Thursday, 30 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

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


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.

Add/Read: Comments [0]
Random Stuff | Tech
Wednesday, 29 March 2006 23:21:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 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.

Add/Read: Comments [0]
Random Stuff
Thursday, 23 March 2006 18:53:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 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.

Add/Read: Comments [0]
Random Stuff | Tech
Wednesday, 22 March 2006 12:32:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

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.


Add/Read: Comments [1]
Random Stuff
Wednesday, 22 March 2006 12:13:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

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.

Add/Read: Comments [0]
Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Wednesday, 22 March 2006 11:42:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Saturday, 18 March 2006

Sure, it's nothing new, but this is the first flight I've been on that has Connexion by Boeing service on board. It's kinda cool - Using my WiFi card I get an access point on the plane that in turn lets me get to the Internet via satellite service.

Instant messaging works and obviously I can post to my blog. Latency is about what you'd expect from satellite service, but all in all this is a great way to get some stuff done on an eight hour flight.

By the way - I forgot to bring my digital camera with me on this trip to Germany. Go figure. If anyone has any suggestions on a digital camera to pick up over there (I'll have to figure out the power plug stuff when I get back) let me know. Can't believe I did that, heheh...

Speaking of getting stuff done, time to do some (real) work... I even got a VPN connection to the office - nice!

Add/Read: Comments [3]
Geek Out | Tech
Saturday, 18 March 2006 15:56:27 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback