Monday, April 23, 2007

Playing with Skype

I recently downloaded Skype because the idea of being able to click on a contact in Outlook or Gmail and have the phone automatically dial the number seemed pretty cool.

I also had to buy a bluetooth dongle for my laptop since I got it just before my work started buying laptops with bluetooth. But it works pretty well (last week, I would have said great) with the headset I have for my phone.

So, today, I've been using Skype to call in for conference calls and other calls. Some have been okay (as good as a cell phone) but others have been sketchy - I think though, my headset has been disconnecting from my laptop and cutting out my voice on the calls.

The idea is still cool - phone numbers are links and the software just calls them. They get routed to my BT headset and boom, I could be directing air traffic or telemarketing stuff that you don't really need.

So, I'm playing with it. If any of my faithful readers want to Skype me, look me up - I shouldn't be too hard to find on Skype.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Don't eat beignets while wearing black

Or any other color for that matter.

Editors note: I wrote this on the airplane back, Wednesday evening. I am finally getting around to posting it now on Sunday.

I have spent three days in New Orleans and am on my way home. When I travel, I usually wear the same clothes, a uniform of sorts. I typically wear a black button down shirt (but okay untucked) and olive cargo pants (I can load up my pockets, but still sit comfortably). It is all about ease and comfort during travel.

To get that last feel of New Orleans, I bought beignets in the airport. The ones from Cafe du Monde were far better, though. Before I could ask the girl at the counter to go easy on the powdered sugar (probably sacriledge), she dumped a ginormous scoop into the bag.

Knowing how readily powdered sugar gets everywhere, I made a special effort to lean forward and keep the white sugar off my black shirt. In that endeavor, I was successful; however, my pants look like supermodels were doing lines off my crotch. The white powder is everywhere (but my shirt): hands, pants, the floor, probably my nose, too. I can only hope that drug sniffing dogs accompany any cops I might run into - the dogs will be able show I'm not some dope fiend.

But back on my time in New Orleans. I was able to get out to the French Quarter yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon. It was a neat area, quite picturesque and lots of little neat shops. Burbon street had too many bars and strip clubs for my liking, but I could see the appeal for some. Now, if Heather had come with me...

New Orleans was hit hard by Katrina and now it is coming back, but progress is slow. There were people rebuilding houses in the French Quarter and buildings crumbling in the Central Business District. It was interesting around Tulane, how on one side of the street, you would have dorms and on the other, broken old warehouses for sale. New Orleans is struggling, but rebuilding itself.

I'm glad to be going home. My hotel was less than perfect and I miss my wife and kids. Heather has misplaced her cell phone, so she's a lot harder to get in touch with. My travels this week have finally come to an end...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Consummate traveler, I am

I'm beginning another series of trips, this time shorter and some actually involving personal travel. But being the end of spring break for my kids and the fact that I am on a plane on Sunday (and this is a work trip), I didn't start packing until 10:30pm the night before my 8 am flight.

I've read some articles in airline magazines (surprise) about experienced travellers and some the tell-tales of newbies. One of the things they mentioned was that experienced travellers never pack early.

Sure, I've got a complete set of toiletries, all under 3 ounces and packed in Ziploc bags, so that part is easy to complete, but my Boy Scout experiences and my military background tell me to pack with a checklist. "Don't forget nothin'" is one of the Army Ranger's founder's mottoes. With a checklist, I don't need to think about what to bring, I've already put my efforts into the checklist!

So, last night, we watched Children of Men (a good movie and even a more interesting family movie - "This is set in 2027, I thought there were supposed to be flying cars?") and didn't finish until late. After the movie, I decided I should pack as I had to leave the house by 6am to get to the airport.

Remember The Milk, my online task list service, which really serves as my brain, unfortunately had some server issues and was down. This is the first time it has ever happened (I understand there were some widespread Internet outages in Australia Texas (see Emily's comment) yesterday) and I was unable to print out my checklist. "No worries," I thought to myself, "I've travelled enough that I should be able to do it all from memory."

So, I think I packed all the right and enough clothes, some stuff to run in the hotel gym and my iPod speakers. Unfortunately, when I got to the off-airport parking, I realized I left my blue tooth headset sitting on my desk. I did bring the charger and the blue tooth dongle I just purchased, but no headset.

I was really looking forward to making the few conference calls I had this week on Skype. I just signed up for Skype and that was the main reason I bought the dongle. Hopefully, the mic on my laptop will work well enough - I was hoping to save the cell phone minutes and make use of a conference hotspot and not have to back to my room. We'll see how it work out.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Welcome to New Orleans

The airport announcements are in English and French. The signs are tri-lingual with Spanish too!

This mobile text message is brought to you by Cingular, now the new AT&T

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The marvels (and shocks) of the internet

Or alternatively titled: I can find anything on the internet that you ask me to find, even if you don't really want me to.

Yesterday evening, my wife was marveling at the information we had at our fingertips through the internet and how much of an improvement since our college days. I wasn't sure if day 6 specified Saturday when using crontab (pretty geeky, ehh), but I was able to quickly find the answer on Wikipeida. (BTW, yes 6 specifies Saturday, and either 0 or 7 specify Sunday).

She then lamented that she could not find a video to use in her blog of our new touchless, self-opening trash can. We estimate that it took less than two minutes for me to find one. After the fact, she confessed that she only searched for about 30 seconds on You Tube.

I then boasted that I could find anything on the internet.

My wife has taken a little risque turn (she's peppering her blog with rather enjoyable red head pinups) and so she wanted me to find a donkey show for her. In retrospect, she didn't really want me to find donkey shows for her, it was just her challenge to me. Which, shockingly, I was able to meet.

I'm not so certain that I want to be able to find anything on the internet. Trash can videos, I'm okay with that. Donkey shows just aren't my thing.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Seriously ironic

This email came as an e-news alert from my kids school just now.

Alert From Sheriff's Office

The King County Sheriff's Office has issued an alert for community members in the greater Redmond area to be on the alert for a suspicious male, described as heavy set, Hispanic or "medium" skinned, between 50 to 60 years old, with a goatee. He drives a late model dark green or teal Dodge Caravan, which he may have tried to lure children into using a puppy, according to police reports. A 6-year-old also told adults that a man matching this description tried to grab him. Although no person has reported seeing this man in our District, this is a good opportunity to remember to be aware and look out for children's safety. If you encounter a suspicious person or activity, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Safety advice for students:

* Never talk to a stranger.

* Never let a stranger get too close, whether the stranger is in a car or walking.

* Never tell a stranger any personal information, such as your name, age, or address.

* Always try to walk in pairs with a friend or an adult.

* Stick to safe, well-lit paths when walking.

* Do not obstruct your hearing with iPods or portable music players when walking or waiting outside.

* If a stranger tries to grab you, yell as loudly as you can and run away.

* Always alert an adult immediately if you are approached by a suspicious person.

April 9-13 Spring Break - Enjoy!

As parents and members of the the community, this is good to be aware of - and I don't mean to make light of it.

But can you appreciate the second bullet point? Spring break, enjoy!


"Hey, everybody, there is a potential child-snatcher or worse in our area. Oh and BTW, enjoy spring break."

Okay, so the note has some more bullet points after these two, but the combination of these two is rather ironic.

Remind your kids, keep your eyes open for child snatchers and for irony!

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all of you! I wasn't really planning on writing anything today, but I read an article in the Seattle Times about Peeps! Check out the picture archive - there are some cool creations.
I love Peeps. I think it is the limited availability but they are cool. You know, I don't like marshmallows. When you cover them in colored sugar and cast/extrude/cut them into an interesting shape, they taste different. Yeah, thats it.
This year, Heather bought several packages of peeps before Easter and when they are fresh, they really taste good. I think that this is the first year that I have had fresh peeps. Mmmm.
I love to start by biting their ears (or heads if they are chicks) off. Maybe that is just the sadist in me - at least I can get it out on marshmallows!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Make your own Google Maps

As I was looking for the location to a meeting my wife sent me, I noticed a new tab on my search results on Google Maps. You now have the ability to create and annotate your own maps directly on Google Maps.

Google Earth has had this functionality for a while. You could mark a map with a polygon, placemark, or path, save it as a .kmz file and post that to the web. Then Google Maps could open it and display it. You can create pictures or video placemarks (links to files elsewhere on the web) and a similar to Google Earth, you can save your search locations on the map too. The user guide explains all the functionality with step-by-step instructions.

All this same functionality has now been ported to Google Maps. It is pretty neat and easy. I made one map of two fun twisty routes near my house that I love to drive in my MINI. You can make your maps public and included in searches or unlisted so that you can give out the URL to others.

This is pretty cool. Now I can make my own routes and not have to always go the fastest way!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Meanest woman ever

Okay, so I went a little overboard with the title, but she really wasn't very nice.

This weekend we had a swim meet in Puyallup and like most other swim meets, it started pretty early. We left our house at 6:30am, in order to be there at 7:30am, so we could find seats and be ready for warm-ups at 8am.

At about 8:00 or so, an older woman arrived. I say older in retrospect, because elder implies some wisdom gathered through the ages. She asked me if the seats to one side of me were taken - there was some one else's towel spread on them - and I responded, "Some one's stuff is there." She proceeds to spread out her towel right behind me and tells me, "You need to move." After the fact, my wife told me that there were plenty of other seats, but we were by the starting blocks.

I scoot forward some, thinking she needs the room temporarily to spread out her stuff but promptly I get a knee stuck in my back. Yes, she was inside my personal bubble, but swim meets get crowded, so I can deal it. She kept moving her knee around, trying to push me forward. It became apparent that this wasn't an accidental incursion into my personal space, it was a deliberate invasion.

I proposed to her that we each move a little bit sideways and we can both have plenty of room. She declined that option, saying she was expecting more people, and kept her knee stuck in my back.

If reason based negotiations weren't going to work, I was going to be comfortable. I leaned back against her knees and was quite comfortable.

Her grown daughter, a swimmer's mom, eventually arrived. When she sat down, she asked me to move my bag using polite words like "please" and "thank you." I obliged, as you get more flies with honey than vinegar to borrow a colloquialism.

Shortly thereafter, she wanted to know what was going on and her mom took this opportunity to say how much more comfortable we could be if we weren't having a pushing match.

My response was that she was the only one pushing and that I was quite comfortable leaning against her knees. She then went on to say that swim meets are crowded and that people should move for others.

"People should move for people who are polite and ask them. Your age hasn't taught you politeness, but somehow your daughter learned politeness. I've offered twice that we can each move over and share the space, but you seem happy to try to push me aside with your knees. I'm happy leaning against them."

She was shocked and surprised that her daughter was recognized as polite, but didn't say more.

Swim meets are long and she had to go to the bathroom at some point. When she returned, the polite one, her daughter, said "Excuse me," so I scooted forward and got both knees in the back. But again, it was comfortable to lean on them, so there I stayed.

A few hours later, she got up and left to sit in her car. Her daughter said to me, no longer so polite, "Go ahead and lean back now. Does it make you feel like a big man to push on my mom?"

Calmly and politely, "I will lean back and it doesn't make me feel like a big man. She was the only one pushing and not very polite either."

"My mom is very nice and polite."

"Maybe when you are around, she wasn't polite when she was talking to me."

This line of discussion quickly ended, but I was ready to propose her mom's sudden personality change on stroke or Alzheimer's. You have to look out for the older people.

I was amazed at how rude this woman was and we were both stubborn. I would have to also say that it was more comfortable leaning against her knees than the benches. I do feel a little bad that she was probably uncomfortable for the rest of the afternoon, but just because you are old doesn't make you entitled to push other people around.

This was a surprising occurrence because people at swim meets are usually quite nice. I still don't get it, two days later.