Archive for the 'Friends' Category

New Site Migration Successful

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

As Godaddy economy hosting was rather slow, albeit inexpensive at only $3.95/month, I was eager to find a faster service, if it were economical. Alex called me up near the beginning of the year with news that DreamHost was doing a major deal on 2 years of hosting. For about $20 I got two years unlimited everything! One of the biggest advantages other than speed on DreamHost is that I have SSH access to my site. Another great addition is that I can now use scripting languages other than PHP.

There may still be some rough edges on the blog now that I’ve got it moved. Please let me know if you find any broken links or other problems.

Palm Woes and Friendly Whoas

Friday, March 16th, 2007

Krissy dropped her well-used Palm Tungsten E PDA on concrete a couple of weeks ago, and the thing hasn’t turned on since. When I told some friends about it one of them said he was looking to sell a Palm Tungsten C which is faster and has a built in keyboard, something I knew Krissy would probably like. I asked him what he was selling it for, but he told me he would think about it and get back to me. I looked it up on eBay and concluded that it was probably worth between $100 and $120. When he brought it to me I asked him how much he had decided on. He wouldn’t take my money, though. He said that the only amounts he was comfortable asking for weren’t worth taking anyway, so I could just have it! I tried to write him a check of $100, but he wasn’t having it. He caught me before I was done writing it and said, “I hope that’s not for me, because if it is, you can just stop right now.”

I took it home to show Krissy. I restored her data from a backup on the computer, and everything looks great! She is excited to have her life back in the palm of her hand.

Enlightening Encounter with E.T.

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Today I attended a seminar held by Edward Tufte. Edward Tufte, or E.T. as he refers to himself, is the foremost authority on representing data and charting information. He practices what he preaches in his presentation. I enjoyed every minute of the lecture. I was seated to the far right in the very front which made it difficult to see everything he was doing, but his engaging teaching style worked even for people who couldn’t see him very well from their seats.

He used examples from his books extensively to illustrate points and to introduce topics. Four books written and published by Edward Tufte were distributed at the entrance before the talk began. These four books were worth the entire price of admission alone! I can hardly wait to take the time to study them and incorporate their ideas into my own designs.

In one portion of his lecture E.T. focuses on eliminating “chartjunk” and useless clutter from data representations. He is not too keen on the use of PowerPoint with its heavy reliance on hierarchical outlines and the interface’s encouragement to use “bullet grunts” to describe things.

One recent innovation he presents is Sparklines, or small word-sized graphs that can be used any place in a document to quickly convey a lot of data. They are meant to be used just like words. He even suggested that a Sparkline could make a great headline in a news story, especially in the sports section.

This was an all-day event, and afterwards I met up with my wife and some friends at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Phoenix; a satisfying end to an enlightening day.

I Got Mail! Yea!

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

I finally broke down and bought the Wii. I thought I would be able to buy one in the stores by now, but it looks like demand is still outstripping Nintendo’s supply, and stores are immediately selling the few Wiis that are trickling in on their delivery trucks. I ended up bidding on eBay until I accidentally won one of the auctions. After all was said and done I had paid about $400 on it. I was a little upset at first, but as soon as I got it set up and started playing with friends and family I immediately knew that I had made the right decision. My only regret so far is having waited so long to buy it.

When I got home from work today I was feeling really sick. I had a pretty bad head cold and a cough, and I am pretty sure that I had a fever, too. I arrived home just 15 minutes before the post office closed and there was a slip of paper indicating that a package that required a signature upon delivery was waiting for me at the post office about two miles away. I grabbed the paper from the mailbox and went right back to the car without even going inside the house. I wanted to get the Wii ASAP!

After I got out of the post office with the package, I opened it up in the car. The way it was packed made it impossible to remove without getting packing peanuts everywhere, but I wanted to open up the package completely in the car before I got it home. If this had turned out to be an eBay scam, then I wanted to be alone when I found out. I was fearing a Wii box filled with rocks or some other heavy substance instead of the game system I was expecting. Everything checked out, and the system seemed as brand new as it comes!

Krissy was really excited for the new Wii. She wasn’t quite as excited as I was, but that’s understandable, I guess. My coworkers were amazed to hear that my wife actually approved of the purchase and looked forward to playing video games with me on a regular basis. I love my wife!

I can hardly wait to get more friends and family involved when I can get more than just two controllers. You see, the Wii becomes more fun the more people you can get playing it together at the same time. Wii remotes are sold out almost everywhere, just like the Wii. It’s a good thing I bought that Wii remote at Toys R Us back on November 20th of last year!

Old Meets New in a Night of Nintendo

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Every few weeks a bunch of us (mostly) married guys congregate to rot our brains and enjoy some much-needed multiplayer video game action. Usually we are content with just one television and taking turns, but someone began spreading rumours of an unused television in Dan’s apartment, but he was still at work. Spencer finally got up and walked out. Minutes later he kicked the front door open bearing a second one-eyed monster! Dan’s wife apparently let him take it! We immediately hooked it up to Mike‘s NES (that’s Nintendo Entertainment System. Aptly named when Nintendo only had one video game console on the market.) and Matt made sure the first game played was RBI Baseball. There was some difficulty getting the game to work. I pitched in and even though I hadn’t done it for over eight years, I knew just how to exhale into the cartridge and then place it almost all the way in, then push down and diagonally toward the back of the system simultaneously to achieve the perfect connection with the contacts. The title screen came up, but there were still some artifacts. Mike did it again and took care of those. Everyone laughed as they recalled the long-forgotten techniques we all employed in our youth to wrestle the NES into action.

The rest of us played Super Monkey Ball 2 and Mario Party 7 on the Gamecube. I can’t wait to get a similar picture with the Wii on one TV and the NES on the other.

I didn’t bring my camera but Michael Whiting, our gracious host (and awesome sculptor) let me use the one he took below.

Gamecube with Super Monkey Ball 2 on the left.  NES with RBI Baseball on the right.

Walking Music for Everyone!

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Well, Tommy, they finally did it. It finally happened, and we weren’t there for it. Tommy and I had this idea when we were kids that people should have a soundtrack for themselves when they walk. I’m sure the idea came from video games where there is always background music for no apparent reason. Now there is a wearable computer called PersonalSoundtrack that plays music from a playlist based on your current walking speed. Minor variations in speed are measured and the music speed is dynamically adjusted to match your footsteps. If a deliberate speed change is detected then a faster, more speed-appropriate song is started. I think I would have the slow Peter and the Wolf song for slow walking. I don’t know about fast walking, though. There are so many possibilities it would be difficult to choose just one.

The hardware and software upon which this is built is open source and there is a section for source code on the web site. I’m assuming this will become an open source project soon. This would be a fun project and a great way to annoy people and have fun at the same time.

Michelin May Release Tweels Soon

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

According to a blog post a new airless tire with spokes may soon be released for use on consumer automobiles. No more flats? Easier home replacement? I say lemme at em! Thanks to Randy for pointing this story out to me.

The only rule you may be told is this one

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

Today I was privileged to play my first game of Mao, a card game that one must play in order to learn. You see, the rules of the game are never discussed out loud. There is no talking why playing, and the rules aren’t written down anywhere. Game-play becomes increasingly complex as the game progresses. Attention to detail and memorization are both key skills for the game. I only had a chance to play four hands, but was a lot of fun. I hear that it is popular among hackers. Perhaps I can find a group of Linux enthusiasts that also play Mao. It is a tiring game because a great deal of mental exertion is necessary to play well.

You can try to find rules online, and they are not easy to find, but they are not going to help much as the rules vary from group to group. Besides, reading the rules online ruins the spirit of the game. Ask around and see if you can find someone who will play who might already know the rules. If you do, you are in for a lot of fun!

General Conference Weekend Thrills: Part 2

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

This was the first time I’ve been able to watch General Conference live over the Internet. Unfortunately, there isn’t a Linux player available yet for their stream. I had to install Microsoft Internet Explorer and their plugin and run the with Wine. I found a great utility to automate the process. It’s called IEs4Linux. It only cut out a few times and the picture quality was amazing. It also had controls allowing one to pause, fast-forward, and rewind. Really great stuff!

A new Seventy was called, Erich Kopischke. He was the stake president while I was serving in Erlangen in the Nuremberg Stake in Germany. I didn’t know this until I looked him up upon hearing his name in Conference, but he was also the Mission President of the Berlin Mission from 2003 until 2006. That means he was released as a mission president three months before he was sustained as a Seventy.

All in all this Conference has been really good. I can’t think of any one talk that really stuck out more than the others. All of the Apostles’ talks were great!

Ghirardelli Chocolate, The San Francisco Treat!

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

After the mud run we decided that we ought to take a trip out to San Francisco since I had never been there. Tommy and Elizabeth have become quite adept at touring the major spots in San Francisco since they’ve taken so many of their family and friends out there. The drive is not all that interesting. Much of the drive is waiting for your turn to fork over $3.00 for the privelege of driving over the bay bridge into the city. It seriously took an entire hour just to get to the toll booth. After that things moved rather well.

Confusingly deceptive San Francisco intersectionParking is horrendous and some of the streets are crazy with incomprehensible intersections. Once we parked we tried to figure out how much we would be charged by reading the ticket they gave us. The parking garage had all sorts of confusing pricing plans based on the time of day, the length of your stay, and whether or not you had eaten at any of their partner restaurants. Once we got out of the car, though things started to get interesting.

A man singing and playing the guitar at Pier 49There is no shortage of street performers in San Francisco. Some people were singing or break-dancing, and others were acting like robotic statues all painted up in silver or gold. Many of the performers looked like they were making about $100/hour. Maybe I just saw them at their best time of the day. In any case, it certainly appeared that one could make a living off of performing and relying on donations from passersby and onlookers. I didn’t take their picture because I assumed that they would expect money for capturing their poses.

AlcatrazWe didn’t go out to Alcatraz, but from the area around Pier 39 there is a pretty good view of it. Nearby there are seals that have some protected area where they sunbathe. A few of them were in what appeared to be a rather playful mood. I couldn’t tell if they were wrestling for fun or to actually hog certain areas and claim them as their own territory. The wind was so strong that the pelicans in the area were unable to always fly in the direction they desired. Many of them were not even flapping their wings and were just hovering in the air above our heads waiting for a break in the wind.

Nearer Fisherman’s Wharf there are about five different restaurants with street-vending open on the outside of their restaurants. They all sell about the same food, but they are fiercely competitive with one another often competing on one or two cents difference from their neighbors. Elizabeth was trying to find the cleanest looking setup while the pigeons, no longer afraid of humans, dive-bombed my head. I didn’t actually get hit by any of them, but they were not making me feel comfortable. Once Elizabeth and the rest of us agreed on where we should go to get ourselves some fish and chips we walked around to see their display cases. The cleanest one appeared to be selling minced fish shaped, breaded, and fried. It looked like it came out of a box and it wasn’t what we were after. We walked along and stopped at a moderately less clean-looking stand run by a group of Asians. They had the best looking food, so we decided to order from them instead. While we were waiting for our turn a man asked for a sample of their soup. The cook, who was very busy, took a plastic spoon and, without looking up, dipped it right in the large cooking vessel and handed it to the man who was very surprised and started telling his friends about it immediately.

Lombard Street: The least-straight street in the world.After we ate we got back in the car and headed over to Lombard Street, the windiest section of street in the world. There was a terribly long line of cars waiting on the incline leading up to the summit where the famous snake-like section begins. Tommy looked at the map and saw that there are three directions one could approach that particular intersection from, so he headed the direction that looked the least congested. When we got to the top and prepared to make a left on the street we were disappointed by a sign reading “No Left Turn.” No one was going, and Tommy was already sick of waiting, so he made a left anyway and we wound our way down to the bottom. We, the three passengers, were incredulous.

We visited the free sample-laden Ghirardelli Chocolate Company store. Tommy demonstrated that the people that hand out free samples either don’t care or don’t notice when the same person exits and reenters with an open palm. I think he got a total of four free samples of their dark chocolate filled with caramel while we were there. If it hadn’t been so crowded I would have enjoyed getting an ice cream sundae for dessert after our meal, but the Ghirardelli place was packed, so we headed out to our next stop: The Golden Gate Bridge.

Tommy enjoying taking pictures at the Golden Gate BridgeIt was overcast and the top of the Golden Gate Bridge was obscured by the low clouds. It was still an amazing sight. At a prime photo spot a large group of people of Indian descent was trying to get their picture taken together. Tommy negotiated a camera swap and he and Krissy took pictures with their cameras, then we switched. Tommy gave his camera to a man who appeared to be the Father or leader of the group. I gave my camera to a 16 year-old girl from the group. The Father went first. He took about 20 seconds to take the first shot. Then he spent another 20 seconds trying to figure out how to get the zoom to work on Tommy’s camera. Tommy helped him get it figured out. Then it took him another 30 seconds to finally take his second picture. When the girl with my camera’s turn came up she took the picture in about 2 seconds. The pictures on Tommy’s camera cut off Elizabeth’s chin. He had sacrificed us to frame the background perfectly. The picture taken with my camera came out almost perfect. We wanted a picture of our group, not the bridge. I guess he didn’t understand that the bridge was only there to incidentally show where we were at the time.

No Missiles Allowed.  It's only a misdemeanor though.We had a lot of time on our metered parking space so Tommy convinced us to walk across the bridge. I’m glad he did! It was amazing to feel the strong winds out there. Many people from all over the world were taking pictures as they walked across this California landmark. Tommy demonstrated that it took almost 30 seconds for spit to reach the water below. The wind was so strong that after you spit over the side and after it had fallen below the level of the bridge the wind would carry the spit far out away from you and you could watch it fall all the way to the water’s surface. Right after we both did this a few times I noticed a sign that said it was a misdemeanor to drop anything from the bridge. I assumed that included spit. Strangely, the sign specifically included missiles. I would have thought that dropping missiles from the Golden Gate Bridge would have carried felony charges, but what do I know. It was now getting late in the day, but there was one more spot we wanted to see.

The steps to Coit Tower must have been funded through donations.There is very little parking at the base of Coit Tower, so we parked a little way down the hill and walked up some stairs, the construction of which appeared to have been funded by donations. Tommy and Elizabeth had never been up to the top of Coit Tower. It’s not free, but Krissy and I wanted to go, so we took the four of us up to the elevator to the top. Although there are some amazing views up there, I was more fascinated by the international coinage that had been dropped through the edges of the windows and that had landed on the sills of each port hole. I also found a soccer field at one of the ports which seemed oddly out of place and somewhat suspicious. By the time we had seen all there was to see and had taken nearly a hundred pictures of Alcatraz trying to time it when the light from the lighthouse was facing us, it was starting to get dark.

I’m so glad that Tommy was driving because I was pretty tired. We had just driven for nine hours the previous day and were looking at a total of six for today. I don’t know why it is that sitting in a car makes you get tired when all you really have to do it not move much for hours on end, but it sure takes the energy out of me.

It was great to finally visit San Francisco even if it was for only a whirlwind tour all over the city. That’s one more place I can check off my list of places to visit!

Tommy, Elizabeth, Krissy, and Shawn at the Golden Gate Bridge.