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.

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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).