Monday, October 31, 2005

Disaster averted

Last night, after the kids went to bed, Tracey wanted to look at the pictures we had taken at the zoo. When she connected the camera to her computer she received an error message indicating that the drive was not accessible. I tried it on my computer with the same result. I replaced the batteries - same error.

So, being the geek that I am, I searched the Net for a recovery utility. I quickly landed on one of my favorite freeware/shareware sites: SnapFiles. The program that saved the day is called Zero Assumption Digital Image Recovery; not only is it free, but it recovered all the important pictures on the disk. The publisher is Zero Assumption Recovery Software. We cannot thank them enough for offering this free product that helped us so much last night!

And that is why I believe in free software — it is about helping others and making life better for another person.

Fun at the Zoo

We took the kids to the zoo for Halloween. This is the second year we have done this (last year I was not able to be with them because I was working afternoon shifts). We had a great time and the kids enjoyed the experience a lot. It is a safe way to spend Halloween. The most remarkable part of the experience, however, was seeing Noah dance. The zoo had set a kids disco area with a live DJ, disco ball, etc. Kids were having an absolute blast. Noah quickly joined in and did the Cha Cha with the group and he could have gone on dancing for a long time! I am so proud of him!

For some reason, MacK shyed (sp?) away from dancing — probably because it was getting late and she was tired.

When we got home and the kids went to bed, we got some bad news from our camera — more on that in my next post.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tour of USC

Today was a great, fun day! It started a bit rushed, but it is ending like a great day. I took the kids bowling this morning and, because of Halloween, it ended being a nice "party" with cosmic bowling (with the dark lights on) and the adults bowling free. I got some house shoes and a house ball and joined in — it was a lot of fun! I was fortunate that I helped the grandfather of one of the other kids get some confidence in his game (he had not bowled in over 20 years).

After lunch, Kayla and I headed to the University of South Carolina (USC) for an open house. Although we arrived there a little late, we actually received a lot of useful information. USC did a great job of putting this open house together! I was thoroughly impressed by the whole organization of the event, the way everyone treated you, and the absolutely wonderful performance by all students involved in running the event. Great job everyone!

We started by getting an orientation package and signing up for a campus tour. We then headed to get information on Kayla's target school. The staff member was extremely accurate and honest, almost sounding as if she was discouraging Kayla from attending USC, but actually being thorough and up front concerning Kayla's choices. I liked that type of attitude.

From there we attended an orientation session on admission requirements, followed by the tour of campus. Our guides were very knowledgable and helpful and did a fantastic job. The campus is beautiful, it has great technological advantages, and it is very safe. The various programs offered will blow your mind. I was particularly impressed by the main library (one of many) — it is huge! It has two floors above ground and five below ground! Compared to the library at my Alma Matter (the Rochester Institute of Technology) when I was there (back in 1982), the USC facility is fantastic! Mind you, I have not visited RIT since 1985, so I am sure things have changed a lot there. Nevertheless, being in the USC library made me want to go back to college! Maybe after the kids go through college and I retire I will go back and get a new degree — just for the heck of it!

After the tour we briefly visited the bookstore (the majority of which was consumed by souvenirs and not books) and headed back home.

I am thoroughly excited by the possibility of Kayla attending USC — I think I now know how my Dad felt as he and I walked through RIT in 1979. It is also very scary to think that somehow we will need to pay for this college experience. It has arrived so very quickly and yet it has been years in the making. I am sure we will find a solution to this situation as we do for anything else we face.

While we are trying to figure Kayla's college education, I guess we better begin saving for Noah's and MacKenzie's! :-)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Exercise recommendations

Here is a great page with fabulous recommendations on exercises we can do while we sit at the computer! Even a little is better than nothing!

Light is the basic element

Are you interested in photography? If you are, then you know that light is one of the key elements in taking great shots. Too much or too little light and the shot is not all that it could be.

Need some help with your shots? Then this article from PCMag will definitely help you get a much better understanding of how to use existing light and your equipment to produce the best photographs possible!


Thursday, October 27, 2005


If you are into photography and would like a neat product that will allow you to quickly find and view photos and do some near manipulations, I strongly recommend that you try Picasa. I think you will like it.


If you are into photography and would like a neat product that will allow you to quickly find and view photos and do some near manipulations, I strongly recommend that you try Picasa. I think you will like it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Software AND Customer Service done right

I wanted to mention a software product and the person that publishes it. But first you need to know that I have been the secretary/treasurer of my bowling league for the last three years. I have done, all in all, a decent job. It is a difficult task and it takes a great deal of organization to keep on top of things. But it is also fun and it pays a decent amount of money at the end of the season; the money I have received from my secreatry's duties have gone to pay for Kayla's tuition or for bills.

On my first year as secretary I wanted to buy an appropriate software package that would do what I needed to do. I looked into what was available then and I was not happy with what I found. The closest match was a program called Bowl101. Randy Stowe is the owner and programmer that came up with Bowl101. When you have a problem or question you get him. That is pretty neat. I wrote to Randy with some questions back then and he was honest about the programs abilities. He told me that a future version of the program would work they way I needed it.

I developed a decent system of controlling the league finances via an Excel spreadsheet. I sued and refined that system for two years. It worked well. However, it was missing an important part: keeping track of scores and, especially, awards earned by bowlers!

This year I tried Bowl101 again (and I looked at other packages too). Randy allows you five full weeks of unrestricted use of the Bowl101 program — including support for any questions or problems. When I ran into a snag, he called me (surprised me!) and we worked on the problem together — as a team! After four weeks of use I sent Randy some money and he sent me the registration information needed to continue using Bowl101. It was very easy to do and he personally wrote to thank me for the comments I submitted.

Although I am an avid supporter of Open Source and freeware, I certainly understand that not everything in life is free. Randy definitely ensures that you are making an informed decision with his product. And the software works as perfectly as any program ever does!

So cheers to Randy and Bowl101 for a great job and a great product!

Thanks to Randy's program I am doing a much better job in my roles as secretary/treasurer and having a lot more fun at it!

More on copyrights

Tracey and I talked a lot about the copyright issue. So I have adopted one of Creative Commons for my Blog.

I opted for what is called "Attribution-ShareAlike" license. I think this is as close to public domain while still getting credit for the work and making a statement in support of my previous post.

Blogging Coincidence

Last night I remembered that many years ago someone came upon my old personal website and she suggested that I should really consider the new blogging format. For one reason or another (apathy? procrastination?) I never followed up on that suggestion — who would have known that I would be blogging several years later! :-) It goes to show that we need to listen to those coincidences in life!

Speaking of coincidences, the subject is covered wonderfully in a book by James Redfield called "The Celestine Prophecy." Tracey got it from the library(in audio format) one day and we loved it! It may not be for everyone, but we definitely enjoyed the concepts developed there.

Coincidences and concepts are also key subjects when you look at Jose Silva's "UltraMind System." The free course is called "The Unlimited You." There is also a Yahoo! Group dedicated to the Silva Method.

Looking for a little pick-me-up? No, I don't mean coffee or meds! Mike Brescia will gladly give you a morale or spiritual boost — and sometimes the occasional kick on the rear end! His main website is Think Right Now where he offers some excellent products that can literally change your life. Another of his sites is Instant Inner Power. Would you like a free product from Mike? Then visit Today Is Your Day to Win and sign up to receive Mike's complete book via email (no spam ever!).

I hope these ideas can help you!

Dvorak on Software Design

John Dvorak of PCMag has a great editorial/comment on complicated vs. easy software — it is worth the one minute of your time to check it out!


The biggest waste of all

Copyright -- what a waste of time and effort! I generally do not copyright any work I do for free. I do not believe in that type of system. The work I do for many organizations is given freely so that anyone can use it.

I understand that some people have taken advantage of the knowledge base assembled by others and have made money from it. In the grand scheme of things I say "good for them!" They found a way to provide a service that perhaps others could not.

Knowledge and information cannot be contained by the jail bars of obsolete laws; this is especially true in our digital world in which we are surrounded by technological marvels that allow us to capture and duplicate and transform and improve nearly any type of information. DMR protection? It is bypassed, trampled on, and laughed at by hackers the world over! We simply cannot incarcerate knowledge, be it a movie, a song, a document, a presentation, a website or a program.

I believe our world society spends too much time, money, and effort trying to protect that which cannot be protected; information is meant to be shared not locked away. We should help each other grow by freely sharing our knowledge. Let knowledge be free and be owned by everyone and by no one at all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Schools are disease farms

The kids are back to school after missing more than a week of classes. My mother in law thinks it is OK for them to be exposed to illnesses to build their immune system. Maybe so, maybe not. On the other hand the rest of us are also exposed to the same crap and we do not need any more of that stuff! And them being exposed to viruses and such has a detrimental ripple effect: I get sick, I take it to work, they get sick, their kids get sick, other school kids get sick, etc. The terrorist group that taps into this type of community germ-sharing for an evil cause will do some serious damage to the world. This is further complicated by the fact that our state government tells schools that they should make sick kids go to school! Bronchitis or pneumonia? Go to school! The list of diseases that are "allowable" in the schools include:

* Bronchitis
* Common colds (mild)
* Croup
* Ear infection
* Fifth Disease (what happened to diseases First to Fourth? Are there more than five?)
* Pinworms
* Pneumonia
* Rash w/o fever
* Ringworm
* Red eye (without yellow or green discharge, fever or matting)
* Warts

Although these illnesses in themselves may not be seriously contagious, what about a kid that is struggling with pneumonia that then gets exposed to something else? Yikes! You could kill someone that way!

Home schooling anyone? Let's see: better education and less disease and more individual caring. That sounds like a winning formula to me!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Cheaper on ebay? NOT!

Tracey and I have been talking about the new digital SLR camera that we want. Tracey had read great reviews on the Canon EOS Rebel. PCMag has a new Editor's Choice in the new Nikon D50. It is not only substantially less expensive than the Canon, but the features and quality are also better.

So I went to look at PCMag's recommended vendor list and we could get (if we had that kind of money) one of those for about $660 (including a 18-55mm lens) for Price on eBay? Over $700 without a lens! Shop and compare — some people get great deals on eBay, but that is not necessarily always the case!

Where does time go?

I have a problem with time — it usually slips away from me and at the end of the day I have not accomplished what I should have. I accomplish some things, but not what I should have accomplished. I get easily distracted and go on tangents, never coming back to the original point. That is nice for exploration but not for efficient time use.

Virginia Tech offers a nice resource for students to manage time, especially the test called Where Does Time Go?. I have seen other similar tests on the web, but this one I just came across.

According to this test, I should have about 40 free hours per week to do what I need to do, give or take a few hours.


On my way to dropping off MacKenzie at scool (Noah is still home sick), I listened to the radio as the DJs were talking about ants — I came in the middle of the commentary, but it seemed they were making fun of people's problems with ants. One of the DJs had ants in his house and they had crawled onto a yellow shirt (on his bed?). The other DJ was making fun of the whole situation as if he had never heard of an ant problem in South Carolina — are you kidding me? Ants OWN South Carolina, especially fire ants! We have been lucky that ants have not been a problem inside our house; but outside it is a different story! Fire ant mounds are everywhere! Forget about killing them — those suckers are tough! Every time it rains, dozens of mounds pop everywhere!

I don't know about other states in the US, but in South Carolina, fire ants own the place!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Global Communities

Tracey recently introduced me to MySpace — a fantastically unique global community that reminded me of the early days of the internet (or what we called cyberspace).

I was also made aware of other communities:

* is a different type of global community that you just have to experience for yourself.

* Ning is a new global community

* Of course, one of my favorite communities is Digg — a technology global community that rocks!


Sad Chairs

I recently came upon a great series of pictures called 50 Sad Chairs on Flcikr.

The original 50 Sad Chairs exhibit!

Awesome work by this talented photographer from St. Louis.

More photography stuff

Here is another worthy link for photos onthe web:

Photosharing: a nice website for photography aficionados

Do you need your pictures printed at an economical price? The go over to WinkFlash and you can get prints for as little as 12 cents with a flat $0.99 shipping per order.

My hidden talent

Your Hidden Talent

You are a great communicator. You have a real way with words.
You're never at a loss to explain what you mean or how you feel.
People find it easy to empathize with you, no matter what your situation.
When you're up, you make everyone happy. But when you're down, everyone suffers.

Hmmm ... pretty darn accurate!

My Karma

So here is my Karma according to Blogthings:

You are a kind, sensitive, and giving person.
And all your good deeds will pay off - if they haven't already.
But you're not so concerned with what you get in return anyway.
You have an innate caring nature - and nothing can change that!

Ah! What a nice ego-stroking! And there is nothing wrong with that (as long as it is done in moderation!).

My name

It seems adding the code from Blogthings broke the Blog -- so I have had to take it out. Here is what Blogthings said about my name:

V is for Visionary
I is for Irresistible
C is for Courageous
T is for Temperamental
O is for Optimistic
R is for Responsible

:) Fun, eh?


Renewed passion

Recently, I have found myself with a renewed interest in an old passion: photography. I used to love taking photographs and experimenting. At one point I had a decent camera and several lenses, plus filters, etc. I sold those because of financial difficulties many years ago, but I still kept taking pictures even with modest cameras I have had. Lately, Tracey has really gotten into high-quality digital photography and is very interested in getting a Canon Rebel XT (you know, the $1200 model). Obviously, that will have to wait a while! :) We do have a nice 4 MP Gateway camera that does OK -- not great, but OK. We borrowed a Rebel from a friend and did some side-by-side comparisons of similar shots. By far, the Canon rocks in low-light photos! Today we are going to drive a bit and take some outdoor photos. I am still going to do the side by side comparison and see what happens. I suspect the Canon will still win!

In the meanwhile, here are some awesome links for those interested in photography:

* DeviantArt is the best source for artistic inspiration! In addition to fantastic photographs, they have poems, drawings, etc. Please respect the artists' rights!

* Flickr is a great source for looking at people's photos! There are some fantastic exhibitions and very talented photographers have joined this community. This is part of Yahoo! and has great technical support and features. Please respect the artists' rights!

* Fotolog is an interesting worldwide photo community. Here you see more "amateur, spontaneous photography, and there are a lot of participants from other countries. Very worthy website to visit and explore! Please respect people's rights!

In my cyber-travels I came across Blogthings is a fun site to generate interesting materials that you can add to you blog or website. Do you know what your name means? Do you have good Karma? Go to Blogthings and find out!