real Google employees.

The most obvious tell-tale giveaway was an image that was posted on the Google Tooth blog, ostensibly of the new office space (click the image below to go to the blog entry):

       GoogleToothOfficeFake

Nice use of color and open space, eh? Only problem with the image is this photo from the SUNY Stony Brook web server (click the image to load it from the sunysb.edu server):

       DentalOffice

Amazing and uncanny resemblance. What do you figure the odds are?

This was a harmless enough - and even amusing - fake blog. Don't be surprised though if it ends up rubbing some people the wrong way. Fake blogs threaten some and amuse others. I thought it was creative and funny.

But people do get fooled:

Or maybe it's real and the trick is that people are saying it's not real, but what they're saying is actually the part that's not real.

Yeah, that's it.

Thursday, 13 October 2005 01:42:18 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 11 October 2005

Hurricanes are certainly a hot topic these days, and the destruction that they can cause we've all come to see and know. A company called Dyn-O-Mat has developed a product that absorbs water into a gel, then drops to the ground. One cool thing about their product is that when it hits salt water, it liquefies again and dissipates, supposedly harmlessly.

Apparently the company already used the formulated polymer product to take a thunderstorm off the radar back in the summer of 2001, and they hope now to use it to combat hurricanes, probably in their early stages, or to reduce the severity of an existing one.

"The way the Dyn-O-Mat team is going after the storm is by using what is called a 'Venturi Action.' The Venturi Action can be described as a pie-shaped piece that will be cut from the outer band into the eye of the storm. The intended result of this action is to allow the system to use it's own strength on itself. Essentially disrupt the cell, in hopes of significantly weakening the devastating power of the storm."

I saw the product demo'ed on a television news show this morning, and it looks very interesting. It does what they say - load a bunch of water into a bowl with a little bit of the Dyn-O-Mat product in it, and the water is instantly sucked into the gel. Someone should load a bunch of C130s or C5s up with that stuff, drop it over a section of big storm out in the middle of the ocean somewhere, and see what happens. What the heck.

Now, I don't know how I feel - ethically that is - about shutting down random storms on a whim, since they're a part of how the world works and all. But I suppose if there was a bad one that was clearly going to kill lots of people, this product could prove to be a very good thing. The hard-core Darwinians among us may disagree, but my opinion is that if it's safe and saves lives, it's worth checking out.

Dyn-O-Mat storm-fighting web page: http://www.dynomat.com/storm.shtml

Tuesday, 11 October 2005 09:19:50 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 09 October 2005

A friend asked me the other day about credit counseling, because she's trying to get her financial life squared away after some hard times. I figured this was a good place to put down some related thoughts, even though it's not tech-related. It's an important topic for many. You have to be very careful these days what you're getting yourself into, especially now that the new federal "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act" is about to go into effect (November 17th). The act requires participating in some form of credit counseling (no one if sure what that means yet, of course) before one can declare bankruptcy. It also changes who can file which forms of bankruptcy based on median income levels, ability to pay and other factors. It's probably a good thing, but the whole credit counseling requirement is a potentially confusing and fraudulent mess.

The problem is this - While the "consumer credit counseling" industry has many worthwhile players, it is also plagued by a whole slew of useless, harmful and downright fraudulent thieves. Not all companies that offer "credit counseling" are legitimate. When it comes down to brass tacks, if you owe someone money, you owe the money. Negotiating settlements is always a possibility, but you do so at a cost, and unless an organization has a program to work with you to change your financial habits and learn how to budget, it's a big waste of time - and potentially a rip-off in the making.

Chances are very good that any company that promises to "repair" your credit score/record, when the entries that appear in your credit report are accurate and valid, is counting on the possibility that you're a sucker and is trying to take advantage of your emotional situation. Unfortunately, these rip-off businesses charge people who are already in financial straits serious amounts of money for a service and promises that they almost certainly can't deliver on. Don't do it.

Only false information can be reliably removed from a credit report, and even that often takes a bit of effort and a chunk of your time. If you want to "fix" your credit, there's one way to do it: Pay off your debts, pay the bills yourself (firms that offer to make payments for you are notorious for being late, which shows up as a black mark on your credit report), and make all of today's and tomorrow's payments early or on-time. It takes an extended period of time (like as in months or years) for a credit score to improve, and there is no overnight repair possible when you've made bad financial decisions. It sucks to hear that, but it's the truth. Most people who end up in credit hell are also the people who can't stand the thought of putting a few years of effort in to improve their situation. They want results right now, or in the very near future. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Come to grips with that fact and accept that you can start making a difference today and see some very real long-term results down the road.

Most importantly, don't fall prey to "credit repair" and "credit counseling" companies that want to take your money up front and make promises they can't deliver on. Check out any companies you think you might want to work with in depth and before you engage them. Non-profit organizations are out there to help, but unless you're careful it might be difficult to tell them apart from the sharks. Don't fall prey.

NOTE: The United States Dept. of Justice has a list of approved credit counseling agencies by state. They also have information online about choosing a credit counselor.

 

Sunday, 09 October 2005 17:48:16 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 05 October 2005

And you thought GMail was a good deal...

1TerabyteMailDetailMailNation is offering ad-free email accounts, ONE TERABYTE in size. That's 1,000 GIGABYTES. GMail's accounts are like 1/400th the size of that. And you don't need an invitation. Uh, wow. I just signed up for mine.

Web mail, POP3, IMAP - you choose. Sign up here.

1TerabyteMail
(click to enlarge)

Here's the feature list from the MailNation site:

  • FREE 1000GB Email (POP3/IMAP Access)
  • 10MB attachment limit!
  • Address Book/Notes/Tasks Spam Preventing Features For Your Protection
  • WAP Access - Mobile Device (http://www.mailnation.net:90/mail/wap)
  • Auto Message Responders & Auto Forwarders
  • Multiple Web-Interface Styles & Multiple Languages Supported
  • Always Count On Our Highly Ranked Email System & Server Reliability
  • Sophisticated Search For Email Messages
  • Never Have To Delete Again (Large Email Box)
  • HelpDesk Ticket System For User Help, Comments, And Updates
  • All emails (outgoing/incoming) are protected by TrendMicro Server Protect and Avast! AntiVirus (Dual Protection)
  • Support Hotline

(via TechBlog)

Thursday, 06 October 2005 01:44:30 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 02 October 2005

Brian Jones posted an item about the announcement this weekend of the fact that Office 12 applications will all support PDF as an output format natively. This might not seem like much to some, but in reality it's a big deal:

"The PDF support will be built into Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, OneNote, Visio, and InfoPath! I love how well this new functionality will work in combination with the new Open XML formats in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. We've really heard the feedback that sharing documents across multiple platforms and long term archiving are really important. People now have a couple options here, with the existing support for HTML and RTF, and now the new support for Open XML formats and PDF!"

More here.

Sunday, 02 October 2005 08:30:58 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 29 September 2005

I'm gonna have to go buy me up some of these bad boys:

    Muppet_stamps2

Yep, that's right - the Muppets have their own stamps now. Sweeeeeet...

Friday, 30 September 2005 01:15:30 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Ever wish you could hammer on one of those celebs that you love to hate so much? Are you one of those people (like me) who gets a little excited when you hear someone yell "Body blow! Body blow!" in a crowd?

Here ya go then: CELEBRITY PUNCH OUT!

  Celebrity Punch Out

Go for it. You know you want to.

  Cpout

Wednesday, 28 September 2005 23:20:55 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 26 September 2005

I've become a bit of a flag-at-half-staff resource on the Internet it seems. I get lots of emails on the subject, and just this morning received one from a FOX affiliate asking if I send out emails announcing when the flag should be flown at half-staff. Well, uhh - no. Really, I'm not an authority on much of anything.

But, Mark Peterson at the Peterson Flag Company does have such an email list, so for those who want to be notified every time a proclamation is issued to fly the American Flag at half staff, here you go:

Monday, 26 September 2005 10:27:19 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 24 September 2005

Stuck on StupidEvery now and then some random person or event comes along that deserves memorialization. Such is the case with Lt. Gen. Russel Honore and his words this past week when confronted with a gaggle of reporters. Honore and others (including the Mayor of New Orleans, who was having a hard time with the media crowd) were at a press conference (called by the mayor) in order to immediately get out the important word about the government's plan to evacuate people from the city of New Orleans in the face of yet another hurricane - this time, it was Rita.

But some of the reporters at the press conference were apparently still stuck on Katrina. The General was there to make sure they clearly understood their role in the situation. There's a time and a place for everything, to be sure - and that means there's a time for the media to ask questions, and there are other times when the message needs to be immediate, clear and loud in order to save lives and ensure peoples' safety. Unfortunately, there are many in the media who are all about conflict, not about helping people (regardless of what they say their motivations are). It's makes the former journalist in me scream at the TV. I hate it.

So - Thank God for people like Lt. Gen. Russel Honore. Here's his words, an audio file and a partial video of the interaction between him and the media:

Audio Attachment: 0920honorestuckonstupid.mp3 (1685 KB)

Video Attachment: stuckonstupid2.wmv (2957 KB)

Gen. Honore: And Mr. Mayor, let's go back, because I can see right now, we're setting this up as he said, he said, we said. All right? We are not going to go, by order of the mayor and the governor, and open the convention center for people to come in. There are buses there. Is that clear to you? Buses parked. There are 4,000 troops there. People come, they get on a bus, they get on a truck, they move on. Is that clear? Is that clear to the public?

Reporter: Where do they move on --

Gen. Honore: That's not your business.

Reporter: But General, that didn't work the first time --

Gen. Honore: Wait a minute. It didn't work the first time. This ain't the first time. Okay? If...we don't control Rita, you understand? So there are a lot of pieces of it that's going to be worked out. You got good public servants working through it. Let's get a little trust here, because you're starting to act like this is your problem. You are carrying the message, okay? What we're going to do is have the buses staged. The initial place is at the convention center. We're not going to announce other places at this time, until we get a plan set, and we'll let people know where those locations are, through the government, and through public announcements. Right now, to handle the number of people that want to leave, we've got the capacity. You will come to the convention center. There are soldiers there from the 82nd Airborne, and from the Louisiana National Guard. People will be told to get on the bus, and we will take care of them. And where they go will be dependent on the capacity in this state. We've got our communications up. And we'll tell them where to go. And when they get there, they'll be able to get a chance, an opportunity to get registered, and so they can let their families know where they are. But don't start panic here. Okay? We've got a location. It is in the front of the convention center, and that's where we will use to migrate people from it, into the system.

Reporter: General Honore, we were told that Berman Stadium on the west bank would be another staging area --

Gen. Honore: Not to my knowledge. Again, the current place, I just told you one time, is the convention center. Once we complete the plan with the mayor, and is approved by the governor, then we'll start that in the next 12-24 hours. And we understand that there's a problem in getting communications out. That's where we need your help. But let's not confuse the questions with the answers. Buses at the convention center will move our citizens, for whom we have sworn that we will support and defend...and we'll move them on. Let's not get stuck on the last storm. You're asking last storm questions for people who are concerned about the future storm. Don't get stuck on stupid, reporters. We are moving forward. And don't confuse the people please. You are part of the public message. So help us get the message straight. And if you don't understand, maybe you'll confuse it to the people. That's why we like follow-up questions. But right now, it's the convention center, and move on.

Reporter: General, a little bit more about why that's happening this time, though, and did not have that last time --

Gen. Honore: You are stuck on stupid. I'm not going to answer that question. We are going to deal with Rita. This is public information that people are depending on the government to put out. This is the way we've got to do it. So please. I apologize to you, but let's talk about the future. Rita is happening. And right now, we need to get good, clean information out to the people that they can use. And we can have a conversation on the side about the past, in a couple of months.

Time to print some bumper stickers... "Don't get stuck on stupid." Heh. It's not a new phrase - more like old made new again. But it's great, and appropriate.

Update: The Stuck on Stupid Blog. Heh...

(via RadioBlogger and The Political Teen)

Saturday, 24 September 2005 22:12:53 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Hacked_stickerA long, long time ago, I ripped apart my Series 1 TiVo PVR and put in a couple 120GB hard drives. In the end I got an obscenely huge number of hours of recording time, plus I added an ethernet card so a phone line's not needed to get programming info, and then I did some other fun "hacking."

Anyhow, I woke up this morning and found out my trusty modified TiVo was misbehaving badly. Or maybe it's just sick - It had a choppy image and sound on both live TV and recordings, even on the menu systems you can hear the drive inside moving between glitchy animation pauses on the screen, and it's exhibiting generally sluggish, choppy behavior. So, I figured I'd sacrifice everything on it (it's practically full - maybe another cause of the problem, who knows?) and I did a delete and reset through the TiVo's menu system.

That was at about 7am. The system restarted and the screen read, "Clearing and deleting everything. This will take an hour." It's after 2pm now and the screen hasn't changed. Seem like either the system assumed it has a 20GB hard drive in it still, or the hard drive(s) are having problems. But, it sounds like it's still methodically plugging away, so I'll let it go for a while longer and just see what happens.

Anyone else been through this? Any ideas? I've had this TiVo since they first came out, and it's served me well, but I'm also thinking maybe it's time to pick up a Series 2 TiVo and open it up and do some more PVR hacking.

Saturday, 24 September 2005 17:46:54 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 23 September 2005

Waking up to views like this from the front porch makes the commute worthwhile:

Hood at Sunrise
(Mt. Hood - Oregon - click for a larger image)

Saturday, 24 September 2005 02:00:14 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 21 September 2005

Overheard on United Airlines flight 955 to San Diego (insert Will Farrell comment here) yesterday:

"For those of you on the left side of the aircraft, you have an unusually clear and spectacular view of the city of Los Angeles, Dodgers stadium, and the downtown LA area. For those of you on the right side of the plane, you have a great view of the backs of the heads of the people who are looking at Los Angeles out the left side of the aircraft..."

Heh...

Wednesday, 21 September 2005 15:04:19 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 19 September 2005

Main_docked_330NASA's latest plans to return to the moon, and from there to go on to Mars, are now out, with more detail available. The spacecraft look a bit like the old Apollo ships, but looks can be deceiving:

"Coupled with the new lunar lander, the system sends twice as many astronauts to the surface as Apollo, and they can stay longer, with the initial missions lasting four to seven days. And while Apollo was limited to landings along the moon's equator, the new ship carries enough propellant to land anywhere on the moon's surface.

"Once a lunar outpost is established, crews could remain on the lunar surface for up to six months. The spacecraft can also operate without a crew in lunar orbit, eliminating the need for one astronaut to stay behind while others explore the surface."

Tuesday, 20 September 2005 01:06:01 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 17 September 2005

Fly softly, and carry a big stick...

I just found a great story linked from a new b5media blog (oops ) called Flightnest.com, where a student pilot was out with his instructor in a Cessna 172 and the landing gear would not lock down. Talk about baptism by fire!

Anyhow, even better is the way they solved the problem. While the student ad his instructor flew around the airport for about an hour and fire crews stood by, a couple guys in a jeep raced down the runway with the aircraft flying a few feet away. they eyeballed the gear, grabbed a big stick, and - well - go watch the video. Nice.

Saturday, 17 September 2005 15:21:29 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 13 September 2005

The XBox 360 console will be released in late November, and Microsoft has announced that several games will be backward-compatible and will run on the new machine.

Here's your chance (for the next few days, anyhow) to vote on which games will receive backward-compatibility support:

"... when it comes to determining backwards compatibility, the ball is entirely in Microsoft's court. As you'd expect, they've already baked-in all the no-brainer Xbox games that will work on 360 (e.g., Halo 1 and 2, Knights of the Old Republic, Fable, etc.), but with the Xbox 360 launch just around the corner this November, the boys from Redmond are unofficially reaching out to the gaming community to learn what remaining games Xbox fans would like to see backwards compatible on Xbox 360.

"We present below (split into two digestible lists) 80 worthy Xbox titles Microsoft isn't sure about. 80 games that will, over the course of the next 5 days, battle it out to the death. While there are no guarantees that the top 10 or 20 games will make it into the backwards compatibility list, or even what the cut-off number will be for the top titles, the stakes here are unquestionably high. To be sure, Microsoft will be checking out these results to gauge consumer interest in many of these excellent games. And they will act accordingly. So know that your vote will make a difference."

http://www.1up.com/do/feature?cId=3143553&did=1

Tuesday, 13 September 2005 06:51:09 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 12 September 2005

News broke this morning: eBay to buy Skype for 2.6 billion in cash, stock. Crazy.

And for exactly twice that dollar amount, Oracle is working to buy Siebel.

So, in essence what they're telling us is that Skype is worth 50% of what Siebel is worth? Does this make any real sense?

Monday, 12 September 2005 10:36:56 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 09 September 2005

eWeek is reporting that eBay is in talks to buy Skype, a remarkably popular voice and text communication IM program.

Skype's popular and cool, but I have to say that industry references to Skype as a VoIP player are (IMHO) poorly thought out. Why? Because Skype uses no industry standards in their communication - they created their own proprietary protocols, which means they don't interoperate with other systems. What Skype needs to do in order to play the full VoIP field is add (note - I said "add" not change) SIP and other standards-based capabilities to their product for communication and connectivity. If they do that, they might just make some money and own a huge market. But they'll have to hurry if they haven't already started.

Also - why in the world would an auction company buy a IM and Internet calling company? Is eBay really that lost? Their share price after the rumor broke seems to show it may be a bad idea. Or maybe I'm missing something here, but on its face it seems a bit ridiculous.

Friday, 09 September 2005 09:52:45 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 06 September 2005

The three brightest objects in the night sky - Venus, Jupiter and the Crescent Moon - all together at once...

MOON1A
(click for larger image)

Tuesday, 06 September 2005 23:44:20 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 05 September 2005

thingy previewJeremy Wright's got something cool going on. He's a bit of an electronic entrepreneur, and posted this partial image on his weblog a week or so ago as a hint of what's up his sleeve.

So, I started poking around during an extended semi-bored period, and eventually figured it out - but it took quite a bit of creative thinking and searching (Google's pretty amazing, you know?). Jeremy then let me in on the secret a little - but since it's a secret, I won't tell. But you can guess all you want. 

It's basically all right there in the image though - you just have to use your eyes and brain a bit more than usual.

And - from Jeremy's blog today:

"The news? It’s a blogging network. The details are still largely under wraps, but we’re expecting to unveil it in the next 3-4 weeks. That said, if you can figure out what the name is from the logo, there are already a number of blogs live. In fact, if you can only figure out the first 2 characters in the logo, there are a number hidden links on Google to the new network."

Neville Hobson interviewed Jeremy on his podcast that was posted today, too.

It will be a cool business, when it happens. And no - that's not a swastika in the image.

Can you guess?

Monday, 05 September 2005 14:34:24 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 03 September 2005

We all know it was predicted before, in terms of the potential impact of a large hurricane on the City of New Orleans, but what I did not realize is how accurately professionals in the area had come in their estimations.

There are excerpts from an article in The Natural Hazards Observer called "What if Hurricane Ivan Had Not Missed New Orleans?" that was written by Shirley Laska of the Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology at the University of New Orleans in November 2004, after Hurricane Ivan:

"Approximately 120,000 residents (51,000 housing units x 2.4 persons/unit) do not have cars. A proposal made after the evacuation for Hurricane Georges to use public transit buses to assist in their evacuation out of the city was not implemented for Ivan. If Ivan had struck New Orleans directly it is estimated that 40-60,000 residents of the area would have perished...

"Regional and national rescue resources would have to respond as rapidly as possible and would require augmentation by local private vessels (assuming some survived). And, even with this help, federal and state governments have estimated that it would take 10 days to rescue all those stranded within the city. No shelters within the city would be free of risk from rising water. Because of this threat, the American Red Cross will not open shelters in New Orleans during hurricanes greater than category 2; staffing them would put employees and volunteers at risk. For Ivan, only the Superdome was made available as a refuge of last resort for the medically challenged and the homeless...

"In this hypothetical storm scenario, it is estimated that it would take nine weeks to pump the water out of the city, and only then could assessments begin to determine what buildings were habitable or salvageable. Sewer, water, and the extensive forced drainage pumping systems would be damaged. National authorities would be scrambling to build tent cities to house the hundreds of thousands of refugees unable to return to their homes and without other relocation options. In the aftermath of such a disaster, New Orleans would be dramatically different, and likely extremely diminished, from what it is today...

"Should this disaster become a reality, it would undoubtedly be one of the greatest disasters, if not the greatest, to hit the United States, with estimated costs exceeding 100 billion dollars. According to the American Red Cross, such an event could be even more devastating than a major earthquake in California. Survivors would have to endure conditions never before experienced in a North American disaster..."

Saturday, 03 September 2005 21:57:14 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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BootsfilmsnipThere's really nothing quite like first-hand experience when it comes to seeing what's happening in distant places. Let's face it - the mainstream media cuts things into little chunks that remove the full context of the place and situation, trying (usually without much success) to replace it with an explanation, usually written by one or two people.

In your mind, choose one or two people you know at random. Now imagine sending those two random people into a war zone with a camera and a microphone and telling them to accurately and completely convey what's happening, without personal bias. Would you tend to trust what they have to say? Yeah, me either.

That's what interests me most about Boots In Baghdad Films, a vlog that contains video posts (using audioblog.com's videoblogging capabilities) shot by soldiers on the ground in Iraq. It's first-hand video of real situations. It's not that soldiers are without any bias - but the soldiers and their experiences are part of what's happening, which makes this video much more real than anything on TV, and the few videos posted on this site have an unedited honesty that I appreciate. Note that there's some colorful language in some of the video shots - that's to be expected, I think.

Hopefully the content will continue to grow, but of course not for one day longer than the people filming it need to be there.

(via Eric Rice)

Saturday, 03 September 2005 19:50:27 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 01 September 2005

From an IM session about 30 seconds ago:

Mary Beth says:
could u imagine at school if u had that in your room.. u would be the coolest chic in the dorm..

Ummm, yeah... I hope not.

Friday, 02 September 2005 00:29:07 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 31 August 2005

In a previous career, I did news and sports photography for a "living." I've been bitten by the bug again recently, hence this post.

Lens Wanted: If you happen to read this and you also happen to have a Nikon 300mm f/2.8 autofocus lens lying around that you don't use, and if you;d be interested in selling it for pennies (okay maybe a few dimes) on the dollar, chat me up or email me (that would be greg(at)greghughes.net, yo).

I figure, let's try the reverse "blog as a classified ads tool" thing. This is the "wanted to buy" version.

For that matter, if you have a 20mm lens (Nikon lenses only - not third party) let me know about that, too.

I'll check eBay myself - looking for private sellers here.

Thursday, 01 September 2005 02:36:41 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Several people have asked me for a copy of the wallpaper I have on my X41 Tablet PC desktop right now. It's another picture from my trip to the Lincoln Memorial last week. Click below to download the image in the size you prefer.

1024x681 Pixel

Wednesday, 31 August 2005 22:26:23 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 30 August 2005

Nine states in nine days. I've been traveling for the past week and a half, and had some great experiences along the way. Two Saturdays ago, I flew down to California for my dad's 65th birthday party, which was a lot of fun. Then on Sunday, and every day since, I traveled with coworkers across the country - via Colorado to Omaha, Nebraska; Toledo, Ohio and Reston, Virginia (just outside of Washington DC). Then I took a couple days for myself and visited friends and family. During that portion of my trip I hit Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, DC and New York state. It's been an interesting week.

I discovered a few things - First of all, Omaha and Toledo are quite nice cities, each with their own unique character. I especially liked the huge old houses in Omaha, and the steaks were awfully darn good, to be certain. Their old downtown area is terrific. In Toledo, the waterfront down on the river is great, and there's some old and interesting architecture to be seen. The people in both places were very nice.

TheLincolnMemorial1aReston is a suburb of Washington DC, and what struck me about this area are the huge old trees and the attention paid to aesthetics of the architecture - it just looks nice. The people there were terrific, too.

But the most awesome part of the trip from a personal experience perspective had to be Washington DC itself. I went with three coworkers into the city one night to see the memorials at night. It's been several years since I was last there, and the only chance I ever had to spent any meaningful time in the city was when I was a small child (we used to live on the Maryland side in a town called Greenbelt). I have vague recollections of being a small child looking up at the huge statue of Abraham Lincoln in the memorial, as well as the Washington Monument. I guess I didn't fully realize the sheer enormity and power of the Lincoln Memorial and the others. I'd assumed that since I was a very small child the last time I did more than just drive by it, my memory was skewed by my then-limited height and overactive imagination. Boy, was I ever wrong.

TheLincolnMemorial2aWalking into the Lincoln Memorial -  which would be a huge, amazing building even without the statue inside - one is filled with a sense of awe. The stone steps leading up to the entrance are worn, with indentations visible up the center where millions of people have walked to see what is, I think, the most life-like statue I've ever seen.

The Gettysburg Address is inscribed on the side wall to the left of the statue. Those famous and inspirational words are all the more amazing to read in the presence of the oversized likeness of Lincoln, which looks like it could step right off its pedestal and start speaking any moment.

From the Lincoln Memorial, it's a short walk to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial - the famous sheer, reflective wall that bears the names of 58,249 American soldiers who died in that war.

TheWall4aWhen people say the experience at the Wall is overwhelming and overpowering, they're not exaggerating. It was dusky dark when I walked there, and in the dark light the endless sea of names stood out in the dim light cast by the lights in the walkway. It felt big until I reached about the middle of the memorial - and then it suddenly felt huge. Standing near the center, looking ahead at the ocean of names still remaining to be walked by, then back at the thousands upon thousands of names already passed, the feeling was powerful.

The names on the wall appear in the order the people commemorated died in battle. I don't personally know who Harold TheWall5aGraves, John Neto Rodrigues or John E. Cantlon Jr. were, but I do know they died on or about the same day, sometime in the middle of the Vietnam conflict, fighting a war on behalf of their country. And I know and see that their names are three among so many more, each one representative of a person who went to Vietnam but did not come back. As I stood closer and looked at the names, I thought about sons and their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, hopes and dreams and aspirations.

To say the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is powerful is an understatement.

You can't help but reach out and touch the wall, almost as if to see for yourself that it's actually there, that what you're looking at could possibly be real. The reflection people experience when they visit this memorial is more than just their own faces in TheWall2athe glossy surface. One can't help but reflect on the people whose names cover the vast wall, and the families and loved ones of each and every one.

If you ever have a chance to visit Washington DC, don't skip it. It's worth every mile, every penny, every second of time - and then some.

Tuesday, 30 August 2005 21:21:27 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 19 August 2005

SmileyHow hard is it really to tell a real smile from a fake one?

On the BBK web site, you can take a quiz to check your skills of perception when it comes to checking facial expression honesty.

You might be surprised how many you'll miss. How can you tell if a smile is real or fake? What do you look for?

  • This experiment is designed to test whether you can spot the difference between a fake smile and a real one
  • It has 20 questions and should take you 10 minutes
  • It is based on research by Professor Paul Ekman, a psychologist at the University of California
  • Each video clip will take approximately 15 seconds to load on a 56k modem and you can only play each smile once

My score: 16 out of 20.

You?

Take the "Spot the Fake Smile" quiz here.

Friday, 19 August 2005 09:04:06 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 17 August 2005

I have a request for makers of Tablet PC hardware - one that I think would be totally feasible, and would greatly simplify my Tablet PC ownership.

The one thing about using a Tablet PC that regularly haunts me, as an adult male approaching midlife crisis age (and with all the associate baggage in areas like memory, concentration, etc), is the fact that the pen/stylus I love to use with the Tablet is really, really, reaaaaally easy to misplace. It's a problem.

Cuz ya know, there's nothing quite like having a fancy-dancy convertible notebook Tablet PC without a pen. Heh.

Just ask the IT guys at my company who loses the most styluses (styluses? stylii? hmmm). They'll just roll their eyes, laugh and point at me.

So, here is my idea, recorded here for posterity: Build in a proximity device that I can turn on that will make the pen chirp or something if it's more than, say, about 15 feet away from it's home (the Tablet PC, that is) for some extended period of time.

Heck, it might even be worth enabling the pen to speak out loud and say something like, "That dork Greg Hughes at 503-629-xxxx left me sitting here all alone. Please call him and tell him to come pick me up, and that he needs to go put a quarter in the jar."

Or something like that. I'd settle for just the chirping alarm.

Any other bright ideas?

Wednesday, 17 August 2005 10:59:13 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 13 August 2005

We interrupt this IT/tech blog for the following random cult video interlude....

Flashbacks of Deliverance run through your mind. Be afraid.

This, my friends, has to be the greatest video ever on the Intarweb. I am so glad someone sent this:

Whatever you do, DO NOT CLICK THIS LINK!

Ok, just kidding. Click it. No, really. Enjoy. Know a better one? Leave a comment.

Update: Apparently this video is a party promotion for a local (Portland, Oregon) media firm, Borders Perrin Norrander, Inc. Cool. Also, a lower bandwidth version is here: http://www.bpninc.com/evideo/video_mac_lo.mov

Saturday, 13 August 2005 21:26:21 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 11 August 2005

Note: This weblog is my personal site, and does not represent my employer. What I write here is my own opinion, etc. I am posting a couple job openings here because I figure some quality people reading this might have an interest, based on the readership of this weblog. I am not compensated for posting this, and I don't get a bonus or anything if these positions are filled. I am the hiring manager for these positions, so if that doesn't scare you away...

My employer, Corillian Corporation, is hiring for a number of positions. We're an awfully-darn-cool software company that's fun to work for and where employees have opportunity to really challenge themselves professionally. Corillian is a leading-edge technology company - and some of the smartest people I have ever met work there. I work among technical giants. It can be a little intimidating for me at times (in a healthy, good way), but mostly it's just very, very inspiring.

Among the openings at Corillian, we're looking for three employees to work in our Security department, focused on development and support of our commercial security software products. These positions are at our Portland, Oregon area location. The people filling these positions will be getting in early in the process of developing and selling the next generation of a truly cool and innovative software application. Maybe, just maybe you're the person we're looking for? Here are the positions I'm talking about:

  • Security Software Engineers - two positions - mature OO programmers (.NET's a plus) with solid n-tier app experience
  • Security Sales Engineer - works in concert with sales execs to meet pre- and post-sales technical and support needs

While I can't go into the specific software applications here on the blog (if you interview, we'll talk more), let's just say if you think security is important and cool, you'll enjoy working on this stuff.

For the Software Engineer positions, you're an experienced OO programmer and you approach things from a whole-design, architecture direction. We're not looking for people who need a list of tasks handed to them. We're looking for people who can organize and make good decisions based on requirements, which they can transform into a terrific software product. You're probably experienced in .NET development and have worked in an iterative/extreme dev environment. you challenge yourself and others, but you're a great person to work with.

For people interested in our Sales Engineer position, you're an excellent presenter in all sorts of situations and audiences, and experienced supporting technical sales efforts related to commercial software products, maybe even related to security software. You're able to deal with matching the priorities and needs of a talented and demanding sales staff, and thrive on doing an excellent job and delivering real, measurable results. You're also able to travel when needed.

To find out all the details about these open jobs, visit Corillian's web site and browse through the openings. You'll find we're also looking for employees to work as QA professionals and support engineers, as well as an IT Help Desk crew member (at least as of the date of this post).

If you have any questions, email or call me. You'll find my contact info over on the right side-bar of this web site. Call or email me - I'll be glad to chat.

Thursday, 11 August 2005 20:57:14 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 10 August 2005

Like Scott, I am always curious where my readers are from. Here's my guest map - please add your location! Just click on the guestmap image below to open a new window to view and "sign" it (I had to change this, the heavy iFrame version was killing my site - and I fixed the issue that was preventing some people from being able to sign the map):

     Guestmap

Wednesday, 10 August 2005 18:38:55 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 09 August 2005

Looks like Microsoft on Tuesday released Microsoft Messenger v5.0 for Mac OS X. And since I recently became a Mac owner and added the Apple brand to my computer family, stuff like this make me a happier guy.

"Messenger for Mac 5.0 makes it easy to take advantage of the full power of instant messaging. Messenger for Mac offers two types of communication services - a personal account and a corporate account. A personal account works with the MSN® Messenger service on the Microsoft Passport Network. Contacts that you add to your personal account will include friends and family members. A corporate account uses the Microsoft Office Live Communications Server service and can include contacts who use other instant messaging services, such as AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Yahoo Messenger, and iChat users who are signed in with AOL accounts."

More info here, and download here.

Tuesday, 09 August 2005 20:28:49 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 08 August 2005

Astronaut Steve Robinson has done the first Podcast from space... Say what you want about Podcasting. You have to admit that when someone does it from the space shuttle, that's pretty big deal.

And to think a year ago nobody had ever heard of podcasting...

Listen here (MP3)

"At any rate I will close this very brief first podcast from space with a greeting to all Earthings and a thank you for your interest and support. Whether you support the space program or not, you're learning from it. You're learning from it the very moment you hear this and think about what we're doing. And I think that learning is what looking over the horizon is all about, and don't forget that learning can be exciting and fun, too, because that's certainly what this mission has been all about."

Monday, 08 August 2005 16:54:15 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 07 August 2005

"I admitted I was powerless over my hair loss, that my scalp had become unmanageable..."

Yep. I'm in the cult, too. I accept it. Not much I can do about it, really. So, for those of us in that situation, here's a unique product that can help simplify our lives:

BALDHAT_home

"The Coverup That's Got Nothing To Hide"
A perfect gift for directors, producers, band managers, aging performers, or anyone in the entertainment industry. Oh, and how about Father's Day?

Ok, so that's funny. And yes, they're actually for sale.

And for those of you lucky enough to keep your hair:

Hat_not_red_home

Good for you. Big deal.
But just so people don't assume you're covering up a deformity, I'm Not Bald
hats are also available.

(These hats were found via an AdSense ad that showed up on my web site... Coincidence, or has Google figured out something we don't know about? Hmmmm....)

Sunday, 07 August 2005 09:36:02 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 02 August 2005

How much time do you spend at your PC doing things other than what you really should be doing? Are you a Solitaire or Freecell addict? Too much time spent on the web? Hooked on one computer program or another that's taking away from your ability to get things done? Starting to think you need to find a sponsor to help you get over your problem?

Hey, I can relate, and someone in a similar predicament decided the problem was one worth solving. My friend Scott told me he saw this little download over at LifeHacker.com (a site which is highly recommended by the way) called Temptation Blocker.

What is it, exactly?

Temptation Blocker is a free program from WebJillion that lets you lock yourself up and stay away from running those programs that constantly distract you and keep you from doing the things you know you really should be doing. Check it out. From the site:

"I’m in front of my computer constantly and a program I’ve been wanting for a long time is one that would allow me to block certain programs from myself for a set amount of time. A way for the smart part of me to head off the dumb, impulsive lizard part, and a way for me to get more stuff done at the computer."

It works, too. In fact, it's pretty effective, and you gotta admit, it's kinda funny (and nice) to have a software app that helps you deal with your powerlessness over certain computer programs.

Here I choose to block one or more programs from access. I choose the apps and set the block time limit:

    

So what happens when I try to run a blocked program? It's pretty much an in-your-face approach to addiction therapy.

     Temptation_blocker1

Heh, that works.

Oh, and if you decide for some reason that you really, really have to run the program you blocked, you can do that if you're really, really motivated:

     Temptation_blocker2

Or you could just wait. Heh.

Temptation Blocker is cool. It's free. It works as advertised. It's unsupported. It's humorous in its own way. It runs only on 32-bit Windows.

Did I mention it's free? UPDATE: And it's open source, too!

Check it out here. Thanks to Scott for the pointer.


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Humor | Random Stuff | Tech
Tuesday, 02 August 2005 16:56:58 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 31 July 2005

Recently I've had a number of interesting (albeit often protracted) conversations with people about processes in business, and how formal, written procedures and established processes can be good (I agree, to a point) and can also be very, very bad.

I'll explain in a minute, and while I'm at it I'll do some tangential opining and show why I think Sarbanes Oxley and other process-intensive initiatives and guidelines don't always accomplish what they set out to do. In fact, in the case of SARBOX, I'd argue it doesn't even come close to accomplishing what it was originally intended for. But that's another story...

First a reminder and a bit of clarity: This is a personal blog, so anything I write is my opinion and mine alone.

Saturday morning telephone support call: Failed process illustrated...

Saturday morning I woke up at a criminally early hour (for a weekend anyhow). Since sleep apparently wasn't in the game plan I decided to call Vonage to see if I could actually get someone on the phone, and if I could convince them to listen to me long enough to troubleshoot a hardware/firmware problem I've been having with my VOIP terminal adapter.

For the record, I like Vonage. A lot. I recommend them. I'll refer you if you email me and ask. But I'll be honest - I'm never too excited about calling them.

But on Saturday morning, that's what I did. After umpteen layers of voice menus and hitting random keys to get pretty much nowhere, calling back after being disconnected (don't hit 'zero' in Vonage's voice prompt system...), and then finally getting someone on the line (whom I could not understand and who it seems could not understand me during the entire painful process of validating my account, name, billing address, etc.), we finally got around to troubleshooting the problem:

Vonage Lady: "Yes, hello mister huge-hess...

Me: (silently) <grrrrrrr!!!>

Vonage Lady: "...how can I help you with today?"

Me: "Okay, so I am having a problem with my Motorola VT1005 terminal adapter, about once a day it loses its connection with Vonage and I have to pull the power plug and plug it back in to get it to work, and several times a day the network data port stops communicating completely so my computers here at home cannot get to the Internet. I have to unplug the Motorola device and plug it back in in order to resolve that problem, too, and then it happens again later, a few times a day."

Vonage Lady: "Okay, so what I understand from you is..." (reads back a different version of what I just said, but leaves out all the key points, like the whole data connection problem, etc)

Me: "That's partly correct, but the worst part of the problem is that several times a day..." (I explain the loss of LAN port connectivity issue again)

Vonage Lady: (seemingly ignoring what I just told her) "Okay, I would like you to go to your router and unplug the wire from the PC port and so you will have the modem and the wire, and the Vonage router and then your computer, and I want you to plug a wire into your computer okay can you do that and tell me?"

Me: (wondering if I - a high-tech IT guy with lots of experience fixing crap much more complicated than this - really understand what she means) "Umm, okay, so... You want me to plug the ethernet cable that goes from the Motorola device on the LAN side into my computer directly then?"

Vonage Lady: (pause, pause, pause) "Uhhh, yes, I need you to put the wire from the PC port in your computer."

Me: (deciding the only logical thing to do is to go with my gut) "Okay, so I have done that, okay I am ready for the next step."

Vonage Lady: (seems to be shocked that the next step is already starting) "Ohh umm, okay, one moment please... Okay, I need you to open your Internet Explorer, and in the address bar at the top of the screen..."

Me: (I'm starting to quietly get a little frustrated now) Okay my web browser is open, you want me to type in an address?

"... I would like for you to type this address in the address bar."

Me: (I'm already on the adapter's admin web page, I think to myself, she's gonna send me there - slowwly) "Okay, ready."

Vonage Lady: "Okay, One-Nine-Two..." (pause, pause, pause)... "No, wait... H-T-T-P --"

Me: "192.168.102.1?"

Vonage Lady: "No, no no. AICH-TEE-TEE-PEEEE, COLON, SLASH-SLASH, ONE-NINE-TWO..."

Me: (waiting for more numbers) "... ... ... okay, i got that part, you can keep reading it to me."

Vonage Lady: "DOT-ONE-SIX-EIGHT-DOT-ONE-ZERO-TWOOO-DOT-ONE"

Me: (Thinking to self: Is there an echo in here?) Okay, I'm there.

Vonage Lady: "Oh well, now we need to go to the admin.html page, so to do that please click in the-"

Me: "Okay, I'm there."

Vonage Lady: "Oh, okay... Do you see a button that says Restore Factory Defaults on the page there then?"

Me: "Yes. I have a fixed IP address though, so if we do this it will stop working 'til I reconfigure."

Vonage Lady: "That's okay, push that button and tell me when it's done."

Me: <click>

Vonage Lady: <she's now long-gone due to the fact that she just told me to kill my phone line>

Bad process and procedure? Most certainly. But what's the real problem in this story? Unfortunately it's one that we see happening more and more these days, over and over again with all the emphasis on building deep, complex, wide swaths of processes and supporting procedures.

I'm not here to argue against process. I'm here to argue for thinking.

When process hurts...

People have stopped thinking for themselves and doing critical analysis of the situation at hand. Instead, they read from a script. They follow a written procedure. They stay exactly between the lines, thinking the lines are the end-all-be-all of clarity in every situation. When I speak to people in my field about this, I describe it as being similar to walking around with blinders on.

We're suffering from a deficit of creative thinking and reasoning. But more on that in a few minutes.

What does this result in? Three things mainly:

First of all, people increasingly look at the world and the things going on around them as being bipolar in nature: black and white. In reality though, it's all about the infinite shades of gray. Oh, how simple the world might be if it was all pure black and white in nature, but in the real world it's just not so. Unfortunately, the desire to simplify things cognitively into black/white, us/them, good/bad is probably a greater part of the way people look at things today than it has even been.

Second, people have lost their sense of ownership and don't think for themselves. Pride goes soon after that. More and more the accepted method of teaching people how to do things has become the "hand-me-the-procedure" method. But, absolute processes and procedures are fundamentally flawed. There's simply no way to compute every possible outcome or input to a situation, yet we expect that by creating processes and procedures that *must* be followed, we can solve critical problems. The fact is that while they may ensure compliance most of the time, they can also often ensure lack of compliance some of the time - especially when the procedure or process doesn't exactly fit, but the person applying it doesn't stop to think about that fact. Or, even worse, they're not given the level of permission needed to stop, think, and evaluate situations on their own.

Third, we walk around with a false sense of confidence and safety. By assuming we are creating controls and processes to keep the bad things from happening, we do the one thing that police officers and security professionals have known better than to do for all time: We lure ourselves into that place where we believe everything will be okay, everyone will follow the rules, everything will be out in the open, the checks and balances will all work because the auditor signed a pieces of paper (not like the auditor had any real guidelines to audit against or anything...) and the bad guys won't be able to get away with anything anymore.

But it just won't work. Nope.

I'm sorry Senator, I have no recollection...

Example from the real world: The Sarbanes Oxley Act (SARBOX for short) was terrific for consultants, and lots of people are making lots of money off lots of companies that are shelling out big bucks for something that only minimally does what it needs to do (if that). The fact of the matter is that SARBOX resulted in huge expenditures and rampant development of crippling processes that offer little protection from bad, smart people who want to pull a fast one on investors. Even one of the sponsors of the act says it doesn't really accomplish what was originally intended. Hey, Senator, can we send you an invoice for the costs of this mandatory program that won't do what it's set out to do? Let me know. Thanks.

So, SARBOX is good for consulting companies, and expensive for business, and even though the rules and regs don't really fit small to mid-size businesses, they have to follow them anyhow. It doesn't really prevent another Enron from happening. In the end, it's costing the shareholders it was intended to protect a lot of money, and it's not really doing what it needs to do.

Hmm. That's like going to a store with no knowledge of tools, telling the sales person I need a something to help drive a nail into a wall, being sold a bunch of hard hats and yellow vests and thick gloves, along with a pneumatic nailing system and a whole stack of safety equipment and mandatory classes to make sure I use it right, and a certification that's required to issued by the government before I use it... And then six months later finding out there's this thing called a claw hammer...

Maybe we forgot what we set out to do. Maybe there's a short term memory problem involved. Or maybe too much vague, confuse, poorly-defined process got in the way of building (wait for it...) effective process.

This is starting to sound like "the meeting to plan the meeting."

Anyway, back to Vonage...

I made another call to Vonage (after I set up a fixed IP, reconfigured the TA, etc., and this time without getting disconnected), Communication went a little easier with the support worker I got this time, and within a minute of the same scripted process, I heard him pause for a moment. He stopped what he was doing and said, "Mr Hughes," (thought: do people who put time and effort into pronouncing names correctly also think more for themselves?), "I am going to transfer you to another number because I think they will be able to help you with this. I could go through all of the things I have here, but I really don't think they will help you."

There ya go, now that's thinking for yourself.

Within five minutes, another Vonage rep (who was quite knowledgeable and professional by the way) had deduced - after listening to my technical explanation and asking a couple follow-up questions - that my terminal adapter is pretty much on its last legs, and offer to send me a replacement.

I spent two hours on the whole deal, between the first phone call, phone menu prompt maze from hell, getting disconnected by the voice menu system, the first rep, getting disconnected by my hardware reset,. It took 10 minutes to solve it, as soon as I spoke to a couple people who were willing and able to think about the situation outside the script.

Now, I've picked on Vonage here just because they happened to be the company I called on Saturday. I have tales of woe from a slew of other tech support experiences, too. A friend just IM'ed me to vent about his phone call this morning to Dish Network. I like Vonage, I like their services, and I like their prices. I think they're doing a good job, and they are adding (literally) 10,000 new users a day (got that from the last guy I spoke to on the phone). They have more than a million users now. So don't take this to be a Vonage bashing post - it's not. But I do think it illustrates an important point.

So - what do we do now?

Okay, great so what are we supposed to do about the Blinders of process? It's simple: Let your employees take them off. Encourage them to!

In fact, it might be worth training employees in two basic skills that most people don't get any decent training in: Listening and troubleshooting. Think about how much time we spend learning to read and write, to speak in front of others, to read from the script. How much training in our lives, from school to professional adulthood, is spent learning how to listen well? How much time do we spend learning the nuances of critical thought or effective problem solving and troubleshooting?

Not much. Not enough, for sure.

But we'll have to save that topic for later.

Sunday, 31 July 2005 09:37:07 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 30 July 2005

Seen this? It's The News Show. A bunch of quick off-beat daily tech/geek news items. It's interesting and sometimes funny. It's relatively short.

I could maybe watch this once a day, but the f5 ads might convince me to spend money.

   News-Show  

But I'll be damned if I can find the RSS feed (and my magical to-remain-unnamed RSS-savvy browser doesn't "see" one on the page either...) No RSS feed???

Oh well... Check it out anyhow.


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Sunday, 31 July 2005 02:15:25 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 16 July 2005

UnderdogOh, if this turns out to be true, this could end up being my favorite movie of the decade. You think I'm lame for it? Fine, I can live with that...

Dude, Underdog is going to be a freakin' movie star.

Shoe Shine Boy's alter ego (that would be Underdog for the uninitiated) was my number one favorite cartoon character when I was a kid. I still keep thinking I'm going to get an underdog tattoo one of these days (I almost did a while back, but got a different one instead).

It sounds like it might not be a cartoon, though. Something about a real dog and CG. Hopefully they can pull it off and not ruin the name, heh. We'll see.

BTW, I found this while checking out the blog at the Delta Park Project (I met Jason of DPP today at a podcast/videoblog roadshow meetup in Portland - cool dude).

More info about the movie? Ya you betcha, available at Empire Movies. And about.com (pronounced 'uh-boat'). Or just Google it.

Sunday, 17 July 2005 02:06:58 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 14 July 2005

Where I work we run a couple of high-security data centers, and the security policies don't allow outbound network connections to the Internet to be initiated from inside the datacenter. It's a good policy and makes for a much more secure environment. So, when it comes time to activate a copy of Windows Server 2003, I frequently get asked how to do that over the phone.

I could just say "Ask Google," but instead I think I'll just point people here, heheh...

The Microsoft Windows Product Activation phone number (for the US anyhow) is 1-888-571-2048

Also -- It's worth noting that Windows should tell you what number to call if you let it. From the Microsoft web page on the topic:

** Toll-free telephone numbers are available in all countries where telephony infrastructures provide for them. The telephone numbers are displayed when telephone activation is chosen.

Thursday, 14 July 2005 14:14:59 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 13 July 2005

MiniMacYAYI (finally) removed the Free Mini Mac banner from the top of the page, as I (finally) got the required number of referrals (again) to qualify to get the "free" computer.

I say "again" because I had the required number of referrals once before, a f=couple months ago. But apparently there was a repeat-visitor that signed up for more than one offer, which invalidated both of those referrals. So, I've patiently waited and waited, and now I have enough and I think it'll all be good to go.

But that's not the real news... So, what is the news you ask?

Soon enough, I'll be a <shudder> Mac user. That should be interesting.

Woah dude. Woah.

UPDATE: I've received approval for all my referrals and just ordered the Mac Mini, so soon I'll be a cult member, too! I'll post more when I get the thing.

FreeMac3

Thursday, 14 July 2005 02:41:37 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Ok, this is almost weird and takes ego issues to a whole new level, but what the heck...

Handwriting

Rich Claussen proves he's easily excited (heheh...) when he says:

"My goodness! What nice, legible handwriting! You need to get that MyOwnFont app that won the Think in Ink contest and make the dang thing available!"

MyOwnFontChattingAtMeDude, way ahead of you on that. Already did that, yesterday while showing the new tablet off to a coworker. See the attached file below.

Download: GregWrite.zip (TrueType font file)

For those of you who got here looking for the Tablet PC My Font Tool, it's on the Tablet PC Power Toys page at Microsoft's web site - but for quick access, here you go:

Download: MyFontTool for Tablet PC (.exe installer)

Oh, and that whole "easily excited" thing? Just kidding, bud. Rich also lists some cool places to download free fonts on his weblog.

Oh, and there's nothing quite like someone chatting with you on IM, using your handwriting. Crazy. 

Thursday, 14 July 2005 01:57:10 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 06 July 2005

WHAT YOU SAY???

Zero Wing meets Star Wars in the English translation of the Chinese translation of the English version of Revenge of the Sith, a.k.a. "Backstroke of the West."

Click here for full details and a bunch of laughs. It gets fairly colorful.

Sw15

Swb36ty

Swb84iu

[via Rory]

Thursday, 07 July 2005 02:54:51 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 02 July 2005

07worksI have a couple of hobbies that have stuck with me for a few years. And one of them culminates yearly on the 4th of July. I have a license to blow up stuff granted to me by the State of Oregon - a pyrotechnician operator's license. Thanks to some friends at a commercial fireworks display company near me, I get to have some fun now and then by shooting their shows.

On Monday, a bunch of friends and coworkers of mine will be meeting me in a town near here, where we'll be setting up the public fireworks display show to be launched later that evening. Then we'll clean it up. It will be a blast. Pun completely intended.

It's not a huge show or anything, but it's more work than you might realize. While the sponsoring city has a backhoe dig an 18-inch trench about 150 feet long, everything else is done by hand by the pyro crew. We will be unloading and burying over 400 individual mortar tubes, all of them 4- and 5-inch diameter sizes. We'll set them in the trench, backfill the trench to hold the mortar tubes securely in place, and prep the area. It's quite a bit of work.

And by the way - the crew is made up completely of people who are interested in doing the work. I just ask people I know if they're interested and see who wants to help. The only qualifications I put on my crew are those placed on them by the state - you have to be old enough (21), sober (duh) and not legally banned from handling explosives (the ATF cares about this a lot) - plus my own additions of "must not be crazy and must be able and willing to be very, very safe." It also helps if you can bear some fairly acrid smoke and don't mind getting dirty. Sometimes very dirty. In other worlds, it's open to most people who show an interest and want to give it a try. Some people even come back for more.

20040709_fireworks2Anyhow, after we get the mortars installed in the ground, we'll unpack the explosives - the fireworks shells that is - and carefully load them into their individual mortars. We'll check and double-check them, and if necessary we'll prep the whole thing in case of weather problems (wet fireworks simply don't work very well). We'll have time to be meticulous and make sure everything's just right. By the time we're set up, everyone working will be more than ready for a break. We'll break for dinner, followed by an evening of hanging around keeping the curious gawkers with cigarettes away, while waiting for 10:00pm to come around.

Then, in a total of about 15 or so minutes, we'll light some fusees and destroy what took us several hours to prepare. After the excitement is over, we'll spend an hour or so cleaning it all up, digging out the mortar tubes in the dark and putting them back on the truck. And then we'll finally get out of there.

It makes for a long, fun day - you're worn out by the time it's all over with. Because I have some pretty nagging back problems, I can't really do any of the heavy lifting or twisting this year, so I am quite grateful there will be a good crew of people there to share in the fun. I'll just focus on the requisite safety teaching and making sure no one does anything that could get them hurt. It's no fun anymore if anyone gets hurt, after all.

Once you've smelled the smoke, there is no return. Fact is, there's nothing like lighting several hundred big-bore cannons you've stuck in the ground - firing out loud concussions of kaboom and hurling colorful stuff into the sky - to get your blood pumping. Travis (in his typical colorful blog entry style) put it this way last year:

"An exhausting day, to be sure, but there's something about it that, once you've done it, you can't not do it again. It's all of the scariness and loud bang and fire of war with the safety of proper setup and equipment (and the knowledge that no one is actually shooting back at you). You smell the gunpowder smoke, you feel the impact, and you're hooked.

"We'll definitely be back next year. Hopefully it won't be at the sewage treatment plant."

Umm, sorry dude - same misty city as last year, applicators and all. Heheh...

Happy 4th!

Saturday, 02 July 2005 17:30:27 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 27 June 2005

Steel Battalion ControllerI got a wild hair a week or two ago and picked up a Steel Battalion game and uber-controller on eBay.

Oh. My. God.

Wow...

This game - and it's incredible game controller setup (detail here, image at right) - is pretty darned cool.

At lineofcontact.net, they essentially say that Steel Battalion and Steel Battalion: Line of Contact are both "daunting games to be a novice at, even for very experienced gamers." That's an understatement. 

Line of Contact is the XBOX Live multiplayer sequel to the original single-player game: "The level of complexity entailed in the game is on a par with PC based massively multiplayer role playing games, but with a challenging controller interface, live voice-based communication and a stiff penalty for inattentiveness (eject or lose your pilot)."

Line of Contact Screen-ShotIt's an awesome simulator game, where you "pilot" a futuristic vertical tank (VT - basically like in Mechwarrior) and the controller has (get this) something like 40 freakin' buttons, and they all actually work! Mastering this game will be nearly impossible. So sweet!

I hooked it all up this evening, and immediately failed to make the thing drive very well, so I focused instead on shooting the heck out of stuff. And since I did not eject in time, my player got completely wiped out. Yep - you have to eject if your VT gets shot up bad enough, in order to keep your player alive and available for the next round. Talk about simulators, heheh...

If you've never seen this game, especially if you like simulators, you should check it out any chance you get. Heck - Call me and drop by (if you happen to be in the Middle of Nowhere anytime soon), I'll let you play this one.

It's a great addition to my pile of Microsoft XBOX stuff.

Tuesday, 28 June 2005 02:20:19 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 25 June 2005

Uh oh – GoogleFight is something I’d already forgotten about, somehow… http://www.googlefight.com

Someone make it stop. Three of us are here are running battles to see who wins, Greg Hughes or Brandon Watts? Matt Hartley or Brandon Watts? (by the way, Matt’s blog here and Brandon’s blog here) Hmmm…

More fights:

Heh…

Saturday, 25 June 2005 21:04:56 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 23 June 2005

I have a dog that's such a spaz he can't even remember how to play fetch. I have a cat that apparently thinks she's a dog. She plays fetch incessantly with this stupid play mouse. I throw it, she runs, she gets it, she brings it back drops in in front of me, and stares at me til I throw it again. She gets all upset if I don't.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. It never stops.

What a weirdo.

Thursday, 23 June 2005 12:39:50 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 21 June 2005

I'll be heading up to Seattle on Thursday (one of my favorite cities and a quick 2.5 hour drive from my place) where I'll be catching up with all sorts of friends and people I have not seen for some time at Gnomedex 5.0, a confluence of geeks from around the world.

Email me if you'll be there and want to meet/catch up - greg@greghughes.net - or call me on my cell - 503-970-1753. I'm arriving Thursday afternoon at around 4 or so.

It's going to be quite a get-together this year - the schedule looks like the makings of a great show, and I hear there are some as-yet unannounced things that should gain some attention.

I'll be blogging some of the fun stuff that happens there. With so many interesting and cool people from so many interesting and cool places/companies, I'll have to fill this weblog up just to be able to remember it all when it's over with.

Podbot_geffectsInteresting Gnomedex link of the day: Podcasting ROBOT to be released at Gnomedex

Heh. Cool if real, funny even if not.

Wednesday, 22 June 2005 02:57:35 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 19 June 2005

I'm in the Bay Area, flew down here yesterday to surprise my dad for Fathers Day. Yes, it worked - he was suspicious I think, but he was surprised.

I've had calls today from a number of my "other" kids, and that's truly made my day. I'm lucky to have all these great people in my life. I'm not worthy. But I'm grateful.

Oh, and here are some links for dads and their kids, for your amusement and entertainment. Dads, use these to amaze your kids - they'll make you a "cool" dad, for sure.

Sunday, 19 June 2005 22:07:07 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Gnomedex starts this Thursday evening in Seattle, and it promises to be a great time. Chris and Ponzi are wearing themselves thin getting ready. Lots of cool stuff planned.

Big announcements and a confluence of super-smart people. Gonna be a good one. Definitely not a snorer...

Be there and be square, as they say.

Sunday, 19 June 2005 16:22:37 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 18 June 2005

Darn it all! I'm wishing I was in Ohio this weekend. Why? Because this weekend is the Duct Tape Festival and it's taking place in Avon, Ohio.

Everything duct tape. I mean, what could be better than that???

Check it out at http://www.ducttapefestival.com

Sunday, 19 June 2005 00:14:29 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 12 June 2005

You've seen it before, over and over and over again: PowerPoint presentations that contain practically every word pouring out of the presenter's mouth, slides that digitally drone on and on and on and...

PowerPoint, when used well, can be a useful, powerful (hmmm) and productive tool. But more often than not, it's a bane of our existence, putting us to sleep with completely forgettable blocks of useless text and gratuitous effects.

I have seen PowerPoint used as that proverbial, metaphorical screwdriver, where the proper tool would instead be a hammer. I've seen attempts at web-site designs done in PowerPoint (by the way - that still doesn't work people). I've seen it used over and over - by a wide variety of people trying desperately (and with good intentions, I am sure) to create something outside their area of expertise - using it to do things for which it simply was never intended.

But even when PowerPoint is used what is was meant for - creating slides for presentations - it can be painful to see how people use it. It's a software tool and requires some level of technical understanding to be sure, but technical expertise in using the program is not the most important part of the job.

PowerPoint has become a crutch, and more often than not it's damaging the patient. It's the loaded gun in the hands of the untrained shooter. It's the '79 Cadillac being driven by the nine-year-old who learned by watching mommy.

Kathy Sierra gets this. She understands, and she wrote about it to try (I assume) to make a difference in how it's used in the world. If you use PowerPoint, regardless of your expertise of years of experience you should read her post and take it to heart.

I've also been reading Cliff Atkinson's new book, "Beyond Bullet Points," and it's a great book for learning how to put together effective presentations "that inform, motivate and inspire." Recommended.

PowerPoint's a great program, to be sure. But it's only a good tool when put in the hands of someone who knows how and when to apply it. Kathy's post should be mandatory training. We license drivers... Maybe we should come up with a test and a license for PowerPoint users?

Sunday, 12 June 2005 18:51:24 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 09 June 2005

For those with a tastefully colorful sense of humor, here's some tech news. It looks like a new MP3 player in the shape of a toy bear has been released...

Bear01

Controls are located on the little blue arms and on its head, but(t) what's the best thing about it? To sync with your PC, you just hook up to it's USB rectum:

Bear02

Nice. Classic. Sure makes ya wonder, though. What were they thinking? Heh.

(via the Raw Feed)


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Friday, 10 June 2005 04:39:45 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 05 June 2005

Ok, time for a random pet-peeve post. I don't do these often, but I figure maybe I can change the whole world if I post this, so here goes:

People, listen up. If you learn only one grammatical/spelling/language rule this year, please make it this one... It will improve your sales figures, professional development, ability to earn promotions and recognition at work, and your general status in the community. Seriously.

Loose is a four-letter word.

Now, allow me to explain...

  • Loose = loos = adj/adv, meaning not tight, fastened, restrained, rigid, bound, etc.
  • Lose = looz = verb, meaning to fail in, or to fail to retain possession (opposite of win or find)

I can't even begin to tell you the number of emails, blog entries, letters, and even printed and online professional news articles (who's copy-editing these days anyhow?) I've read where members of the Hooked-on-Phonics generation (dat's Huhked-ahn-Fonikz fer yoo membrz) use the incorrect word in a variety of sentences.

Examples of improper use of "loose" in a sentence:

  • "Joe is such a looser. I can't believe that guy."
  • "If you don't try hard enough, you'll loose the game."

Examples of correct use of "loose" in a sentence:

  • "He's got a screw loose in his head."
  • "Your seatbelt is looser than mine."

I could also easily list a variety of colorful uses of both words in the same sentence - but I won't. Use your imagination and post a comment if you feel so inclined.

How have you seen these words (or others) completely butchered? Any funny examples?

Sunday, 05 June 2005 20:59:44 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 03 June 2005

From The Raw Feed - Apparently they've finally found a way to completely eliminate the Blue Screen of Death in Windows Longhorn:

Make it red.

Red

Now, why didn't someone think of that earlier?


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Friday, 03 June 2005 21:58:40 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 31 May 2005

Just in time to finish off the month of May, the wild irises are coming out in full force all over the place on my property...

WildIrises3
click on the image for a 1024x768 copy/desktop wallpaper
click here for a 1600x1063 copy/desktop wallpaper

Tuesday, 31 May 2005 05:22:46 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 30 May 2005

You have to actually see it to understand what's so cool about this unique music video. Eric Rice pointed to this, and I can't keep myself from doing the same:

Sad_song

The Sad Song by Fredo Viola: "This is a video I made for my song entitled "The Sad Song". The video was created entirely using 15 second jpg movies from my little Nikon Coolpix 775 still camera, reconstructed in AfterEffects."

Tuesday, 31 May 2005 01:10:41 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Andy and Angie have a cool weblog where some of their great pictures are displayed. They also have an online photo gallery that you can check out. There's real talent here: great use of light and digital editing for enhancement purposes (as opposed to completely altering a scene to be something it's not). There are also some cool macro insect pictures, nice landscapes and original desktop wallpapers available.

In one post, Andy explains how he edits an original digital image to get from this:

Cloudy_01-2005.05.07-15.34.37

to this:

CloudPond_050505-2005.05.07-15.34.53

Same original image, but a very different end result. How did he do it? Go read his weblog to find out.

Note that the images are all copyrighted under a Creative Commons non-commercial use license by Andy Purviance.

Monday, 30 May 2005 22:38:40 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 29 May 2005

Chris_segwayMy friend Chris rode a Segway for the first time this weekend. I still have not ridden one myself, so it's interesting to see what someone like Uber-Geek Chris can do one one first time out.

Rumor is that there is a handle-less one in the works, and the off-road models might be interesting to me, since I live in the sticks. Heck, if you're an engineer type, you can even build a generic one, if you like.

Go Chris, go.

(follow link to video)

Sunday, 29 May 2005 22:22:29 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 22 May 2005

Hahahah, okay as long as we're at it, this is a pretty funny flash short film, from the Organic Trade Association:

Storewars

(Note - I saw the real movie tonight and it was pretty okay I thought... Rory's review is pretty close to what I thought, although I guess my expectations weren't quite as high as his, and I enjoyed it despite the weaknesses.)

Sunday, 22 May 2005 05:29:48 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 21 May 2005

Challenge Darth Vader to 20-questions in "The Sith Sense" and watch him read your mind:

Vader3

The force is strong with this one. Of course, he's got some help...

Vader2

Burger King's at it again - well done.

(thanks Chris)

Sunday, 22 May 2005 04:56:49 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Obscure trivia time... Let's see if anyone knows what this means (see image):

Z

I don't expect anyone (except for maybe two people) to know what it means when it's stuck on the phone (it's an inside kinda thing), but surely someone (besides those two) must know what the figure means when it's used for it's real purpose...

Saturday, 21 May 2005 19:43:22 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Ok, this is completely random, I know, but people need to know about this stuff, and I am willing to provide a little free advertising when I see something worthwhile.

If you own a cat (my cat saga is long and complicated), you know all about the woes of litter boxes, scooping, smell, smell, smell and - well - smell.

Tired of crappy cat litter products (forgive the pun), I spent a few extra bucks on a four-pound bag of Fresh Step Crystals cat litter a few weeks ago, hoping to find something that would be easier to deal with in terms of cleaning and - yes - the smell.

This stuff is incredible (well, on the kitty-litter scale that is). I will never buy clay cat litter again. Ever.

Between the fact that it locks in the cat box odors like nothing else, and the fact that this four-pound bag can last up to a month (I didn't believe it at first, but wow...), I am completely sold. Clay doesn't compare.

What else is great about it?

  • No dust. Zero. Nada.
  • No smell. Seriously, this is the most incredible part.
  • A lot less litter scattered out of the box and onto the floor.
  • Easy to scoop - forget that super-clumping clay litter stuff, this is the better way to go.

Read about it here. Buy it anywhere cat crap products are sold.

By the way - my clean-freak, obsessive-compulsive cat was a little weirded out by the new litter at first, so I mixed a little clay in with it, and she took to it right away. Just a hint in case your cat freaks out on the new stuff - it will get used to it after a couple visits.

Saturday, 21 May 2005 16:06:07 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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I've had the unfortunate experience of being on two vehicle accidents in the past couple of years - both were accidents that I could not avoid in the moment, and for which the law found me not at fault, but the insurance industry says were my fault nonetheless. No tickets issued, just a couple of against-the-odds situations, two wrecked vehicles and insurance premiums that rocketed somewhere into the upper stratosphere.

The first accident involved a deer in a curve in the roadway at night, and I had to choose in a split second whether to hit the deer (with a motorcycle, mind you), or to try to go around it. I chose the latter option and ended up on the shoulder of the roadway, which would have been just fine except that (unbeknownst to me) the shoulder turned into a ditch, which is not exactly a good thing when you're on a bike. Thank goodness I had on all the right gear - helmet, gloves, armored clothing. Anyhow, the lawman on the scene said it was a no-fault accident (and tried to talk me into joining the reserves) and my insurance agent told me (dead-seriously), "You should have hit the deer." Jeez, never mind the fact that I walked away from it relatively unharmed, which would almost certainly not have happened hat I hit that deer (and for the record, I don't give a darn one way or the other whether or not Bambi was hurt or killed). The law saw it one way, but my insurance company uses a book of rules, rather than real-world common sense: My insurance rates went up, because I didn't hit the deer.

The second one involved a semi truck coming down a hill (again late at night) through some switchback curves, heading at straight at me in my lane as I was going up the hill. I swerved hard to the edge of the road to avoid being hit by the semi (I seriously though that was "it"), and somehow he (I am making a gender assumption here, please forgive me...) got back over toward his lane far enough to where the vehicles did not touch. He kept right on going and my smaller vehicle fishtailed a couple times before sliding off the road, head-on into the hillside where it flipped and rolled. It was truly crazy. Anyhow, the law came on scene, took a look around, made sure I was not drunk (I have not consumed alcohol in more than eight years so no chance of that) and said "not your fault" based on all the evidence (semi truck skid marks, etc), but the insurance company (not my agent this time, it was an adjuster) told me I probably should have hit the semi truck (What?!?!?), and again jacked up my rates.

Now, all-in-all I'd much rather pay obnoxious insurance premiums than be dead, so I guess the tradeoff is not all that bad in the big picture. But let me tell you - my rates skyrocketed and became what I would call truly outrageous.

Unfortunately, when it comes to my own personal finances, while I am quite responsible I am not one to put the pressure on and fight hard for better prices as a matter or course. I will do it in my job (where the company is the beneficiary of my efforts and it's not personal), but for some reason it's different when I am negotiating and shopping around for myself. For the record, I consider this a weakness in my own character, and I've progressively gotten better in recent years, but I still have to occasionally remind myself to look out for me in my spare time, if you will.

Anyhow, I woke up the other day pretty pissed off about my insurance bills, which is not a pleasant way to wake up, so I decided to do something about it.

Long story short (way too late, I know), I just changed insurance companies, from American Family to AIG, and on an apples-to-apples auto policy (same coverage, same accidents, etc) I cut my rate almost in half. Not only that, I was able to get lots of rate quotes and apply online, and once I had decided which company to go with, I just called them up and completed the deal (Not that I needed to, I could have closed the deal online, too, without ever having spoken to a person, but that would not have been as much fun because the helpful lady I spoke to at AIG was born the exact same day as me and was really, really nice on the phone - which does make a difference in an all-else-equal world.)

In the process I learned a few things about buying insurance:

  • You must shop around to find out what kind of deals you will get. They vary greatly from company to company.
  • Always check with your bank to see if they have a bank-sponsored insurance program, that's what I did (I bank with Wells Fargo online and just clicked through their link to get a quote at AIG). It saved me a significant amount over the insurance company's default premiums to go that route. The lady on the phone told me that was the way to go, among several other useful tidbits.
  • If you have multiple insurance products (homeowners, umbrella policy, life insurance, etc) always see if putting them under one carrier will save you money - it almost always does.
  • Ask lots of questions about specific details - towing coverage, death and dismemberment, thing like that are often double-covered if you have separate policies from work or health insurance that provide the same coverage, so don't buy the same thing twice if you don't need it - but make sure you know exactly what you have and what you are buying. If an insurance company's agents are not helpful, you should consider going elsewhere.
  • If your rates have gone up substantially at your current company because of accidents or claims, it's probably worth shopping around for a new company. It's a competitive market and just like other businesses, insurance companies know that if they jack up rates, a substantial number of their customers will pay the higher rates and never look around at options.

At any rate, I learned something in the process and thought others might, as well. All I know is that I just added a chunk of change to my monthly grocery budget by doing a small amount of research and online work, plus one phone call. It was a good investment.

Saturday, 21 May 2005 15:15:33 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 20 May 2005

I'm watching FOX12 News here in Portland, and they just ran a story about Podcasting. The pointed out that it's even gone commercial, and had a quick interview with a guy from Centennial Wines - http://www.centennialwines.com/ - which apparently has a podcast available (I only see one episode, but maybe I am missing something).

Anyhow, TV is pushing the message of podcasting all the way into your living room on the newscast. That's gotta mean something.

Saturday, 21 May 2005 03:50:42 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 19 May 2005

Google appears to have entered the personal portal space. Surf over to http://www.google.com/ig now and you can set up your personal preferences...

Google_personal_setup

... and you'll end up with a personalized Google home search page:

Google_personal

You can set up Gmail, Google News, BBC News, driving directions from Google Maps, local weather, stock info and some online news sources. Word is that RSS support is in the cards for the future.

[via Slashdot, and others]

Thursday, 19 May 2005 23:09:34 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Yesterday Nikon released Version 2.0 of their D70 digital SLR camera firmware.

Updates are available for Mac and Windows users. The Windows firmware update includes the following additions and refinements:

  • Performance of the 5-area AF system has been improved (Dynamic area and Closest subject AF-area modes).
  • Changes have been made to the design of menu displays.
  • Page-size settings can now be applied from the camera with direct printing from a PictBridge-compatible printer.
  • The number of exposures remaining, displayed in the control panel and viewfinder, when shooting at an image-quality setting of NEF (RAW) or NEF+JPEG Basic has been changed (the number is calculated based on the size of compressed RAW file).
  • The default setting for camera clock has been changed from 2004.01.01 to 2005.01.01. Now you cannot set the clock back to a date before 2004.12.31.
  • A problem that sometimes caused communication between the camera and computer to be unexpectedly terminated when using Nikon Capture Camera Control has been corrected. (Windows)

Complete step-by-step instructions for updating are included:

 

Tuesday, 17 May 2005 12:32:06 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 14 May 2005

I've been looking for HDTV antennas that might be able to pull in the Portland HD over-the-air (OTA) broadcast signals all the way out here in Podunk, Oregon (no, that's not the real name, it's a joke...). I recently bought a HD receiver for my Satellite service, and need to see if I can get the local channels this far out.

After poking around on KOIN's web site to find out their HD broadcast coverage, tonight I found three great online resources: Antenna Web, CheckHD.com and TitanTV.com. Note that all three appear to share a common source information, so try all three and see what you come up with.

HDTV_PDX_map2Antenna Web is the Consumer Electronics Association's online resource for buying an antenna to meet your needs based on your address. Answer a few questions and you'll have an idea of what antenna hardware you'll require. Your Antenna Web results will include a list of the local broadcast stations in your market, the broadcast types and channels (and compass heading for pointing), as well as the type and size of antenna required to receive the signals. And you'll be able to view a map of your location with the available channels and bearing shown. No registration required, which is nice. For a sample map of results (my home), click the map image at right.

CheckHDCheckHD.com is another good site that doesn't require you to subscribe, and it provides you with quick information about what's available and what color code to be looking for when you pick an antenna. They also have lots of other great information, like the current state of DTV coverage in the United States.

TitanTV.com is an online service that also provides a set of electronic programming listings that tie into a variety of PVR systems, and you can sign up (it's free) to see listings for your location and to run some tools and find out what kind of HDTV coverage you have where you live.

The tools on the TitanTV web site help you determine what kind of equipment you might need to successfully receive HD signals, and even makes specific antenna recommendations. Note that with OTA broadcast HD, it's often an all-or-none thing (not like regular, analog TV, where you can get a fuzzy signal and just deal with it). There's also online TV listings (for whatever services you use - you specify them when you sign up).

The verdict? Well, I found out pretty much what I expected - It should work, but I am in a fringe reception area and will likely need to use a roof-mounted, high-gain antenna. If I do that, I should be okay.

I also found a link to the FCC's DTV web site, replete with annoying gratuitous flash animations. There's no escaping gratuitous flash. We paid someone to create that?? Ugh.

Sunday, 15 May 2005 03:16:20 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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I live In The Middle Of NowhereTM, and it seems recently I can't run the mowers fast enough to keep up with the grass growth (both lawn and field). It's gone from grey and dormant to green and growing like crazy, and the whole area now looks completely different.

This picture was two months ago (March 5th), when the grass was just starting to come back out:

Buddy-diogi-greyground

And this is today, after several mowing sessions over the past couple months. Without the mowing, the grass would be three or four feet tall by now. It's amazing each year how freakin' GREEN it gets around here. I know, people who have lived here all their lives roll their eyes and don't get it, but try growing up and living in the desert. Then you'll understand.

Diogi1-green

Diogi1run

House_yellowbroom

Sunday, 15 May 2005 00:11:37 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Duct_tape_wallet3M themselves have a web page (on their Canadian site) dedicated to providing a detailed description of how to make a men's wallet using nothing but a roll of Scotch® Duct Tape, a utility knife, a ruler and background music (optional).

"Most people agree that Duct Tape can save you money on costly repair bills but did you know that you could create a wallet to hold all of the money you’ve saved? It’s not as difficult as it sounds and in just a few simple steps, you could be the proud owner of this year’s most important fashion statement ('Duct Tape is my life')."

So, there's a good way to burn away a rainy weekend afternoon with the kids.

Saturday, 14 May 2005 17:57:03 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Xbox360logoKikizo.com has another (big ol') video of the XBOX 360 team discussing what's so cool about the upcoming console. This one's different than the Our Colony video from the other day (although it does share a little common footage).

Nice, and interesting how this marketing thing is happening... View the video here.

Saturday, 14 May 2005 15:36:25 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 11 May 2005

I'm in the greater Seattle area for a few days at Microsoft for an event. It's all covered under non-disclosure, so no blogging about the content is allowed, but if anyone's around and wants to catch up, send me an email [greg(a)greghughes.net] and let me know.

Wednesday, 11 May 2005 16:54:24 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 09 May 2005

RevengeoftheSith_PosterJudging from what Jason Calacanis has to say (as well as from the early reviews of a few others), the newest Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith, should be great. In fact, Jason says it's the best one of them all:

"Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith is the greatest Star Wars film of all time.

As any Star Wars fan knows the most accepted ranking of the films is:

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Episode IV: A New Hope (the original Star Wars)
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Episode II: The Clone Wars
Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

You can now put Revenge of the Sith as number one, although I suspect some small percentage of folks might put it in the second position after The Empire Strikes Back."

Jason has also posted a podcast (MP3 recording) review of the film, so check it out if you're interested.

Even Kevin Smith (yes, that Kevin Smith) loved it (Caution - contains Plot Spoilers, so don't read it if you want to be surprised when you see the film! - link):

"...this flick is so satisfyingly tragic, you'll think you're watching "Othello" or "Hamlet."

"Look, this is a movie I was genetically predisposed to love. I remember being eight years old, and reading in "Starlog" that Darth Vader became the half-man/half-machine he was following a duel with Ben Kenobi that climaxed with Vader falling into molten lava. Now, twenty six years later, I finally got to see that long-promised battled - and it lived up to any expectation I still held. I was sad to see the flick end, but happy to know it's not the end of the "Star Wars" universe entirely (I've read stuff about a TV show...). "

(in part via Scoble's LinkBlog, in part via all that is Google)

Monday, 09 May 2005 12:26:47 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 08 May 2005

DumpsterCollege students Craig Zboyovski and Jamie Berryhill have taken a old concept to a new medium, and actually it's a pretty cool idea.

Their web site, craigandjamiearepoor.com, tells the story:

"As the title says, we are poor. We need your help to be not poor, and you can do this by donating to our cause! Why donate to a charity when you don't know exactly where your money is going to? All proceeds given to us will be used, by us, to live the college life."

When someone donates $5 or more (PayPal is the main option, or they can choose snail mail), the pair creates a sign for use in a thank-you photo and posts it on their web site.

"The whole idea came from another Web site we were looking at," Zhoyovski recalled. "They were demanding money from people as a joke. That's when we both thought: Why not try it ourselves? We're both broke."

It seems to be working - they've made back the $40 they spent registering the domain name, plus another couple hundred bucks. Not too shabby for a couple of college kids.

I remember all too well what it was like when I was in school - Mac and Cheese and lots of potatoes and Top Ramen ruled my world. I discovered five bucks can go a long way in the right hands.

Perhaps the best part is the pair's promise to "pay it forward," to help some other college kids financially, once they get on in life and are able to do so.

By the way guys - next time there's no need to spend $40 to register a domain name - you can do it for under $10 nowadays.

Monday, 09 May 2005 04:11:32 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Here's Me (right), my mom, my brother Dave and his daughter, Dara. All together in one place for Mother's Day 2005.

Dara-dave-mom-greg

Sunday, 08 May 2005 19:21:37 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 07 May 2005

A couple days ago, I planned a bit of a scheme to surprise my mom on Mother's Day this weekend.

Today I flew from Portland to Denver and then got a car and drove up to Boulder. Only my brother knew I was coming, because I called him and told him a couple days ago when I got the tickets.

My mom and stepdad just moved to Colorado from New Mexico this past week, and when I arrived at the new house and snuck in the front door, Mom was putting dishes in cabinets. I stood behind her as she was talking to my stepbrother's wife, Kate, and put a hand on her shoulder. She just kept talking to Kate, and after a few seconds stood and turned around to see who has placed a hand on her.

She was (to say the least) surprised. The look on her face was more than worth the place ticket and the fact that today I flew on my ninth airplane in the past six days, and tomorrow I'll have to add one more to the list.

Next trip - dad's place in California. Need to plan that one soon. He reads this now and then so it won't be a surprise, but I'm overdue to pay a visit, for sure.

Sunday, 08 May 2005 02:37:45 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 05 May 2005

I haven't done a whole lot of traveling recently, so when I did eight airplanes in three days earlier this week, it threw me for a bit of a loop. I think I was in Salt Lake City yesterday...

How do you really know when you're disoriented? I mean, if you're out of it, can you really judge whether or not you're out of it?

Here's one clue: I dutifully checked my calendar this morning and went to a 10am meeting. Only one problem. I was 24 hours early.

Yeah. Disoriented. Uh huh.

Thursday, 05 May 2005 15:11:54 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 04 May 2005

Dave Bettin was right - it was worth the trip to Charleston in Omaha for a steak lunch. Wow. Much better than back in Oregon, for sure. It's been more than 15 years since I was last here. Now I see what they're all talking about.

Interestingly, the locals also say the best steaks get shipped out of Nebraska to people who will pay more. Hmmm... How do I get on that list??

There's this really, really bright thing in the sky, and when I go outside my eyes involuntarily squeeze shut. Anyone have any idea what that is?

Fast trip (too fast), nice people, heading back home this evening.

Wednesday, 04 May 2005 16:37:25 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 02 May 2005

I'm flying Delta instead of United on this trip, and exactly 100% of everything making up the first flight was exactly 100% better than flying on United a few weeks ago. Seriously. And you know, when you're flying, good and bad really stand out.

First of all, the aircraft: On both carriers I flew Boeing 737-800's. Granted, it's a big, oversized commuter jet, and an industry standard cattle car, but the difference between Delta's aircraft setup and United's is huge. What stood out the most was the seats. On United's 737's and A320's (the Airbus equivalent), the seats downright sucked - they just about killed my back. On Delta, the seats are much better, and I was able to get off a four-hour flight without too much pain. Delta's aircraft was also a lot cleaner.

Next, the service: On United, they have (seriously) taken to selling you the snacks on-board. At least on Delta they handed everyone a snack kit without making you fork over cash. Two beverage services and two snack services were just right, and they were included. I don't need a gourmet meal, but charging people for the snacks? Talk about nickel and dime, sheez... GG Delta.

One place Delta loses out - The counter help in PDX airport: There's this one Delta counter lady that I have had the displeasure to have to deal with while checking in at Delta's Portland desk a few times. Twice she's made it difficult to get on the airplane, once I missed a flight as a result, and every time she's been rude and just downright mean. Like in a completely uncalled for and unprovoked way (and not just with me, I watched her so the same thing with others). Thank goodness they have electronic check-in now. I was able to skip the counter altogether this morning.

So now I am stuck here in Cincinnati (uh oh, now I'll have the song stuck in my head all night, darnit...) for about three and a half hours on a lay-over. from here it's off to Toledo. Then tomorrow evening off to Omaha, and home on Wednesday evening. I'll have to remember to stop and breathe.

One more cool thing: When I posted earlier about this trip and mentioned I was headed to Omaha on one of the legs, Dave Bettin left a comment and followed up with an email to tell me a couple good places to eat - Dave used to work there before he moved to Washington.

His suggestions? Fox and Hound English Pub Grille (Dave says: "the black forest sandwich.. mmm.") and Charlestons (Dave says: "steak and more steak"). I'll have to try to check one of those out while I'm there. Thanks, Dave!

Monday, 02 May 2005 23:33:19 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Not exactly a predictable couple of cities for me to be traveling to, but I am off on a whirl-wind trip to Toledo, Ohio and Omaha, Nebraska. Lots of IT and security kinds of things to think about, check out and make decisions around on this trip, which makes it fun in a way. I'll be back home on Wednesday night.

I'm not sure the fun actually compensates for a bad back and hours upon hours of airplane time (getting to Toledo is going to be rough), but at least I will have the good fortune to fly on a CRJ aircraft all the way back to Portland. They are smaller than your average airliner (it's a regional jet), yet they tend to be more comfortable, quieter and faster.

And thanks to Mike for feeding my dogs and cat while I am away.

Monday, 02 May 2005 14:12:36 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 30 April 2005

NEC's IT Guy Games: 2005 is underway - so go check it out and play.

Hardware_hurlYou can play as often as you like, and keep working to earn better scores (some of them are freaky amazing high scores). And the end of each competition period, one winner takes home a 61-inch NEC plasma display. The games run April 1 through September 30, 2005 and will be played on the following schedule:

  • Hardware Hurl April 1 – May 13
  • Projector Protector May 16 – July 1
  • Office Obstacles July 5 – August 12
  • Cube Luge August 15 – September 30

The IT guy games test the following skills:

  • keypad dexterity
  • keypad speed
  • mouse dexterity
  • mouse speed
  • visual speed/patterns
  • hand/eye coordination

Go play now - play often and play hard - Geeks go wild...

Sunday, 01 May 2005 04:13:54 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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People think it rains all the time in western Oregon, but in reality that's not true. Just don't tell anyone, it's our little secret - We just tell people it always rains so they'll leave us alone. While it can rain quite a bit in the winter months at times, we tend to get long, sunny and relatively dry summers here.

Add to that the fact that a lot of the soil in the area is clay (mine is a reddish clay), and plants have a hard time getting water in the summertime. It's a soil that's got lots of nutrients, but the plants tend to have difficulty absorbing the nutrients and the clay tends to keep the water from effectively reaching the plants. A plant that is set directly in clay is likely to have a hard time without some help at planting time. I've found from my own experience that a little extra work when the hole is dug makes for a much healthier plant. 

So, proper soil prep is important, and when it's done well, you can't hardly keep plants from growing in the Pacific Northwest.

Amending clay soil:

  • Dig your hole, make it generous in size
  • Put a liberal amount of Doctor Earth organic starter fertilizer in the hole first (organic fertilizer is great because it can go next to the roots and it's almost impossible to burn a plant with a good organic starter fertilizer)
  • Mix the native clay soil 50-50 with a quality amendment bagged soil before putting it into the hole
  • Place the plant and back-fill with your local/amended soil

Just a few plants that can work very well in dry and clay soil (and there are hundreds of others):

  • Phormium
  • California Lilac (shiny, evergreen, nice and tight, blooms, 4-5')
  • Rugosa (wild) or Juniper Roses (low-lying)
  • Pampas Grass (grows big)
Sunday, 01 May 2005 01:25:51 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 29 April 2005

In December I had a minimally-invasive surgical procedure done on my lower back to try to help correct a herniated disc down there in my spine at the L5/S1 joint (that's just below hip level). The end result was a limited success, and I am pretty much back where I was before the procedure nowadays, as far as the back/leg pain, numbness and reduced motor skills in my legs go.

The original procedure was no guarantee, but we had high hopes. I decided a minimally-invasive procedure - one that would not require any permanent changes, cutting or physical limitations - was a good first shot to take. It just didn't work out as well as I would have liked.

MRI picture to gross people outSo, I have seen three highly-recommended doctors recently to talk with them about what can be done to help. I am in some level of pain 24/7, I wake up several times every night from the pain, and I am basically restricting my own activity so much that I am becoming fairly miserable and generally unhappy in life. I can't stand for any period of time, I can't stay seated for very long, walking any real distance is painful, lying down requires me to shift around constantly (hence waking up from pain), and really the only position that I can get into that gives me some relief is whatever position I am not in at the time.

The doctor who did the procedure in December told me he thought there were a few remaining possibilities for me: Live with it (always an option), maybe do a microsdiscectomy (an iffy proposition), bone fusion of the joint, or artificial disc replacement.

And, as it turns out, each of these three doctors I consulted with came to pretty much the same conclusion: The only thing that will work for me at this point is removal of the bad disc, followed by either fusing the joint or replacing the disc with an artificial one. Both methods have been around for a while. Artificial discs received FDA approval in the U.S. last year.

It's been very interesting (and enlightening) to visit three neurological surgeons with no information other than my MRI films and a verbal history of my pain and medical care, to see what they would tell me. I did not tell any of them what the other docs said or thought or diagnosed, but all three came up with the same result. That's encouraging, at least in terms of knowing where I really stand. Of course, the idea that I need a fairly major surgery to be better is a little intimidating. But, one further point of encouragement is the fact that all three doctors were quite confident that surgery would make a huge difference in my quality of life. All three said that I am practically the perfect candidate to benefit in a huge way from the procedure.

Then I started thinking about whether it's the "right" thing to do - Is it right to cut into your body and remove parts or put in fake parts? These thoughts keep going through my mind and I'm actually a bit surprised. I guess I just never had the chance to think them before now.

So now comes the decision. Oh boy, this is definitely not the easiest part. Deciding which doctors (it takes two - a vascular surgeon as well as the neurological surgeon), when to have it done (if at all), and which procedure is the best option for me. Not to mention the health insurance company part - who knows what they'll have to say.

A fusion means six to nine months of take-it-easy time, and a longer period of relative inactivity (that includes work). An artificial disc does not have the healing time (there is no fusion process to worry about) and so return to work/normal life is much faster. Fusion has been around for a long, long time. Artificial discs are newer - especially in the U.S. - but have been around for about 15 or so years.

The actual surgical procedure followed to do either the disc replacement or the fusion is pretty much identical. The only real difference is what goes between the vertebrae once they get to where they're headed - some metal cages, some bone, or the artificial disc. Getting in there and closing up is virtually the same.

Anyhow, if anyone who reads this also happens to have received an artificial disc (or knows someone who has), please let me know - I'd like to communicate with you. Also, anyone who's had a fusion, same deal - please contact me by commenting on this post, or click the mail icon over in the navigation sidebar.

Saturday, 30 April 2005 01:19:09 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 28 April 2005

I took this test, and here's my results. What's your English sound like?

Your Linguistic Profile:
85% General American English
5% Dixie
5% Upper Midwestern
5% Yankee
0% Midwestern

What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

(via John Dunshee)

Friday, 29 April 2005 02:40:00 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 27 April 2005

Classic funny moment - I've been victim of the Slashdot effect (lots of referral traffic) a couple of times in the past. A friend pointed this out to me just a minute or two ago. Looks like Slashdot's got a little hair of the dog that bit 'em problem? What comes around... Heh...

Sladoteffect

Thanks, Dave.

Thursday, 28 April 2005 02:41:04 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 26 April 2005

Audible.com - an great audio book/publication service that I have been using for about a year - has published a whole set of RSS feeds so you can subscribe to find out easily what new content is published, including both free and pay-for selections:

This Week's Best Sellers (Top 50)   RSS
This Week's New Audiobooks and Programs   RSS
New Free Audio Programs   RSS
Under $10 Audio Programs   RSS
New York Times Best Sellers   RSS
BusinessWeek Best Sellers   RSS
Publishers Weekly Best Sellers   RSS
Best Sellers in Arts & Entertainment   RSS
Best Sellers in AudibleOriginals   RSS
Best Sellers in Biographies and Memoirs   RSS
Best Sellers in Business   RSS
Best Sellers in Classics   RSS
Best Sellers in Comedy   RSS
Best Sellers in Drama and Poetry   RSS
Best Sellers in Fiction   RSS
Best Sellers in Foreign Language   RSS
Best Sellers in Great Talkers   RSS
Best Sellers in History   RSS
Best Sellers in Information Age   RSS
Best Sellers in Kids   RSS
Best Sellers in Mystery   RSS
Best Sellers in Non-fiction   RSS
Best Sellers in Science   RSS
Best Sellers in Science Fiction and Fantasy   RSS
Best Sellers in Self Development   RSS
Best Sellers in Speeches and Lectures   RSS
Best Sellers in Spirituality   RSS
Best Sellers in Sports   RSS
Best Sellers in Travel and Adventure   RSS

And perhaps the coolest thing on the page? I scrolled down and noticed the question "Where can I find more information about RSS?" and the first resource listed is the RSS Quickstart Guide from Lockergnome.com - nice.

Wednesday, 27 April 2005 02:23:38 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 23 April 2005



QuickTime is needed to watch this clip.

Okay, whoever sends me a picture of themselves actually wearing one of these will get a copy of Real Ultimate Power from yours truly. Cuz if you wear one of these, you'll love that book, I am confident.

"Introducing the most technologically advanced piece of clothing since the Hypercolor t-shirt ... the LED scrolling belt buckle."

Umm, wow. Cool, hehe.

It's $28.99 plus $6.49 shipping and handling, and holds up to six unique messages at a time, with each message being 256 characters long. You can change the messages at any time as well as things like like the speed of the messages and how bright the display is.

Yes it works with regular belts, and no it won't play MP3s.

Saturday, 23 April 2005 20:17:45 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Cokecanpolishing1727This one's making the rounds, and I thought it was cool, so here it is:

Yes, you CAN make a fire from a can of coke and a chocolate bar!

So, if you're ever stuck in the wilderness and can't find your way home, yet you happen to have (and hey, don't we all?), a Coke can and a bit of chocolate with you, have no fear - Just round up some flammable material and you have everything you'll need to start a fire and keep warm.

Or, you could just use to to wow and amaze your friends.

(via Eric Rice and Phil Torrone)

Saturday, 23 April 2005 17:56:42 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Mac_miniPeople are regularly asking me if I got my free Mac Mini yet, so to answer those questions here's an update to the Free Mac Mini situation/test/experience.

It appears that 85 people have signed up after clicking on my banner ad on this site, and 8 of those people have completed the offer portion (it takes 10 completions before they send the computer). So if you're interested in any of the available offers, do a guy a favor and give it a shot. Just click here: FreeMiniMacs.com - Get a FREE Mini Mac! Or click on the Mac Mini image over there to the left.

The offers that are available change over time. At one point Blockbuster Online was been removed as a possible offer to complete, but it looks like it is back available at times (which is very cool). Among the others available are a trial of Napster's online music service and eFax.com, a service I already subscribe to that allows you to receive faxes in email, and which also allows you to send faxes straight from your computer. No need for a fax line or a dedicated fax machine, plus having your faxes stored as electronic files is a great way to keep track of things.

Blockbusters

If you happen to find Blockbuster Online as an offer to complete, I highly recommend it. I dropped NetFlix's service and switched to Blockbuster's service for two reasons: Less money per month and free rental coupons for in-store rentals each month. You get to rent unlimited DVDs online for only $9.95 a month (3 movies at a time), plus coupons delivered in email for two free in-store game or movie rentals every month. I got my "offer" credit within hours of signing up. Make sure you temporarily allow pop-up windows when you click on an offer at freeminimacs.com, because that's where they show you the terms of the offer and how long it will take for you to get credit for signing up. You can always close the pop-up later once you've received confirmation.

Anyhow, two more people to sign up and I can get that computer and remove the banner!

Saturday, 23 April 2005 16:56:46 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 22 April 2005

So, tonight's a special Geek Dinner, there's also a monthly Portland Nerd Dinner, and next week at the PADNUG meeting (that's Portland Area .NET Users Group), my coworkers Scott and Patrick are teaming up to present on "Continuous Integration for .NET" to attendees:

"Continuous Integration is more than just a fad; it's darn near required to survive anymore. Join Patrick Cauldwell and Scott Hanselman as they talk about one of Corillian's product's build processes. They will explore NUnit, NAnt, custom NAnt Tasks, automatic reporting of errors, and unit test failures as well as Cruise Control.NET which can enable you to create an Enterprise Wide Build Dashboard for all the pointy-haired bosses to oogle at. It'll be fun, informative, and fast pace."

Portland Community College Auditorium
CAPITAL Center, Room 1508
18640 NW Walker Rd.
Beaverton, OR 97006
Directions

There's chat time and free pizza at 6:00 pm. The meeting and presentation begins at 6:30 pm.

Friday, 22 April 2005 12:53:00 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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My friend Chris Pirillo and his lovely fiance Ponzi will be in town this evening, and Alex has put together a Geek Dinner this evening here in Portland. Head for Northwest and join us/them for a geeky get together:

What: Geek Dinner in Portland
Date: Friday, April 22nd
Time: 6pm
Where: Blue Moon - 432 N.W. 21st, Portland
Who is Welcome: Everyone!

Bring your friends and digital cameras, let's hang out and be - well - geeks, I guess.

Friday, 22 April 2005 12:31:02 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 21 April 2005

Last night, I did something unusual, at least for me.

Honestly, I am not one to go to book or poetry readings or art houses or anything like that. Now, I have nothing against those kinds of things and places, but all else being equal I'd just assume go to a movie theater and see what Hollywood has to throw at me, or maybe watch a great movie on DVD that no one else I know has seen. Or maybe just jump on a motorcycle or 4 wheeler and cruise around and feel the wind.

But I really do like books, and I especially enjoy books by John Irving.

About 14 months ago, a few local people started putting together a new writing/author/books/written word festival, which they called Wordstock. Last night was the opening night, and I went with a friend (who also would not normally be caught dead at a book reading) to Keller Auditorium to see and hear John Irving, a great American novelist. I wondered what he would have to say, and what he might read or do.

I first encountered John Irving's stories in a theater when I saw The World According to Garp on film. I thought it was great, and it was one of those first movies early in my adult life that led me to actually read the book it was derived from, knowing even before cracking the cover that the book was almost certainly even better than the film.

My favorite John Irving novel is called A Prayer for Owen Meany, and it's unique in that it's written in the first person. If you appreciate a great storyteller who can paint the world in your mind and help you stand right in the middle of it, you should read John Irving.

His presentation was terrific. He first read from two of his works - the first reading was a first draft while the second was a polished, finished piece from his next novel, one which will be published soon. The first-draft piece was a funny story, and had the crowd laughing out loud. It was a true story, and one that will never be published, Irving said. The second reading was a rewritten, polished and final except from the opening of his new book. Both were terrific and fascinating to hear, in large part because I had never read them before, and in one case because I won't ever get to read the funny story that he wrote for a purpose other than publication. It was a lot like hearing a secret, and knowing something that most of the rest of the world will never experience.

Irving then answered questions from the audience. I was glad to discover through his answers that he's a no-crap, doesn't-mess-around kind of guy. As a bonus, I finally experienced someone whose answers to posed questions are even longer than mine (I'm lucky to have close friends that put up with my long windedness). Several esoteric questions were asked by people in the audience that had both me and my friend rolling our eyes ("What are your favorite words?" - Huh??). He deftly and politely responded to these questions with the most meaningful, indirect, free-thought non-answers, which (despite the fact that he actually has no favorite words) take you deep into his mind and provide a glimpse at how he thinks and writes, and why.

John Irving has always been one of my behind-the scenes heros, someone I have never met, but a seemingly quality man who writes thoughtful, meaningful books that I read and believe - books that make me wonder how an author could possibly know and write so much about me and my thoughts. That's what makes him a great author; When Irving writes, we don't just read the words, we feel them and see the world they describe.

Anyhow, this is all pretty deep for me. Suffice it to say that one night, I went to a book reading, which is something I'd not normally do. I went because the man who was reading was someone who's made an indirect but strong impression on my life on several occasions. I went because I wanted to hear his words in his own voice, and to see if the way I've read his words in the past was in any way similar to how he would speak and read them.

Oh and one more thing about John Irving. When he works he writes 8 or 9 hours a day, he's taught writing and English, has written several great novels, and he's dyslexic. Even without knowing that, the sheer volume and quality of his writing is amazing. But when you add dyslexia to the equation, it's so much more than just amazing.

I got to see one of my real-life heros. And I wasn't disappointed.

Wordstock. I may have to go again next year.

Thursday, 21 April 2005 06:09:02 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 19 April 2005

This is great: How to Destroy the Earth. Sam Hughes (no relation) does an excellent job of outlining any of a variety of ways to bring this planet to it's end. And he clearly has a lot of time on his hands.

Preamble

Destroying the Earth is harder than you may have been led to believe.

You've seen the action movies where the bad guy threatens to destroy the Earth. You've heard people on the news claiming that the next nuclear war or cutting down rainforests or persisting in releasing hideous quantities of pollution into the atmosphere threatens to end the world.

Fools.

The Earth was built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron. It has taken more devastating asteroid hits in its lifetime than you've had hot dinners, and lo, it still orbits merrily. So my first piece of advice to you, dear would-be Earth-destroyer, is: do NOT think this will be easy.

This is not a guide for wusses whose aim is merely to wipe out humanity. I (Sam Hughes) can in no way guarantee the complete extinction of the human race via any of these methods, real or imaginary. Humanity is wily and resourceful, and many of the methods outlined below will take many years to even become available, let alone implement, by which time mankind may well have spread to other planets; indeed, other star systems. If total human genocide is your ultimate goal, you are reading the wrong document. There are far more efficient ways of doing this, many which are available and feasible RIGHT NOW. Nor is this a guide for those wanting to annihilate everything from single-celled life upwards, render Earth uninhabitable or simply conquer it. These are trivial goals in comparison.

This is a guide for those who do not want the Earth to be there anymore.

Read the whole thing here.

(via Jeremy's linkblog)

Tuesday, 19 April 2005 17:48:49 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 17 April 2005

Seth Godin points to a photoshop contest gallery with some pretty funny images by some talented photoshoppers. The contest challenged people to depict corporate logos everywhere:

Contest Directions
Everywhere you turn there is another Starbucks, McDonalds or GAP popping up whether it's the logo, store or actual ad you see. In this contest you're going to take corporate takeovers of society to the extreme. Put ads, logos and/or stores in the most unexpected areas you can think of (i.e. the Sphinx in Egypt wearing RayBan sunglasses, or a Taj Mahal McDonalds).

The rules of this game are thus: Depict the world completely overrun by logos, advertisements and stores in the most unexpected places. As always, quality is a must. We will remove poor entries no matter how much we like you. You'll have 48 hours to submit for this contest, so make your submissions count.

And the participants came up with some cool - and occasionally subtle - stuff:

Arches_mc

Nike_gir

Coke_moon

View the whole gallery here.

Sunday, 17 April 2005 17:43:27 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Saturday, 16 April 2005

I had to do a bit of eye-balling, but eventually I found it. Supposedly this is imagery showing Area 51 near Rachel, Nevada on Google Maps. Other resources on the web seem to corroborate that (click for a lot of info from a guy who tried this well before I did).

Area51satellite

Now, why in the world would they only have low-res imagery of this area??? Escapes me... At least they've blocked out the rooftops of the White House and other critical buildings.

By the way, some people have been wondering what the "lumps" in the ground are to the southwest of Area 51. As it turns out, I don't think that's part of Area 51 at all. My memory tells me that's Areas 1-30 at the Nevada Test Site, if I am not mistaken. And those aren't actually lumps either - they're craters from the underground detonations that have been done at the test site over the years:

Nts_craters

Google Maps is just too much fun. Here's the USS John C. Stennis, which is an aircraft carrier that two friends serve on - and it's also the one I spent a week on last year, underway from from Hawaii to San Diego. 

I went chasing all this stuff down after FilmDivision uploaded a similar image to Flickr.

Sunday, 17 April 2005 01:41:39 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Airscooter1I've often dreamed of having a small, lightweight helicopter-like vehicle to fly to and from work, and it looks like that is actually becoming a possibility in the near future with the AirScooter ultralight recreational vehicle.

So cool - hey, if the AirScooter people want or need someone to learn to fly one of those and then write all about it on their blog for marketing purposes, I'll gladly participate!

From the product's web site:

Question: When is the AirScooter going to be available?

Answer: The AirScooter II is currently undergoing the final testing phase on the AeroTwin Engine. The AirScooter II is expected to be available sometime in 2005, but no firm date has been determined at this time.

Question: What is the price for an AirScooter II?

Answer: No pricing will be available on the AirScooter II until after final product testing is complete and manufacturing plans are finalized.

Cool stuff - Video here (QuickTime) and more pictures here.

(found via Engadget)

Sunday, 17 April 2005 00:07:36 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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ToyotasI'm having a little fun (while taking my coffee intravenously this morning) manually browsing Google Maps and satellite images from around Portland.

There's these incredibly huge cargo ships that have TOYOTA printed in enormous red letters down their sides. They show up in Portland regularly and fill up the parking lot in the picture at right (map link) with brand new cars. From there they are taken all over the states, I am told. And let me tell you, that lot holds a whole bunch of cars.

Toyota_shipWhen you see that big Toyota ship actually coming at you on the Columbia river, it's pretty impressive. Maybe the next satellite pass will catch it in port. I looked down the rest of the river to see if it might be in any images between port and the Pacific, but not to be found. Unfortunately, a large part of the Columbia between Portland and the ocean is only available as low-res images. My house is in a similar predicament, resolution-wise (and no, it doesn't bother me if people know where I live).

Wired News had an article about interesting things in satellite images. Makes me wonder what else is out there in sat-imagery land?

Other stuff UPDATE: Planes in flight

Saturday, 16 April 2005 16:27:52 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 12 April 2005

TechEdVideo4splashScott and Rory's pre-TechEd video series continues:

"In the fourth and final installment of our 'Those are some really weird TechEd Videos Collection (coming soon in DVD, not)' Rory and I learn the meaning of community as we sleep through the TechEd Keynote Address."

Yyyyyyyyyyyyup!

Ummmm.... Uhhh... Yeah... Not really sure what to make of this one, but Rory's right about baby carrots. Anyhow, view it here.

Wednesday, 13 April 2005 04:47:55 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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It's no real surprise that VOOM, a satellite service that provides boatload of HDTV programming to its customers, is about to shut down. Cablevision, the company that owns the subsidiary, is cutting its losses before it's too late.

But it's really too bad that a company that was making its name on hi-def television is going south. With HDTV being such a big thing, a service provider like VOOM, which already has a satellite in operation, seems like such a good thing.

It's unclear what will come of the channels and the satellite space currently used by VOOM when they shut down on April 30th. Hopefully something good will come of all this - HDTV is so late in coming.

Why did VOOM fail? Bad marketing? Before it's time? Cable-company ownership mark of death? Bad company name?

Sorry to see it go...

Voom_gone

Wednesday, 13 April 2005 04:35:10 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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If you're in the market for a home or a place to rent, you should check out this site, which uses craigslist and Google Maps to help you search for a home. This is what web services and open APIs are all about! Thanks to Paul Rademacher for this cool, useful tool:

http://www.paulrademacher.com/housing/

To start your search, begin with your choice of city (craigslist cities are what's represented, of course) and then you choose whether you are looking to buy or rent:

Homemaps1

Next you can choose homes to view on the map, with the key information available in a list to the right. Yellow pointer icons mean the listing has pictures included. You can select your price ranges and you can sort based on price, description, location or date of listing:

Homemaps2
(click for full-sized image)

Once you have found a place you are interested in finding out more about, click the home's pointer or the link in the list, and you'll see details, along with a link to the original complete listing.

Homemaps4
(click for full-sized image)

Nice stuff. We can expect to see more and more of this sort of thing as time goes on and as services make their APIs more and more open and available to the public.

Tuesday, 12 April 2005 14:04:40 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Monday, 11 April 2005

One of my favorite movies of 2004 was just released on DVD. I received mine on Friday, despite the fact that Amazon says it has not been released yet... The release date is supposed to be April 19th. If you know anything about the plot of this movie, this time shift on the DVD release is a complete mind mess.

Anyhow, I bought two copies of Primer from Amazon.com. Because I want to support movies like this and the people that make them. It's awesome.

This movie was made on a $7,000 budget by a first-time movie maker, and it beats the pants off most films made these days. It was even recently selected for Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival.

And one of the best things about Primer is that it takes your brain for a twister of a ride, gives it a real workout. It's fun, it's smart, it's complicated, it's unique. It's a movie people will appreciate when they see it. If they see it. And you should see it.

Tuesday, 12 April 2005 04:24:50 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Wednesday, 06 April 2005

Paul Bausch asks:

Has anyone put rel="nofollow" on the back of a t-shirt yet?

Well, yeah. Sure. And now it's even spelled correctly. Click if ya want one.

nofollow
(corrected the lingo, changed the shirt, oops!)

Thursday, 07 April 2005 03:34:39 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 05 April 2005

Forgive the topic (just skip this entry if you don't care to read semi-graphic bathroom prose), but Doc Searls writes today on his weblog about the bad habits guys have in the men's room - namely not using the urinal for "number one," and making a mess while standing and "using" a stall instead. So, I have to respond. I can't help it, it's like a disease this blogging thing.

Doc bluntly covers the not-lifting-the-seat problem, as well as the hygiene issues:

"But: why piss all over the place? Why not lift the seat? Don't these guys ever sit on the damn toilet? Do they like sitting on somebody else's pee? 

"These questions come to mind for two reasons: 1) because I just witnessed exactly that scene, in a mens' room here at a nice hotel here in San Francisco; and 2) nobody ever talks about the problem.

"So I'm thinking... a substantial percentage of men A) only piss in stalls; and B) don't lift toilet seats. If you're one of those guys, and you blog, can you please explain your position, so to speak, on this issue?"

Well, I can tell you that it still surprises me, even after all these many trips to restrooms over the years, how often I find a bathroom that's a disgusting mess because of people who have no sense of personal responsibility. And that includes places where only adults use the restroom.

But Doc's words make me thing of more.

For example, take the following from Greg's Quiz on Common Sense Men's Room Hygiene, based on experiences of observation over the past couple of weeks:

A guy walks into the men's room, approaches the urinal, and relieves himself. Once he's done he "zips-up" and then...

a) walks straight out the door.
b) walks straight to the sink, washes hands, dries hand on paper towel, and walks out the door.
c) walks straight to the paper towel dispenser, uses paper towel, and walks out the door.

Which action is the most disgusting? Please explain you answer.

Use the comments to relieve yourself of your thoughts and record your answers to the quiz, should you be so inclined.

Wednesday, 06 April 2005 03:58:07 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Land Walker - click to enlarge

Why do I have these images from RoboCop movies going through my mind?

In case anyone's deciding what to get me for my mid-life crisis phase, one of these Land Walkers would do just fine.

This thing's cool. Who the heck has the time to sit around and think this stuff up??? Check out a demo video here.

Crazy, but pretty darn cool. Stick a super-soaker on that and it's party time.

Tuesday, 05 April 2005 17:56:14 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 31 March 2005

What the heck is going on with MSN search? If I search for my name, I get all this random weird stuff. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

The weird thing is, if you read it closely, it's so very close to being true... Hmmm...

Web Results
1-8 of 20733 containing Greg Hughes
(0.23 seconds)
Results

  • Citing ridiculous work hours, Hughes's computer calls it quits

    In a case believed to be the first of its kind, Greg Hughes's work computer has gone on strike. "At first the cursor kept dodging around," an angry Hughes said. "Then it started spontaneously dropping into "hibernate" mode. It's just MALINGERING." Technical specialist Evan Chan agreed. "The poor thing sent out a hundred and forty three emails after four am this morning. It's just had it. Give the little guy a mental health day or something. Nobody could keep Hughes's hours without going crazy...

etc etc etc...

    Friday, 01 April 2005 03:45:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Wednesday, 30 March 2005

    Are you a GTA game fan? Into Legos (like someone I know)?

    Then this is for you.

    Check out Grand Theft Auto - Lego City, in beautiful Quicktime and DivX formats.

    Yeah - it's a Lego-people version of the GTA Vice City trailer...

    Thursday, 31 March 2005 04:10:35 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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    In the latest chapter of what is apparently turning out to be an ongoing video saga that somehow has something to do with the upcoming TechEd conference in June, Scott and Rory drink the Microsoft KoolAid.

    Click on over to see the latest video. Funny. Weird. But hey, it's Rory and Scott, whatcha expect?

    Wednesday, 30 March 2005 23:28:56 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Tuesday, 29 March 2005

    Ninja_bookA friend introduced me to a book recently, and after reading though it I went right out and got my own copy. Actually I bought three, so I would have two to give as gifts. It's called REAL Ultimate Power - The Official Ninja Book, and it's hilarious.

    Says "author" Robert Hamburger:

    "Hi, this book is all about ninjas, REAL NINJAS. This book is awesome. My name is Robert and I can't stop thinking about ninjas. These guys are cool; and by cool, I mean totally sweet."

    From random ninja fantasies to ninja dreams to term papers written both on and off Ritalin, it's a completely random and funny book to read.

    From the intro to the book:

    Dear Everybody,

    This is my last will and testimony. If you find this book, then you should consider me dead meat. I have left the neighborhood, because I am a true live ninja and I have a destiny - total sweetness. You probably don't understand what that is, because you're an idiot. Everybody I know doesn't understand the complete sweetness of ninjas and it hurts me - you hurt me. But don't get me wrong - I don't want your heads to explode. I forgive you, but I just deserve something cooler.

    You can have all my stuff: my shirt, my beach towel, and that bowl. I don't care. But most importantly, I leave you this book so maybe, just maybe, you can understand the way of the ninja - REAL Ultimate Power.

    Farewell dummies,
    Robert Hamburger

    Highly recommended for those who like to flip out and long for total sweetness. Seriously, it's the best $8.96 I've spent in a long time, just for the laughs. Oh and don't forget the web site.

    (And by the way, there's colorful language in both the book and the site, so don't go there if you don't like that kind of stuff)

    Wednesday, 30 March 2005 00:32:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Saturday, 26 March 2005

    Eva_androidWow, researchers like David Hansen at UT-Dallas are doing some robotics work that's both amazing and freakin' creepy. The image on the right is not of a human, it is an interactive, expressive android. It's name is Eva and it's - well - go see for yourself in this Quicktime video:

    Video: Eva talks [Quicktime .mov]

    Hmmm, I am not so sure I like the idea of fake people acting like real people. It's fascinating and interesting, but it also looks like one of those things in science that has the potential to eventually get out of control.

    Or maybe I'm just crazy. Crazy like a pirate.

    [vie Engadget and University of Texas-Dallas]

    Saturday, 26 March 2005 14:52:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Friday, 25 March 2005

    Many in America complain about how much their school systems stink. Yeah, well - it turns out that over in Melbourne, Australia they've got one up on all us Yanks:

         Dookie

    Great name, and such a great opportunity for toilet humor.

    Saturday, 26 March 2005 02:00:23 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Thursday, 24 March 2005

    In the random fun, complete waste of time department (you know you want to, come one, go ahead, click already):

    Eggblog

    Click click click.

    Your entertainment options?

    (via Scoble)

    Thursday, 24 March 2005 13:16:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Tuesday, 22 March 2005

    In a series of semi-serious articles called "Managing Programmers for CEOs," management types (like me) and executive types (not me) can learn such valuable things as how to decipher the secret code programmers use in day-to-day conversation. For example, here are a few phrases taken from the first part of the series, "Decompiling Programmer-Speak."

    (The information contained in these articles is valuable, but the humor is there and you can't help but laugh at parts. By the way, I think developers and development managers are great - I only laugh because I find a lot of it humorous in a nice way.)

    “It’ll be done ASAP.”
    Translation: There is no schedule yet.

    “That feature shouldn’t add any time to the schedule.”
    Translation:  There is no schedule yet.

    “It’s fifty percent done.”
    Translation: It hasn’t been started yet.

    Also included in the series are a couple of other good articles, each containing good information and ideas, with some humor thrown in here and there:

    • Part Two - The Meaning of Done, and How You'll Know When You Get There (Good info about schedules, missing them and what that means to everyone)
    • Part Three - Features Kill Projects (How can you be "done" if the meaning of "done" keeps changing?)

    As is often the case, be sure to read the comments on each article page - in the case of these three articles, the comments are well worth the read, as well.


    Add/Read: Comments [0]
    Humor | Random Stuff | Tech
    Wednesday, 23 March 2005 03:34:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Monday, 21 March 2005

    Jeremy Wright and Mike Hillyer have just launched a new weblog called "The Wealthy Blogger," with the tagline "Money Management Blogging from two Decidedly Un-Wealthy Bloggers."

    It looks like a great new site where conversations can take place about the pains of credit, debt and money management. It's a topic many people should be interested in, whether they actually are or not.

    Anyhow, after reading a pre-release entry on the subject of credit card companies and the draining of today's college student population, I had some thoughts, which I posted there as a comment and am cross-posting here (slightly edited, but I have had more time to think about it since I originally posted my comments - see below).

    But that's not really the point - go check out the site - I think it will be well worth our collective time as the site grows. I've subscribed.

    Anyhow, here is me quoting myself (weird eh?) talking about my view of the reality of "borrowing" money... (edited and enhanced)

    To get you started, please remember one very important thing. Behind the spin and sales lines, there are only two types of people in the world:

    • People who buy money (often mistakenly called "borrowers")
    • People who sell money (often mistakenly called "lenders")

    That said, here are my comments:

    Looking even beyond just the credit card companies, *no* company that "lends" you money is doing you a favor. That's like saying the car salesman is doing you a favor by letting you buy a car.

    The fact of the matter is that when you get a home loan, a credit card, a personal loan, or charge to an installment account, *you* are the customer.

    People need to realize that: When you take out this kind of loan, you are buying money. You are the customer and the lender is the one who is selling you the money in order to make a profit. No lender does anyone a favor, even if it feels like that's what's happening. Just like with the car salesman, the idea is to make it *feel* like it's a favor. But in reality, the profits are theirs. They do those things necessary to maximize their profits and minimize their losses, just like any other business.

    Would you pay $100 in cash for $20 worth of groceries? If you put it on a card, that's possibly what you're doing, unless you pay your full balances within one or two months.

    It used to be that credit cards were held and used for emergencies. Now people use them like they're free money, without thinking. That's too bad, because unless you happen to have a very astute credit mind and the ability to pay off everything you charge within the grace period, you're borrowing from sharks.

    I know two young guys, about 20 to 22 years old, both of whom got credit cards and immediately ran them up buying fancy new computer equipment. One of them talked to me about it before he did it, and I advised him against it, but he did it anyhow. The other acted on his own without advice. Now they're both listening, after realizing how big a deal it is. I explained to both that it would take 30 years (or more with the high rates their cards had) to pay off a computer that would be outdated in one or two years if they made minimum payments. I told them about the virtues of saving and having cash on hand.

    Credit cards are evil for most things, but they can be a blessing for a few things: Purchase protection for big-ticket items is nice to have, and rental car coverage is a good benefit if you travel. But some of the check cards with a logo of the major companies on it will give you similar benefits.

    Which brings me to my final point: If you like using credit cards just because they are convenient and because you can use them to buy things online, you're probably using the wrong kind of card. Shop around for a ATM/Debit/Check/Visa-or-MasterCard type of card, and make sure you get one from a bank that offers the features you want.

    Finally - a reminder: Whether it's a credit-card loan or another kind, the APR of the loan is what determines how much you are paying on an annual basis (compounded - which means you pay interest on the accumulated interest, too, and not just the dollar amount you originally borrowed) for the money you are buying from the lender. Yes - I said *you are buying* money from a lender, and how much you'll pay depends on how long it takes you to pay it off. It's as simple as that. Credit cards are a big-money business for lenders and are a big-loss pig of a deal for borrowers.

    If you have to borrow, like for a car or home purchase, you should always shop for money the same way (or more diligently than) you shop for gas, cars, clothes, airline tickets, electronics, homes and whatnot. No lender is ever doing you a favor - they are selling you money, and they are doing so at a profit. Don't ever forget that.

    See that? I did learn something, after all.

    Monday, 21 March 2005 14:54:50 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Sunday, 20 March 2005

    A different kind of game...

    My friend Broc works at his family business. They have this great big lot and facility in an industrial area of Portland, with a few warehouses and huge shop buildings. Two of the buildings are vacant, and the lot lends itself to hiding, sneaking around and - well, a different kind of organized (and safety-conscious) fun.

    I didn't take the pics, I just lent my camera to another person who ran around trying not to get shot at, while I took an MP5 and defended the base.

    By the way - and before anyone freaks out: While this looks hard-core, realistic and (if it was real) dangerous, it's actually a game/sport called Airsoft, and the people who play are quite safety-conscious and wear proper protective gear. The guns shoot lightweight, tiny plastic balls the size of a BB. Yes, they can hurt if shot too close, but a red welt is about the worst one can expect when wearing the proper protective gear - namely good eye protection. Safety is important, and it's what makes the game fun. You'll hear people calling "safety kill!" if they are too close to shoot safely, for example. Obviously, point-blank shots with plastic BB's will hurt, so everyone's quite careful and adheres to certain rules. Never play games like this without the proper safety gear - anyone who doesn't practice safe play is an idiot, and you should not include them. Trust me, having fun is good, but being cool and safe with others is much more important.

    Ok, anyhow - here's some pictures of what we did last night:

    AirSoft1

    Don't have any train cars available in your local industrial complex, a la Counter-Strike? That's okay, semi trucks are a good stand-in, and besides they have real horns and lights and other things that can throw people off. Plus, the trains are just over on the other side of the fence, so the crashing train sounds are there, even if the cars are not.

    AirSoft2

    Flash photography makes these guys a little more visible than they actually are when you're playing. Imagine nighttime alley lighting and shop lights indoors being turned on and off by whoever happens to have control of the light switches at the time. You never really know when it will be dark or light.

    Davefastaction

    AirSoft4Dave

    Hard Core Dave. Camper, heh. 'Nuf said.

    AirSoft5Cory

    Cory checks the warehouse floor from behind cover. See the light switches? Cory's the master of lighting tactics.

    AirSoft3

    The attacking team posed for a photo. All us defenders should have done the same. Doh! There was 12 or more of them and 8 of us on the defending team.

    DaveGregCoryAirSoft

    Three posers of us from the defending team: Dave, me and Cory. Dave and Cory were a little more effective than me - I got safety-killed around a doorway corner right at the beginning of the first game, and got one "kill" in the second game before I got exposed when the lights came on and I was in the clear. Dave got several, and Cory got a couple too.

    That was fun. I discovered I definitely need to go and buy glasses (or contacts maybe) again (I broke my last pair and have not had them replaced because I am lazy that way). Gun sights just aren't as easy to see as they used to be!

    Sunday, 20 March 2005 20:52:25 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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    It's windy and a bit chilly today. But the flowers are cool. Spring's sprung.

    Crocus5

    Sunday, 20 March 2005 20:09:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Wednesday, 16 March 2005

    Videosplash2Out of the toilet and into the conference room, the video saga of Rory and Scott's lead-up to TechEd continues.

    Rory and Scott - Two really high speed programmers...

    Thank God for WS-PPT

    Enjoy.


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    Wednesday, 16 March 2005 22:06:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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    I clicked through a few blog posts and comment author links (since their comments were interesting to me) and ended up on Dave McClure's weblog (again). There at the top, I saw his latest entry - that SimplyHired.com has just been launched.

    So, I clicked on over. It's fast, easy, nifty and cool. Within a few seconds I did a search for keywords in my area and found current job listings from Monster, America's Job Bank, Career Center, USA Jobs, HotJobs and more.

    Search for a phrase by putting it in quotes. You can see the age of the listing under each item, as well as where it's from. When you click on a link, you go to the original listing.

    Fast, simple and it works. Not bad. They even have a blog.

    And I like the "no results" response:

    "Dang. We didn't find anything for you.

    "You're probably a good speller, but check the description or location terms you entered. You can also try using some other keywords, or enter fewer words to expand your search

    "It's also possible we made an error somewhere. Sometimes computers are human too. Sorry."

    Wednesday, 16 March 2005 13:32:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Tuesday, 15 March 2005

    Jeffrey McManus puts it so well, I won't even try this time. I've commented on sales calls before.

    For me the past two weeks have been a complete mess of cold calls and "followups" from salespeople that seem to think their products will save my life or something. I can't get anything done. It's been awfully tempting to just kill my outside extension...

    McManus: "So many sales droids keep making the same mistakes, I thought I'd put together a handy primer on how not to sell crap to me."

    Jeffrey's right on. Make your calls worth our while. Please. Read it here.

    (found via Scoble's link blog)

    Wednesday, 16 March 2005 04:08:05 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Monday, 14 March 2005

    bookthisblog.comA guy named Matt has an idea. He reads blogs, and realized that sometimes he'd like to have an analog version - like one on paper with a cover and bound on the left.

    And so, he come up with bookthisblog.com

    That's a cool idea, I think. There are a few blogs I'd really like to read on paper, one's that I'd hang onto for sure, such as:

    I'm sure I'll think of others. Plus, I'd like to be able to "burn" my own blog as a book now and then, maybe once a year, just for keepsake purposes. My family would probably like it, too. And there are megabloggers who I am sure would find a use.

    There *is* a lot to be said for something you can hold in your hands, something of physical substance. Cool idea, Matt - Make it happen!

    Tuesday, 15 March 2005 02:43:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Sunday, 13 March 2005

    I've spent part of the last couple days walking around marinas on the Columbia River here in Oregon looking at boats - boats in slips, boats on the water, boats for sale. I even stopped by a boat dealer in Beaverton yesterday and got accosted by the Boat Salesman. Just like the car salesmen...

    I have boat fever recently. Want boat - Must resist. But then again, the more I look, the more it makes sense. It would be a great way to get out and have fun on the weekends.

    Good thing I have to work the next five days. I need the separation.

    On the other hand, I've almost decided it's time for me to graduate out of the motorcycle period of my life. My back, which is almost certainly going to require more surgery, is keeping me from riding it in this freaking beautiful weather, and the loan payment plus insurance is money that I could be using more effectively, since the motorcycle is just sitting there. It used to be my weekend fun, but that was a while ago.

    I really should sell it. But I love riding that bike. I just wish I could ride it without killing my back.

    Boats or bikes or none of the above?

    Ahhh, decisions...

    Sunday, 13 March 2005 22:52:18 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Saturday, 12 March 2005

    Found via UtterlyBoring: The Church Sign Generator

    That explains a lot.

    Saturday, 12 March 2005 14:37:47 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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    Got a PowerPoint presentation that just doesn't fulfill its "Power" requirements?

    Cliff Atkinson, author of the book "Beyond Bullet Points," has written a post seeking volunteers who want to take their PowerPoint presentations from typical and run-of-the-mill variety to something truly effective and powerful:

    "Are you ready to transform one of your presentations Beyond Bullet Points? If you have an existing PowerPoint file and you want to liberate the great story buried deep beneath all those lines of text, drop me a note and tell me about it.

    "I'll review the applications and select a few presentations that represent a range of professions and purposes. If your presentation is selected, all you need is a copy of my book to guide you through the details of the process, along with your critical thinking and creative skills. The other resources we'll use are free, and we'll find graphics from free or low-cost sources, or we'll make them ourselves.

    "The one condition is that you are fine with making all of your presentation materials freely available for other people to see through the course of the public makeover - we'll even ask blog readers for their comments and suggestions."

    Cool idea! If you're interested, contact Cliff though his weblog - the post is here.

    Saturday, 12 March 2005 14:15:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Friday, 11 March 2005

    Videosplash1Okay, this has to be one of the funniest damn things I have seen in a while on a weblog. Geek humor in the toilet. Literally.

    Rory and Scott are in a video, a sort of a pre-TechEd thing. And it's freakin' great. Expect more in the future, too.

    You have to go watch it.

    Like, go watch it right now.


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    Saturday, 12 March 2005 01:40:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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     Thursday, 10 March 2005

    CG has sure come a long way since 1977. The new movie trailer for Star Wars - Revenge of the Sith just played for the fist time at the end of The OC on television. Looks interesting.

    I can't say it got my blood pumping or made me jump up and down and cheer, but the saga concludes with this one, so it better be good!

    Next on the agenda, CSI is coming on right now, and although I don't normally watch it, Wil Wheaton's got a role on the show. Just saw his name on the screen in the opening credits. Coolio - Gotta go watch.

    Update: Hey Wil - you play crazy and homeless pretty darn well!! Well-done, congrats!


    Friday, 11 March 2005 03:09:51 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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    The Game Developer's Conference is always an interesting even with lots of cool news for game geeks to get all anticipatory over.

    Microsoft's released some screen caps showing off the user interface for the next-generation XBOX Guide - an entertainment gateway for users. The also describe the future XBOX experience: "games, friends, music, and more."

    Screenshot 2