Sunday, December 30, 2007

On Death and Dying

Today would have been my mom’s 73rd birthday – if she hadn’t died 3 weeks ago. Mom had been under hospice care for 9 months, living in a nursing home. I was able to be with her when she died and I gained a great appreciation for those who provide comfort to the dying. I held her hand, wiped the sweat from her brow, stroked her hair and told her it was okay.

Earlier in the day, she had become fixated on a screw head holding up the bulletin board next to her bed. She wasn’t able to speak well at this point so we weren’t able to figure out why she was staring at it and rubbing it with her fingers. Did she see it as part of the gate into heaven, the face of Jesus, a shining light, or simply a point at which to focus while she put herself into a meditative state. I’d like to believe it was all of the above. When she finally fell asleep, I kept watching her chest moving up and down with her shallow breaths, the only indication I had that she was still there.

I sat next to the bed reading and 90 minutes later, she gave a heavy sigh with her voice and her last breath. I know that there were many others that would have wanted to be with her at the end, but I view it as one of the greatest gifts I have been given, to be alone with her, just like when I was born.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

If I Had 319 Million Dollars...

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to be the first private investor to spend it on a double-decker Airbus A380, but then I'm not Saudi Prince Al-Waleed. The prince cut a check for the flying palace recently at the Dubai air show, and he may need to write another one for $100 million and wait until 2013 for the luxury additions he's planning, which are rumored to include:

- 15 seat boardroom
- Fiber-optic virtual desert scene in the lounge
- Missile defence system
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Archery range
- Go-kart track
- Rock climbing wall
- Tennis courts
- 50 seat theatre to host Celine Dion, Cher and Dolly Parton


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Stone Skipping Record

Russell Byars of Franklin, Pennsylvania has set a new world's record of skipping a stone 51 times (11 more than the old record set in 2002.) And, he did it on his very first attempt. Videographers captured the event and Guinness officials confirmed it (brilliant!)

When asked about his secret skill, he replied, "You know what, I really don't know." Thankfully he uses his gift for good, not evil.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Rip it & Stik it

My son pooled his allowance and lawnmowing money and got himself a new RipStik caster board. He was having a little trouble getting the hang of it so I grabbed his new board and our video camera and headed to the local skate park to show him how an old "goofy footer" shreds concrete. Oh yeah....


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Power Trip

If you're looking for more than just a printout to hang on the fridge when you leave for your next business trip, checkout TripIt. It's a new kind of online travel service that automatically organizes all your travel plans into one master online itinerary with everything you need for your trip – including travel confirmations, daily weather, local maps, city guides and more. All you do is e-mail your confirmation message from your provider and TripIt stitches all of the info together like your own personal concierge. If you're going to share the itinerary with friends & family, you may want to exclude your frequent flier number lest Uncle Leo jets to Rio with your miles.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Reverse Graffiti

What if instead of spraying paint on public property to form images, you instead wiped off years of grime to reveal the clean walls of a tunnel? That's exactly what Alexandre Orion did in a São Paulo street tunnel: He wasn't painting city property, he was cleaning it. For over two weeks last year, the Brazilian artist selectively scrubbed soot from the tunnel until the white surface underneath stared through as a cemetery's worth of skulls.

Every night he worked, the reverse graffiti artist says, he had at least five encounters with state police or the city traffic department. They sound less than pleasant.

"The São Paulo state police are usually very forceful, often holding guns trained on my face, and shouting very loudly," he says. "When they had confirmed that I really was cleaning, they eased the authoritarian attitude and lowered their guns, a few smiled hesitantly, made a few remarks among themselves, and there were even a few words of support."

The only way the city could put a stop to this inconvenient spoof was to beat Orion at his own game. Early in the morning of July 26, they washed the skulls away. When he kept working on the rest of the tunnel, they washed the whole thing. Then, for good measure, they washed all the other tunnels in the city. Check out his clean getaway:


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Japanese Paper Trout

I don't always think of Japan when trout fishing comes up in conversation, but then I had never been to Yoshikazu Fujioka's Trouts and Seasons of the Mountain Village. Not only does he get into fly fishing for trout, he also paints the object of his obsession and shares these by way of print-them-yourself paper trout and selling limited edition prints.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Real Men Know How To Do Stuff

I remember when there was a time when all you had to do to prove your manhood was not eat quiche. Now, according to the October 2007 issue of Popular Mechanics, there are 25 Things that are required. (Like some of the comments posted, I doubt that extending your wireless range is more important than finding food.)

I can do 20 of them and have valid reasons for not knowing the remaining 5.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Five for Printing

I read an article today which listed some of the technologies that have passed on and we're glad they did. One of those was the dot-matrix printer. Now that we are able to buy photo-quality inkjet models for the cost of a dot-matrix ribbon, I tend to agree, and they are much quieter than the brrrapp-brrrapp-brrrapp-kachunka-chunka-chunka.

So check out this post from Friedbeef's Tech to take advantage of this now taken for granted technology.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Power Nap Dali-Style

This summer while in Trinidad, I honed my practice of power-napping to keep up with the young ones in the tropical heat. Whenever we had at least 15 minutes of downtime before the next activity, I'd dash off to the air-conditioned swamp, flop on my bed and listen with my eyes closed to a 10-15 minute ambient song like a stream or rain or crickets. Anyway, when the song ended, I'd wake up feeling rejuvenated.

The artist and napper Salvador Dali had an interesting nap technique, based on the idea that your body benefits from just getting to sleep as much as a couple of hours worth of dozing. He purportedley used a spoon to wake himself up just as he lost consciousness.

Here's how:
Sit in a comfy seat holding a spoon in your fingertips. You should be holding it in a way that when you lose consciousness (fall asleep) you drop it... the clatter (put a big metal bowl under your hand) will wake you.... and you're woken up JUST as you enter the best "dreamy" bit of your sleep. Then paint whatever you were dreaming about, I guess.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Moo Calling Cards

I recently developed the need to print up calling cards for personal contact info so as not to mingle business with mission. A friend of mine referred me to Moo Calling Cards.

They can be made from photos that you upload or are in your Flickr account, or you can use a premade design. The cards are made from high-quality reclyclable paper and the printing is sharp - and you can get 100 for $25 including shipping.

If you want to brush up on the proper use of said calling cards, checkout what Miss Emily Post has to offer.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Indian Summer Memories

I thought of both of these Indian memories from my early childhood for no particular reason. I'm sure anyone who has seen either will never forget them. The first is a film based on the Caldecott honor book "Paddle-to-the-Sea" or "Voyage à la mer" (that's French). An Indian boy far from the shore carves a wooden paddler in a canoe and sets it on a watershed cruise to find the sea by way of the Great Lakes. On the bottom of the canoe, he carves the words, "I am Paddle-to-the-Sea. Please put me back in the water." This lends opportunity for a little help along the way and even a new paint job by one kind soul.

The second is a PSA against pollution. I always remember thinking, "Why is he walking so close to the highway?" and "Wow, those people threw away a lot of food."


Thursday, October 04, 2007

While My Air Guitar Gently Weeps...

So there are times when, being a father, you feel like you're doing all the right things with your kids. And then there are times when you say to yourself, "How did I let this happen?"

For instance, the other night I was browsing iTunes and came upon an iMix for Ultimate Air Guitar Collection. I called my son over to show him the list (since he is now taking guitar lessons) and he looked at it and said..."What's an Air Guitar?" My heart sank. Was it possible that I had raised a son who had never experienced wearing headphones in front of a bedroom mirror playing an invisible guitar with abandon? I looked at him and said, "Son, before there was American Idol, Karaoke and Guitar Hero, we used to crank up the tunes and strum the air with vigor, pretending to wave the long hair we didn't have and singing into a hairbrush. I even remember a time when I was at a college visiting friends and we attended a 'Battle of the Air Bands' where top prize went to the Robert Palmer 'Addicted to Love' entry (They rocked.) We didn't need fancy electronic gadgets and talent to have fun. We made it up - we faked it 100%. I told him that people turn pro and compete to be able to enter the World Championships in Finland. They even made a documentary about the search to find someone from the USA who had enough 'Airguitarness' to represent. Check it out:

So now I feel it is my fatherly duty to invest the $25 in the following digitized songs for the sake of my son, and the fading legacy of the Air Guitar Mullet Heads out there.

Here's the Beginner's List:

[Johnny B. Goode] Chuck Berry
[(I Cant Get No) Satisfaction] The Rolling Stones
[Purple Haze] The Jimi Hendrix Experience
[Smoke On the Water] Deep Purple
[More Than a Feeling] Boston
[Wild Thing] The Troggs
[Walk This Way] Run-DMC
[Layla] Derek & The Dominos
[Free Bird] Lynyrd Skynyrd
[Bohemian Rhapsody] Queen
[Black Magic Woman!] Santana
[American Woman] The Guess Who
[Hot for Teacher] Van Halen
[Crazy Train] Ozzy Osbourne
[White Room] Cream
[Frankenstein] Edgar Winter
[Fortunate Son] Creedence Clearwater Revival
[Born to Be Wild] Steppenwolf
[Cinnamon Girl] Neil Young
[Sweet Child o Mine] Guns N Roses
[Barracuda] Heart
[Cat Scratch Fever] Ted Nugent
[You've Got Another Thing Coming] Judas Priest
[All Right Now] Free
[Walk Away] James Gang


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Model Community

New Zealand designer Grant Robinson has a Cellular Automata simulation that allows you to experiment with 3 simple rules to launch an organic community. I was struck by how quickly I was reminded how our own person-to-person relationships can mimick the results of basic cellular life. But then again, maybe that's by design :)


P.S. Grant also created a Heat Map version as well.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I want free software that will...

If you can't answer your question with this list, then you just may need professional help.

My favorites:

Yahoo! Widgets

Pear Budget

icon sushi



Monday, September 24, 2007

Blogger Play

Ever wished you worked at the Fotomat so you could watch events in other people's lives unfold before your eyes (in a good way, not like creeper Robin Williams in One Hour Photo)?

Well now you can:

Blogger Play will show you a never-ending stream of images that were just uploaded to public Blogger blogs. You can click the image to be taken directly to the blog post it was uploaded to, or click “show info” to see an overlay with the post title, a snippet of the body, and some profile information about the blogger who uploaded it. We also wrote a Blogger Play FAQ with more information.

A caveat: we use many techniques, including Google’s SafeSearch technology, to keep the images clean. Nevertheless, on rare occasions an image that you may find vulgar or obscene will slip through our algorithmic filters. Google does not pre-screen the images that appear in Blogger Play, nor is it responsible for their content. To report a terms of service violation, you may fill out this contact form.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Invisible Children

Attended a presentation of the "Invisibile Children: rough cut" documentary made in 2003 by three filmakers who intended to expose the war in Sudan, but stumbled upon a story that even fewer people knew about. Although the situation has improved due in large part to their efforts, there is much more that can be done. Learn more about what you can do at


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fair Trade in the Himalayas

I was in the gift shop at St. Bart's yesterday, and I found these very cool notecards made by Indian women from Himalayan pressed wildflowers. Not only are they made from tree-free paper, they are fairly traded by Hope for Women.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Want a whole lotta latte...

Seems like I'm always getting messed up at Starbucks and their 87,000 choices - so when I brew at home, here are the details I need to fuel my inner barista...

A drink whose name loosely translated means “expressly for you”, espresso is a small 1.0 to 1.5 oz. shot of pressure brewed Italian coffee. A cup of espresso requires between 6.5 to 7.5 grams of ground coffee. Espresso is used as the coffee base in many of our favorite coffee drinks. Properly brewed, an espresso will feature a layer of rich crema on the surface. Espresso, while apparently a simple drink, is in reality a complex product. It is derived from 1500 chemical substances (800 volatile and 700 soluble), and when prepared correctly involves 13 independent chemical and physical variables. By the way, any decent bean can be used for espresso, just grind it finer than you would for drip.

Made by combining equal parts of steamed milk, milk froth and espresso.

Espresso coffee poured into hot water.

Espresso mixed with plenty of steamed milk.

Mocha Latte
Espresso mixed with hot steamed chocolate milk.

An espresso (single shot or double) stained (or marked) with a large dollop of frothed milk.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Can't We All Just Trade Fairly?

I was in the village this noon to buy a birthday card and my "fairly traded" senses were tingling. I noticed Equal Exchange Organic Chocolate Bars with Ground Hazelnuts on the counter so I couldn't resist. The farmers represented by my cocoa indulgence today were from the Dominican Republic and/or Peru. Even the organic sugar used in the bars comes from fairly traded farmers from Paraguay and Costa Rica.

They have a retail web store where you can buy organic coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa and cane sugar. In other words, all the stuff you need for basic human survival.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

My Top-Rated Movies (So Far)

Okay, recently someone asked me to come to terms with my favorite movies list. I had like 140 movies rated with 5-stars and they said, "No way - trim it down." So if I had to give out 6-stars, they would go to these:

Bullitt (1968) PG Classics
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) PG Classics
Cool Hand Luke (1967) UR Classics
Jaws (1975) PG Horror
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) PG Classics
Little Big Man (1970) PG-13 Action & Adventure
MASH (1970) R Comedy
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) PG Comedy
My Fair Lady (1964) G Classics
Papillon (1973) PG Action & Adventure
Rear Window (1954) PG Classics
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) PG Classics
The Deer Hunter (1978) R Drama
The French Connection (1971) R Action & Adventure
The Godfather (1972) R Drama
The Sound of Music (1965) UR Classics
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) NR Drama
To Sir, with Love (1966) UR Drama
West Side Story (1961) UR Classics
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) G Children & Family


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Elevate Your Java Experience

Having reached the bottom of my espresso stash, I stopped at a gourmet store near the office that I hoped would carry my favorite brand, namely, illy. However, since it hosts a Starbuck's cafe inside, my choices were limited. The only non-Starbucks coffee on the shelf turned out to be a fair-trade offering from Higher Grounds Trading Company. I tried the Mexican Mut Vitz dark roast tonight and it lives up to the claims; smoky, robust with a dark chocolate finish. Now not only can I refuel from a closer vendor, but I can help preserve the Mayan culture in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wise use of Technology

Funny story. We signed our son up for his own cellphone so he could call us when he needed a ride. So he's had it for about six months and hasn't gone crazy with his minutes or text messages. He did download a $7 deerhunter game but he paid us back.

So the other night at home, we get a call from his cell. I hear my wife say, "Where are you?" I figure he's stranded somewhere. I was right. He was calling from our upstairs bathroom where he was stranded on the throne without any toilet paper. So we as loving parents helped him learn from the situation. We took him a fresh roll but left it just outside the door.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Running Synchronicity (Part Deux)

This was submitted by a running buddy of mine...

At the start of every race he has a tradition of listening to Jeremy Camp's "Trust in You." So at the start of his last race, he was using a new mp3 player that he had loaded with 200-300 of his running songs onto but hadn't set up any playlists yet. He turned it on shuffle and it played his song when he began the race. A week later, he's telling the story at home to his family and the song starts playing on the stereo. He had 3 CD's on shuffle play.

Here's my original running/music synch story.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How big is yours?

Hey, come on - I'm just talking about your Carbon Footprint! Find out how big it is, ways you can reduce and or offset your impact on the environment. In other words, now that you've stepped in it, isn't time to do something about it?


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Covert Cashew Caper

So this guy we know, we'll call him Gary, goes to our favorite Thai restaurant for lunch and orders the cashew chicken (better known to regulars as #5).

When the owner/waitress/busperson/cashier sets it down on the table Gary informs her that he had in fact ordered the cashew chicken. She points to the center of his plate at a lone cashew tucked into the chicken and rice. So he figures there'll be more underneath and proceeds with his lunch. Turns out to be the only cashew in the whole dish.

So he goes up to pay and this conversation ensues:
"I was wondering if you could maybe take like $1 off my bill since there was only one cashew in my cashew chicken."
"Oh? And how many cashews you think you should get?"
"Um...more than one?"
"Do you know how expensive they are?"

So since then, whenever we order the #5, we always feel blessed when we find more than one cashew in our dish. Well, Gary has taken a stint in Germany so in his honor, we had a little fun yesterday at the Thai place. We ordered the #5 as usual and as usual, it came out with a cashew garnish perched atop the rice. After I had finished 3/4 of the dish and the owner/waitress/busperson/cashier was in the kitchen, I pulled out a baggie of my own cashews and added two large handfuls of the beauties to the plate, mixed them with the sauce and then pushed them to the side as if I had "picked them out". I tried to put some on Sean's plate but he only agreed to a couple. Kerven had to keep thinking about dead puppies to keep from laughing.

So we lure her out with empty water glasses and as she's refilling, Kerven asks me how my #5 was today. "Not bad," I say, leaning back and rubbing my tum-tum,"little heavy on the cashews though..." At this her eyes glance at my plate and the tiniest smile emerges. She retreats to the kitchen and we immediately hear banging pot lids. We are now almost crying and we are the only patrons in the restaurant so we don't even have social pressure to help us stay cool.


We regain composure long enough to pay the bill and head for the door. As we're leaving, she's walking over to collect my plate and she moves slower with each step as her eyes fix on the golden mound of leftover cashews. We spent the ride back to work imagining what happened in the kitchen after we left. Sometimes the best pranks are when you're not there for the payout.

Speaking of pranks, remember this one?


Monday, May 07, 2007

How Do You See The World?

Since I'm a facts and data bloke, I'm always on the lookout for new ways to visualize data. The folks at WorldMapper have some very interesting maps that re-size the territories of the world in relation to the subject being analyzed. For each of the 366 maps on the site, they also provide a PDF poster suitable for framing. My favorite so far is number 345 - Number of Films watched. It's not what you'd expect.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

My Favorite Tools - Day 6

Day 6 – SyncToy

I used to rely on Microsoft Office Briefcase to sync up my local files with my network files. Now with thumbdrives, digital cameras and hot-swappable hard drives, I’ve found SyncToy to be an easy way to keep backups and flash storage in order. It can even be scheduled as a service with XP Scheduled Services.


Monday, April 16, 2007

My Favorite Tools - Day 5

Day 5 - FreeMind

FreeMind is an open-source mind-mapping tool that is incredibly flexible and easy to use. It helps during brainstorming meetings or on your own in some quiet corner of the world. I've had trouble with conflicts with the version of the JRE I'm running but if it works on your system, it will become something you use practically everyday.

By the way, I got the word that my new laptop is on its way and will be onsite anyday so I need to step up my inventory posting of my favorite tools. Oh, and take out the trash...


Friday, January 12, 2007

It's A Wrap

I always seemed to have friends who were in the A/V club at school and one skill they posessed that made me green with envy was how adept they were at wrapping up electrical cords.

Well, I've finally got my own back with this neat instructable video - it's a shame that it took me like 30 years to figure this out.