Saturday, November 01, 2008

NaNoWriMo 2008

NaNoWriMoIt's time again for the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. One month. Fifty thousand words. Ready?

I tried last year but gave up at just over 6,000 words. I don't think I'm going to try it again this year, but I might. Work is much more intense this year and I've got some homeschooling challenges. But busy is good. It makes you more productive.

If you've ever thought you had a novel sitting around in your head and wanted to try to put it down on paper, this is a good time to start. Fail or succeed, it'll be over in 30 days.

There is also a young writer's program for kids. That's what we're more likely to try this year.

Monday, October 13, 2008

North Georgia Adventure

Well, as I promised 11 months ago, we haven't been to Disney yet this year. The problem is, we haven't been anywhere else. So this week we're fixing that. We're headed to North Georgia for the week. A week of car-camping, sleeping in a tent, playing in the woods, seeing waterfalls, Oktoberfest in Helen, Georgia, trees that actually change color, fishing, and cooking on backpacking stoves.

It's a full moon this week and isn't supposed to rain while we're there, so the kids will get to see how bright a full moon really is when you're out in the woods. If the bugs cooperate, we might even be sleeping outside of the tent.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Windows Explorer slowdown on video files

I've been getting some frustrating behavior from (File) Explorer in Windows XP while working on a video project. Selecting an AVI file spikes the CPU and locks the file for 30 seconds or more. If it's a corrupt AVI file, my computer can hang for several minutes. I finally tracked down a way to disable whatever preview or statistics Explorer is building. I'm not sure what else it impacts, but so far it's been great. Now I can move and delete video clips without an aggravating pause.

To remove media preview, run: regsvr32 /u shmedia.dll
To restore media preview, run: regsvr32 shmedia.dll

Friday, September 19, 2008


Friendfeed changed their logo to honor International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Arrrrsome!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Removed Adsense

I removed Google Adsense ads from this blog. They didn't perform at all anyways, but Google was usually confused about what this blog is about so I'd get almost random ads.

The ads that put me over the edge were all the Vietnamese "dating" site ads that appeared on my post about Kim Phuc. As funny as it was to see a "Meet hot Vietnamese girls" ad there, it just wasn't right. So I ripped them out.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

NOS Energy Drink

I love the packaging on this energy drink. I don't think I could ever drink it, but it's an awesome brand license. There's supposedly an aluminum bottle package available too but I haven't been able to find it in stores.

For those of you that didn't grow up around classic muscle cars or the whiny little things kids drive today, NOS is Nitrous Oxide Systems. NOS builds nitrous oxide systems for race cars. It's that little red button you see in movies that makes the car suddenly go even faster and blue flames shoot out of the exhaust pipe. NOS built a brand image with their blue bottles and orange logo that's so recognizable that it's now licensed to other products.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Georgia Tech Football Free Streaming Audio

I tracked down a reasonable radio station (South 107) that streams Georgia Tech football games live. The stream even works on my Sprint Palm Centro so I can listen almost anywhere.

Update 11/1: Some links are still working, but nobody seems to be streaming Georgia Tech-Florida State today. Maybe it's a Georgia law that Georgia Tech can't be on the radio on the day of the Florida-Georgia game.


Some Georgia Tech apparel.

If that doesn't work, maybe Live 101.9 FM will.

WREK may carry the game live too, or you might get a 60 minute set of Chinese drums:

Mix Tape USB Drive

Digital Mix TapeThis Digital Mix Tape is awesome. It's just a small USB drive wrapped in a cassette tape packaging. The idea is that you put together a MP3 mix for someone just like us really old people used to do on cassette tapes. You could even make your own from old cassettes and all those small USB drives you end up with.

It's also a good piece of marketing. I could easily see someone using this idea for a mailer. (Via RetroThing)

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Story of the Fail Whale

If you use Twitter at all, you've see the Fail Whale. Recently I came across the story behind the now famous image and an interview with the original artist, Yiying Lu. You can now even order a tshirt or a onesie with the image.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Microsoft Photosynth goes live

Microsoft PhotosynthMicrosoft Photosynth is now live. Or sort of. It's been in "static mode" most of the day, not allowing anyone to create new synths. Hopefully it'll get back up soon. I've even shot a couple suitable photosets over the past year thinking I'd throw them into Photosynth if it ever came out to play with. Hopefully soon I'll have them up soon and you can see them here.

If you've never seen or heard of it, check out the sample synths they're serving up and go watch Blaise's talk at TED or a deeper dive on Channel 9. It's amazing. Here is a good simple synth someone created today, using just some snapshots around his office.

This is the kind of thing that needs to be on Microsoft commercials, not Jerry Seinfeld or Folgers coffee switch gimmicks.

Free Shipping Over $75 at Calumet Photographic

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Amazon Goes Green

Amazon just launched Amazon Green, their effort to market just products customers selected as the best green products. There are some overpriced things like the $10 five-pack of grocery sacks that are 99 cents each at every store I go into, but I'm sure there are some interesting things.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Baby Bike Ride

iBert Safe-T Front Mounted Child Bicycle SeatOne day this week I almost rear-ended the car in front of me when I glimpsed a woman riding towards me on a bike with her toddler balanced on the handlebars. What kind of idiot would do that? About the time I almost locked up my brakes, I realized it was one of these new "kangaroo" bike child seat things that puts the kid up front. This one's an iBert but there several other manufacturers.

I think this is another one of those products that only get bought for first-born kids.

(Photo courtesy of jinglejammer.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Girl in the Window

If you haven't seen the St. Petersburg Times feature, The Girl in the Window, you're missing what could easily be their best story in years. I will warn you that it's a very emotional story about an extremely neglected little girl.

I'm not even sure what to say or feel after reading it. On the one hand, I want to be angry at her birth mother, like so many others are, but I realize how sick the woman must be. I'm probably most angry at neighbors, authorities, and anyone else that could have intervened sooner.

The adoptive family is in for a heck of a ride. I know with all the attention they're getting now, they'll get some financial assistance. I won't be one bit surprised to see them hit Oprah. That's great ... for them.

But what gets lost in all of this is the fact that there are hundreds of other kids right here in Tampa Bay hoping to find their own adoptive family. These are the kids that nobody wants. People want to adopt babies, not pre-teens or older.

But there are these hero families out there, quietly doing their best to fix broken kids. I'm proud to know several of them. I know one that adopted a girl that was not just neglected, but downright abused in ways that make me so much angrier than this story. She's made tremendous progress. Another family has adopted four children from the Heart Gallery.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

What the World Eats

Earlier this year, we checked out Material World, a book of family profiles from around the world. Each family has a short interview, some stats, and a photo where they moved every belonging in their household outside. There's a stark contrast between many cultures and not just between Americans and the poorest countries.

Peter Menzel has a newer book out, Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, that shows each family's weekly food intake. Time has a number of the photos on their site. I like how the Beijing family has KFC.

Menzel's books make an excellent addition to fill out general social studies in a homeschool curriculum or just to enhance your kid's education. We also have DK's A Life Like Mine, which shows how children live around the world.

Monday, July 21, 2008

This I Believe - Kim Phuc

A couple weeks ago I heard this story on NPR and it still amazes me on many levels. It's the story of Phan Thi Kim Phuc, the Vietnamese girl that was so badly burned by napalm. The photo of her running naked is one of the most famous photos of the war.

The NPR This I Believe segment is the story of her journey, including forgiveness and her acceptance of Christ. That's surprising enough, in a day when whole families split for decades over the pettiest of things.

I was surprised to learn that there was also film of the attack and aftermath. I'd never seen it. I warn you that it's graphic, especially if you think just her clothes got burned and don't realize that she's burned so badly that her skin is already falling off.

Her story also reminds me that Lies My Teacher Told Me reported that out of the history books reviewed, only one book included just a single one of the below five famous photos of the Vietnam war. The other books didn't include a single one. These are the photos I grew up seeing. They're the ones you picture when you even think of the war. They are the photos that caused AP editors and news directors all over the country to make hard decisions about showing nudity and graphic violence. The ones our parents saw in the newspapers and on television at night. The ones that shaped their opinion of that war and any to come. The ones our kids are apparently growing up without ever seeing.

If they're old enough, you should ask your kids if they've ever seen any of these famous photos or the stories behind them. Or heck, maybe you've never even seen them yourself.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Diet Coke and Mentos "Failure"

This year, for Van Dyke's Sports Camp VBS, we're doing a more general "Science Olympiad" instead of just Robotics. Tonight we played with Diet Coke and Mentos. I built a half-dozen nozzle rigs like this. The one in this video has a diagonal slot cut into it. The pressure from the Diet Coke was enough to knock the rig over and the top of the nozzle popped off. Then the bottle took off across the parking lot. It was cool enough that we spent the rest of the time trying to get another bottle to take off horizontally, without much success.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Your Shower Curtain Might Be Bad for You - US News and World Report

It's kind of amazing that all the news agencies picked up the "Your Shower Curtain Could KILL YOU" story, but nobody seems to be concerned about the outgassing from all the soft PVC toys we give our kids, like inflatable furniture.

Your Shower Curtain Might Be Bad for You - US News and World Report

Monday, June 02, 2008


Over the weekend I moved this blog's address to It's still hosted by Blogger, but it just has a different URL. Now if I could just get going and update my website...

Thursday, May 29, 2008


One of the things we picked up at this weekend's FPEA home schooling convention is a pair of KidsWealth packages. KidsWealth is sort of like Rich Dad, Poor Dad or Cashflow for Kids, but it works off of the real money of your kids regular allowance. Kids use an envelope system to allocate their monthly pay into different categories, including Wealth, which puts their money to work earning at least savings account interest, and Angel, where they donate to charitable causes.

I'll have to check back in with an update in a few months to see how the kids do with the program. We debated it, but got a kit for each kid, even though our youngest is only 4. But I've even joked that he should start a retirement savings account now.

On a marketing front, the whole package and website are very slickly done. The graphics looked so much like Hot Shot Business from Disney/the Kauffman Foundation that I thought they had a tie-in, but they don't. KidsWealth quite possibly had the best graphic design of the whole show. Their booth had slick graphics too, but there was surprisingly little energy to it. Just two piles of their shrink-wrapped boxes and an open sample or two. It would have been good at a trade show or a business expo, but at a consumer-level event like that, they needed more of a hook to draw in parent educators. Money quizzes and games, especially for kids, would have helped a lot.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Detour Water Night

Tonight was the last night of Detour. For the third year in a row, we ended with Water Night. Water slides, soapy slip-n-slides, sprinklers, squirt guns, etc. This year we had the addition of a fire engine, thanks to Michael Kelzer and Oldsmar Fire Rescue. He sprayed 2500 gallons of water on the kids. Well, kids and adults. I think between me and Julie, we caught at least 500 gallons. "Did you feel like a big rain cloud was following you all night?" He also sprayed the kids down with foam (baby shampoo).

No major issues. A couple girls that didn't meet the "no two piece suits or bikinis" rule. A couple bumped knees and heads, especially on the slip-n-slide. Someone apparently took the wrong shoes home and lost-n-found gained a half-dozen pairs of shoes, some towels, and some assorted clothing. A few families showed up not expecting Water Night, but we've been promoting it for weeks through almost every channel we had available. Even the little kids seemed to handle the night well. Lots of extra volunteers helped out, which made it run as smoothly as it's ever run.

Thanks to everyone involved. I really need to do at least one wrapup post for the year or the last two years, to review what did and didn't work as we tried different takes on children's ministry workshop rotations.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

How Stuff Works: Flint and Steel

Photo by MerriwetherSomehow I added "look up how flint and steel actually creates sparks" to my todo list in the past year. Now I know. I knew the flint wasn't actually that important and other stones could do it (or a grinder.) It turns out that the only "magic" is breaking off small enough particles of iron. The iron rapidly oxidizes when air hits it. If the new particle is small enough, the heat from the oxidation is enough to ignite tinder. Chemistry at work.

(Photo by Merriwether, who's first camping trip with his kids is about how I think most of our vacations would go if we didn't live right next to Disney World.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Felony charges for peanut allergy prank

A 13 year old student is being charged with a felony (wanton endangerment) after intentionally putting a crumbled peanut butter cookie into the lunchbox of another student with known peanut allergies.

Good. I hope that we see more criminal charges for kids that chase peanut allergic kids with peanut butter sandwiches. That's way beyond typical bullying or teasing. To a peanut allergic kid, it's just as dangerous as chasing them with a knife or gun.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Nalgene drops polycarbonate and adds stainless steel

Nalgene is phasing out their flagship polycarbonate bottles over the BPA concerns. They've got a new line of bottles made from Eastman Tritan, a newer plastic. It'll be interesting to see if this leads to all the knockoff polycarbonate bottles eventually disappearing from stores.

Nalgene also has a new website, Nalgene Choice, that helps people pick the material for their Nalgene brand bottle. What's cool is that they feature the Guyot Designs stainless steel bottle. It has a Nalgene brand label on it but it looks like they didn't acquire the company. Hopefully that means we'll start seeing Guyot's bottles in more stores.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How to listen to Overdrive audio books on the Palm Centro

I've finally been able to use Pocket Tunes my Sprint Palm Centro listen to free audio books from OverDrive, available through our local library's website. This was the hardest thing to set up on my Centro but I got it working and it makes a great audio book player. This same setup should be able to listen to any DRM-protected media that Pocket Tunes supports.

First you have to get the OverDrive player working on your PC, which can be a pain. I had it working on my desktop just 3 months ago but now the Windows Media Player DRM is broken again. I did have it working on my laptop though, so I used it.

You can't just use Windows Media Player to copy the audiobook files to the Centro's microSD card though, or Pocket Tunes won't get the media rights. The trick is to sync directly with your Centro while Pocket Tunes is running. Then the Centro appears to Windows as an MTP device, like any other Windows-happy media player.

But before you can do that, you will probably have to install a driver for PocketTunes/MTP on your computer. If you bought Pocket Tunes and installed it to your Palm, you might already have the driver installed, but the Sprint Centro comes with it already installed so you need to get the piece for your PC. The driver is inside the PocketTunes update install on their downloads page. You can go through the whole install, including synching with your Centro if you want to, or you can just install the driver on Windows by unzipping the install package, right-clicking on mtpptunespalmone.inf and picking "Install" from the menu. That will install the driver.

Now if you start Pocket Tunes on your Centro, then connect it to your PC with the sync cable, the Centro will appear in Windows as a portable media player. You can now use Windows Media Player to sync content to your Centro and the media rights should be transferred properly.

I tried to get the same thing working on my Verizon Treo 650 a few months ago, but never could. I assumed that Pocket Tunes needed a data connection to acquire the rights to play the media, but I don't think it does. At the time I didn't know about the trick of using Pocket Tunes as a MTP device and syncing with it that way. That probably would make it work. I need to go back and try it. Maybe I can even get it working on my old Zire 71.

The rewards for all of this work? Well, Pocket Tunes is a great media player for audio books. You can bookmark exact spots within the tracks. Being able to click and drag instead of fast forwarding through the track also helps. Another plus is that just like my Sansa Express player, the Centro with Pocket Tunes doesn't appear to realize that the media has expired. So instead of having to race to finish a whole book in just a week or constantly checking the same title out over and over, I've got plenty of time.

ThinkGeek - Cool Computing Stuff and Mods

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Water level at Lake Rogers ParkToday is Earth Day. Back in January, there was some buzz about this being the year that people go "green." Maybe. We've made some progress but haven't taken huge steps.

Gas prices are obviously driving some people to more environmentally friendly choices. When I bought my Honda CR-V three years ago I was already concerned enough about gas prices that I seriously considered a Civic or Accord or even a hybrid. But with big adults, two growing kids and our hobbies, I couldn't make it work. The Ford Escape hybrid was a possible alternative but I couldn't justify the additional cost at the time. I get just over 24 mpg most of the time, with a combination of driving when there's less traffic and things like not accelerating slower than I want to and staying at or below 60 mph on the Veteran's. The leap from 60 to 70 mph takes quite a bit more fuel, especially with a taller vehicle.

I also now telecommute regularly. About a third of our group works from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays and some even more than that. It isn't as big an impact for me as for others since work is only about a 34 mile round trip, but saves about 3 gallons of gas a week. Plus I get more done with less stress. Even on a day that I go into the office, I usually work from home for an hour or two in the morning first, which lets me skip most of the morning traffic jams. I'm not so good at avoiding the evening ones.

I've almost completely stopped buying bottled water, except for trips or parties. I still drink it at work because it's free and the tap water tastes like an old swimming pool. I've considered bringing in a filter pitcher like we use at home, but haven't. I stopped drinking caffeine for lent and have barely had anything to drink except water ever since. At home we've gone from overfilling a recycling bin every week with empty bottles (mostly my 2L Diet Mountain Dews) to filling one about every 3 weeks (mostly the kids' milk).

I'm trying to make some progress on cutting our electricity consumption. With two young kids that have to sleep with a light on, me working from home, homeschooled kids, always-on computers, and all our gadgets, it's hard. I'm trying to replace some bulbs with compact fluorescents but I'd really rather hold out until LED bulbs come down in price.

Our yard is about as environmentally "green" as I can get away with. With no sprinkler system, much of the St. Augustine grass died off a couple years ago when it was really dry. Now there's a mix of Bahia, some really sturdy St. Augustine, dirt, and random weeds. I haven't watered the yard in years and only put down chemicals about three times a year. Part of it is just being cheap, but I honestly feel incredibly guilty about spraying thousands of gallons a year of purified drinking water pumped from deep aquifers on my yard just to make it greener.

Finally, last week Creative Loafing came out with their list of 100 ways to go green right now. We're doing pretty good on some of those, but there are some ideas I want to try.

#4 is to stop reading print newspapers and magazines. We struggle with that one. I read almost everything online, but we still get a newspaper and several magazines which carry almost all of their content online.

#24 is to shade your air conditioner. I hadn't thought of that but I might have to try it if I can figure out how to do it without the homeowners bugging me.

#46 is the free rainwater barrel program that the state/county offers. I'd consider doing it, especially with my guilt over lawn-watering, but you have to go to a class first and they're all booked through summer. Too much work. If I could go pick up one and a video, I'd do it.

#60 is to use to eliminate all the catalogs you get but don't want. We really need to do that. We must get 2-3 a day at this point.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Today I went to TARCFest XIX, the 19th bi-annual tailgate that the Tampa Amateur Radio Club has had in their now 10-year-old "new" facility. It's so cool to see them still motoring along. I can remember standing in the gutted shell of the building and talking with guys about about the potential to have a tailgate there to raise money for the club.

I had fun. Took the boy, who most of the hams haven't seen for a year or two. Traded some of my junk for cash. Gave away even more junk. Saw some guys I haven't seen in a year or two. It was good.

A new (to TARC) vendor showed up, Blue Star Antennas. They're a small antenna shop, run by hams, that builds a couple designs. They have super-sturdy aluminum VHF/UHF beams and J poles that remind me a bit of Arrow Antennas. They also make a portable HF vertical (above) that looks a lot like the PAC-12 design, but it has an sliding coil tap instead of a clip.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


I saw these SnapCapp things at the Florida State Fair this year. It's like a plastic bottle top that snaps onto the top of a aluminum soda/pop/soft drink/Coke can. That converts the can into a resealable bottle. Great for cutting down on spills, especially around computers. I didn't think about it at the time, but they're also better for the environment than plastic bottles. You reuse the plastic part over and over while recycling the aluminum cans, which are much more recyclable than paper or plastic. They're available now from a couple websites and a distributor.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

NWN Portrait Changes

This is kind of funny. The Neverwinter Nights game once pushed out some new artwork in an update because several of the original versions were derived from celebrity photos.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Google Steet View comes to Tampa

Google Street View now has imagery from Tampa and St. Petersburg. They covered quite a bit of the area, even well outside of the City of Tampa.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Web 2.0

Rob ran down a list of the Web 2.0 apps he uses.

If I run down my browser's bookmarks toolbar, I use:
  • Gmail - my primary non-work email. I also keep quick notes as drafts and backup smaller files by emailing them to myself.
  • Google Reader - I check Reader more often than Gmail. I follow about 20 low-traffic blogs and other RSS/Atom sources in near real-time and about 100 other feeds that I scan onces or twice a day. It's been a great timesaver compared to just bouncing around my top 50 bookmarks randomly. I also "star" things to read later if I'm short on time and share things that I used to email people. (You can see my shared feed over here somewhere on the right side of the page ---> )
  • Facebook - I follow a feed of my friend's activities. Normally that wouldn't be too many but a ton of adults from our church are on Facebook. Tipping Point. Otherwise it's a few scattered people I used to know (include Rob, who I went to high school with and hadn't seen or talked to in 20+ years). I otherwise pretty much ignore it. I don't do most of the apps and I don't do a lot of Twitter-like microblogging. I did develop a small sample app but the Facebook servers are so touchy that the timeouts were making me nuts. I might still get back to building an app.
  • Google Calendar - We have a Google calendar for each family member so I can see at a glance who's got what. Plus I get fed a few other calendars like the NFL schedule. I don't sync it with anything though. I do use SMS to interact with it.
  • Google Docs - I mostly use this to share docs with my wife. I also keep some docs I use for children's ministry. Otherwise all my docs are on a PC or in email.
  • Blogger - I like it a lot better than tweaking Wordpress and having to keep up with their patch cycle. Especially since we're on GoDaddy for hosting now and they're a pretty weak host for Wordpress. I can do 90% of what I want on Blogger with little effort and it keeps getting better.
  • Flickr - I upload almost every single photo I take to my Flickr Pro account. I'd much rather use Picasa Web (Google Photos) but the same amount of storage would cost me a fortune. I do use Picasa Web for some photos though. I really need to shuffle things so my Flickr Pro is just for backups and use Picasa Web and a free Flickr account for sharing.
  • Netflix - We juggle 3 DVDs at a time and 4 queues, one for each family member. Plus the kids can usually watch something they want with streaming.
  • LinkedIn - It's exploding with people. In the last month I've seen more people I know join than I used to see in six months. It's the first place I go to look for people I know in any technology field.
  • Traineo - Tracking my weight loss and exercise.
  • LibraryElf - Monitors our local library account of every family member so I automatically know when books are coming due or holds are available. I get updates by RSS, SMS and email.
  • Twitter - Still not quite sure how I will use Twitter. I originally used it to collect some other RSS sources, like my blog posts, but FriendFeed is better for that. I also used to mirror tweets to my Facebook status but I stopped that. Now I just post things that aren't worth a whole blog entry.
  • FriendFeed - I'm starting to use this as a macro view into all my different RSS feeds that I feel like sharing.
  • Mint - Tracks our spending. It's still rough around the edges, but it's got a lot of potential.

Friday, March 28, 2008

CMD as Local System Account

The other day I was doing some testing with different Windows accounts and needed to run a bunch of tests as the Local System Account. Normally I can use runas to get a CMD window for each user I need to test with. But Local System Account is special and you can't just do a runas for it. I don't know why I didn't think of these, but there are at least two ways to get a CMD.exe running as Local System Account, setting it up as a service or using an "at" command.

Find out what's on Clearance at ThinkGeek!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Classic Looney Tunes

Lately the kids have been watching one of the classic Looney Tunes DVDs every day. I noticed that YouTube has a lot of Looney Tunes shorts so it makes it easy to find ones you remember.

Two of my favorites are a series where the the bulldog inflicts different punishments on the cat. "No! Not Happy Birthday! Not HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!" Those shorts are Early to Bet and It's Hummer Time. Those also reminded me of Bully for Bugs, the one where Bugs Bunny battles a raging bull and sets up the Rube Goldberg-esque finale.

The we had to watch Hair Raising Hare and Water, Water Every Hare, two of the big red hairy monster shorts.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

NIV Study Bible

Book CoverIBS has the book introductions from the NIV Study Bible online for free. They give a good background and overview of each book. It's helpful to understand the likely author, intended audience, and timing of each writing. Other study sources do sometimes disagree with the NIV Study Bible, but it's a decent starting point.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tool for new artists: AmieStreet

I saw AimeStreet in a recent article. It makes it easy for new artists to distribute digital music. From the buyer's side, a track ranges from free to 98 cents. The price rises as it becomes more popular. They can buy individual tracks or whole albums at once.

From the artist's side, they make 70% of each sale (after it sells $5). I'm not sure but that seems like a decent payout rate considering that there are no up-front fees and it isn't an exclusive agreement so you can sell through other channels. You only get paid quarterly though.

There doesn't seem to be an affiliate program for the site but you'd think they'd consider one. You can embed a player in other sites to promote artists you like for free. I picked some random Christian artist to embed below. It's better than the current best-selling artist on the site.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Another blow for Sweetbay

Sweetbay leaked 4.2 million credit card numbers, probably including mine.

By my earlier prediction, the one by me has 16 more months before it'll be out of business.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Canon SD1000 Firmware Replacement

Canon SD1000I saw the other day that there's a build of the CHDK replacement firmware for the Canon SD1000. (Look for the IXUS70 model, which is the same camera.) I've had CHDK for my Canon S3 IS for a while. It enables some interesting things like shooting in RAW mode, but I actually haven't found RAW that useful on the S3. But now that I carry my SD1000 almost everywhere I go, it's great to have the same firmware for it.

For me the coolest thing it gives you is the ability to script your photo taking. You can have a script do bracketing on most of the variables. The script I like the most is interval shooting. I can easily shoot 90 photos at 1 minute intervals, capturing something like a sunset. It goes way beyond the time lapse video setting on the SD1000. Or I can have it automatically shoot kids at church at about a shot every other second.

There are even scripts (that I haven't tried) that do things like shooting when the scene changes, essentially doing motion detection.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

WPF install problems

If you want to install the "Visual Studio 2005 extensions for .NET Framework 3.0 (WCF & WPF), November 2006 CTP" *after* you have installed .NET 3.0 Service Pack 1 you will receive a message saying

"Setup has detected that a prerequisite is missing. To use Visual Studio 2005 extensions for .NET Framework 3.0 (WCF & WPF), November 2006 CTP you must have the .NET Framework 3.0 runtime installed. Please install the .NET Framework 3.0 runtime and restart setup."

In this you either need to

1) uninstall 3.0sp1, reinstall 3.0, install vsexwfx, reinstall 3.0sp1


2) or add the following value to your registry

"DisplayName"="Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0"

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Game Master

I don't want to be the only geek not blogging about this. Gary Gygax died the other day. I think half the people reading this know exactly who that is. For the other half, Gary was the primary creator of the Dungeons and Dragons game.

I've read a lot of geeks' stories of how they got into playing Dungeons and Dragons so maybe it's time for mine. I got the original Basic set for my 11th birthday. I read through the rules but I couldn't quite understand how to play this new game for a while. But I finally got going and soon had a fairly regular set of kids playing: me, my brother, my best friend Avron and sometimes his brother David. Some other kids from the neighborhood and school came and went, but for a couple years you could probably find at least the three of us playing D&D every week or two.

It was really the beginning of my sort of "double life" that I've lived at different times. Throughout middle school, you had about a 50-50 chance of finding me inside playing D&D with one set of friends or outside riding a BMX bike or playing the sport of the day with a different set of friends. It's interesting that neither group of friends could understand the other. The BMX guys would never understand how excited I was that my halfling thief was the one that outsmarted and defeated Strahd von Zarovich. My gaming buddies would never understand why a Torker or Profile was so much better than a Huffy. In a couple more years I was splitting my time between playing high school football and hanging out with band/car/metal-head guys. I guess I kind of still do it today. I know most of the guys I know from work or other places will never understand why I do children's ministry. And I know some of my friends from church are astonished that I've actually drank a few beers in my life or that I used to spend my nights and weekends wading through fire scenes for the Red Cross.

I learned a lot through and thanks to the game. Probability of course, with all the die rolls. I learned a lot of history and eventually some anthropology. Ecology, civil engineering, city planning, sociology, etc. You see, I was a realism nut. I always wanted adventures I created to make sense. By the time I went to college, I had crafted a small dungeon adventure that all made sense. The structures had 100 years of history and features like ventilation shafts. All the creatures in it had a purpose and a viable way to feed themselves. The local village had factions, some religious, and a power struggle. A lot of work, but it made me learn and think a lot. Finally, like most software developers my age, my first computer programs generated characters and I always wanted to build the ultimate computerized dungeon.

Somehow I don't think I ever played a single session of D&D in college. It's a shame, really, since there were some great guys like V gaming there. My group did play a lot of hearts, Illuminati, quarters and some Car Wars, but very little role playing.

I did keep collecting though. I've always kept collecting. That's another personality trait I can maybe trace to D&D. I haven't bought anything in almost 15 years but I do have an almost complete collection of 1st edition AD&D and most of 2nd edition. I've been tempted a few times to unload the whole thing on eBay but haven't. It's by far my biggest "collection".

So after Georgia Tech I moved back to Clearwater and quickly got bored with the "blow $50 drinking at a club every Friday night" routine. I managed to find a D&D game with a couple guys my age and a random assortment of high school kids. Soon I was playing every week. We'd get together about 9pm on Friday and play until 5am. This was an interesting group. Once the younger kids died off (or fell asleep), we had some great adventures. It was much more of a role-playing, theatrical, style than I'd ever played. I also got heavily into painting miniatures, often stripping off bad paintjobs from 10 years before. I had a blast for about a year and a half.

Then came Ann and marriage and USF and work and kids... Now I haven't played a non-computer D&D session in 15 years. From time to time I think about trying to connect with a local group and get started again. But I just don't have the energy and bandwidth for the all the drama and baggage most gamers bring to the table.

I also keep thinking maybe it's time to introduce it to our daughter. She loved the Lord of the Rings movies. She was fascinated by Neverwinter Nights. I know she'd love it. But I'd rather have her go play with kids her own age. Maybe in a couple years I'll give her the new-in-box 1979 Basic set I have and she can go discover it on her own.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

CJ's Bus

CJ's Bus is a mobile recreation unit for children affected by disasters. It's named in honor of Kathryn Martin's 2-year old son, C. J., who was killed by a tornado in 2005. They hope to eventually duplicate the bus multiple times across the country.

This is a pretty cool project. When I was doing some cleanup work in central Florida after Hurricane Charley, the church that hosted us had a sort of disaster relief fair. They distributed all sorts of donations, including food service, and even had a business doing free repairs of chainsaws. But what stuck with me is that they had an area set up for children, with lots of games and activities. This was a week after Charley passed through and lots of places, including this church, were without power. Imagine a week stuck at home with the kids and no power. No television. No video games. No air conditioning. You can see pretty quickly how great it would be to get the kids out and keep them entertained for even an hour or two.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Adult Vaccines

I don't know where the CDC has run their campaigns, but I'd never heard of any adult vaccines except tetanus boosters and flu shots.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mike Rowe's Seven Dirty Habits

February's Fast Company has an article about Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs. Besides discussing his transformation from slacking underachiever to a hot multi-media property, he presents his Seven Dirty Habits of Highly Effluent People:
  1. Never follow your passion, but by all means bring it with you.
  2. Beware of teamwork.
  3. Vomit proudly and whenever necessary.
  4. Be careful, but don't be fooled - safety is never first.
  5. Think about what you are doing - never how.
  6. Ignore advice such as "Work smart, not hard. It's dangerous - and moronic.
  7. Consider quitting.
I find it more fascinating how he was kind of content for quite a while to work "anonymous" small acting jobs. Or how he honed his improv skills working on-air at QVC.

Lowry Park Zoo goes non-smoking

Lowry Park Zoo has finally gone non-smoking. There will still be designated smoking areas but smoking will no longer be allowed along all the walkways and paths. Finally. When we used to go to the zoo a lot more, I saw our daughter almost get a lit cigarette poked into her head several times by careless smokers walking past while hanging their hands down. I still don't understand why someone would walk a nature path and stop to watch the animals while puffing away.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I saw ColourLovers mentioned on Local Girl's day in pictures. It's a somewhat interesting way to browse color palettes for designs. I usually sample colors from another design that has the right "feel" to it, but this lets you see lots of color combinations in isolation. They have patterns as well but I can't seem to find or understand the licensing of them.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Do you know how I know you're old?

Do you know how I know you're old?This is how old I'm getting. One of the highlights of my week is that a new Publix grocery store is opening near me. That's right. A grocery store. Highlight of my week.

It's replacing the Albertsons that closed over a year ago, but had been dying a slow death since a big Publix and Super WalMart moved into the area. For over a year, the closest, most convenient grocery store has been a Sweetbay (formerly Kash-N-Karry).

Until Albertsons closed, I think I'd been in the Kash-n-Karry/Sweetbay once in 7 years. That was enough. Now I've been in there maybe a dozen times in the past year and I still hate it. At least it was always pretty empty. I'd guess that Sweetbay will last about 18 more months. Fine with me. They're one of the few grocery chains around here that aren't one of our customers.

Update: Ugh. The new Publix is pretty crappy. I mean, it's still a Publix, but it feels just sort of thrown-together. They didn't rearrange much inside the old Albertson's store, so the layout is just weird compared to a scratch-built Publix. After visiting it, I can't help thinking that this tore isn't a long-term plan. It might be just a "put Sweetbay out of business" store and might not last much past that. I guess I'll be watching to see if they install a generator. They did at the Sickles location.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dangerous Things for Kids to Do

I was just watching Gever Tulley's talk on Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do. I wish we could pull off some of these at Detour. Parents would freak. This is also a good list for homeschool parents.

His list:
  1. Play with fire. We sort of did this when we did an outside "camp out" for boys earlier this year. They didn't get to really play with the fire that much but at least there was an open flame. I mostly remember playing with fire in fireplaces and the grill when we were growing up.
  2. Have a pocket knife. Yeah. Not gonna do that at church. I think I got a pocket knife before I started school and have carried one almost my entire life. I bought a My First Swiss Army Knife for my daughter a year or two but she hasn't even used it. Maybe I need to make time for it.
  3. Throwing a spear. I disagree with this one a bit. There are plenty of other opportunities for kids to throw things.
  4. Take apart appliances - try to figure out what the parts could be and do. We've done this some during the Robotics break-out at Sports Camp but we could do a lot more. We could really do this at Detour. I've wanted to take apart a bike and maybe a lawnmower engine before but the messiness keeps me worried.
  5. Break the DMCA - he says it's important that kids understand that laws can be broken by accident. This is one I don't really want to touch. It's hard enough to stay legal and comply with copyright law at church without intentionally breaking it.
  6. Drive a car - legal in a big empty private lot. I got most of my early driving experience before I had a license but driving pickup trucks around the Renaissance Festival while I worked there. Not going to happen at church.
What would I add to this?
  1. Go outside. It's really not that dangerous.
  2. Play with electricity. Keep one hand in your pocket and you'll live. I grew up with model trains so I was always playing with AC and DC power.
  3. Eat your own cooking. Kids today can grow up without ever cooking anything from scratch or even seeing anything cooked from scratch. Amazing.
  4. Go places you're not allowed to go. That door that says "Do not enter" is calling your kids. What's behind it?
  5. Talk to strangers. I encourage my kids, especially our daughter, to talk to strangers, within reason. She's become a lot less shy about placing her own order at Chic-Fil-A and is one of the few girls in her brownie troop that I've seen really approach strangers to sell cookies.
  6. Eat wild food. Most of it won't kill you. Raspberries and their relatives are easy to find if you can beat the birds to them.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

My Mini City

Geekdad linked to this -- My Mini City. It's a Simcity-ish Flash game where the population of your city grows based on how many visitors you get to your specific URL. I don't have one, but you can click through to boost Geekdad's population or use a different URL to boost his industry so his sims have jobs. It looks like later you get URLs for other tasks like transportation, security, environment, business.

This just begs for a Facebook app doesn't it? There are several Facebook groups where people are trying to get clicks to build their city bigger but no application.

It's kind of an interesting model. It's sort of pay-per-click, but it doesn't cost Motion-Twin (the company behind it) any hard cash to get clicks. It's just a virtual reward except for the cost of serving up the site and the Flash file(s).

What surprises me is that they're not monetizing their traffic except for their own ads for their own games, which as far as I can tell are free. The top 10 cities have over 10,000 residents. The stats for the US alone shows 14 million inhabitants in 478,615 cities over 36 days. That should translate to at least 14 million visits. That probably translates to well over a million unique visitors if 478 thousand signed up.

If someone like John Chow were to monetize that amount of traffic, he could theoretically turn a million unique visitors into $250,000 in a month. That's pretty theoretical, since John's the master monetizer and someone clicking through to a free Flash game probably isn't about to spend as much as a visitor to John's blog. But it could be even easier if you just ran a few ads for casual games like Bejeweled. But if you could do a tenth as well as him, that's $25,000 a month. Not bad for a pretty simple Flash game and webapp.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Authentic Football Jerseys

Romo Cowboys JerseyNow that the Bucs are done...

A friend of ours has been selling jerseys on eBay for a while and has finally moved to selling directly through his own website, My Jersey Guy.

Indiana Jones Lego

Indiana Jones Lego? That could be a cool license for Lego. If they do a tenth of what they did with Star Wars, we should see some cool stuff. I'm just not sure if that will work for kids. My kids sort of like Indiana Jones, partly because they've seen the stunt show at Disney World, but it's not like their utter fascination with Star Wars. Maybe the Lego Indiana Jones video game will change that.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008


J.D. from Get Rich Slowly is running a book giveaway post where he asked readers for their cheapskate stories. There are some real winners. Great comment-bait.

Christmas wrapping paper is an ongoing theme. A lot of reuse, but there are more creative ones. Sewing Christmas-themed fabric gift bags and reusing them every year. Using New York City subway maps as wrapping paper. (I'm gonna steal that idea).

One guy rents a UHaul truck every May, goes over to his local college dorms and collects all the furniture and everything else students are throwing away. He stores it in his garage then resells it to students in the fall. Last year he made $3,500.

I guess my own cheapskate story would be back when I first lived in an apartment. With 3 roommates, we quickly started to fight over shared expenses, particularly who was going to buy toilet paper. Soon everyone had their own private stash and just knew to bring it with them if they needed it. Well, one time, a friend of mine is over and heads off to the bathroom. I didn't think anything about it until about 10 minutes later when he comes out and throws a magazine at me. "You better be glad I had that with me. You're missing about 20 pages."

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples GameI saw on Out Of The Box Games site that they sell blank sheets of Apples to Apples cards. That way you can print your own cards for the game. I know the game comes with a couple blank cards to customize but this lets you take it further.

I gotta be honest. We can't quite get into Apples to Apples. I can just see how it would be fun in the right setting. Like when we used to play Balderdash (the original one) in college, it was much funnier than it is now. I think I'm getting old.

What us old people do like to play instead is Cranium Whoonu. It's slightly similar in concept to Apples to Apples. On each turn you have a set of cards and have to pick the one that the Whoozit (dealer) would like the most (or least in a backwards variant).