Saturday, March 31, 2007

Slide Show

I'm testing a slide show of some spring photos I took last weekend. If you move the cursor over the image it will pause and show the title. Clicking on an image will take you to the photo in Flickr. Thanks to Breeze Debris.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Flashback

I had a flashback this morning, triggered by a horse crossing sign, which reminded me how much the character of the Mason, Ohio area has changed.

On the news this morning I saw there was an accident at a busy intersection that’s on my normal path to work. I was running a little late and knew I’d hit the rush hour traffic jam at the accident. Therefore, I decided to take the side roads to work.

I call them ‘side roads’ now, but eight years ago when I first started working in a new building I called them the ‘back roads’. That seemed more appropriate because the area was wide open with farms and a polo field (hence the name of the Polo Grille at Deerfield Place). In fact, there was a sharp S-curve in Irwin-Simpson road to accommodate a farm that had several horses. You had to go slow around that curve and there was a yellow horse/rider warning sign just before it to let you know there could be folks riding in the area.

Going slow around that S-curve was actually nice. It gave you time to look at what was happening at the farm. Depending on the time day you might see the family feeding the horses or working around the buildings. When it was cold, often times you’d see the water vapor condensing just outside the horse’s nostrils as they exhaled. Often times I’d see a girl who lived there waiting in their driveway for the school bus. She always waved at the cars going by. She must have waved at thousands of cars as a kid.

That farm is now long gone, the buildings removed. The road was straightened not long after the barn was demolished so the S-curve is gone. The land and the surrounding fields were developed into a strip mall shopping area, homes, and apartments (the google map satellite image shows the area during the time when the buildings were removed but the S-curve was still there). There are probably thousands of people living, shopping, and driving in the area where a few people and some horses lived and played.

This morning I took that road to work and noticed the yellow horse/rider warning sign is still there. It was never removed. Seeing that sign brought back memories of the S-curve, the farm, and the people that lived there. It made me realize how much the character of the area has changed with the tremendous development of the land. I’m not convinced it has changed for the better.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Desktop Tower Defense

I was reading Jeremy Zawodny's blog (he's a pilot) and saw his post about the on-line game called Desktop Tower Defense. It's a real time strategy game where you try to prevent invaders from passing across a desktop by using various types of towers to shoot and destroy them. It sounds too simple to be much fun. However, Jeremy's post is accurate. It's an addictive game -- don't click on the link.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Fresh Market is Open

Dianne and I made our first visit to The Fresh Market on Sunday. They just opened a store across the street from the Kenwood Mall.

It is not a large store, but they have a nice selection of produce and specialty items. It's in the same vein as Trader Joe's (just a few blocks away), Wild Oats, and Dorothy Lane Market. The employees were very friendly and very willing to wait on you. We were browsing several of the counter areas: meat/fish, deli & prepared foods, cheeses. In each area, we were asked multiple times if we needed help.

They have some nice prepared items that we'll try on evenings when time is tight. I thought the produce was better than Trader Joe's. I think they will do well, although there'll be some competition for customers.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

First Days of Spring

Spring Flower 8According to the calendar, Spring officially started this week. We've had some unseasonably warm weather. It was a beautiful day today. The mild temperatures have caused the leaves and flowers to start popping out. I took a few photos around our place today. At the right are flowers on some ornamental trees lining our street. Here is the entire Flickr set I posted.

Denied!!

We had a Nintendo Wii today...sort of...for about 3 hours. What a disappointing, waste of a day.

We've been wanting a Wii for awhile. Actually, I wanted to get Dianne one for her birthday. But with all the supply problems they've had, I couldn't find one. A few weeks ago, a co-worker told me he scouted the Sunday paper inserts and went to the store early and got one. One of Dianne's co-workers also mentioned local Wii sightings.

I decided today was the day to go for it. I got up about 6:20 and went to Krogers to buy the Cincinnati Enquirer. It's easy to get a prime parking space at that time of day! I went home, scoured the inserts, and found that Circuit City mentioned Wiis. The ad said they were handing out vouchers at 9 -- one hour before they open. I had some toast and hit the road.

When I got to Circuit City a little before 8, there were eight people already waiting. As you saw in my Twitter tweets, one couple had been there since 5 AM! At 9 AM the manager came out and distributed the vouchers. I was one of the lucky 10 who got one! Several folks were denied. I waited with my book to read ('Made to Stick' by the Heath brothers) until 10 AM when the store opens. While waiting, there were a bunch of folks that drove up looking for a voucher. They were out of luck.

At 10 I went in and bought the Wii, an extra controller, and a Zelda game for Dianne. I thought life was good. I even stopped at Marx's Bagels on the way home to get brunch for us.

Dianne opened it up and we spent quite a bit of time fishing cords through our wall unit to connect up the Wii to the TV. We turn it on and...NOTHING. We check everything...still nothing. I even brought the TV down from the bedroom to try the connection there...still nothing. Were we doing something silly or did we get a bad unit?

So we had to pull the cords back out of the wall unit. We packed up the Wii and made a return trip to Circuit City. The customer service person was nice enough, but he kinda had a look of "...no signal...yeah, sure." He connected it up to one of the showroom TVs and got the same result -- a black screen. At least we weren't doing something stupid, but how disappointing to get a bum unit. They took it back and will hold one for us when they get their next shipment (whenever that is).

Friday, March 23, 2007

20 Things

The Discover magazine site has posted a collection of lists of twenty things about a variety of topics: bees, skin, aliens, etc. An interesting read if you're looking to take in some science trivia.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Shorpy Photoblog

I stumbled across a nice photo blog the other day. The site is "Shorpy -- The 100-Year-Old Photo Blog". Here is the site's description of the blog:

Shorpy.com is a photo blog about what life a hundred years ago was like: How people looked and what they did for a living, back when not having a job usually meant not eating. We’re starting with a collection of photographs taken in the early 1900s by Lewis Wickes Hine as part of a decade-long field survey for the National Child Labor Committee. One of his subjects, a young coal miner named Shorpy Higginbotham, is the site’s namesake.
The photos do give a glimpse into life back then -- and how the country has changed since then. Not all the photos are 100 years old. The site has recently posted a series of photos from the 1940s. In fact, I was surprised to see this photo. I was in this building a few years ago while visiting a company we were working with. The building was remodeled into an office space, but the architects preserved the interior brick work and beams. It was a wonderful restoration.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Personal Bee

I've mentioned that I get most of my news on-line. I visit some sites regularly and read the headlines and click on some of the interesting ones to read the article. I skip over the various sections. In short, I approach using the site like I would an actual physical newspaper.

I also use several RSS feeds and a newsreader (Bloglines) to get general news as well as science and technology news. That's a little more targeted, but I still have to scan through many headlines I'm not interested in to find the gems. It's an improvement that lets me look efficiently at a lot of news sources.

I have a couple breaking news sources in my Twitter group so I get breaking news through instant messaging. That's kind of interesting and sometimes a little annoying. I have to turn it off sometimes.

The other day I stumbled on a new service (or at least new to me) called the Personal Bee. It's trying to be an intelligent filter for the flood of information we're exposed to everyday. Sounds like they're trying a combination of software and human filtering to present news. You can set up your own "beehive" on the service to see things the way you want. I don't have a lot of experience with it. Anyone reading this a user?

How do you read your news on-line?

Monday, March 19, 2007

I'll Never Make It

I realized today that I don't have what it takes to climb way up the corporate ladder. Not that I didn't know that before, but it was reaffirmed today as I walked into the men's room at work.

When I opened the door I heard someone talking in the men's room. In and of itself, that isn't unusual. However, as I walked in I noticed there was only one person in the men's room. It was a manager who is several levels above me. He was talking on his cellphone. Again, even that isn't so unusual in this day and age. But he was talking on his phone while standing in front of the urinal.

My first thought was wow...that's a sign that someone is too busy. I chuckled to myself when he flushed. I wondered what the person on the other end of the conversation was thinking. That's a little up close and personal.

Then he walked out the door. I guess with one hand holding the phone, he wasn't able to wash his other hand. I've admitted it before -- I'm a germ-o-phobe. That put the whole situation over the top for me. Yikes!

So if being a high level manager means you don't have two minutes of peace to use the restroom and wash your hands, then I don't want the job. If I'm ever that busy, please...someone do an intervention. And disinfect my phone. By the way, I just saw this briefcase. Maybe that and some Purell will help me get ahead.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sunday Flying

Tony at I69At the last oil change for the plane, the mechanics also checked my lights and pitot heat. Everything was fine -- that’s the good news. Unfortunately, after checking the pitot heat, they must have put the pitot cover on immediately. The pitot tube must have been hot so the cover partially melted to the metal tube. I had to cut the cover off the pitot tube when I went flying last week. Not cool. The pitot tube is part of the system used to measure your airspeed, so you don’t want it getting clogged by insects, etc. It’s a good idea to keep it covered.

Today I flew out to Sporty’s pilot shop at the Clermont county airport to get a replacement. Here is Tony in front of the building. It was busy there -- a lot of planes parked there for a visit.

It was a nice day, but the wind was very different than the forecast and it was a pretty bumpy flight. I had my seatbelt cinched up pretty tight, but at one point I went through some rough air and I was bounced up in the seat and my head hit the top of the canopy! Haven’t had that happen very often.

P&G MBCAfter picking up a new pitot cover and some gas, I flew north/northwest toward Middletown. On the way I flew over Procter & Gamble’s Mason Business Center where I work. The picture gives a good idea of how brown things look right now. Spring hasn't kicked into high gear yet. On the south side of Middletown I got a good photo of the AK Steel plant. I also took a picture of the Middletown airport. There is a Flickr group dedicated to aerial shots of airports, so I thought I'd take a quick photo for the pool. The Middletown grass runway is really brown too.

For dinner in the evening, Dianne and I went to Smokey Bones for some ribs.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Cincinnati Rollergirl Teams

The Roller Derby Diva posted the rosters for the 2007 teams of the Cincinnati Rollergirls. The Rollergirl website isn't updated very often, but I'm assuming they'll have the new teams and photos posted soon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Not Your Average Brown Bag

Surfing around (I apologize I forgot who supplied the link) I ran across the LuNcHoLOgy site. Here is an excerpt from the 'story' page on the site:

Each morning, Kristi Thomas spent a few moments adding a special touch to her daughter’s school lunch bag. Some days, it was a love note or words of encouragement. Other days, it was a brainteaser, joke or fun fact. Whatever the theme, Kristi always took the time to handprint it, along with some cool artwork, on a simple brown lunch bag. The decorative bags quickly became a hit with her daughter’s classmates.
The rest, as they say, is history. The business now provides themed sets of brown bags. If you don't have a fancy lunch pail, this is a cute idea to kick up lunch.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Making of America Collection

Thanks to Make Magazine, I found Cornell University's portion of the Making of America collection. The MOA collection is a digital library of items from the mid to late 1800s. The images provided are scanned from the actual 19th century items. In addition, they have performed optical character recognition to aid searching. The collection is a joint project between Cornell and the University of Michigan, with each library focusing on different types of publications. The Cornell collection is journal based. They have a lot of early Scientific American issues which are interesting to look at. The illustrations, such as the plane at right from 1855, are amazing. Click on the image to go to the source page.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday Stuff

It was a beautiful day here in the Cincinnati area. The temperature was near 60, little wind, and just a couple whispy cirrus clouds in the sky. A perfect day to enjoy the outdoors in your vehicle of choice.

For me, that was the Tiger. It was the first time I had been flying for awhile. Now, with daylight savings time kicking in and some warmer weather on the horizon, I hope to fly more. Today I went up north to Middletown to practice some landings. They have a nice long runway and generally not too much traffic. However, today there were a lot of people flying. I saw a lot of different planes. There is a nice park (Smith Park) adjacent to part of the Middletown airport property and there were a lot of people picnicing and walking. Several families were at the fence watching the planes come and go. As I was taxiing for takeoff, I slid the canopy back and waved to the kids. They were so excited to get a wave! It was cute seeing them wave back so hard their arm was about to come off.

After that I flew northwest toward Richmond, Indiana to practice some ground reference maneuvers and do some other checks. With all the snow gone, everything is so brown and bare. A few of the larger lakes still had ice on the surface, but most of the ponds are ice free.

Dianne at the Smoothie KingDianne's vehicle of choice was the motorcycle. She got her bike out of winter storage today. It started right up and she went for a quick ride. Afterwards she did some more laundry and ironed some shirts for me -- what a cutie!

When I got home, we went to the Smoothie King to get a drink. Dianne has been big on the Pineapple Surf offering. I tried something different today -- Hearty Apple. It was a nice treat. The camera phone photo at the right was taken a couple weeks ago. However, except for not needing a jacket today, Dianne looked pretty much the same sippin' on the Surf.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Brad Delp Found Dead

Just read a BBC news report this morning that Brad Delp, the original lead singer for the band Boston, was found dead at his home on Friday afternoon. The cause of death wasn't yet known. Their debut album was standard issue equipment in the late 70s. They are one of my favorites. I finally saw them on their Walk On tour in the mid 90s. Click on the image to go to the Boston web ring.

A sad day for Boston fans.

Friday, March 09, 2007

I Hate Mail-in Rebates

Why not just sell a product at the sale price or have an instant rebate? Why have mail-in rebate offers? Those are rhetorical questions answered here by a rant and follow-up to a Twitter I sent the other day.

We were looking around a local computer store recently and stumbled on a display with some cute USB flash drives. The item had a mail-in rebate offer that made it seem like a good value. Dianne got one for work and as an impulse buy I got one for my use at home. Dianne very kindly filled out the rebate paperwork and sent everything in promptly. Life should be good, right?

A few days ago we received a postcard in the mail from the rebate processing center saying “our records indicate the reference number is a duplicate from a previous submission.” What’s up with that? If you have any questions, call yada yada yada.

On Monday I called. After getting a blister on my finger by working through the menu triage system, I get a recording that says something like “all our representatives are busy. Due to an unusually large call volume, long delays are likely. We suggest you call back at a later time.” Sigh! After holding for 20 minutes, I decide to follow the suggestion and call back later.

On Tuesday I tried again early in the day. I go through the prompts and get the exact same recording. Either they have 1 service rep or a boatload of issues to deal with – or both! I put on my headset and started working while waiting on hold. After about 15 minutes I hear a real person. I explain the postcard and ask for an explanation. He asks for enough information to do a TSA background check in order to pull up the rebate information. “Oh yes,” he says, “there are duplicate entries for you.” Duh! I knew that much from the postcard! Why are there duplicate entries? “Let me check,” he says. Clickity click keyboard sounds fill my ear. “Hmmm...it appears our system created duplicate entries for the same item and that is blocking your rebate.” I explain the situation and he says, “I’m sorry…Let me fix that.” Clickity click click….click click….”this’ll just take a minute”…clickity click…click. The whole time I’m wondering if he’s really typing or just running his fingers randomly across a dead keyboard that isn’t even plugged into a computer. “OK…the error has been corrected and you should have your rebate in 3-4 weeks.”

That reminded me of a similar situation Dianne handled a couple years ago for a larger rebate associated with a Sony camera purchase. In both cases, there was nothing wrong with the rebate submission. The representatives released the rebate after we called, but we had to make the extra effort. I wonder how many people don’t send in the rebate, don’t call, or don’t wait on hold to resolve a rebate “issue”. I suppose companies save a lot of money with these rebate hurdles rather than cutting the price directly. But in the long run, as people get fed up with all the follow-up and challenges to get a rebate, will that affect purchase decisions? Ultimately will they ‘save’ money with that type of promotion if people don’t buy at all?

I’ve learned my lesson – especially for items that are impulse buys. Avoid the mail-in rebates.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Say It Ain't So

Accurate or not? According to John Kiesewetter, TV and radio critic for the Cincinnati Enquirer, Gary Burbank plans to retire at the end of the year.

Those of you in the Cincinnati area have likely listened to Gary’s afternoon radio show on 700 WLW – the BBC (Broadbank Burbcasting Corporation). For those outside the area, Gary uses the many different voices he does as the basis for a wide range of characters that are used for comedy segments throughout his drive time show. Gary also does interviews, crazy news, Sports or Consequences (a call-in quiz show), etc. It’s a great show that he’s done for many years in the area. I’ve been listening for 15 years.

My favorite Burbank character is Earl Pitts. I wonder why? He’s so popular that Earl has his own website. I also like his Gilbert Gnarley character. Gilbert is an old guy that lives in the St. Pia Zadora Golden Buckeye Retirement Home in Pisgah, Ohio with his dog the Amazing Crepso. Pisgah is an actual town on the north side of the Cincinnati area. Gilbert is easily confused and calls companies and help lines to get help and answer questions. There is more info on Gilbert and some of his calls on his Wikipedia page.

Gary also has a restaurant in the area that features live music, mostly blues, many nights.

It’ll be a sad day for Cincinnati radio if John’s report is true.

Top 200 Definitive Albums

Thanks to Michael at the Neverending Rainbow, I found the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of the top 200 definitive albums. You can search the list or browse through from top to bottom. It's fun to look through. Our CD collection is a pretty good reflection of the top 20. Dianne and I have it covered from different angles.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Internet Music -- Pandora

Thanks to The Bestest Blog site, I found a cool music site called Pandora. In brief, the site is an internet radio station that you create and influence. You set up a station's playlist by adding your favorite artists to a primary list. Pandora plays songs from those artists as well as artists related to those on your primary list. In that way you are introduced to new artists that you may not have heard before. It’s another way to discover some new music.

The relations between artists/groups have been defined through a music genome effort. You can also rate songs as they are played and your ratings guide the system to choose music more suited to your taste. I thought it worked pretty well, but I did notice few limitations. First, that rating system is a simple like or dislike. It would be nice to have a five or ten point scale. Second, if you get a really bad song you have the option to skip over it. However, you can only skip a certain number of songs per hour. Finally, it's a US only service right now.

Check it out.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Twitter

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Twitter over the last couple of weeks. The site is a stream of short (140 character max), “what I’m doing” messages from Twitter users. You send notes about news or what you’re doing using the web, an instant messenger (like AIM), or your cell phone. You can also add a badge to your website that shows what you or your friends have sent to Twitter. If you scroll down a bit on the right, you'll see the Twitter badge that shows my entries.

When I first read about Twitter and looked at the site, I didn’t think too much of it. Most items in the public stream were very personal and not too informative (e.g. I’m eating lunch). However, after reading a bit more I can understand the value in some situations. For example, it’d be easy for travelers to update their whereabouts – like The HOV Lane blog for example. It’s also a quick way for folks to get out breaking news. For example, Robert Scoble has been making announcements there. Although I’m not entirely convinced of its value, I did register. Perhaps it’ll be different once I have a network established. We’ll see how the site evolves. If you register, let me know -- leave a comment with your username.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Lake Wobegan News Podcast

This is probably old news for all the Minnesota readers. The Prairie Home Companion site now offers a weekly podcast of the news from Lake Wobegan. Directions for downloading the podcast are on the Prairie Home Companion page. Alternatively, iTunes users can subscribe to the free podcast through the iTunes store. The news is usually about 15 minutes long. If you like Garrison Keillor's stories but can't always catch the show, you'll love this podcast.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Changes at USA Today

USA Today is one site I read for news. Not necessarily the hard hitting news I expect from the New York Times or Washington Post, but it is a good read. I noticed today that USA Today has re-vamped their website. They now allow comments on their news articles and recommendations. With ratings, you can look at articles the editors think are important as well as displaying articles that are considered highly interesting by other readers. Here is a short article about the changes. Techcrunch also posted their perspective on the change.

Cincinnati Home & Garden Show

Yesterday Dianne and I went to the Cincinnati Home and Garden show at the Duke Energy Center. We had never been, so it was nice to see. We spent most of the time looking at the home side of the show. I had no idea how many kitchen counter/cabinet places there are. Windows too, although we're not in the market for those. It was fun to look around and get some ideas. We took a quick stroll through the garden section even though we're not into that sort of thing. Here is a view of the garden area.

Alton Brown at Cinci Home Garden ShowSaturday was the opening day of the show and the main event of the day was an appearance by Alton Brown. He does the 'Good Eats' show, among other things, on the Food Network. Alton made a few opening remarks about the Food Network and some future possibilities that technology and the internet could bring to allow interaction with television programs. He then took suggestions from the crowd on what they'd like to see. Two suggestions that built on his opening remarks were interesting to me. The first was a recipe substitution list in case you couldn't find the item specified in a Food Network recipe. Actually, a replacement list would be nice for forbidden ingredients like onions. The second suggestion was to present or have the option to choose different variations of a recipe (e.g. how to alter a cookie recipe to get more chewy or crunchy cookies).

It was interesting to hear the discussion and get my celebrity fix (although Dianne would disagree with that last point). I like the show so it was fun to see him live. Alton did mention that there would be some changes in the Food Network coming in July. He didn't give specifics except to say there would be twice as much Good Eats on the schedule!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

BLT Anyone?

If you like bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches as well as candles, then this is for you. Thanks to chef JoAnna for pointing this out.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Earl World Was Locked

On Wednesday, I signed in to write a post and got the following warning:
"This blog has been locked by Blogger's spam-prevention robots. You will not be able to publish your posts...."

Wow...instant blogging withdrawal. Blogger provided a link to take you to an information screen for a locked blog. The information screen said I had to request a manual review of my blog in order to have it unlocked. Their manual review takes up to two business days. Great!

The only thing I can figure is that I was locked due to me leaving comments on several blogs. My comment spree was started by a local food blog. The Foodie Report had a post not too long ago saying their management is questioning the extent of the audience of their blog. They made a request to visit often and asked folks to post a comment as well. I like their blog (and I like getting comments here too), so I decided to help them out and leave at least one comment a day there or somewhere when I'm surfing around.

Rather than always putting in simple text comments, I included links in several of my comments made to various Blogger blogs. They were relevant links -- and I think each link was unique. It's actually more work to add html tags to include a link in a comment. Blogger's own comment box directions specifically mentions it's ok to use tags in your comments. Finally, every comment I made required "word verification" that is specifically used to prevent comment spamming. So what's up with that!?! I think they need to work on their spam filter criteria.

Finally today I was released. I received this note:
Hello,
Your blog has been reviewed, verified, and cleared for regular use so that it will no longer appear as potential spam. If you sign out of Blogger and sign back in again, you should be able to post as normal. Thanks for your patience, and we apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.
Sincerely,
The Blogger Team


I'm still going to leave a comment a day when I'm reading various blogs. And thanks to all the folks who leave comments here. I know it takes some extra time, but they are much appreciated. If you're a Blogger user, I hope your blog doesn't get locked.