Monthly Archive for May, 2003

Job Opportunity in Lawrence, Kasas

Just wanted to share with those of you looking for a job, or a better job, that LJWorld.com is looking for a web programmer/developer. I’d highly recommend the job to anyone with the reuqired skill set. LJWorld is one of the leaders in the industry. Good luck if you apply. And if I know you, let me know you applied and I’ll pass on a recommendation if I feel that I can.

Follow Up to “PageRank is Dead”

While my last post about Jeremy’s “PageRank is Dead” article shows that I think Jeremy’s correct, you’ve got to also admit that Dell’s gotta be pissed that a search for dell lattitude 610 brings up a post I wrote as the top search result…

Kind of funny.

Maybe PageRank isn’t totally dead…

PageRank is indeed Dead

Props to Jeremy for his PageRank is Dead post. I’d agree, page rankings in Google seem quite odd now… sorry I missed it while on vacation.

Are you boring?

Someone sent me a link to the e-bore-ometer today. I haven’t checked it out yet, but it looks like a great tool to help guide those of us that might be boring.

home finally + Pictures of St. Maarten/St. Martin

We flew into Dallas late last night… Drove home to Austin this morning. Our vacation was fantastic.

I uploaded some photos from our trip here

I’ll post the 7 days of writing from our trip tonight. (posted the past 7 days of writing as if I posted them when they were written — see below — pretty boring reading, unless you’re planning on taking a trip to St. Maarten, but they’re at least posted)

iMovie notes

On the plane back to Dallas, I figured I’d play with creating an iMovie of our photos, since Steve Jobs showed such a cool demo of his kids at the last MacWorld Expo Keynote I went to. It was a good two years ago, but the demo was cool, and I still haven’t played with iMovie ever…

I found iMovie to be pretty intuitive after playing around with it for 20 or 30 minutes, but it was really quite slow at rendering photos into movie clips, unless I only took 5 or 6 photos at a time and tried to render them…

The first thing I tried to do was drag 152 photos into the movie track area, only to find iMovie barfing after image number 75 or so… It just didn’t want to take that many images at one time…

I quit iMovie and started over… this time, I tried dragging one or two images into the Movie tray, and viola, it worked just fine, but it still took a good 5-10 seconds to render the clips.

I played with transitions and titles on 5 or 6 images, and then made the mistake of trying to drag 50 or so images into the Movie tray… bad idea…

iMovie didn’t like doing that with any real speed…

So I hit <CMD + Z> (the key command for ‘undo’) and interestingly enough, iMovie quit working to render the 50 image clips, and put them in it’s ‘trash bucket’. Those 50 or so images accounted for 589MB of trash… geez… that’s a lot of scratch disk space…

Then I played with the “Ken Burns Effect” settings, so that when I dragged an image into the Movie Tray, I wasn’t having to render an effect, rather, I was just showing the photos for 3-5 seconds, and there was no zoom involved… this made iMovie play a lot nicer… it didn’t try to ‘render’ anything anymore, and was much faster at importing photos…

But, after playing with iMovie, and exporting a 45 second movie that weighed in at 401 MB and looked like crap (in quality) compared to the iPhoto slideshow I’d built, I was ready to throw in the towel…

Maybe when I have kids and a DV video camera, I’ll then take some time to play with iMovie a little more and actually learn how to use it… until then, it’s one iApp that I just don’t need for the time being…

Free software’s only worth what you would pay for it, and in this case, I’m glad it’s free.

Day Seven in St. Martin — Orient Beach and Phillipsburg

Monday was our last full day on the island, so we got up early and headed out to catch the ferry over to Pinel Island, since we hadn’t done that yet. We found the ferry to Pinel around 8:45 (this was a chore, since there aren’t any signs at the ferry telling you that you’ve found it… we ended up driving around the town of Cul de Sac before finally asking a postal worker, who told us where it was — we’d already been there and thought we were in the wrong place). We asked the men at the dock when the ferry was leaving for Pinel and the ferry man said “Well, it’s gonna be a slow day, so maybe not ’till 9:30, maybe later.”

The wife and I looked at each other and decided to head to Orient Beach. We spent the better part of the morning at Orient Beach, enjoying the sun and the surf. The term ‘clothing optional beach’ is true. We saw a few topless women, and a few fully nude women… most of them were semi-attractive, but the majority of them weren’t at all attractive. The fun part of the day was watching the wife react to the completely naked men walking down the beach… I got a kick out of her reaction… most of the time it was “ewe!”

You see, just because people can get naked on a beach doesn’t mean you want them to. Who wants to see 250 pound, 5’8″ men naked? And how about 55 year old European women who really don’t shave any part of their body anymore and have had gravity and poorly built bras working against them their whole life?

Ugh… or should I say Ugly…

After spending 3 hours baking in the sun (yes, my legs were quite burnt… should’ve put sun screen on the legs) we ate lunch at Kakao’s again, and then headed to Phillipsburg to shop…

We shopped for the rest of the day, trying to stay out of the sun, and picking up souveniers and gifts for friends back home.

Around 5:00 we retired to our villa to rest and clean up, and then we went to dinner at a place close to our villa on Pelican Key. The meal was so-so, but the service was horrible. Our waitress didn’t know what the specials were, and took a good long while between her visits to our table to check on us. We left as quickly as we could and walked back to our villa. (A little too much wine and rum punch).

We went to bed early, and savorerd the last night of sleep on the island.

Day Six in St. Martin — Relaxing at the Villa and Maho

On Sunday the 25th, we just sat around our villa and relaxed. We’d had enough of driving around the island, and wanted a little quite time to ourselves.

Around 9:00 p.m., we headed to the Maho Beach area, as it’s generally the night life part of the island. At first we headed to Bliss, then to Bamboo Bernies, but one was closed and the other wanted a $20 cover charge, so we went to the Sandy Beach Bar (right next to the airport landing strip). It was more of a meat market than a bar, and we didn’t want to hang out in a truly single’s club, so we walked up the hill to the more commercial part of Maho.

We walked the strip before being drawn into eating at Cheri’s Cafe. Cheri’s had live entertainment, which consisted of a local band. The band was really one guy playing two synthesizer keyboards, and 4 guys covering many different songs, but all with a regae flavor. It was a fun place with a fun atmosphere. When we were seated we were handed plastic little hand clappers so we could clap along with the beat, or applaud the artists.

After Cheri’s we walked though the Casino Royale, and decided to hang on to what little cash we had left (total out of pocket costs of the trip were in the $3,000 range at this point I think) and we went home for the night…

We stayed up late, watching the waves break on our beach, and drank rum and sprite on the porch…

Day Five in St. Martin — Anguilla and Marigot

We finally slept in a bit, or at least got a late start on the 24th.

We were planning on heading to Anguilla for the day, but didn’t arrive in Marigot (where one boards the ferry) until 10:00. It took us so long to get there because we sent postcards today to our loved ones back home, so, I spent the morning writing 10 postcards and addressing them… then it took us a good 20 minutes to buy stamps at the french post office because we got in the wrong line on accident.

After putting the cards in the mail, we realized we would be late for the ferry we were trying to get on, so we walked through downtown Marigot. There was a marketplace area set up, so we strolled through. (I was looking for a hat to replace the one I lost in the surf on Friday). The wife found a cute little outfit for $20.

We went to the ferry dock, and paid our $2.50 embarkation tax and signed up for the next ferry. We had 30 minutes until it left, so we toured the Mall of the West Indies… a very upscale mall built in 2000 in Marigot. The shops were quite charming… very French and very upscale. The prices weren’t outrageous though.

At 10:50 we boarded the ferry for Anguilla. The ride was fun, if a little bumpy. It took 18 minutes, and the seas were slightly choppy with swells in the 6-10 feet range.

Our ferry pulled into Blowing Point and we went through Anguilla’s immigration office (Anguilla is a British Island).

We we instantly accosted by the local taxi drivers, asking us if we needed a taxi. We, of course, needed one, as we had no car, and there were no rental agencies around… besides, we were told to just get a cab, because the driver would stick with us all day, and take good care of us. Our cab driver’s name was John Lake, and he drove an old Toyota mini-van with vinyl seats and doors on both sides of the van.

As we drove, Mr. Lake gave us the nickel tour of Anguilla, and told us a bit of the history of the island.

He dropped us off at Dolphin Fantaseas (near West End) on the west end of the island around 11:50 am. We checked in, paid our fee for swimming with the dolphins, and went to Corals, the restaurant next door for lunch.

Let me say this: The beaches in Anguilla are just breathtaking.

Corals overlooks a beach on the west end of Anguilla. We had a lunch consisting of pan-fried Grouper for myself and a Chicken Pita for the wife, on a terrace adjoining the dolphin ponds, overlooking a beautiful beach. The breeze was wonderful and the scenery was truly breathtaking.

After lunch, we went back to the Dolphin Fantaseas and changed in preparation for our little ‘swiming with the dolphins excusion’. I think we paid way too much to swim with the dolphins, but it was a lot of fun. We were treated to being able to swim with two fully grown dolphins, as well as a 5 month old baby dolphin that was born in captivity on December 26, 2002. He is the first dolphin born in captivity in Anguilla. It was pretty cool. The dolphin trainers tell us that many dolphin trainers don’t ever get the chance to swim with a baby dolphin. I honestly think it’s cruel that the dolphins are even in captivity in the first place.

After the dolphin experience, we were treated to an hour drive with Mr. Lake to Shoal Bay, which our local villa rental office personell had told us was the most beautiful beach in the Caribbean. The drive was quite educational. Mr. Lake is in his 60s, or so, and has live on Anguilla his whole life, so he knew the history of pretty much everything. It was neat learning from him, and well worth the price of the taxi service for the day. During the course of the trip we learned, for example, that the really old houses on the island are the two or three made of wood in the central city of the island. Those wooden houses were very rare because of the way a hurricane can wipe out just about everything on the island when it hits. He said that anyone on Anguilla that owns a wooden house has ‘plenty of money’.

We arrived at Shoal Bay around 3:30 pm, and were amazed by its beauty. Imagine clear crystal blue water streching as far as the eye can see, as well as bright white coral and shell beaches running to your left and right as far as you can see. Then add the impression of a small breaking wave about 100 feet out in the ocean due to a shallow corral reef, so that by the time the waves hit the beach, they’re quite pleasant, and not rough at all.

Then imagine beautiful bodies glistening in the sun in small pockets to your left and right, all soaking up the suns rays from a slightly cloudy sky.

You’re close to seeing Shoal Bay in your head.

Shoal Beach is the most beautiful beach in all the Caribbean.

We stayed at Shoal Beach until roughly 5 pm, and headed back to the ferry at Blowing Point, stoping once on the way to get some cash out of an ATM to pay for our cab ride and ferry ride back to St. Martin.

After returning to St. Marin, we went to Le Gaïac, which, we both agreed is the best restaurant we’ve visited on the island. The service staff was wonderful. The appetizers and entreés were deliecable, and the setting was quite “St. Martin”. Le Gaïac is a french restaurant in downtown Marigot, set on the Terrace of the West Indies Mall, which is on the north side of the Marigot Bay/Harbor. We watched the sun set behind a cloudy horizon while we dined on tasty dishes and sipped house wine (which rivaled most $20 bottles we’ve had at home). The dishes were the kind of dishes that you eat each bite, and chew as long as you can, because each time you chew, you bring out a different flavor that you don’t want to go away, but at the same time can’t wait for the next flavor to exude from the bite.

Le Gaïac truly is one of the best restaurant’s on the island. Be prepared to spend $200 for dinner though… it’ll be easy there.

After dinner, we retired to our villa for a quiet after dinner drink.

Oh, and I finished The Bretheren by Grisham today.

Fourth Day in St. Martin — Again, the Beach

We got up early on Friday the 23rd (our five year anniversary) and actually got ready quite quickly. We were on the road to Orient Beach around 9:00. Traffic at 9am is pretty bad, so, I’d recommend to anyone coming to St. Martin island to do your driving before 9am, or after 10am.

We took a new road (to us at least) to Orient Beach, pretty much driving cross country instead of following the main road around the island. It was very pretty driving down off a large hill into the Quarter D’Orleans as we headed north.

When we finally arrived at Orient Beach, we parked near the Kakao restaurant (one of the “5 Stars of Orient Beach”) which is in the middle of the beach. Orient Beach is a clothing optional beach, and the further south you get, the less clothing you’ll see, so we figured right in the middle is where we should start, and we could walk up and down it looking for the right part of the beach for our comfort level with naked bodies.

We ended up walking north a while, then back south to our car, and staying in front of Kakao. Not because it was took naked further south, but mainly because it was quite windy, and we figured we should stay near our car, just in case we wanted to leave.

We paid $15 to use some beach chairs and an umbrella (I’m still quite sunburned). We had a few drinks and stayed on the beach until around noon. It was just barely raining, and at noon it kicked up quite a bit. We decided it was time to eat.

Lunch at Kakao was pretty good. I had a fried sampler plate. The wife had a Salmon salad. Lunch cost $45.

We decided to go to Anse Marcel for the rest of the day, due to the fact that Orient Beach was sort of a let down, primarily due to the weather. (We’ll go back on Sunday or Monday, I’m sure).

So, we drove to Anse Marcel after lunch. Anse Marcel is quite beautiful. It’s a small beach, nestled into a cove protected by two large hills to the sides, and the back of the beach. There is an all-inclusive resort at this beach that you have to walk through to get to the beach. It’s wonderful.

When we finaly left the groomed and finely manicured grounds of the resort, the beach was fantastic. We met a little Frenchman named Damian who was manning the cocktail hut at the beach and had a few drinks. Damian was full of energy. I have a feeling we were his only customers that day.

We sat on the beach at Anse Marcel until almost 4:30, and I wore sunscreen all day, so I dind’t get more burned (which was nice for a change) though we didn’t get quite a bit of sun.

After Anse Marcel, we headed into Marigot, to quickly walk though the shops. Marigot is a lot less touristy than Phillipsburg. The shops are more functional, and at the same time there are plenty of good jewelry, clothing, and curio type shops.

We didn’t buy anything in Marigot other than a couple of Haagen-Daas ice cream cones. The ice cream cones cost $2.50 each, and when you ask for ‘one scoop’ that’s all you’ll get. One scoop. I suppose they give you less ice cream than you’d get in the states for a few reasons: 1) Americans are generally fat, and a large part of that is because everything we buy now is ‘super-sized’ to give you more value, and 2) it’s probably pretty expensive to get the ice cream to St. Martin in the first place, as well as 3) it may just be the french culture to eat lighter than Americans are used to. I did noticed that most of the people living on the island were in much better shape than most Americans I’ve met.

After Marigot, we drove back to our villa and showered and changed in preparation for our anniversary dinner. Based on the little ‘guide’ magazines we’d selected Captain’s Cove, a restaurant near us, for dinner. Frommer’s had written about this restaurant, so we figured it’d be great.

It sucked. Or at least didn’t live up to our expectations. They advertised live music for dinner dancing in their ads, which turned out to be a local guy with a Karaoke machine trying to sing songs like “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler, and he just didn’t have the vocal range to pull it off.

Our meal was quite good though. I had prime rib, she had a lean meat dish (think filet mingon without any fat) that came from a local animal. It was actually quite good and the prime rib was fantastic. We drank a bottle of Bougelais red wine with dinner, and the restaurant gave us a piece of cheescake to go.

We returned to the villa to turn in for the night. The wife gave me my anniversary present, which I was pleasantly surprised to open.

Third Day in St. Martin — The Beach

The wife and I awoke to a sunny breeze and a clear sky on Thursday, May 22nd.

We drove to the north western corner of the island, and drove through Terra Basses (the Low Lands) where there are many large mansions (probably owned by rich celebrities from the U.S. Some of the homes are quite beautiful. On our way there, we drove through the golf course in Mullet Bay, which is still pretty much a dump. The golf course was beat up pretty badly in the Hurricane that ravashed the island back in ’95. It’s too bad the course is so run down, because it looks like a wonderful setting to play golf, if it didn’t looks so scary.

We found a parking spot for Long Beach (Baie Longue) and walked out to the beach. It was beautiful, but there were rocks in the beach (sort of like the beach right outside our villa, so we just walked the beach for an hour or so.

Around 11:00 we headed to Marigot, and had some wonderful crepes for a late breakfast at a little french bistrot.

Then we walked around the town before getting suckered into a timeshare presentation (around noon). We spent 3 hours listening to a timeshare pitch that we ended up not buying (even though it sounds like a good deal) mainly because the accomodation, while nice, weren’t very kept up on the outside. We were close to buying, but we didn’t.

After the timeshare experience, we headed out on a quest to find a good relaxing place to sit on the beach. We found Rouge Beach (Baie Rouge) on the French side, just east of Terra Basses.

We spent the better part of the afternoon and early evening there, and watched the sut set. It was beautiful and quite an experience. I finished The Eaters of the Dead today.

To end the day, we drove to Grand Case for dinner and had a wonderful meal at the Rainbow Cafe. We ate duck and lamb downstairs before retiring to the second story deck for desert. It was truly a beautiful place to eat dinner. The owner was very kind, and treated us to a shot of banana Rum on the way out.

When we got home, I gave the wife her sapphire bracelet, because I just couldn’t wait to give it to her one more day.

Second Day in St. Martin — shopping in Phillipsburg

We woke up this morning, to a beautiful day. The beach sounds and the constant breeze were a wonderful thing to wake up to.

After taking showers, we headed down to the beach and pool to lay out in the sun. I continued reading The Eaters of the Dead, and she was reading Bridget Jones’s Diary. We sat in the sun until noon or so…

The we headed to Phillipsburg, which is the capitol of the Dutch side of St. Maarten (that’s the Dutch spelling).

We parked the car near the police station (free parking) and walked to First Street. We visited many shops, mainly jewelry stores and curio shops. We bought gifts for our close friends and family. (My brother will get a hat from the Jimmy Buffet store in Phillipsburg, which by the way isn’t cheap. The rest of our friends will get Rum and assorted gifts from the Guavaberry Emporium).

We enjoyed walking down Old Street, which is truly a great place to shop.

I bought the wife a 2.5 carat Tanzanite pendant for $750 at a store on Front Street, and a really nice saphire and diamond bracelet (that she doesn’t know about yet) as well. It’s our five year anniversary, so I planned on buying her something nice, and the opportunity presented itself.

Shopping in Phillipsburg was a great way to spend a day. It’s too bad I didn’t realize how sunburnt I was from the morning’s laying out until 3:30 or so…

Advice: wear sunscreen in St. Martin… the sun’s out way too much, and the wind blowing will keep you cool, so you won’t notice how burnt you’re getting.

First Day in St. Martin — maybe a retirement place

After arriving in St. Martin today, the wife and I drove around the island, stopping to eat a late lunch, before continuing to circle the island. We took a few photos of the villa we’re staying at, before and after our quick trip around the island.

At dinner time, we talked about having kids, not having kids, and the effect that would have on our personal futures…

I brought of the notion of how much fun it would be to just not have kids, and the retire early to an island in the Carribean like St. Martin. I’ll tell you now, from the current vantage point of my life, there’d be nothing like retiring at the age of 45 to a country/island like St. Maarten.

I could easily work at/run a business via the internet on an island, as long as I had some sort of broadband internet connection (there are plenty of little DishNetwork type dishes here, so I’m assuming one could get satellite broadband) and a few good consulting gigs…

Who knows… maybe one day.

Anyways, it’s not 8:15 pm local time (same as Eastern) and the wife and I are exhausted… we’ll be sleeping very soon.

Honda Fit

I just wanted to take a moment to say that after driving (we rented one in St. Maarten) a Honda Fit (sold in Europe and Asia) that I think the car would do quite well in America. It’s a Ford Focus type of car, but with Honda design written all over it… problem is, it might compete too closely with the Civic, which is one of the US’s best selling small cars… too bad we don’t have them in the US though… I might consider buying one in all honesty.

In Search of Food (the best restaurant in Sint Maarten — so far)

The wife and I arrived in St. Maarten around 1:30 local time on a Tuesday. We deboarded the plane, went through ‘immigration’ and then grabbed our bags prior to meeting our rental car agent and the villa agent. After picking up our very cute Honda Fit rental, we drove out to Pelican Key to our villa (Puesta Del Sol, Apt. G).

Our villa agent got us settled in a beautiful 3 bedroom villa over looking the ocean, with a porch that has see-thru plantation shutters and sliding glass doors that we kept open all the time.

The view from our villa was fantastic, but we were really quite hungry…

So, we set off in search of food. We headed north on the main road of the island, driving through Marigot, headed towards Grand Case (which is the gourmet are of the island, or so we’re told). It was about 3:00 local time, and to our surprise… nothing was open. All of the restaurants aren’t open for lunch, expect for one that we found to be delightful: California.

California is a french restaurant that’s open all day, breakfast lunch and dinner, in Grand Case, St. Martin (the French spelling). It’s quite an amazing little restaurant. The waiter/bar tender was a great little frenchman, accent and all. I started lunch/dinner with French Onion Dip Soup (best I’ve ever had), and the wife Creamy Asparagus with Lobster Soup. I ordered a Carib beer (brewed in Trinidad) and she had a pina colada (which was made completely from scratch — meaning with real coconut milk).

Our main courses were Pork Tenderloin with Mango Sauce (for her) and Monkfish in Curry sauce (for me). They were truly delicious.

The neat thing about the cuisine and feel of this restaurant is that our waiter didn’t rush us at all. He waited until we were done with our soups to bring us our main course (in fact, we’d been done for a while) allowing us to really enjoy the food and the ambiance (the restaurant is on the beach in Grand Case with a lovely view of the Anguilles Islands to the north). It was late afternoon, and while we were the only people in the restaurant for the better part of an hour, we truly felt like we were ‘the only people there’. The waiter took excellent care of us. After dinner, when I asked for the check, the waiter (in his quite french accent) said “No, I’m not finished with you…” and trotted away. We were both quite amused by that notion, and awaited his return.

He promptly brought back two shot glasses, which he filled with “homemade rum” which we ‘shot’ — toasting our “one week on St. Martin, let it be our first of many trips”.

The homemade orange rum was terrific also… quite applaudable as an after dinner drink.

So, there you have it.

The best restaurant we’ve eaten at thus far is Californian in Grand Case, but… there are 6 more nights, and we plan on eating at many places, so there’s likely a few that’ll top this particular establishment… but you can’t beat it for a late lunch when nothing else is open ;)

On the iTunes Music Store

I bought one song through the iTunes Music Store in preparation for our trip. In Austin, I generally listen to KGSR 107.1 (great radio station in Austin) because they play great music, across all genres of music. They generally play “Texas Country” music and the styles that compliment it during the day. One song that’s received a lot of airplay in the past 4-5 months is Righteously by Lucinda Williams. I really enjoy the song, but didn’t feel the need to fork out $15 for the CD, so I turned to the iTunes Music Store, and viola… 99 cents later, I own the song, and it was on my iPod in the protected AAC format.

I’ll burn it to CD and reimport it in MP3 format when I return home, I’m sure, for two reasons: 1) playing it in the car requires a CD for the best sound, and 2) having the song in MP3 format on my iPod means I can reliably take it with me to any computing platform, without worrying about loosing access to it because I’m not using iTunes or forgetting my ‘key’ to the protection scheme.

Overall, the iTunes Music Store was a pleasurable experience, though I can’t honestly say I’ll use it that often… I actually like asking folks at places like Waterloo what music they think I’ll like and buying what they recommend based on what I tell them I like.

iPod Earphones — a note

I bought a used 5GB iPod off a buddy about a year ago. I use it every day at the office to listen to music through my Harmon Kardon speaker system (why the company I work for bought that good of a speaker set for an office setting I don’t know) and I love it, however, today is the first time I’ve listen to it for longer than 10-15 minutes using the earphones that came with it.

I’m thoroughly displeased with the earphones that came packaged with the first generation iPods… the earphones are hard plastic that, while looking great outside of the ear, and even still providing terrific sound at all decibel levels, just feel completely uncomfortable about a couple of hours in my ears. The size of the ear piece is just a tad too large, and the plastic is completely unbending and very hard. After 3 hours in my ears this morning, my ears are killing me.

Over the Gulf

I’m writing this entry from the exit row of an American Airlines 757 headed from Miami to St. Maarten:

We got up earlier than sin this morning to get to the DFW airport. Our flight left at 6:15 a.m., bound for Miami where we were to catching a connection to St. Maarten.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been on the Atkins diet and have successfully lost 10 pounds for our vacation. As of this morning, I’m off the diet for a week. We watched Catch Me If You Can this morning on the flight into Miami, and I also started one of the Chrichton books I bought for the trip: Eaters of the Dead.

Catch Me If You Can is a cute movie, though I was disappointed that Jennifer Garner wasn’t in more than 5 minutes of the film.

Eaters of the Dead is a decent book so far, but it doesn’t have any of the pizazz that most of Crichton’s other books have yet. It’s fairly dry through page 70.

TODO: Install SpamAssassin

When I get back from my vacation, the top priority on my list is installing SpamAssassin, thanks to the mini-review that John Gruber just posted

Preparation for a trip

So, this weekend was spent preparing for my trip to St. Martin which starts this week. I had a lot to do:

I spent a lot of Saturday and Sunday at the office, so that I could knock out a bunch of things that have to be done sometime before I get back, and I’m the only person that can do them, if I expect to see the results that I need to see. I also needed to draft a fairly persuasive memo to my boss for a meeting on Monday morning. Total office time this weekend: 18 hours… which is waaay to much, but I’ll be gone for 10 days, so the trade-off is worth it ;)

I also did a bit of yardwork: mowed and edged the yard, cleaned out the flower beds, cleaned the pool and back-washed the filtration system. The wife cleaned up the house almost completely, never-mind that the maid comes on Monday morning (who can ever explain women?)

I also set off on a buying spree for the trip. First stop was CompUSA where I picked up an iGo Juice Travel Adapter for the iBook (which I could have gotten cheaper at Amazon). Then I stopped by Borders and picked up The Bretheren and The Partner (two Grisham books I haven’t read yet) and How to Become CEO, which is by the same author as How to Become a Great Boss, which I’d recommend to everyone. I also picked up some screen protectors for my Palm, and a keyboard for it, since the old keyboard I have doesn’t work with the Tungsten model…

So, now, I’m ready to travel. Books to read, adapter for the iBook so we can watch movies on the long flight, and a clean house to come home to with a clean yard.

Can’t wait… posting will be light until the end of May, but I’ll have plenty of pictures hopefully.

PhotoPal 1.0b is out

Noel Jackson has released the truly fantastic PhotoPal 1.0b. I’m using it here… you should be too.

Think MovableType templating, with the ease of PHP understanding for a photo store, photo blog, or even just a handy place to hold your images for personal archival and retrieval purposes… truly fantastic.

Alternative to the local phone company

I’m an SBC customer. I’ve been an MCI customer before. I’ve given money to Pacific Bell (now SBC), but thanks to Mr. Nosuch, I’m seriously considering an alternative to the local phone company.

Currently, I’m paying roughly:

  • $75/month to DirectTV for a satellite TV dish and UltimateTV (think TiVo, but made by the evil empire)
  • $25/month to TimeWarner Cable for Roadrunner cable internet service (which by the way is rock solid, and has only been down once in 3 months and then only for 20 minutes).
  • and (wait for it)

  • $40/month for SBC Local telephone service… and we don’t even have any features… no call notes (voicemail for the house), no caller ID… nothing but regular old phone service (and a shit load of stupid fees).

I’m seriously considering an alternative

Headed to St. Martin/Sint Maarten – Links

I’m going on vacation soon, for a while week (finally). It’s our 5 year anniversary, and I’m taking the wife to the tiny two nation island of Sint Maarten/St. Martin.

The St. Maarten Reservation Center has helped us plan our trip, and I feel like Ted and JoAnne there are close friends of mine already. We’re staying in a 3 bedroom villa on the Dutch side of the island while we’re there, not far from Pelican Key.

And believe it or not, I can’t find a decent map of the island, but here are a few that at least provide a little information:

And lastly, I’ll have to remember to check the forcast before we leave (for the airport):

Google Hilite installed

I’ve installed another hack: Google Hilite from Dean Allen over at Textism.

So, now if you search Google for somewhere over the rainbow-mp3 and follow the first link, you’ll see a page where the terms you’ve searched for are highlighted.

Pretty cool. Thanks Dean.

GD PhotoPal and Apokalyptik

Thanks to Noel, I installed PhotoPal, which is a fantastic automatic photo album layout engine. I love it… the software package is still in the dev phase (it’s only at version .9x) as of my installation, but it rocks.

One thing that’s lacking is the documentation, but Noel’s pretty responsive to email.

I needed to install the GD Image Library tools, but had no idea where to start, so I asked Apokalyptik to upgrade PHP to version 4.3.1, and to make sure that the GD library worked.

Took him about 20 minutes from when he said ‘yes, I’ve got time’ until he was done.

Great sys-admin that guy… if you need something done, or someone to take care of your server, talk to him. (thanks again to Scott for turning me on to him).

And without further ado, I give you the my photos.

The meaning of color

When you’re designing advertising, or pretty much anything for that matter, you should know the reasons for using certain colors:

Color Psychology

Psychology of Color

About.com: The Psychology of Color

Interesting: The Meaning of Color in Cultures

From HP (a PDF): The Meaning of Color

Austin Ranks #1 In Best Places For Business And Careers

Forbes Ranks Austin #1 in “Best Places For Business And Careers”.

Cool.

Very Cool.

Feedster Images

Scott’s Feedster has made the blogrolls quite a bit lately, and while definitely cool, it wasn’t something I was following all that much, but, while I was telling him to call AppleCare to get his iBook diagnosed over the phone yesterday, he showed me Feedster Images.

I think Feedster Images is totally cool… in fact, I’m blogrolling it.

On Letting the IT Department Set Up My Machine

A few months ago, I asked my SFA Manager to get me access to my email from outside the company firewall. He gave me a RSA keyfob and set up two dial-up connections in XP for me to use to connect to the company intranet, so I could check my email from outside the office.

That wasn’t at all sufficient in my mind. I have broadband at home. I purchased a WiFi card with my own money for my laptop. I stay at a Wyndham on purpose (because the broadband connection is free if you’re a ByRequest member). I wanted to have access to the company intranet via broadband without any hassles.

I asked many times if this was possible. Each time I got a slightly different answer, ranging from a ‘no’ at first to a ‘yes, but we have to come to your house to install a firewall’ as the latest answer.

I finally got fed up with excuses and asked my boss for access to my email outside the office via a broadband connection, so that I could check my email while I was at the Wyndham in Atlanta yesterday and today. That was a week ago last Friday. It was still the SFA Manager’s job to get the request processed, but at least now he could do so with some authority.

On Monday of this week, as of 10:00am I didn’t know how to access the company email servers from the Wyndham yet, so I asked the SFA Manager’s immediate supervisor why I didn’t have anything set up, or taught to me yet.

Within 10 minutes, an IT person was in my office with a floppy disk with some VPN software on it, and a print out of instructions on how to login to the network via VPN.

I let the IT person do their job: installing the software, setting up the basics of the VPN account, and walking me through the process… and when that IT person ran into an error, he said he thought the error was something with the VPN server that he was going to check.

Now, I only had 30 minutes before I had to leave the office to catch a plane, so I didn’t follow up with that person before I left for Atlanta. I assumed everything would ‘just work’ when I got to my destination.

After checking into the hotel later that night, I took a shower, ordered room-service, and enjoyed the season Finale of “The Practice” before trying to log into the network via VPN over the Wayport connection in my hotel room.

Hmmm…. same error I was seeing at the office.

I called the tech that set up the software on his cell phone (he told me to call anytime).

The tech called his boss and they talked about what the problem might be, and his boss called me. He got my voicemail for some reason, and I didn’t ever touch base with him.

After a few tries at logging in via the ‘default’ setup I was given before I pulled out the instructions and read them.

The tech had set up the VPN access incorrectly. There was no way I was ever going to login using the default connection he’d set up, so I fixed it myself, and all was hunky dory.

The lessons here:

1. IT folks should check everything for the people they support. (If I’d been a less technical person, I doubt I could have figured out the problem). (If I’d have been a more senior manager, I’m sure I could have raised hell about the poor setup that the tech did).

2. If someone had stolen my computer, they could have easily hacked into the company’s VPN after breaking my XP password (it’s pretty easy to do I’m told) and the instructions for logging into our VPN were in the side-pocket of my computer bag, because that’s where the tech told me to put them, and I’d placed my keys (with the RSA keyfob) into the computer bag for easier traveling through the airport security.

3. XP has a built-in firewall option (or at least that what it looks like in the ‘Advanced’ tab of a LAN connection. (Not that I pretend to know a damned thing about XP).

Can anyone shed any light on why a firewall is needed on a computer that has a VPN client running connected to a VPN server?

It’s “Oriented” not “Orientated”

I’ve got this little pet peeve: When people say “Orientated” I want to tell them that they are stupid.

Orientated isn’t a word. It’s a term that differentiates the Sergeants in the Army from the Officers (learned that at Officer Basic at Fort Knox, KY from a Westpoint grad).

Orientated is a term that people without a college education use in place of the verb orient

Orientated is a term my boss uses.

How do I tell him that it’s not a real word?

updated on 9/20/2011: just want to give a shout out to the NCOs out there… by no means do I disrespect you guys. you are the guys that make the Army work. My comment above that I “learned that at Officer Basic” really kind of shows how my teacher at OBC wanted to drive home that orientated isn’t a word I should be using, not my feelings about NCOs at all. Don’t get offended by this post please, as it’s just something I wrote

Reading: How to Become a Great Boss

How to Become a Great Boss, The Rules for Getting and Keeping the Best Employees, by Jeffrey J. Fox.

Sounds cheezy right? It is.

… but it’s also a fantastic read for anyone that is a ‘boss’ or has a ‘boss’ and aspires to one day become a ‘boss’.

The books is organized into 50 little anecdotal stories and lessons about being a great boss.

I picked this little gem up because it was one of the cheaper little books on the rack in the airport (during my 5 hour delay in Atlanta) and am pleasantly surprised by the insight offered my Mr. Fox in the first 10 or so chapters.

Each chapter is only two or three pages long, and they lessons make for great reading. Here’s one from the front of the book:

Chapter II

The Great Boss Simple Success Formula

1. Only hire top-notch, excellent people.

2. Put the right people in the right job. Weed out the wrong people.

3. Tell the people what needs to be done.

4. Tell the people why it is needed.

5. Leave the job up to the people you’ve chosen to do it.

6. Train the people.

7. Listen to the people.

8. Remove frustration and barriers that fetter the people.

9. Inspect progress.

10. Say “Thank you” publicly and privately.

That’s just one of the chapters. Chapter 4 address the topic “The Customer is the Real Boss” pretty much sums it up with this line at the end of the chapter:

The customer is the real boss. And the dissatisfied customer fires employees every day.

So true. Do yourself a favor. Buy the book… great reading. I’m thinking I’m going to read it a few times before I put it on the bookshelf. Maybe I’ll only read one chapter a day, but in that one chapter, I think I’ll learn more than I can actually apply than I will in a full day of training on how to be a leader.

The Mac OS X Shareware Market

Kim IsabeauA friend of mine recently wrote me an email containing this snippet:

I’ve been considering writing some OS X software as a secondary source of revenue. Not sure what to expect from the OS X shareware market in terms of actual income. I’d like to give certain stuff away for free but also get something to help pay bills. A friend of mine was considering writing something with me. I’m going to be heading to WWDC so maybe that will provide some inspiration.

To which I offered this advice:

The Mac OS X Shareware market is a good one to be in, in my opinion, as long as you’re creating a product that has a demand, and are open about the development process and progress, and are creating a product that people are asking for.

I’d point you two two developers that I think are new shareware developers that are doing it right: Ranchero and Unsanity

Both are creating products that people want, and enjoy using, and are being very open about the whole process (by blogging consistently about their products and their trials and tribulations).

They’ve created a community around their products that feeds their innovation and supports those developers by giving feedback and asking for features constantly (as well as paying for the software I hope). That’s a huge part of building a company that’s sustainable (the community creation piece — that’s what’s kept Apple alive for so long).

I’d recommend you talk to Brent and Slava about their experiences and from those conversations, start looking for your inspiration for that great new OS X software application.

Now, please realize that I’m completely outside the Mac market after leaving it 2 years ago this past March. The Mac market however is still one of my passions. It’s always been a fun market to be in, because it’s the underdog market, and because the quality of applications and hardware was always so much better than the alternatives.

I’d encourage anyone looking at entering the shareware field to read this series of OS X Developer articles from O’Reilly, and that they talk to their potential peers before entering the shareware field full time. As a hobbyist, its easy to love doing something that you end up hating, for all the wrong reasons, if you try to make a business out of it. Trust me, been there, done that.

whether, or weather

Stuck in Atlanta.

Damn weather blew in right as I left a meeting for the airport (if I’d have gotten to the airport 30 minutes earlier, I’d have caught a flight back to Austin early) and right after I checked in, I heard that fateful announcement:

“ATTENTION: THE AIRPORT IS NOW CLOSED DUE TO BAD WEATHER. ALL FLIGHTS ARE DELAYED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE”

Ugh, shit. So I checked, and most of the airlines are predicting one and a half hour delays.

So, I’m stuck here in a really busy airport that doesn’t have WiFi access paying $30 for an hours worth of online time in one of those business centers that gounges you for access. And the funny thing is that the access is provided by Wayport. Why they don’t have WiFi access in the terminals perplexes me.

I’ll drop by and ask them tomorrow when I return home.

Character Entity Reference

Found this handy dandy Character Entity Reference thanks to a link from Zeldman

Love is in the Air

Love is in the Air – Great spot from Lowe Worldwide featuring a perfume. Enjoy.

The Cost of Starting a Business

Adam Kalsey wrote a great intro to small business costs in response to an article he read that wasn’t up to par in his opinion.

Adam covers things like Merchant Accounts, Secure Certificates, Marketing, Cataglog and Shopping Cart Software, and Implementation, briefly, but well.

I’d like to add a little to the marketing advice Adam gives.

In my experience, most companies spend between 10% and 15% of their annual revenues on marketing, and are successful at that level. As company’s get larger, they add products to their list of offerings, and that’s where the marketing gets confusing for those businesses. Some companies only market their products, some market their brand over their individual products. Both approaches work, but product marketing is generally less expensive and more measurable than brand marketing.

My advice to any company starting up would be to spend 15-30% of their expected revenues on marketing in the first year, and then 30% of their real year one revenues on marketing in year two. In years 3-5, marketing can generally be stepped down as a percentage of the budget, and with a successful product, 5% of the annual revenues for years 5-10 will be sufficient for most products.

Of course, you can get by on less, but you get what you pay for. Just make sure that you’re spending your money on media placements, not on consulting… you should never spend more than 15% of your marketing budget on advice.

iTunes Music Service Stuff

Liv TylerCredit Card Micropayment information, related to Apple and the new iTunes music service… neat information. Very neat. [via More Like This Weblog]

iTunes Music Store Digital Rights Summary [via More Like This Weblog]

iTunes sells 275,000 songs in 18 hours. Wow. Reported by MacWorldUK but not directly linked:

The feat is especially remarkable when considering that the offering is available only to the limited universe of users of Apple computers. The launch thereby sets the stage for a race between a host of media and technology companies to create and effectively promote similar services for the much bigger Microsoft-equipped PC market.

“There is going to be a race to see who can get to the Windows market and start to replicate this,” says the head of new media at one major label. “The question is [whether] someone else wants to put up the kind of money that Apple is to let people know they’re there.”

Apple says it plans to make iTunes compatible with the PC by the end of the year. Sources tell Bulletin that two major labels have already cut wholesale agreements with Apple for the Windows version of the service.

To be honest, I’ve got to admit that I’ve signed up, but haven’t actually purchased any music through the service yet… we’ll see if I ever do…

I actually enjoy going to a CD store every now and then to get music advice from the sales folks… especially now that I’m in Austin.

Related Entries Redux and Implementation

Thanks to all the comments on my most recent Related Entries post, I’ve installed Adam Kalsey’s Related Entries code.

The simple steps were to install Brad Choate’s excellent MTSQL plugin.

Then use Adam’s code on my individual entry templates, and viola, I now have Related Entries for people coming from Google looking for information. Interestingly, we recently started manually linking “related posts” on MarketingFix, and I just added Adam’s code and Brad’s plugin to MarketingFix as well, and Adam’s code pulls the same stories that we’re pulling manually for the most part. Pretty smart Adam. Thanks Adam.

sales commissions?

Street Smarts: The Sales Commission Dilemma

Need to read that this weekend.