Opera to the Rescue? Definitely worth a listen

Opera Browser LogoI just spent my evening at the Opera. Not the fat lady sings kind of opera, more of a browser with wings kind of thing that just happens to go by the name Opera. And I am really impressed (even though I'm tone deaf and can't tell a libretti from a Lambretta).

I have checked out the Opera browser several times in the past and each time was impressed at the way successive versions added new features, often ahead of IE (not hard to do) and Firefox (quite a bit harder but Opera has been doing it). However, I did not feel compelled to make it my default browser. When Google Chrome came along, seemingly faster than Firefox and with good stability, I made it my default browser. The recent emergence of the Mac version of Chrome into beta meant I could run it on both of my work boxes (one a PC, the other a Mac--yes, when it comes to tech--I go both ways).

But the latest Opera, version 10.10, has really impressed me and may become my new default. I was particularly interested in a combination of three capabilities that might be unique to me, but could make a difference to many other users.

First capability: An integrated email application that can read Eudora files. (For the younger generation, Eudora was a very popular email application last century and I still use it today because it's reliable and easily searchable. Unfortunately, the makers of Eudora abandoned it many years ago and it's starting to show its age.) I've been looking for a Eudora replacement and Opera might be it. I had been reluctant to give up Eudora's trusty filter/folder system of message management but Opera replicates it while using a more flexible system of "views."

Second, there is a Turbo feature that speeds up browsing on slow connections. Regular readers of this blog will know that my home office connection to the Internet is via satellite, specifically HughesNet, which can be very slow at times. Tada! Opera Turbo helps me cope with that.

Third, regular readers of this blog know that HughesNet makes it hard to access my own blog. (Something so weird I made a video about it.) But guess what, Opera sees my blog even when Firefox and Safari and Chrome and IE7/8 do not! Yes, it sounds crazy, but it is verifiable (a video of this phenomenon in action is coming). So there is no other way to put it: Opera works when the others don't. (And no prizes for figuring out with which browser I am writing this.)

There's a bunch more cool stuff in Opera 10.10 that I have not fully explored yet, including file and photo sharing and audio streaming (the audio thing was the source of the "worth a listen pun" in the blog post title). Even though Opera does not have a large share of the notebook and desktop browser market, the company is clearly pushing ahead with innovations and picking up enthusiastic users in the process. The company is also well established in the mobile and embedded browser market (check out the browser in your Nintendo Wii).

Over the next week or so I will be checking out more features and, if this whole HughesNet workaround capability pans out, I will be posting my impressions here.

Can You Hear Me? Radio interview at ad:tech

speakerAs you can see from the lack of recent posts on Cobbsblog, things have been particularly busy this month. My November started out with a trip to a trade show in New York called ad:tech. This event brings together a very interesting mix of companies that are in some way or another related to digital marketing.

Digital marketing is one way to describe what my work for Monetate is all about, so I was at the show checking out the digital marketing scene and looking to learn whatever I could. (Quote du jour: "A real expert always looks to learn more and does not always try to look like he's learned everything.")

Judging by the huge crowds, digital marketing is doing well these days. For all our sakes I am hoping that the larger-than-expected attendance bodes well for the economy in 2010.

Shortly after I fought my way through the check-in lines and gained entrance to the exhibit hall I was interviewed for WebmasterRadio by marketing guru Bryan Eisenberg. Here is a link to the interview. (I apologize for sounding out of breath but I had to shout to be heard above the crowd--the sound engineers at WebMasterRadio did an amazing job of filtering out background noise but they couldn't change the fact that I was shouting.) Oh, and here's a link to Bryan.

Anyway, if you take a listen to the interview you will get an idea of what Monetate is about and what my role as "evangelist" for the Monetate technology involves. (If you can't listen to the audio right now, the short answer is that my role as an evangelist is to get people excited about what the technology can do.)

I carry out my role by communicating across multiple media, most of which don't charge for participation. Over the years I have learned how to do this out of necessity, often working for startup companies that did not have a marketing budget to speak of (or we had a budget but it got eaten by engineering, or product delivery, or something else that was deemed a priority over marketing at the time).

Starting from back in the days when this type of thing was called guerilla marketing, I have pioneered the idea that if you offer up free content that is also valuable content, people will find that content, consume that content, and give some respect to the content creator. So when I created a web site back in the mid-nineties that was full of high quality computer security information, people who had read the content would call up looking for security advice, which we sold as security consulting, creating a blue ribbon client portfolio that became very valuable and was eventually snapped up by a much bigger company that paid us a premium for it.

A dozen years on and I am working on marketing a marketing product, finding that a lot of people have twigged to this strategy, so things are not quite so easy. But the strategy is still sound and I will keep persevering, adding new tactics like social media (an umbrella term for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs) to my arsenal. And of course, radio interviews whenever they present themselves.

You Can't See My House From Here: And I'm okay with that

Having written several posts in the past about Google Street View, including one featuring the house in which I was born, I thought I would post a Street View picture of where I live now:

Cobb Hill on Google Street View

As you can see--or rather, not see--the Google Street View camera vehicle did not get very close. In fact, it drove along the state highway near us, but that was it. Street View does not extend to the county road on which our 'official' address is located. And I'm okay with that.

I remain ambiguous about Street View in light of it's potential for abuse as a scouting tool by burglars and perverts. This has been widely discussed, particularly in the context of English cities where the narrowness of streets can put the Google camera very close to living room windows. But past discussions have focused on urban street views. Now Google is photographing rural roads, adding a new dimension to the potential for abuse.

It is no secret that farmers and ranchers don't always store their tractors and trailers in barns. In fact, putting all the equipment away at the end of every day, or every time you left the homestead to go to town, well that would be hugely unproductive, not to mention being a major pain in the butt. It's also common knowledge that some farms are located close to, sometimes bifurcated by, state and county highways, as seen here on Street View.



But common knowledge and specific knowledge are two different things; keeping them apart may keep some light-fingered city types from pillaging trusting country dwellers. Now Google Street View is bringing them together. Who knows who is surfing the hinterlands looking for easy targets?

A Tale of Intrigue & DNS: See HughesNet “blocking” my blog, now on YouTube

I have just uploaded my "HughesNet DNS Fail" video to YouTube but you can watch it right here. To be honest it is not my most polished video work, but I think it gets the job done. I have another one in the works that might be more effective. The plot goes like this: At times when HughesNet refuses to show me my own blog--yes, this very blog that you are reading--I can reach it via my iPhone over the AT&T Edge network. One of these days I am going to get really calm and centered and call HughesNet support with iPhone in hand and try to explain the flaw in their DNS ways one more time before I call in the sharks.

Genetic Hemochromatosis or Haemochromatosis? Neither one is good news

I did not know, until someone commented yesterday on an earlier post about genetic hemochromatosis, that the English spell it haemochromatosis. So I thought I would create this post to let other people know, and to link the hemo posts together (if you click on that link it will take you to a menu of the blog posts here that are about Genetic Hemochromatosis or Haemochromatosis).

In case you are new to this blog, genetic hemochromatosis or haemochromatosis is a condition in which the victim's body does not handle excess iron very well, resulting in long term and potentially fatal organ damage (liver, heart, kidneys, adrenal glands, pituitary, thyroid, etc.). Sometimes called iron overload disease, it is technically a condition and not a disease, but it can be pretty bloody miserable if you have it, whatever you call it.

A stunning percentage of doctors know less about this disease than you can read on this blog, and a surprising number of doctors and victims don't know about the Celtic genetic connection of the condition, which you can read about in the other posts and the links I have put there.

Finally, this blog is not devoted to iron overload, it is my personal blog about anything that interests or concerns me. Because my life partner of nearly 25 years has this condition, iron overload concerns me. I would like to help other people know more about it (if my partner's condition had been diagnosed sooner, she would not have been so badly disabled by it).

Most Worst Recession: Most worst copy editing?

ap-logoYesterday, I was stunned to read an Associated Press story that cited "more evidence that the most worst recession since the 1930s was losing its grip on the global economy." Here's one example of the story.

I was stunned, not by the idea that the recession might be ending, but by the lack of copy editing. Since when did the AP give up on correcting egregious errors like "most worst" anything? I have a lot of respect for the AP and I sure as heck don't want to annoy them by pointing out their flaws. If you've done any work in PR you know that AP stories frequently get repeated in hundreds of newspapers and on thousands of sites all over the Internet. Getting your product or company mentioned in an AP story is a PR milestone.

But it's this mass replication that worries me when it comes to declining standards in copy editing. Right now a Google search for "most worst recession" returns over 51,000 hits and I'm betting most of those hits are that AP article. How long before students routinely refer to the current recession as the most worst?

Cobbsblog on YouTube (via Stagecoach not Satellite)

This is a quick post to highlight the video I just uploaded to YouTube. Probably not my finest mixed media effort, it's a quick screencast to demonstrate the fact, oft-mentioned to friends and colleagues, that the $80-per-month HughesNet Satellite Internet service which I get at my house "blocks" access to my blog.

(10/2/2009: Video link updated. For the video, click here.)

In fact, even as I write this, I am being forced to eat a veggie pannini at Stagecoach Coffee in Cooperstown so I can use their free WiFi to get to my blog to post this on my lunch hour. As you can see in the video, accessing my blog via HughesNet  "normally" results in a DNS Lookup Error. However, there is nothing wrong with the blog, as can be demonstrated with DownForEveryone, which I demonstrate in the video.

I have reported this problem to HughesNet but they tell me it must be a problem with my web site or web hosting company. Obviously the problem is NOT with my web site or host. I am pretty sure the problem is HughesNet DNS. I even demonstrated this to HughesNet by running Anonymizer which, as shown in the video, intercepts the HughesNet DNS and makes my blog accessible over the very same HughesNet connection that said "DNS Error."

My speculation that this problem occurs because I am frequently critical of HughesNet, on this and other blogs, is indeed speculation. But you don't have to be ultra-paranoid to think it mighty strange that my HughesNet connection, which can reach Google.com but not Cobbsblog.com, is fishy. It certainly stinks.

Healthcare Reform: Where I stand

I think some of my friends are beginning to wonder why I have resisted blogging about the current healthcare debate in America, given that I have--as they know all too well by now--a lot of opinions on the subject. The truth is I cannot afford to get drawn into this one.

Why? I am way too busy holding down a job and patching up the hole in the roof and generally doing the things necessary to get by, like figuring out how to pay off the mid-five figure medical bill my wife's current illness has run up, so far (a task made even more challenging now that my credit score is getting perilously close to my IQ--and no, I don't think I'm getting smarter as I get older).

This state of affairs is unfortunate in more ways than one (or two or five). For a start, I feel that I have a useful perspective on healthcare reform. I was born and raised by socialized medicine. It served me and my family well. When my father died of cancer at 50, the family's grief and loss was not compounded by fears that his illness would bankrupt us. We never saw a bill. We never paid a penny, except to send flowers to the nurses who cared for him so mercifully in his final hours.

Since moving to America in 1976, I have observed what damage fate can do to a family through accidents and ill health compounded by the absence of any systematic approach to caring for the less fortunate. Yet  during that time the prevailing American attitude to healthcare appeared to be:
"I will take my chances. Whenever I see someone brought low by pain and suffering and medical bills I will pray for them, maybe make a donation, then remind myself "There but for the grace of God go I."

When I decided to make a new life in America I knew that it was a gamble. Work hard and you can do well. You can rise high and fast. The risk is that you can fall even faster, and way further, than in most "wealthy" countries. The only insurance against all eventualities in America is to have a lot of money in the bank, I'd say high eight figures at a minimum.

About 12 years ago I heard a doctor, who was also a U.S. congressman, describe, in a public speech, the prevailing American sentiment on healthcare:
"I've worked hard all my life. I didn't party in high school, I studied. I went through years of grueling college and post-grad education so I could make a good living. I have earned, and I deserve, better healthcare than the guys who come to mow my lawn every week."

As I said at the outset, I cannot spend much time on this. I can't do the lobbying and blogging and networking that I would like to do in order to change, or at least try to change, this point of view. About all I can do is present my own view on healthcare, stated as a general principle :
"The total bill for providing systematic and equal care to all members of society should be born equally by all members of society and paid by all members, according to their means."

I cannot think of a single reason why a caring and compassionate person would argue against that. Dozens of countries have adopted this principle and made it work. I cannot think of a single valid reason why America cannot do the same. That's where I stand on healthcare.

How to Lose Customers: A one-act, two-scene play performed in three tweets

Here is the original form of the play, a short blog post:

How to Lose Customers (USPS sinking)

Act I, Scene I: A United States Postal Service office.

Me: I want to send this package to England.

Postal Clerk: You can't send it like that, you have the wrong tape on it. And this paperwork's not complete.

[Me exits building, walks down the street carrying package.]

Act I, Scene II: A UPS shipping office.

Me: I want to send this package to England.
[Hands clerk the same package seen in Scene I.]

Clerk: No problem, just write your name here and the address it's going to. We'll do the rest.

[The End]

This play was recently performed as a series of three tweets on Twitter, as shown below. Literary scholars will note that, as posted live, the original tweets said "Me exists" where it should have said "Me exits" thus prompting speculation as to the playwright's state of mind at the time.

Tweet 1. How to Lose Customers: A one-act play in 3 tweets. Act I, Scene I: A United States Post Office. Me: I want to send this package to England.

Tweet 2. USPS Clerk: You can’t send it like that, you've got the wrong tape on it. And this paperwork’s not complete. [Me exits, carrying package.]

Tweet 3. Scene II: UPS office. Me: I want to send this package to England. Clerk: Write your name and address it’s going to. We’ll do the rest. [End]

And the Damage Done: Hemochromatosis recap

ironThe following is a recap of things I have learned from my partner's experience with hemochromatosis, a.k.a iron overload. I wrote this up for a support forum which is private, but I thought it would be helpful to make it available to anyone looking for information on this insidious condition. BTW, the circle+arrow symbol on the left is the alchemical symbol for iron, and yes, it is the same symbol that is used for the planet Mars and for the male of the species (I'm not going to touch that one, I have a hard enough time avoiding "ironic" puns when writing about this stuff).

[Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Seek medical advice before acting on, or drawing conclusions from, anything I say here. By all means Google this stuff, but do so sensibly (check the bona fides of the folks writing what you read, distrust any site that is selling a cure, and look for the HONcode which is a good sign).]

When blogs or online forums mention hemochromatosis, also known as iron overload, they often leave you with more questions than answers. This is not surprising because hemochromatosis is widely misunderstood (and widely under-diagnosed e.g. if you know someone who has been diagnosed with chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia you really should check out hemochromatosis--if untreated it can kill).

You often hear "hemochromatosis can be treated" as though that was the end of the story. Not so...

Hey 19: Things to do when promoting a cause or company, product or person, band or brand

hey19This is a quick attempt to put into one place various bits of advice that I've been giving out to various people over the past few months with respect to raising the profile of a person, place, or thing.

The idea is that you have something you want to publicize. It could be a band, a brand, a product, a company, or an indie film; or it could be you.

Before you go out and hire a PR agency or pay for a press release, you might want to try these things. They are free, except for your time and an Internet connection. In the old days they would have been called guerilla marketing. Now it's called Web 2.0 marketing or New Rules marketing. The strategy is to create interest--in whatever you are promoting--by being interesting. You want to draw people to the object of attention rather than subject them to a message. I will try to post something later on how to be interesting. The following are 19 things to get started with. I've broken them down into 3 phases:

Sosa Sucks! The social cost of selfish sport star substance abuse

As yet another big name in baseball gets attached to substance abuse [this time it's some pumped up cheater by the name of Sammy Sosa] I remain stunned by the narrow-minded focus of the media. How do you spell selfish S-O-S-ASure, some of the better sports writers wrestle with what all this means but most coverage is confined to:

  1. The fans (how will they cope with the fall of their idols?)

  2. The sport (will people still respect baseball and pay to watch games?)

  3. The team (can they win games without the suspended player?)

  4. The player (how will it affect his Hall of Fame chances)


I'm tempted to say screw them all, or at least numbers 2 through 4. I'm appalled that nobody seems to care a toss about what this continued abuse of "substances"  means to the people who actually need these substances to stay alive (yes, you can die from adult growth hormone deficiency--see this blog post).

Why doesn't anyone write about how selfish abuse by obscenely overpaid sports-jerks has made Human Growth Hormone (HGH) harder to get for people with medical conditions who legitimately need it to function? How about...

Sins of iMission: What Apple omitted from the iPhone

If you've observed the outpouring of joy and wonder--and cash--with which adoring Apple fans have greeted each new iteration of the iPhone, and if you've formed the general impression that the iPhone is the "smartphone" that does everything, think again. iphoneDig a little deeper into the online chatter and you find out, as buyers like me have done, that Apple omitted some serious "basic" features from all the iPhones so far produced.

Topping the "Sins of iMission" is a feature that's almost synonymous with Apple. That's right I'm talking about cut-and-paste. You heard right, there's no way to...

Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency: The 21 signs and symptoms

So, in the continuing iron overload saga, it now appears that my wife's hemochromatosis has had three major impacts, or impacted three major glands (thyroid, adrenals, and pituitary). Although a course of phlebotomy is underway to treat the hemochromatosis, dealing with damage to the glands is more complicated.

Consider the Human Growth Hormone deficiency due to the damage to the pituitary. It's not like HGH is something you can get over the counter at the local pharmacy. The substance itself is unstable, requiring special handling, and it very expensive to produce. And thanks to years of mindless abuse by selfish greedy so-called "athletes" HGH is not easy to get (in the State of New York it's a controlled substance, with all the hassles that designation entails).

On the upside, there is some good support out there for sufferers of human growth hormone deficiency, which mainly occurs in children. The adult version is known as Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency or AGHD. I was amazed to learn how much of an impact AGHD can have on a person. Consider this list:

  1. weakened heart muscle contraction and heart rate

  2. increased arterial plaque and blood pressure

  3. elevated lipids or fats in the blood (cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides)

  4. decreased exercise capacity due to decreased cardiac output

  5. decreased energy due to decreased metabolic rate

  6. abnormal body composition (increased abdominal obesity--waist to hip ratio)

  7. decreased bone density due to decreased synthesis of bone

  8. increase in fractures and osteoporosis

  9. decreased muscle strength and muscle size

  10. decreased lean body mass

  11. increased fat mass

  12. low blood sugar (dizziness or fainting weakness or tiredness, headaches)

  13. poor concentration or memory

  14. decreased sexual desire

  15. sleep problems

  16. shyness

  17. withdrawal from others

  18. nervousness or anxiety

  19. decreased social contact

  20. sadness or depression

  21. feelings of hopelessness


The bad news is, my wife has experienced all of these. The good news is, HGH could reverse any or all of these. So if you read the list as one of positive possibilities it's quite exciting, like #5: "Increased energy due to increased metabolic rate." I know she'd like that!

Of course, there's a long way to go yet. AGHD is a pretty nasty thing to be hit with. When I first looked over this list and got to number 21 my reaction upon reading it was: "That's entirely understandable!"

List source: Human Growth Foundation metabolic rate"

Could 1491 Solve the Swine Flu Mystery?

I recently wrote a review of a great book that I am re-reading these days: 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. And today I realized that it might contain an explanation for something that has recently rocketed to the top of the news: swine flu in Mexico.

Right now there is open speculation as to why some people are getting infected and others are not, why some people are getting very sick and others not. Some reports suggest more people in Mexico are getting more seriously infected than eslewhere. And here's where 1491 comes in.

Author Charles Mann reviews all manner of resarch as to why some diseases had such a devastating effect on Indian populations. One factor was  human leukocyte antigens or HLAs, an important part of the body's disease fighting systems. Humans fight disease better when they have a diversity of HLAs.

Most human groups have a "scatterbox mix" of HLAs but South American Indians have fewer HLA types than populations in Europe, Asia, and Africa. In South America, according to one estimation, the minimum probability that a pathogen in one host will next encounter a host with a similar immune spectrum is about 28 percent. By comparison, in Europe the chance is less than 2 percent.

Now I'm sure that I'm over-simplifying here, but it would seem that there's an infection differential of 14X in there somewhere. While the population of Mexico is, in broad terms a mix of Europeans and Indians, it may well have less HLA diversity than the population of a melting pot like the United States. Which bodes well for the States, not so well for Mexico. I hope the World Health Organization is checking this out.

Earth Day Prizes? Check out my survey and win

Sounds cheesy but it's true. You could win an earth-friendly prize for taking a very short survey that I created on my technology blog here. The link is bit.ly/bagz which gives you a clue as to the prizes, and an easy way to share it.

Good luck!

Need Help Dealing With Hemochromatosis? Join THE list

Each time I blog about hemochromatosis I hear from people affected by this daunting and life-threatening condition. Often these people are frustrated with doctors failing to recognize the condition and with the slow pace of diagnosis and treatment. Fortunately, if you are one of these people, there is a supportive community you can join, online, via email.

It's called The Excess Iron List, and it includes people from all over the world, people who are dealing with this condition, supporting each other through sharing their experiences. But before I give you the link for this, I want to point out that it is an email discussion list, not an online forum or chat room. That makes it one of the oldest means of getting together over the Internet.

If you haven't used one of these lists before it can seem a bit strange at first (just to be clear, when you join, you are NOT being put on a public mailing list to get unsolicited information--and the list is moderated by a person, not a machine). The basic operations, like joining the list or leaving it, are carried out by you sending blank email messages to a special email address. For example, to join you send a blank email to: ExcessIron-on@mail-list.com

Fortunately, when you do that, you will get a reply that explains how the system works. The big payoff is being able to share with other people who have an interest in iron overload. So, if you're interested click here for details of The Excess Iron List. The page is hosted at the Iron Disorders Institute, a reputable source for information about hemochromatosis.

On the Street Where I Was Born

Recently, on my technology blog, I wrote about the mixed reception that Google Street View has received in England, land of my birth. I admit to having mixed feelings about this technology myself.

It is very easy to be seduced by technology that enables me to sit in a cottage on a hill in the wilds of Upstate New York and capture this image of the street in England where I was born. (Just to clarify, I was not born in the street, but in one of the houses on this street--home birth by midwife being the normal practice in England in the 1950s.)

The most obvious change in the last 50 years is the number of cars on the street. There were  practically none when I was born. You could easily play 20 minutes of football in the road without being disturbed. Now there are too many vehicles, which is why many front gardens have been replaced with parking spaces--compare the original gardens on the left with the parking pads on the right. And so it goes...

Hemochromatosis Marches On: Now paging nurse-with-big-needle

Well, I went the whole month of March without blogging about hemochromatosis, more specifically, my wife's hereditary hemochromatosis or HH. However, March brought good news on the HH front: The blood-letting has begun!

(BTW, I trust people "got" that the image which accompanied my February post on phlebotomy was the barber's chair from Sweeney Todd.)

No fancy graphics this time, but I am hoping to capture video of what happens when the phlebotomist draws Chey's blood, so read on. Early in March a hematologist prescribed a course of 4 weekly blood draws (part of the delay was the fact that Chey collapsed on the way to her first appointment with this doctor).

At this point, 2 of the 4 have been done. We don't yet know the effect on her iron levels, but I'm guessing there is still a long way to go. Why? Because the phlebotomist has to brace herself against the chair to draw the second and third vial of blood.

That's right, even though Chey has been fitted with a port to facilitate the process, the blood is so thick it is hard to suck out. As far as the phlebotomist, a.k.a. nurse-with-big-needle, is concerned, this is a likely sign of excess iron in the blood.

In the meantime, efforts to assess, fix, and/or compensate for, the damage that HH has done to Chey's endocrine system are ongoing. Unfortunately this is very hit or miss at the moment. Some days she feels almost okay, but many more days she feels extremely fatigued, emotionally dizzy, and prone to hot flashes of Biblical intensity. This emotional dizziness means going from frantically alert and in danger of sleep drepivation, to mordantly comatose with generalized body pain, with outbreaks of uncontrolled weepiness in between. In other words, no fun at all, not to mention a real strain on the washing machine.*

But we're not giving up home on the phlebotomy treatment. The hope is that reducing the iron in Chey's system will enable some of the damaged or under-performing organs to rally and return to normal. After all, this is the year of Hope.

Ed: Sorry if the washing machine reference was a bit obscure. It comes from the fact that Chey has to change clothes many times a day when she gets these soaking sweat attacks. Think of cartoon sweat, squirting from a person's head...it's like that only for real. I kid you not.

Well That Was Fun: Monetate launches Smellr

There are many things I enjoy about working for Monetate and they all came together today: Cool technology, brilliant developers, cutting-edge digital artistry, crafty copy-writing, savvy leadership, and great camaraderie. All of this orchestrated in a concerted team effort to execute a good idea with skill, excellence, and a good laugh.

And we succeeded!

The web site Smellr got over 14,000 visitors. The Monetate Post-click Marketing Blog and the main Monetate web site both received at least 20 times the normal amount of traffic. We've been mentioned in the Associated Press, The Guardian, and many blogs, including blogs.com and the bostonist. We were even seen on CNN in the Netherlands!

I know some people get tired of April Fool's jokes, but I think one reason they still persist is that many people feel the need for a good laugh about this time of year. You've struggled through the Winter and it's still struggling to hold back Spring. The nights are getting longer but the skies are still too grey. It's time to take things a little less than seriously for a day.

Happy April First!

And the Good News is? Apple's iPhone works in my house

phonesAs some readers already know, I've had to abandon my faithful Treo 680 because it wouldn't always work in my house. Sad, because I've had a Treo since they first came out, operating on T-Mobile, then Cingular, now AT&T.

Although it was only GPRS, I was able to read the news on my Treo, do email, Twitter, and write notes pretty darn fast. But the fact is, you can't very well use a cell phone for business if it doesn't work reliably in your house.

I was going to hold out for a new Palm Pre but it looks like that device is anchored to Sprint at the moment (my choice of "anchor" being quite intentional). And current speculation is that the Pre won't be available on AT&T until next year (per the TreoCentral forum). Sprint coverage at my place is zero. Verizon is better and so a Pre on Verizon might be appealing at some point in the future.

But for now, the iPhone 3G is my phone, which means

Crash Team to Oncology Stat: The latest iron overload episode

speakerThe medium may not be the message but it sure shapes it. I need to let a lot of people know what happened on Chey's long-awaited visit to the hematologist (that's haematologist for British readers).

Should I email everyone? Maybe use a bcc with a friends and family list? But then people would feel obliged to respond. Should I blog it and hope people will see it here? Maybe I should Facebook it? How about Twitter? Too late for that. But what the heck, here's how it would have appeared on Twitter if I had tweeted it, starting after lunch on Thursday:

zcobb: Heading over to Cooperstown to the clinic for Chey's hematology consult. Hoping this doctor will OK phlebotomy for her hemochromatosis. 01:50PM

zcobb: Just checked Chey into Oncology. She doesn't have cancer but apparently that's where hematologists hang out. Now headed to 2nd floor for my appt. 02:16PM

zcobb: Waiting for my quarterly checkup. No problems (apart from usual high BP/low depression). We synched up our visits to reduce carbon footprint. 02:23PM

zcobb: Sitting in Room D. Weight not bad (200lbs) BP not so hot. Wonder how Chey is doing. She seemed a bit woozy when I left her in waiting area. 02:28PM

zcobb: OMG, the PA just announced "Crash team to Oncology STAT" and I had this weird flash it could be Chey. But then I'm like "No way." 02:33PM

zcobb: Way. How to tell your day's gone off the rails: A nurse interrupts your meeting with your doctor to say "Your wife's been rushed to the ER." 02:46PM

Iron Overload Fallout: Atrial fibrilation and so much more

I promise I am not going to turn this into The Hemochromatosis Blog but blogs tend to follow what's happening and hemochromatosis is what's happening right now to my best friend Chey.

It's happening because it's a progressive and incurable genetic condition. And it's also happening because new stuff keeps cropping up. Like today, I found two new things that generic iron overload can trigger (these are 'new' as in I never knew about them before). The first is arrhythmia, irregular heartbeat. If you've ever experienced arrhythmia, as in atrial fibrilation, you know it can be quite unsettling.

Well today, Chey was experiencing arrhythmia. So, I look it up on Google and what do I find: "arrhythmias are the most common cause of sudden death in hereditary hemochromatosis patients," according to this set of slides on Increasing Physician Awareness of Hereditary Hemochromatosis. (BTW, these slides by Dr. Kristen J. Schwall, from the Department of Internal Medicine at St. Barnabas Medical Center should be required reading for all doctors.)

According to the Journal of Interventional Cardiac Electrophysiology, hemochromatosis has been associated with atrial tachyarrhythmias and congestive heart failure as a consequence of dilated or restrictive cardiomyopathy. Oh that's just great!

Then as a side effect of Googling, I find a study published by the National Cancer Institute in 2003. This suggests that the two genes, C282Y and H63D, which are linked to hereditary hemochromatosis, may lead to an increased risk of developing colon cancer.

Doctors found that subjects with at least one copy of either of the genes were 40% more likely to have colon cancer than those without. (No word on what it means if you have two copies of C282Y, which Chey does, but I doubt that helps things.) They also found that the risk of cancer increased with age and greater iron intake. The researchers believe that at least 15% of the population carries at least one copy of the mutated gene. They think the study could lead to improved colon cancer screening protocols. Wouldn't that be ironic? Hemochromatosis screening gets funded as a colon cancer prevention strategy.

So here's the deal. We are waiting for a doctor's appointment on Thursday at which Chey's iron overload treatment should finally begin (if not, the hills around Cooperstown will probably ring with screams of "Why not?")

The Problem With Bloodletting

bloodchairEric made an interesting comment on my last iron overload post. He wondered why my wife has not pursued phlebotomy as it is a recognized treatment for iron overload. Eric states "Blood banks are happy to see you because they know they will see you many more times than regular donors."

Eric's comment and concern are both appreciated. Unfortunately, we have hit a few bumps in the road on our way to bloodletting. Here is my current understanding of the situation. Please feel free to comment if you think I have got this wrong--we have heard of regional variations in the way some of these things are handled:

1. Around 1996 the US changed the rules for blood donation to exclude all persons who lived in the UK during the time of mad cow disease. That includes us, so we have not been able to give blood since then. In fact, Chey was a regular donor before this ruling and we suspect that stopping the donations at that time contributed to the build up of iron--her iron overload symptoms started to manifest after that.

2. Voluntary donations of blood are not accepted if less than 8 weeks apart. So, according to our doctor, a routine of accelerated phlebotomy to treat hemochromatosis requires a prescription (I know it sounds weird: a prescription to give something as opposed to take something).

3. Some blood banks lack a means of categorizing blood that is 'donated' by iron overload sufferers and so they do not accept it (apparently this varies by region). Strange but true (according to the Iron Disorders Institute Guide to Hemochromatosis).

So, common sense would indicate blood-letting is a simple fix but reality is proving less sensible. We have not yet tried the amateur freelance phlebotomy approach but we have been tempted (I just wish I had paid more attention to how you stop the flow of blood once it's been started).

And I should add that we are beginning to run into the "Dr. No" syndrome. That is the "Dr No. Big Deal" syndrome, when your doctor decides you're making too much fuss about your illness and starts telling you you're exaggerating. You hear things like "lots of people feel tired at your age" and "it's normal to feel depressed this time of year" and "your test results are close enough, nothting to worry about" (when in fact the results are clearly abnormal and frankly worrying). We are seeking to address this problem without alienating the medical profession in our small community.

The Ongoing Impact of Iron Overload

I first posted about iron overload or hemochromatosis around Thanksgiving 2008. That's when my wife Chey learned she had this incurable, degenerative, and potentially fatal genetic condition. Since then we've learned a lot about iron overload (for example, as many as 1 in 300 Americans of Northern European descent may suffer from it, most of them undiagnosed and headed for an early grave).

We've learned that several of Chey's relatives suffer from the condition and others may have died of it. Death from untreated iron overload comes in several forms, two of the most notable being liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.  (If a relative is diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver but they claim they don't drink much alcohol, they could be telling the truth. It could be iron overload.)*

Iron overload can damage other organs and glands besides the liver, such as the gall bladder, the pituitary and the thyroid. So, if you are diagnosed with hemochromatosis, your doctor will probably order a bunch of tests to check if there has been damage. A referral to an endochronoligist is likely.

In my wife's case the endocrinologist has already confirmed thyroid deficiency which he is now treating. Now he has  found, via a pituitary test, very low growth hormone. Some of the changes associated with GH deficiency are loss of energy, a loss of interest in usual hobbies or activities, and a decrease in sociability referred to as social isolation. "Patients suffering with this symptom do not like to go out and meet with their friends or social acquaintances. Patients may also develop mild depression or decrease in sexual function." All of which fits Chey. Oh, and untreated low growth hormone can spell early mortality in adults.

On the upside, it is possible that Chey's GH levels will increase when the iron overload is treated and all sorts of good things will follow, like more energy, more interest in life, more sociability, and so on. On the down side, we still haven't found a doctor to authorize iron overload treatment (namely phlebotomy, a.k.a. drawing blood).

We are getting closer, but still managing to fall through gaps in a set of health management practices that are clearly not adequate for dealing with this condition. Chey's iron levels are now twice what they were back in November when the original diagnosis was made. Her doctor is still reluctant to authorize phlebotomy, even though the nurse who took Chey's last blood sample said the blood was almost too thick to draw!

After much research we figured that the kind of doctor you probably want in this situation is a hemotologist. Chey has been trying to get an appointment with one for months. Last week she finally got one, for next week. Apparently people who don't have iron overload don't worry too much about the damage it is doing to those who do.

Pardon the cynicism, but I think it's understandable when you've watched the one you love decline physically for years while being told "it's all in her head." Then you've watched her suffer for months with terrible pain from a deadly condition that a dozen doctors missed, only to hear "Sorry, the doctor's are all on vacation this week, she'll have to wait."

So, we will see what next week brings. In the meantime I am researching the fraud cases that led to iron overload testing being dropped from standard blood panels in 1996, about the same time doctors realized hemocromatosis was a genetic condition. Talk about bad timing.
* See the next exciting Iron Overload episode: The Alcoholic Father Who Wasn't.

A LEAP Into the Future?

leap_logoWhat was the most-subscribed non-profit channel on YouTube last month? The answer might surprise you: LEAP, as in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Click the link and check it out.

And here's another surprise. On February 6, the #1 most-viewed article on the entire Huffington Post site was this article: One Cop To Another: Don't Arrest Phelps for Bong Photo. The author was not just any cop, it was Norm Stamper, Ph.D., who served as a police officer for 34 years, notably as chief of the Seattle Police Department from 1994 to 2000.

Now get this, President Obama's likely choice for drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, was Norm's immediate successor as Seattle's chief of police. You can hear Norm's views on Gil and other subjects on the Fox News "Red Eye" show that airs at 3AM EST, Friday morning, Feb. 20. Yes, I have set my DVR to Record.

More for Virgins, Less for Screw-ups: The surprising cost of data breaches

In its fourth annual study on data breaches, the Ponemon Institute examined the costs of 43 companies that had been hit by a data breach. The study found, not surprisingly, that the cost per record breached had risen (actual numbers coming up).

I have always thought it ironic that one of the biggest obstacles to getting organizations to take action on issues of data privacy and security is a lack of data, namely data about what a security failure might cost. If known, that cost can then be weighed against the cost of putting security measures in place.

After all, Adam and Eve did not cover their bodies in the garden of Eden,  likewise organizations operating in crime-free utopias have no need to spend money to protect against data exposures. In the real world, however it is sad but true that a certain percentage of people are not sufficiently constrained by either personal ethics or a fear of consequences and go about steal data for personal gain.

Thus the need for security spending to avoid the costs, which are now averaging over $200 per record. So, next time you read a story about some bank or retailer exposing thousands of records, you can just multiply by $200 to figure the hit they have just taken).

This study is more good work by Larry Ponemon and the Ponemon Institute. Consistently reliable data over time is particularly useful. For example, if you read up on all the data breaches that have been happening you might have formed the impression that more of them are now coming from third parties, i.e. people who process customer data for retailers, banks, etc. And the survey shows that yes, third party data breaches were reported by more organizations in 2008 than in 2005 (21% then, 44% now). Less predictable perhaps is the finding that third party data breaches are more expensive, $231 per compromised record versus an overall average of $202.

As you might expect, breaches experienced by data loss "virgins" are more costly, $243 versus $192 for "experienced" companies, sardonically referred to as "repeat data screw-ups" by Larry Dignan in the TechRepublic blog post referenced at the beginning of this post. What surprised and saddened me is that more than 84% of all cases examined by Larry Ponemon's team were repeat data breach offenders.

Sadly, until there is an uptick in the general standards of human behavior, things are likely to carry on like this. Data entrusted to the feckless will be exposed by the lawless, innocent lives will be disrupted, money will be lost, and the cost to defend against miscreants will mount.

Blog Backlog: Computer Security Handbook 5th Edition Launches

csh5I got a nice nod last week from Norwich University in an article about Wiley's soon to be launched 2,000 page behemoth: "Computer Security Handbook, 5th Edition."

It turns out that 37 of the 80 chapters are by people with Norwich connections. That includes me (Chapters 4, 7, 15, 20) and Chey (Chapters 15, 41, 73).

Although I got interviewed for the article, to highlight cooperation between Norwich professors and students, I kind of wish they had also mentioned Chey. She wrote a lot of the curriculum material for the original Master of Science in Information Assurance at Norwich. And I think she and I are the only couple to work together on a chapter in the new opus (Chapter 15: Penetrating Computer Systems and Networks, also with Mich Kabay).

On the whole, David Corriveau did a good job with the article. Hopefully, my comments conveyed the fact that Mich Kabay should get the credit my collaboration with Corinne LeFran├žois at the NSA. It was a classic electronic encounter. Pure email, we never met in person. (It is worth noting that I also met Mich online, about twenty years ago, while I was living in Scotland and he was living in Montreal. That was back in the days of CompuServe.)

Mich is the one is the thread that runs through all of this, the MSIA program and the Computer Security Handbook, both CSH4 and CSH5. And with that, we wish the best of luck to "Computer Security Handbook 5th Edition" and all who sail in her!

Blog Backlog: A shout out to the frozen ones

[Looking for the home page of the Stephen Cobb Blog? Please click here.]

Author's note: I feel passionately about this topic, so the language below is a bit edgy. However, revisiting this page seven years later it strikes me that my anger is still justified. I still haven't heard a socially responsible reason for not putting power lines underground, where they belong. I first wrote this while living in a rural area, but vast swathes of urban and suburban America still rely on exposed power lines strung between poles. Later when we moved to San Diego I read about that city's plan to put all utility lines underground. Why don't more cities do this?

Anyway, here's what I wrote in the winter of oh nine: Did the blogosphere or the wider economy register a dip in activity last week due to people not blogging because the power was out due to freezing rain? (I suspect tweeting from smartphones picked up the slack for some, at least while the batteries lasted.)

One headline said a million homes were without power. That's sad. And it is tough for all affected. But what really struck me about last week was the UTTER STUPIDITY OF DOWNED POWER LINES.

A million homes without power? Come on America, we can do better than that. Scores of deaths due to mistakes with make-do heating arrangements? Why? Because collectively speaking our country is too greedy/dumb/short-sighted to bury the power lines.

I'm not saying I'm angry about this, but I'm about ready to slap the first person who says "It costs to much." Compared to WHAT? The lives lost? The money wasted? The huge cost of repairs? The lost votes of utility workers who will have to be retrained when we bury the lines?

And don't dare say "It can't be done." There are thousands of farms in North Dakota that never lose power in an ice storm. Why? Their lines were buried decades ago thanks to co-ops and the Rural Electrification Act (click that link and you can see FDR signing it).

Now is the time to tell non-cooperative utility companies to dig in or give in. Their right to run lines through our towns and villages can be revoked. There is no technical reason this cannot be done. Image what the news of the future could be:

"Worst ice storm in history, few lose power, no deaths reported, business as usual for most."

I don't presume to know exactly why the lines are not buried. Is it really because  line-persons have a strong lobby? What I do know is that whole swathes of commercial and residential development in Northern Virginia have zero overhead lines because of zoning. Having lived there for a while it was weird to hear the news reports of massive outages in neighboring areas due to wind or ice while our power flowed uninterrupted.

So, if you happen to know anyone in the new administration, please pass along the idea that life doesn't have to be this way, hanging by a thread that ice might break. Bury the lines and boost the economy while saving lives. What could be better than that.

Notes:

  • The recent power outages were the worst in Kentucky history. HughesNet has a NOC in Kentucky. Maybe that's why their DNS is foobar and my blog was blocked so I couldn't post this about 3 days ago.

  • The photo above is ice at the entrance to an ice cave in a glacier in Iceland. Why use that? We have no frozen power lines to photograph on our property--the man who built the place was smart, he buried them.

From Warm Engine to Hot Laptop: Saturdays now and then

So, I spent this Saturday fixing things. First there was the font problem with my blog, a classic case of a web site  looking fine in every browser but Internet Explorer. I finally cracked the right code in the css file to get it to look right in IE as well as the other browsers (change font size from 60% to 10pix).

Then there was the problem of actually getting to my web site, which has been "off the radar" lately where radar = surfing on a HughesNet satellite connection. I am writing this post by running Anonymizer and routing my browser through their servers because Hughes obviously has a serious DNS problem that I am not going to solve by calling their tech support folks in India. All of which got me thinking about my how my Dad spent his Saturday mornings...

Hacking My Way to My Own Blog: Anonymously

Well, I'm back...after 4 days of being kept from my own web site by my ISP, the increasingly notorious HughesNet, about which I have written before. In fact, I still can't surf to my blog, unless I use a proxy server and bypass the HughesNet DNS.

So I am running Anonymizer, a very clever program that lets you surf the web without revealing your IP address. The program does this by routing your browser's requests to visit a web site, like my blog, through its own DNS servers, thereby avoiding, in my case, the apparently foobar DNS at HughesNet. There are other ways of doing this, like surfing via anonymouse.org, but they tend to flash ads on the screen to pay for their service. Alternatively, you can buy a subscription. What I'm doing right now is use a 7-day free trial of Anonymizer.

Let me make this clear, I am using a 7-day free trial of Anonymizer so I can get to my own web site. I have not called HughesNet about this problem (calls to HughesNet support should be avoided by people with high blood pressure according to my reading of the Hughes forum on DSLReports). In a few days I am headed down the Monetate office in Conshohoken for a week. I know I can reach my blog from there. When I get back I will see if the problem as gone away.

p.s. So far I am liking Anonymizer. It has a simple interface for turning the service on and off and it manages to do this without disrupting browsers sessions.

Moving Mountains

mountainRecently I made a comment on Twitter about my wife moving mountains. Figured I better post some evidence to back that up.

Here she is moving a mountain of snow from our yard. That's a 400cc Arctic Cat 4 wheel drive ATV that Chey is wrangling, without the benefit of power steering. It's locked in Low with chains on the rear tires and a Warn plow on the front.

Who would have thought, back when we met, nearly a quarter of a century ago, sipping cappuccino in a North Beach coffee shop, that we would one day find ourselves living on the side of an 'almost mountain' and one of us would be really good at snow plowing. Of course, I should have got a hint when one of us took up off-road desert racing and entered one of the toughest races in the world. Only later did I found out the reason she got a good deal on the dune buggy she put together for this: It had been in the race the year before and did about four somersaults when it hit a rock and left the track. gocheyThe driver walked away, so I guess it was a good deal. Anyway, here it is in action, smoking another buggy off the line at the start of the Finke Desert Race 2000. Click, if you like,  for a very short video with really bad sound.

Top Gear's Clarkson Faces Head Gear Challenge

silly_hatsROSEBOOM, N.Y., Jan. 22 /Newzwire/ -- Known for being over-the-top in deed and word, Jeremy Clarkson, presenter of the BBC hit series "Top Gear" may be facing a challenge for the 'top spot' when it comes to winter head gear.

Clarkson, seen it the top half of the image on the left, famously wore an elaborate fur hat for a recent cold weather motoring adventure.

But spy photos of a recently spotted winter head gear classic are now appearing (see bottom half of image on left) which may lay claim to the top-head-gear crown.

Described by one millinery aficionado as "a classic, full of the elegance that comes from simple lines and the very best in raw materials," this design is beautifully executed in seal skin. The hat is reported to be 50 years old, of a type once produced for the Hudson Bay Company in Canada.

Little is known about the current owner although he is rumored to have inherited the hat from his father, an engineer who spent time working on automative projects in Detroit and Ohio in the late 1950s.

###

A Cool Place: City Coffee Company in America's oldest city

cityOkay, so Saint Augustine is not exactly America's oldest city, it is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in North America (founded 1563).

But the City Coffee Company, founded 2008, is exactly what a coffee shop should be. Good coffee, good pastry, good sandwiches, and free WiFi, from 6AM to 6PM weekdays (slightly shorter hours on the weekend). Add to that a rocking soundtrack that slides into some raw blues later in the day, and you have a great place to hang out, lunch out, or log in. Which is what I am doing at the moment, during my brief [and chilly] visit to Florida.

Of particular note are the bear claws [served warm], the breakfast burrito [served all day] and the latte [served on the dry side, which I like]. Speaking of which, I should buy another latte to 'pay' for this WiFi that I am gobbling up. Yum!

A Few of My Favorite Quotes

From today's inauguration speech:

"A nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous."

"Our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please."

"Because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself..."

"The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good."

"We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do."

"Our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint."

"Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."

"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

A Couple of Cool Things

ahnus1Using a blog post to criticize or complain about something is very easy, and of course it's a valid use of blogging, but as part of my New Year Resolution to blog more positively, I'm going to try and balance the groans with some cheers, and praise for things that have exceeded my expectations.

Like these shoes. They are Ahnus. I had never heard of them until some friends turned me on to Zappos. There are several things to like about Zappos, including the free shipping, even on returns. But whatI like most is the chance to browse a huge number of shoes all shown with really good product shots.

I picked out this pair of Ahnus to replace my Speery Top-sider deck shoes. Not that the Sperry's have worn out. Heck they are only 7 years young. No, the problem with Top-siders is cold and slush. They are great in rain and warm weather, but not so good in snowy climes. These Ahnus are warm, easy to get on and off, and seem to shed snow and slush like seals. I can slip them on to walk the dog regardless of the amount of snow fall. Sure, I will get snow on my socks and sweatpants, but that just improves the humidity when I get back inside.

I am about six months into wearing this pair almost daily. They are holding up well. Good for 7 years? Time will tell. But I'm hopeful.

HOPE-Full After All These Years

ObamiconOkay, so I am now officially HOPE-full. I mean, who can resist? There's so much of it going around, and besides, what else are you going to do?

I spent a lot of time over the past few years exploring feelings and attitudes other than hope and quite frankly they didn't do much for me, except bum me out. So, to paraphrase another bunch of icons, it's time to "Give hope a chance."

And no, I'm not claiming to be an icon, I just look like one in this cool graphic created at Paste Magazine. You go to the web site, upload your photo (preferably with a transparent background) and their software does the rest. It even lets you adjust the colors and put in your own text in place of HOPE. But hey, HOPE is what it's all about right now, right?

Go Larger Than Life: Easy access to a cool new medium

Finally got to spend some time this week with friend and fellow Philly-geek Kendall Schoenrock at the LTLprints. That's LTL as in Larger Than Life, on the web at LTLprints.com and on the map in Center City, Philadelphia.

Together with co-founder Carsten Petzold we reviewed the ways in which LTLprints is using Monetate, the post-click marketing platform for which I am evangelizing these days (loads more about that subject can be found here).

Even more exciting, I got to see what LTLprints is doing with large scale peel-and-stick printing. You've probably seen peel-and-stick prints advertised by Fathead on TV and by Wallhogs on the web. What LTLprints is doing is a little different and potentially much more creative.

Basically they are selling peel-and-stick printing by the square foot. You choose the size of your canvas and then you fill it with whatever you like. One huge rectangular photo, a lifesize cutout photo of your dog, or a bunch of big cutouts arranged to use every inch of the printing real estate. Your images are then printed out by LTLprints on this amazing material that can be stuck to walls and other smooth surfaces, but later removed and stuck somewhere else.

printsI even put a print on my laptop, with no fear that it will leave a sticky mess when I decided to swap it out. Okay, so it's an LTLprints logo, but imagine the graphic possibilities, and so much better than traditional stickers that shrink and curl and get icky round the edges. Of course, the amazing machine that LTLprints uses to produce these prints also cuts them out, ready to peel and stick. They arrive on your doorstep on a large roll safely packed inside a sturdy tube.

One of the hurdles to creating great cutouts is smoothly outlining and cropping the images. This can be intimidating for the novice, but Kendall and Carsten have it covered. All you need to do is upload the original hi-res photo and use LTLprints' web software to loosely draw the outline of where you want the image to be cropped. The company will then have skilled hands smooth the outline so that it is just right.

I couldn't wait to get home and go through my photoa archives for images that would look good on the office wall, and on my laptop. These guys are totally commited to delivering a quality product and I think they are going to do well. Check them out.

Wow! We're Officially "Award Nominated"

What a great way to start the year!

I learned today that Dare Not Walk Alone, the documentary film I've been involved with for the last four years now, has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award. There is more info over on the DNWA blog.

I'm a bit overwhlemed at the moment but will post more about this amazing news in a couple of days.

Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone a great 2009!

I don't know about you, but I'm quite happy to see 2008 end and a new year begin, a year that brings high hopes for some genuine, positive change.

For a quick New Year video clip, featuring Layla the Snow Queen, click here (opens in a new window).