Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Another reflection on Disney

Frequent readers of my posted material have probably noted that I am indeed a fan of Walt Disney World. Its one of the few places that I feel I can go to and completely relax, knowing that everything is being taken care of. One of my favorite attractions is Expedition Everest at the Animal Kingdom. Its a thrilling roller-coaster ride that is made even better by the story that the Disney Imagineers have woven around it. Its these details that set Disney apart from other amusement parks.

On my most recent trip, I took video of the ride and posted it to YouTube.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

At Sea - Day 7

It's our last full day and the ship will be at sea. Lots if interesting activities, but I think today calls for laying out in the sun for a little while, followed by some shipboard activities and catching up on the Internet.

Dinner time came fast, but a decent nap will do that for you too. We had a decent showing at the table with all four couples present. We talked about the things we liked best, and least. The most common thing that bothered people was the language barriers with the crews, especially service personnel. We shared funny stories about that problem.

Now, it's time for packing and getting ready to leave in the morning.

After packing and putting the bags out for pickup, we walked a bit, bought a photo of us in St. Martin, then went to the open air Lido deck to "dispose" of a pair of Cubans that we had somehow come up with. A last walk around the decks before turning in. Tomorrow is a busy day.

At Sea - Day 6

This was a total day at sea. Starting in the morning, for some odd reason, people were asking me, and sometimes my wife, how was I doing. I suspect they were at the deck part the night before.

We decided to take it easy and laid out on the Promenade deck, walked around, and I took a nap in the afternoon. Interesting thing sleeping in mid-day, not something I usually do. Dinner was elegant dress and we dressed for it. On the way, we even had a few photos taken. We'll see how that works out tomorrow.

A little time at the blackjack table earned me a few dollars back. The biggest problem are the folks that don't know how to play or have had too much to drink to play properly. They don't understand that they can affect the entire table.

The night wrapped up with a few hours at karaoke and then watching Transformers on the big screen on the Lido Deck by the pool.

Friday, September 26, 2008

St. Martin - Day 5

For those not aware, St. Martin is an island with dual personalities. By treaty, it is divided into halves owned by France and The Netherlands. Both are still considered a part of their patron countries.

We opted for an excursion that was to tour the island with time in Margot, the capital of the French side, Orient Beach, also on the French side, and finally Phiipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side. Instead of the traditional open-bus, we had a more typical tour bus with comfortable seats. The problems came from two places; the first was that the bus's air conditioning wasn't working and the windows didn't open. The second was that the driver decided to skip the Philipsburg portion of the trip. This was a terrible disappointment and considering that this was my first Carnival cruise and only excursion, it has not left me feeling very good about engaging in such activities again.

The weather was good though and it was a nice time at the sidewalk cafe in Margot and the beach bar at Orient Beach. I really want to make time to return and see both capitals again. We picked up a few duty-free items before we boarded the ship.

I then had an appointment at the ship's spa, another first. I felt terrific after the massage and think I'll make this a regular activity on any future cruises.

It was Margarita night at the casino bar and I did my part to add to the tradition. The mistake probably came from switching drinks during our cigar moment on the Lido deck.

Tomorrow is the first of two days at sea on the way back to Miami.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

St. Thomas - Day 4

We pulled into beautiful St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands this morning amidst deep blue skies and moderate temperatures. We aren't the only ship here so I assume Charlotte Amalie will be busy with tourists. We have no specific plans but intend to go to Paradise Point by way of the tram and wander around town. I'll write about it later. At the moment, we have to go through U.S. Immigration.

Despite almost 20 announcements, items in the newsletter, and signs all over the ship, it seems there were a number of people who decided that they were special and didn't need to go to the U.S. Immigration checks. We all heard their names on the PA system several times throughout the morning as the crew did their best to locate them.

We prepared for our trek and as we were about to leave the cabin, some flyers were delivered that mentioned specials at the spa for the day. I called and made an appointment for a triple-massage later at night. It should be nice. We disembarked and it all went smoothly. Finding a ride downtown was not a problem, but it was a bit chaotic trying to find a dorry headed for our specific destination. The cab drivers were trying to upsell everyone on island tours or longer trips to one of the beaches.

We were dropped off downtown and began our exploring. After a while we stumbled across a little place called The Giggling Gecko owned and operated by Michelle, originally from Prince Frederick in Maryland (small world it is). Its a delightful place and a few bottles of Island Summer Ale later we were back on our way through the town.

After another hour we stopped in at The Green House, another local haunt frequented by tourists. The Macho Nachos hit the spot as did a bottle of Carib, a beer from Trinidad.

A quick cab ride and we were at the foot of the tram that runs to Paradise Point. The ride up gives you quite a good view of the harbor and town below. At the top is a nice little restaurant and gift shop. Their speciality is a drink called a Bushwacker. I decided to try one, along with a bottle of water. It tastes a lot like a chocolate milkshake made with low-fat ice cream. The view and sites from their were incredible. You can clearly see Puerto Rico and some of the other Virgin Islands. I got quite a few shots that will be on Flickr when I return.

Dinner is in a bit and the massage a bot after that. I think I may reschedule as I managed to get some sunburn that might interfere with the massages.

Tomorrow is St. Maartin and we have an excursion planned to sightsee the island.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

At Sea, Day 3

The morning arrived to find us at sea. But the seas were rougher than anticipated with 10-12 foot swells. That made the whole day a bit rough. I heard a number of folks talk about feeling under the weather.

The morning was easy. We went up to the main pool areas to lay out for bit. I wandered into Rosie's and had a light breakfast of mostly fresh fruit. Upon getting back to the chairs, I spread on the sunscreen, got out the iPod and headphones and laid back. I rolled over a few times and even replenished the sunscreen. By 1:00, it was raining so I headed in. Later, I discovered that I was burned and even had bright red areas where I missed with the sunscreen. Not painful, but bothersome nonetheless.

Later was lunch that included leg of lamb, and back to the casino. Then dinner and the casino where I lost a few more dollars. Dinner was excellent and we were joined by 2 more couples. The synergy was terrific and dinner was very entertaining. We went back to the casino where I managed to lighten my wallet even further. I thought I had a chance in the Blackjack Tournament, but was knocked off the top six list at the last moment by just $200.

Overall, a nice and relaxing day with napping, sunning, book reading, blackjack, and craps. All of this in the wake of 12-15 foot seas, clouds, and spotty rain. I found it a good day though.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nassau, Bahamas - Day 2

We were already in port at Nassau when we awoke. Since we had no specific plans, we had a lazy breakfast then headed ashore about 10:00. We walked around the downtown and port area, taking in the shops and some of the local culture. However, mostly what we ran into were other folks from the ship or taxi and bus drivers.

After an hour walk, we decided to put into the Athena Cafe. This Greek restaurant was founded by a Greek seaman who jumped ship in Nassau and never left. We had some local beers and conch fritters; both were excellent. We headed back to the ship afterwards, but at a leisurely pace. Upon boarding, we decided to change and head across the ship to other destinations. We had some drinks at the Argonaut bar by the pool, then a hearty lunch at Rosie's Cafe -- named after Rosie the Riveter from WWII fame.

Today was "elegant" night on the ship, meaning a higher dress code at dinner, The Captains reception was a 5:00 so we dressed up and headed there. We met a couple from Canada they were very nice. The drinks and appetizers flowed. I latched onto this lime-flavored drink and they kept setting new ones in front of me. Time for dinner came and we found ourselves with another couple. Jeff and Mary Lou from Maine showed up. They seem to be serial entrepreneurs, starting a business then selling it and starting another. I have to admire that mindset.

After dinner, we changed and headed back out. We first went to the casino and did okay. Te wife won $500 on slots and I won back some of the money I lost on the first night. More importantly, it was fun. On to karaoke where we ran into other people we knew. First, we sat with the couple from the ride to Miami. Then, some of the best singers were from my blackjack table earlier in the evening.

We wrapped up the day by watching "Deja Vous" on the big screen at the pool/

Today, we also agreed that he occupants of the cabin to our right need to get a better handle on their kids. Between the banging, jumping, and slamming doors it is getting to be pretty onerous. Banging back on the wall seems to get it to stop for at least a little while, but not permanently. We'll see how it plays out over the next several days.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cruise Day is Here!

Steve from SAS picked us up right at 10:30. I can't say enough about the quality of his service and highly recommend him for any of your transport needs in the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area. He mentioned that the port in Miami was a mess due to four ships arriving at the same time. According to his information, people that should have been off already were still nowhere near disembarking.

He had no other pickups so we were headed strait to the port. On the way, a call came in about a pair of travelers needing to be transported from Ft. Lauderdale airport to the same ship as ours. After asking us if we minded, which we didn't, he turned around and retrieved them. It made the trip go easier having someone else to talk to.

Arriving at the port, we could see it was still a complete mess. Frequent cruisers now that things are usually cleared out by 11-11:30. Here it was almost noon and there were hundreds of people still getting off the ship! He dropped us off and we made our way inside. It is no exaggeration to say that we waited in lines to have a turn waiting in another line. It was ridiculous and horrendous. Had this been our first experience with Carnival I guarantee it would have been our last. It took hours to check-in. At the counter, our customer service person explained that Carnival rented the facility from NCL as theirs were full. Since it was an NCL terminal, there were no Carnival systems or computers. Everything was being done by hand. Once we knew this, it made sense and was more tolerable. Why Carnival chose to not communicate this to the thousands waiting to board is one of those business decisions where the only response is, "what were you thinking?"

By the time we actually boarded and got our stateroom, it was nearly 3:00. Despite being famished, we decided on light eating to save our appetites for the scrumptious dinner that was awaiting us at 6:00. While lunching and having a drink, we met up with a number of other people from the cruisecritic.com discussion boards. They were all nice people.

Muster is the process of exercising for an emergency drill. Everyone is called out and shows up at the evacuation points with their life vests. In our case, it went pretty smoothly with a hundred or so people at out area, all wearing their bright orange vests. But, then there were the past cruisers that not only thought they didn't need to participate, but by talking amongst themselves, and quite loudly, kept new cruisers from hearing all of the instructions.

During muster, the ship pulled away from the dock. I went up on the observation deck to watch the sail-away. It wasn't all that interesting, though I must say that the city of Miami looks much better in CSI_Miami than it does in reality.

Dinner for us was at 6:00 and its the early shift. We found we were seated at a table of ten, although we found we were the only ones at the table. The ffod was excellent as was the bottle of Reisling we ordered. The service was impeccable as we have come to expect from Carnival. We went from dinner to the casino, where I promptly dropped some bucks at the craps table. The wife donated a bit to the slot machines, but we both had fun in the process. We decided to head back a bit early.

Monday is a day in Nassau, Bahamas.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ft. Lauderdale as a Stopover to Miami

Before embarking on our cruise, we elected to fly to Ft. Lauderdale a day early and stay overnight. Through some connections, we got a goot rate at the Sheraton on the beach. It was well located, clean, and reasonably priced. They had a pool, pool bar, and the requisite restaurant, deli, and bar. All in all it was a decent place.

Our flight to Ft. Lauderdale was on Southwest and was, in all, fairly uneventful. We had arranged our transportation through SAS, which my wife found on the discussion board at cruisecritic.com. SAS is run by Steve who met us with the utmost professionalism. He talked about the local area and activities that we might be interested in as he drove us from the airport o the hotel. Dropping us off, we finalized arrangements for the ride to the port in Miami the next morning.

After settling into the room, first had some beverages at the pool/beach bar and then we walked up Las Olas Blvd (A1A) and had lunch at Bahia Cabana, a well-known place amongst the locals. We eventually wandered some more and found ourselves embibing of a malt beverage at a local place called Rock & Roll Bar. It was streetfront/beachfront and was a lot of fun. After finishing a pair of drinks, we headed back to the hotel. Soon we were answering the siren call of Bierbrunnen, a German establishment just off of A1A. Lots of beers on tap, including some nice German brews. We had one for the road and made it back to the hotel after a short walk.

We repacked our luggage to better prepare for boarding the ship on Sunday.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Upcoming Trip

I'm leaving for some time in Ft. Lauderdale, then a cruise on the Carnival Valor. So, you can look forward to a basic travelogue and a good field test of my new Nikon D90 camera. I managed to get a few lenses before the trip; a Sigma 10-20 and a Nikon 70-300. These are not expensive lenses, but should give me a full range of options on the trip.


Carnival Valor

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Md Tech Council Social Media Seminar Sept 2008


Md Tech Council Social Media Seminar Sept 2008
Photo by shashiBellamkonda

A shot of me during the SuperStar portion of the TCM seminar on how to grow your business through social networking today.

I'll update this post with more information as it gets online.

You can also find some coverage of the event at these links:

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Nikon D90 DSLR coming soon

I have been waiting for Nikon and Canon to release their new models during this weeks Photokina event in Europe. I wasn't disappointed when Nikon held a press conference to announce their new D90 DSLR. What makes this particular camera ultra-special is that it will record high definition video as well. See my Tumblr post for more info.

I managed to finally order one this morning and was surprised to find that they are already in the warehouses and prepping to ship to customers on Friday, September 5. I ordered the kit with the Nikon 18-105 VR lens. With overnight shipping, that'll mean I get mine on Saturday.

I can't wait to try it out, especially the HD video. I haven't used an SLR since my old photography days when I had a Nikon FM, FE, and later and F3. I loved those cameras, but they soon wore on me as too much to carry for many events. I have been carrying a small Nikon point-n-shoot that has done a darn good job. But now I want more options and control over the process. Look forward to more postings with photos or photo-related news in the coming months.

For an excellent site and accompanying podcast on photography, visit TWIP: This Week in Photography.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Duckpin Bowling History

Over the last few years, I have occasionally gone on a full-steam research foray into the history of duckpin bowling. I have managed to find a few things here and there that strike down some widely accepted versions of history. For instance, it is often mentioned that duckpin bowling never got farther west than the Mississippi River. However, I have found references to duckpin bowling centers in Washington, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, and Chigago, Il. The farthest is a small center in Cannon Beach, Oregon. George has a photo of the historical marker on his Pbase page. The Cannon Beach Historical Society web site has the following mention of the location along with a photo of the building from the 1940's.

The Bowling Alley Site(1945)
115 Hemlock Street
At one time, this building was called Duck Pin Bowling Alley and Penny Arcade. Kids were hired to set the pins back up after customers knocked them down. After World War II, the Bureau of Labor rulled that children were not to work after 6:00 pm, ruining the business and focing it to cloe. In the 1950s, the building burned down.

[From Cannon Beach Historical Society]

In addition to Oregon, there is still an operating center in Potter, Nebraska that was originally built in the 1920's. It has 3 lanes and uses pinboys to handle the manual setting of pins and ball returns. It was restored by the Potter Historical Society several years back.

On Mackinac Island in Wisconsin Michigan, there is a duckpin lane in the venerable Bobby's Bar in the Woods Restaurant that they claim is the U.S.'s oldest operating duckpin alley. Nobody seems to know exactly when they were built but it is assumed that it was around the turn of the 20th century. Below is a photo from their website showing the lane.

There are also more recently opened and operating duckpin bowling centers in Indianapolis, IN and at Lake Tenkiller, OK.

Friday, August 8, 2008

See how the other half lived

I arrived in Providence on Southwest 10 minutes ahead of schedule. A quick walk through the terminal to the Budget counter and I had my car. Breakfast at a Bickfords restaurant near the airport with the others and our plans were set. We were going to Newport to tour a few of the mansions.

It was a nice ride as the weather was perfect. We drove through town and arrived at Chateau-sur-Mer. I won't repeat of all the historic details here as they are aptly covered on their website. The tour was about an hour long and, I must say, left something to be desired. The guide kept forgetting things, then remembered several rooms later. And many of the art and furnishings throughout the mansion didn't belong there and had come from elsewhere. Not exactly what you expect.

We dropped by the Salve Regina University campus bookstore for a bit of refreshment and then headed to The Breakers. This is the Vanderbilt mansion and is the jewel of the tour. It is fairly popular and there are many reasons why. It is fabulous and the furnishings and art are all original and authentic. The new is incredible as are the grounds. Again, you can find detailed information here.

We stopped downtown in Newport for lunch and found a little place near the ball park called Mudville Pub. Good food and brews topped off our Newport tour. If you ever stop there, you have to try their Ultimate Nachos and/or chili.

Any trip to Newport is not complete without a stop by Cuffy's for your t-shirts and sweatshirts. True bargains along he style of "buy some, get some more free". Storms rolled in so we headed back. On the way, the car's alert system was telling me that the rear left tire was low. By the time I got to a gas station, it was really low but no obvious problem. I refilled it with air and it seemed fine, not losing pressure. However, after parking it for a few hours at the hotel, it was low again. Budget did a nice job of swapping it out for me. Kudos to the team here at Green Airport in Providence.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tech Target interview

A recent Tech Target article on bandwidth concerns amongst businesses due to the streaming of the Olympic games over the Internet uses some information from an exchange I had with one of the reporters there. Click here to read the article.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Foggy Dubai


Foggy Dubai
Originally uploaded by daveandmairi

This is an incredible photo of skyscrapers in Dubai poking up through a fog bank.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Creatures of the Deep

I came across this extraordinary video from Dave Gallo on TED.COM, originally shot in 1998, about our ocean neighbors. The photos and video in this post were taken by submarines and are unbelievable, Many of the animals you'll see almost seem like creations from Hollywood. It is well worth the 10 minutes to watch.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Apple MacBook Air - Refurb costs more than a new one?

With Apple's recent price reduction for the SSD versions of the MacBook Air, I was poking around their site to see what a refurbished unit was going for. Now, I was one of those that paid full price but have had 8 weeks of full and productive use of the notebook so I don't feel badly about it. Interestingly, I found that the new units are going for $2,598.00.

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But, it seems that you can buy a refurbished unit for only $101.00 MORE, but you are saving 13% off of the original price. I guess they need to pay better attention to these things.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Beer pouring robot

What will those wonderful Japanese robot makers think of next. How cool is this? A robot that opens and pours beer! I assume, though it isn't obvious, that it will work with certain other beverages as well.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Leaving San Diego

Well, for me the conference is over and today is the day I depart. My ride arrives around 10:30, but I can't resist the sunshine so I am checking out early and waiting in the warm sunshine. I am as prepared as I could be for this flight and have all my devices fully charged.

Traffic to the airport was almost non-existent and my driver from Cloud-9 was excellent. United got me through quickly, but there were some "issues" at security. With Bio 2008 also in San Diego, there are a lot of medical and pharma types at the airport. As important as they are, they go through the "expert traveler" line, but are anything but. The wait grew very quickly form only 5 minutes to well over 25 minutes as a group of them just had incredible difficulty getting through the basic x-ray and metal detectors. Instructions are only written on 25 signs before you get there. Oh well, good thing I have plenty of time.

San Diego airport is not known for its breadth of shopping or restaurants, so I spent most of the time at the gate listening to Buzz Out Loud on my iPod Nano. It made the time pass faster. I got out my iPhone to log into the airports free wifi, but it just didn't work for me. I resorted to Edge and checked mail, texted, and mailed a few photos. Time went quickly and we boarded.

It took forever for the plane to completely board as the flight was full. With a number of folks from Bio, there were people dragging stuff on that was either too much or too large. I really don't get it. Otherwise, the flight was good with great service. Lasagna for dinner with hit fudge sundaes for dessert. Good Malbec wine topped it off, and we were on time. The only down side was the movie, which was shown on my flight to San Diego. No big deal though.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

CIO Decisions 2008 - Day 2

Breakfast was sponsored by TriGeo, a company that has a very intriguing log analyzer and SIM product. The food had a southwest flair to it and was pretty good. Way to go TriGeo! The presentation by their CEO, Michelle Dickman, was also compelling. I'll be in their demonstration during the breakout sessions later in the morning.

Today is a full day, with topics of interest to me at every time, so I can only hope my battery last long enough to take notes. I am a bit surprised, yet again, that attendance at breakfast seems a little sparse compared to the number of registered attendees.

Mykolas Rambus is a young and bright CIO who is now with Forbes Media that I have had the privilege of knowing for about four years. His presentation in the morning on Business Intelligence was extremely valuable to me as my organization places heavier emphasis on the tools.

The TriGeo demonstration was even better than last year and has definitely rekindled my interest in the product. I'll have to put my network team on it sometime later this year.

The afternoon presentations by some of the award winners was pretty interesting. We heard from Hamilton Beach, Monster Cable, and the Archdiocese of London, Ontario.

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CIO Decisions 2008 - Awards Dinner

The dinner was pretty unusual as far as tech conferences go. To start, instead of vendor displays on the screens, they had the Celtics-Lakers game on. Then, they tried to time the awards with half-time, but that didn't quite work out so the presentations were delayed until after the game was over. With Boston in the lead by 30 points, I think the game was over at the start of the 4th period.

Attendance seemed a little sparse considering how many people are attending the conference. I also found a little odd since dinner was included. However, then I remembered that these are all tech people.

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They had 10 awardees this year, but only half of the were actually present to receive their award. I found that a little disappointing as this is a very prestigious award. The fact that only 10 were given this year also makes it very exclusive. I am sure they had good reasons though. If you are interested, you can find the list of winners and profiles here: Tech Target MidMarket.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

CIO Decisions 2008 - Day 1

The keynote was terrific, I got a lot out of it about what the job of "CIO of the Future" may look like. Then I went to prep for my session. The 10:15 group was lively and engaging, with a lot of good information to share. Our discussion went right up to the last minutes.

The private lunch with Microsoft was okay, but not exactly what I was expecting. They did offer some good swag though and there were a few really good points that the speaker made, which I noted. Microsoft had their touring truck here and I had the opportunity to check out some of the their current initiatives. Based on what I have seen, heard, and read, I think they might finally be "getting it". But as big a company as they are, it may be too difficult to be as agile as they need to.

My afternoon session was at 1:45, well timed to be before the point at which people get drowsy after having a big lunch. It was a bigger group and, while it took a while to get them started, they had their own sets of stories to share. I have posted a copy of my PowerPoint online and have embedded it below for convenience.


Monday, June 16, 2008

CIO Decisions 2008 Conference

I am here in Carlsbad, CA finally. The flight on United was fine, but I still can't understand why they don't have power outlets in business or first class on a cross-country flight!

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Tonight is the opening reception and there is supposed to be a Texas Hold-Em tournament. I've never played the game myself, but there is a first time for everything. I am taking time to rehearse my presentation and catch up on work writing and e-mail. There is always more to do than can fit in the time alloted. I guess that is an unwritten business rule.

Tomorrow is the official opening of the conference and I'm looking forward to the keynote speaker, Susan Cramm. Her background should make it an interesting presentation. Then my breakout sessions are at 10:15 and 1:45. After my sessions, I'll find a way to post my slides online for any attendees that may want it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On my way to San Diego for CIO Decisions

I'm preparing for my trip to San Diego for the CIO Decisions 2008 Conference at the La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, CA. I was considering the idea of not going this year until Ann McCrory at TechTarget tapped me to present at a breakout session. The topic is "Selling Security and Disaster Recovery Projects to Your Company". Since the traditional support arguments like ROI don't work, IT Executives are often forced to use other methods to support and justify their projects in these areas.

The breakouts happen at two times, so I have a session in the morning and another in the afternoon. I am really looking forward to going as the agenda and networking opportunities look top-notch!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Today is Apple Day!

I coincidentally took off today but have set aside time after 1:00 to watch the liveBlogging of Steve Jobs WWDC keynote address. His announcement of a new 3G iPhone is expected, as well as possibly some other revelations. We'll see just how much he wows the tech world today. I predict a 7.2 on the Steve-O-Meter.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pass the Balloon

I stumbled across an interesting custom in the making this morning. While at the food court, I saw a little girl and her mother approach a family with a little boy that was standing next to me. The girl went to the boy and offered him her Mickey Mouse balloon. Her mother then explained that they were leaving and couldn't take it with them on the plane. When they checked in, another family had given it to them under the same circumstances and mentioned that they, in turn, had received it from another departing family. How interesting is that?

I wonder how many times that particular balloon has been passed from family to family. How many times has that single, small token put a smile on a child's face and perhaps brightened everyone's mood? What a terrific idea. I hope more folks will consider this kind of "pay it forward" activity when they travel -- or just in their everyday lives.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Base21 at Walt Disney World

Base21 is the Siemens VIP Lounge located inside the Spaceship Earth structure at EPCOT in Walt Disney World. Siemens became a big sponsor there about two years ago put their name on Spaceship Earth as well as Illuminations. Its a great facility that also shows off some ingenious Siemens technology.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Apple Safari Browser: Not one of today's best available technologies?

There are apparently a number of folks that think that Apple's Safari browser is not a solid application. Last week, PayPal (sic: eBay) came out with a notice suggesting that its customers avoid using the browser with the PayPal service as it was potentially prone to phishing attacks.

A posting on Webware today about a new travel site called InsideTrip caught my interest. Its supposed to help you find the perfect flight by factoring in time, stops, duration, seat selection, aircraft, and other data about the trip. I clicked on the link and promptly saw the following message.


InsideTrip.jpg

I have been a Safari user for several years now and have no complaints. In the earlier days, there were some issues with major sites coded specifically for Internet Explorer, but most are now more compliant. I like FireFox as well and its my browser of choice when using Windows, but I have to use IE at the office. All in all, I get a pretty fair amount of use out of all three and I find them comparable in ease-of-use; at least when IE means IE7.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Computer Services Tax in Maryland

In our state, we are wrestling with the new computer services tax that is going into effect July 1, 2008. This tax essentially treats most computer services as a traditional retail sales item and imposes a 6% sales tax. Being in a small state with several bordering states with good economies, it is pretty easy for a lot of organizations to simply move across the line to the District of Columbia, Delaware, or Pennsylvania, or across the Potomac River to Virginia. This is a short-sighted effort to bridge the state's budget deficit in the near term while driving away long term security by driving the business out of state. A similar tax has been imposed, and eventually repealed, by other states.

Seen at the anti-Computer Services Tax rally

The Tech Council of Maryland is one of many groups leading the charge to repeal the tax before it's too late. An event was held in Annapolis for the press and state legislature to call attention to the problem. There was a lot of lip-service paid, but the real test will be to see what actions are taken.

Here is a YouTube video of my brief speech at a recent rally.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Microsoft WorldWide Telescope Debuts

Microsoft Research's WorldWide Telescope made it public debut at TED this week. The project has taken the best images from telescopes all over the world and perfectly stitched them together to create a holistic view of the cosmos. Watch the video of the presentation to see how cool it really is.

Indiana Jones Trailer released

I've been a big fan of the series ever since I saw < italic;">Raiders of the Lost Ark on its opening day. May 22nd can't come soon enough, but I was delighted when this new trailer showed up on Yahoo. It looks like they are playing on some of the same "antics" that were popular in the past movies, but wit more panache.

<//d.yimg.com/static.video.yahoo.com/yep/YV_YEP.swf?ver=2.0.41" /> <//d.yimg.com/static.video.yahoo.com/yep/YV_YEP.swf?ver=2.0.41" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="512" height="323" allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="id=6444508&vid=2031178&lang=en-US&intl=us&thumbUrl=" />

Friday, February 22, 2008

Moleskine Convert

I often carry small notebooks with me to take notes. As much of a techie as I am, I still find it convenient and fast to just write some things down on paper. I do later transcribe many of my notes into Microsoft OneNote though. These notebooks are typically the small spiral-bound type and have served me well. I recently bit the bullet and plunked down some cash for a Moleskine Pocket edition with squared pages.

I love it.

At 192 pages, it is barely any thicker than the 50-page books I am using now. There is no wire spiral to get caught on things (including my clothes), and the leather cover keeps it from getting bent out of shape. It also has a small pocket inside the back cover where I can keep small scraps of paper. I used to lose a lot of these with my old books.

squared.gif

According to the website:

MOLESKINE IS THE LEGENDARY NOTEBOOK,

USED BY EUROPEAN ARTISTS AND THINKERS FOR THE PAST TWO CENTURIES.

THIS SILENT AND DISCREET KEEPER OF AN EXTRAORDINARY TRADITION, WHICH HAS BEEN MISSING FOR YEARS, HAS BEEN REPRODUCED BY THE ITALIAN COMPANY MODO & MODO SINCE 1998. WITH ITS VARIOUS DIFFERENT PAGE STYLES IT ACCOMPANIES THE CREATIVE PROFESSIONS AND HAS BECOME A SYMBOL OF CONTEMPORARY NOMADISM.

MOLESKINE IS A FAMILY OF NOTEBOOKS FOR DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS, ACCORDING WITH A FREE MINDSTYLE, BOTH BASIC AND EMOTIONAL.

For more information, check out http://www.moleskine.com.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Photos in Schmap

I recently had two photos selected to appear in the newly released fourth edition of the Schmap San Francisco Guide:

John's Grill
www.schmap.com/sanfrancisco/toppicks_restaurants/p=86271/i=86271_4.jpg
Lou's Pier 47

www.schmap.com/sanfrancisco/entertainment_fishermanswharf/p=8964/i=8964.jpg

No I realize that this is merely a way for them to get their photos for the guide at little or no cost and to also spread the word through the photographers linking to them, but I don't care. I think its a bit cool.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Southwest rant

I hate the fact that Southwest is not only my best option to Florida, but that they offer the best service. That isn't necessarily a compliment. Now, the service out of Baltimore is okay and, in fact, on a par or above other airlines. It's in Orlando where hey fall down. Take today for instance. They push you to be there two hours before your flight, but the counters aren't open that early. There is a sign saying they open at 4:30, but at 4:45 there was still no sign of anyone. Then its all self-service from there. You must use a kiosk. You must drag your bags over to the TSA area. Humbug.

SW 73 RAIN

When you pay to fly, there is a minimum level of service that should be provided by all carriers. This includes timely check-in, open and staffed counters, on-time promises, and handling your details once you check-in (sic: baggage).

Friday, February 8, 2008

She is a real peach, isn't she?

Ella, a sculpture of a reclining woman almost 20 feet tall and about 35 feet long has been unveiled in Sydney, Australia. The sculpture is made entirely of peaches, about 24,000 of them, though we aren't sure if the peaches are real. Sponsored by Ella Baché, a skin care and cosmetics company, the sculpture took about 6 months to create. It will be on display through Feb 10. For more information on the display and a background, follow the link below. Thanks to Boing-Boing for bringing this to my attention.

Amazing all peach sculpture

[From The Ella Installations // Ella will be unveiled soon // 1-10 February 2008 // First Fleet Park, Sydney]

ella bache peaches
Originally uploaded by bluemedia1

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ustream.tv - Leo Laporte Live

The problem wit watching Leo Laporte record TWiT NetCasts live on Ustream, like this weeks MacBreak Weekly, is that I run out of things to listen to while driving home from work.

Monday, January 28, 2008

We Don't Usually Have to Worry About This at the Office

The phones here in our Kampala office were acting a bit strange when a call came in so I went to the communications room to check it out. Everything seemed in order so I took the cover off of the wall-mounted system. A number of geckos, maybe 5 or 6, came running out, one at least 4 or more inches long! I check the system and it seemed okay. I tested it by using my mobile phone and everything was alright now.

So, maybe it isn't the famous story about a moth and a vacuum tube, but its still interesting what we have to account for here.

Labor is Inexpensive in Uganda

I have been driving by the Kololo Airstrip as I move between the hotel and the office. This airstrip is used by the President and also is the occasional setting for ceremonies. It was the center of celebration for the Day of the African Child in June for example.

On one of the days, while headed to the office, I noticed the almost constant whine of small engines as we passed the airstrip. My first thought was "radio-controlled planes" but I quickly dismissed that idea. Then I realized that it was the sound of a gas trimmer. Over the next few days the sound was always there, sometimes it seemed as though there was a "swarm" of them.

Well, today I finally figured it out. They have people who trim the grass for the entire airfield using just these trimmers; about 20 of them. I just couldn't see them the first few days because of a berm at the far end of the field.

Even though labor may be inexpensive here, I can't imagine why a good lawnmower wouldn't do the job. Even a simple 21" walking mower would have to be better than the fueling and upkeep of so many trimmers. I'll have to ask my Ugandan colleagues about it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Darth Valice in Wonderland

Being both a fan of Star Wars and Disney, I found this artist’s mash-ups incredibly interesting. Who’d ever thought little innocent Alice would have a light saber? He has done several others, including some of the classic Mickey Mouse illustrations. Visit the artist's site at devientART (link below) to view his other works.


Darth Valice in Wonderland by *Thumper-001 on deviantART [From Darth Valice in Wonderland by *Thumper-001 on deviantART]

Friday, January 25, 2008

2008 Washington DC Auto Show Charity Preview Event

I had the privilege, offered through the Primary Care Coalition of Montgomery County, of attending the 2008 Washington DC Auto Show's Congressional Gala and Charity Preview Event this week. This is a great evening filled with most of my favorite things; food, wine, music, and cars. The event is held each year and allows a small number of people to peruse the show in advance of its public opening. There is terrific access to the cars and displays. They sprinkle food stands and drink stations throughout the show floor and make it a truly terrific atmosphere for perusing the cars. My favorite spot is the hall where most of the imports are located. It's here that you find the special cars you rarely get to see; the Bentleys, Ferraris, high-end Mercedes, and other unique vehicles. And all of this raises money for charity! It was a great time! It was only later that I realized that there was a dinner and dance as well. I was pleased enough by the ambience and events on the show floor and it never occurred to me that there was more.

 

DSCN1089.JPG

[From Flickr Photo Download: DSCN1089.JPG]

 

Monday, January 21, 2008

iPhone as a Disney Tour Guide

On a recent edition of MacBreak Weekly (#71?), Scott Bourne spent time describing his vision for how the iPhone would be used in "push" style by retailers. He describes how a consumer might walk into Home Depot and get a store directory. I thought this to be a very insightful thought.

A recent posting at www.wdwmagic.com really drives this home. In the posting, they describe how Disney is now performing a similar function with the Nintendo DS device, and how they have forayed into this area in the past. [Click here for the wdwmagic.com forum discussions from users, or the full postings for Jan 9 and Jan 20 at this link.

Disney iPhone

These are excellent examples of how consumer-oriented companies can take advantage of portable technologies to expand and enhance the consumer experience while in their domain.

MacWorld Scorecard

I took a gamble last week and offered up my Apple predictions for MacWorld and 2008 at-large. Now that the show is over, lets score them and see if I have any latent ESP. The items highlighted in RED were at least mostly correct, PURPLE were partially correct, and BLUE were just plain wrong.

MacWorld

  1. Ultralight notebook: Well, I was close as they did announce the MacBook Air. I was off on the price at $1399 since it is really $1799, and I was partially correct about different units (consider CPU to be different). I was wrong about an ExpressCard slot though.
  2. iTunes Movie Rentals: dead on with this one, not that it was difficult.
  3. AppleTV Gen 2: mostly right, so far. The only feature I seemed to be wrong about was a new video input capability.
  4. MacBook next-gen: I was completely wrong on this one, at least for it being MacWorld. I still think there is a chance later in 2008.
  5. Monitors/Displays: again, I was dead wrong. But I do think this will happen in 2008.
  6. Mac Mini: another one I missed, but a possibility for later this year.
  7. Touch interface: Partially correct as he touch interface was expanded with the MacBook Air touchpad.
  8. iPhone II: my iPhone predictions didn't come true, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a special event in February around the launch date of the SDK.
  9. iPhone firmware update: of several features I listed, only two were correct; an expanded Springboard and some customization of the interface (webclips).
  10. iTunes Store & the Beatles: Wishful thinking and foiled again. I am still waiting for Merlin Mann's yellow iPod.
  11. iTunes Store and non-DRM: no news announced on this front. Perhaps later in 2008 since Amazon has just about everybody on-board.
  12. Several vendors have advanced iPhone SDKs and will announce apps: well, the new Google Maps says something.
  13. Apple in content creation: definitely not.

2008 at-large

  1. iTunes will become a commerce hub for games and applications for the Mac
  2. AppleTV: will get an update that will allow it to record video to iTunes, essentially becoming a PVR.
  3. The MacBook Pro line will get a refresh in late-Summer.
  4. Apple will release a new product similar to the almost-failed UMPC. It will have the touch interface mentioned in #5 above.
  5. iTunes will add true HD content: right-on with this one too!
  6. Apple will release products that have wireless video capability. They are big on dumping wires and the technology is there.
  7. A new iLife with advanced iMovie features and the ability to produce content directly into iTunes.
  8. Leopard brought us some improved speech tools. I think 2008 will be the year that we see more apps that use it, and use it well.

Well, it doesn't look like the great Kreskin, or Carnak for that matter, have anything to fear from me. If you score a point for correct and half point for partial, then I scored 4.5 out of 13. That's a failing grade by almost any standard. Even with the extra credit point for the 2008 at-large prediction coming at MacWorld, it's still pretty lousy. We'll see how the scorecard is at the end of the year.

But, there are some things I have to wonder about. Steve Jobs and Apple are notorious for wanting to make a splash, and he is a polished presenter. However, most of the announcements were expected and even leaked. Steve also made more errors than normal in his presentation and, for perhaps the first time, part of his technical presentation failed (Flickr browsing from Apple TV). This makes me wonder if there were last minute changes to the presentation that may have been driven by the leaks and Apple's desire for a splash? I am pretty certain we'll see an Apple event before the end of February, but is there a chance that we'll see two of them?

Friday, January 18, 2008

MacWorld Product Alert: Toilet Paper Holder iPod Dock

With vendors from all over the world jumping on the iPod accessory revolution that has occurred in the last 4 years, we have seen a wide variety of products aimed at almost every corner of our lives. Many of them are utilitarian and not unexpected, such as car adaptors, chargers, speakers, and docks for home media centers. But once in a while, you come across something out of the ordinary.

The iCarta and iCarta+ from Atechflash are just such products. On the market since 2006, they are described as "A dock for iPod® with Bath Tissue Holder with Built-in rechargeable battery by the manufacturer, both promise to take your iPod experience into the inner sanctum of your home. Now, never miss a podcast or relax to your favorite music. Watching a digital movie and need to take a break? No problem, just be sure its on your iPod and take it with you; a movie with no interruptions. No specific mention of iPhone compatibility.

The specs from the manufacturers site are:


Now you can Enhance your Experience anywhere with the built-in rechargeable battery.
Features:
  • 4 Integrated high performance moisture-free speakers deliver exceptional clarity and high quality sound
  • Charges your iPod while playing music
  • Audio selector allows you to play iPod shuffle or other Audio device
  • Integrated Bath tissue holder that can be easily folded as a stereo dock
  • Requires AC Power (AC Adapter included)
  • Easy to remove from Wall Mount
  • Rechargeable battery provides up to 8 hours of playtime.

Specifications:
  • Dimension (W x H x D): 8.25in x 3.68in x 7.12in 210mm x 93mm x 181mm
  • Power Requirements: 12V, 1.5A AC
  • adapter Speakers: 2 x tweeters for highs 2 x woofers for lows

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Steve Jobs Kills Internet!

During the MacWorld keynote today, the Internet died; or at least appeared to. Venerable sites such as Twitter were offline with out-of-service messages displayed. Many tech sites that had planned to liveblog the event went 404, including the CNET site for the live coverage. Jaiku was evidently impacted as well as response times suffered. Oh how are we tech junkies supposed to get our fix if we can't be there in person? Update: Only Gizmodo seems able to keep their site up and the blog stream updated.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

MacWorld 2008 Prognistications

In my web wanderings, I've come across a number of industry pundits who have seen fit to offer predictions about Apple, both at MacWorld this week and the year as a whole. After some consideration, I've decided to jump on the bandwagon and offer my own prognistications. Unfortunately, I am usually less accurate than Phil, the Groundhog. But there is no harm in trying.

MacWorld

  1. Ultralight notebook: I do think Apple is on the verge of announcing an ultralight notebook in the MacBook Pro line. This would target the folks who used the beloved 12" PowerBook and sweep in others for whom portability is tantamount. There was a patent application about a year ago that described a method of attaching an external drive, like a DVD, to a notebook and I think that is a big part of the new design. I believe Apple will price this to start at $1399 and have at least two basic units, with the second being $1699. It will have an ExpressCard slot as well.
  2. iTunes Movie Rentals: this isn't a big stretch with all of the information that has been leaking, but I am still adding it to my list. I believe that they will allow users to extend the rental video to the iPhone as well.
  3. AppleTV Gen 2: along with a beefed up AppleTV that will have an improved interface and direct access to the iTunes stores for renting movies, and video "in" capability.
  4. MacBook next-gen: I think Apple will bump the processors and include LED screens, larger drives, more RAM, better processors, and colors.
  5. Monitors/Displays: Apple will unveil a new line of displays that are LED-based.
  6. Mac Mini: I thinkl we'll see the venerable Mini replaced by a new form-facor with additional capabilities, perhaps an Express Card slot included.
  7. Touch interface: I believe Apple will extend the touch interface that is in the iPhone and iPod Touch to the entire portable line before the year is over.
  8. iPhone II: Steve will announce a new iPhone at MacWorld. Delivery will be around June 30.
    • 3G data connection
    • 16GB and 32GB models
  9. iPhone: the next update to the iPhone firmware will include:
    • cut-n-paste
    • customization of the interface
    • an expanded Springboard (to accommodate all of those apps that will be coming)
    • tasks
    • synchronization of notes
    • improved Mail functions
    • the ability to "send" data to other apps
  10. iTunes Store: the Beatles will finally arrive.
  11. iTunes Store: non-DRMed music from all participating labels
  12. Several vendors have advanced iPhone SDKs and will announce apps. I expect FileMaker to be one of them with an app to complement the recently released Bento desktop software.
  13. Several people have mentioned getting into content creation, especially music and perhaps video. I would think this to be a conflict of interest for Steve Jobs. And when he has Disney at his disposal, it begs the question "why?"

2008 at-large

  1. iTunes will become a commerce hub for games and applications for the Mac
  2. AppleTV: will get an update that will allow it to record video to iTunes, essentially becoming a PVR.
  3. The MacBook Pro line will get a refresh in late-Summer.
  4. Apple will release a new product similar to the almost-failed UMPC. It will have the touch interface mentioned in #5 above.
  5. iTunes will add true HD content
  6. Apple will release products that have wireless video capability. They are big on dumping wires and the technology is there.
  7. A new iLife with advanced iMovie features and the ability to produce content directly into iTunes.
  8. Leopard brought us some improved speech tools. I think 2008 will be the year that we see more apps that use it, and use it well.

That's it; all I care to commit to for the moment. I'll revisit this list in a week, after MacWorld is over to see how I scored. I'll do the same throughout the year.