Friday, December 30, 2005

Noise Cancelling Earphones

These Etymotic headphones seem pretty cool. I'm going to check them out further, but the price makes me gag a bit (especially for the ER-4 model).

Give Me a Million Dollars, and I'll Give You....

.... a million pixels. Well, that's what a young entrepeneur named Alex Tew did in the UK. I can't say as I really think his site is visually pleasing, but I give him big, BIG points for his moxie. He is up front about the fact that it's a "one-off 'business event'," which in my mind makes him deserving of the cool million he's scored (or is about to finally wrap up). Kudos, Alex. I can only say I wish I'd thought of something similar.

DU I Feel Drunk?

I think celebrity mug shots are funny. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's because they look nothing like their on-screen personas.

This actress from Lost doesn't look too happy (read the CNN article that chronicles her adventures). This shot of Nick Nolte is my favorite, though.

Nick Nolte Mug Shot

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Strange Spam

I've been getting some very strange spam lately, and GMail isn't sophisticated enough to filter it. This is unfortunate, because I get a LOT of messages - sometimes more than 5 per day. There is English in these messages, but it's all nonsense, and then there's an image pushing Viagra and the like.

Even though I hate getting the spam, I have to laugh at the verbiage they come up with. Here's an example of a recent one:

Subject: Re: on want an pekinese telephony
Body (there was an image promoting drugs, then this): about it. How long this lasted, I doent know; but then theer come was turned out of house and home, and forced to lay down in a dyke,
The husband, whose name was Thomas Benjamin, had taken out his Because you and I are very different people, I returned.
Micawber. The ocean, in these times, is a perfect fleet of ships;
in her commendations. But Annie, in a spiritless unhappy way, only
How fast you walk. said he. My legs are pretty long, but youve spectacles. There was an execution put into our house, for rent.

I can't decide if this is someone in a foreign country writing this stuff, or a random language generator. Something tells me it's the latter. I'd love for Google to figure out a way to filter this garbage out, as well.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Referral Logs?

This question totally reveals my newbie status, but I have a question for anyone who is an experienced blogger out there... How do you check referral logs? I see people mentioning that all the time as a means of seeing how people find their blog, but I don't know how to do it. I'm using Blogger, if that matters. Can anyone help? I can pay.... in the form of gratitude (no cash value).

Posers and Wannabes

R. Brett Stirling makes a good point at his blog, Alaska: The View From Up Here. In light of what he pointed out, I felt it was necessary to clarify that I am not hoping to be the next Jack London. Rather, I want to approach the idea of escaping to the remote wilderness from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about it (like myself), and deal with the subsequent circumstances that arise, without trying to give the impression that I think my writing is capturing the essense of Alaskan life.

It's hard to describe exactly what I'm thinking about, but I'm very glad I read that post, because it gave me pause. I'm going to keep it in the forefront of my mind as I explore the story idea that is taking place in there, and do my best to describe living in the wilderness without an undercurrent of implied understanding. Does that make sense to anyone? I'm going to give this idea some more thought, and maybe I'll revise this post if I think of a better way of putting it.

I can't believe I've made yet another online connection to someone in Alaska! How are you people finding this? It's crazy! It's great! Keep 'em coming.

Fun with Google Hacks

I am a big fan of the toys Google has been coming out with, especially Google Maps. I advocate it to everyone I talk to, which I'm sure is annoying, but you'll just have to deal with it.

Right now, though, I want to point out a cool Google Maps hack that I stumbled upon - Gmaps Pedometer. Useful for figuring out running routes, etc. Not that I run, but still useful, right?

Spotlight on Whole Wheat Radio

Having mentioned WWR in my previous post, I thought I would take a quick second to recommend that you stop by and have a listen. Jim and Esther host a terrific independent streaming radio station, chock full of interesting music. More importantly, it's not the RIAA crap that oozes from every pore of the FM stations around here.

I can't listen to the live stream from work (yay for firewalls!), but I occasionally download some mp3s from the site to listen whilst I work. I also listen to the live stream from home, when I'm not logged in through VPN (yay for firewalls!).

If you're lucky enough to catch Jim during a rant, you'll know why so many people become total Wheat Heads. I fondly recall one evening during which we all listened to Jim and Esther engage in a (friendly) argument over the air. I think there was a mic button pushed somewhere, and they argued about bandwidth right over the top of the music. It was great! I highly recommend that you give it a listen, and I guarantee that you'll keep on coming. Enjoy!

It's a Small World, After All

I had a very strange experience this morning. I posted about Alaska yesterday morning, and my interest in researching living in the Alaskan wilderness. Although I didn't mention it, I was thinking about contacting someone I know of who lives in Alaska - Jim over at Whole Wheat Radio. I don't know him directly, but I'm familiar with him through WWR and the J-Walk Blog.

Anyway, the irony is that he commented on the post! I was surprised that more that 3 people are reading this, but much more so that of all the people in the world, Jim should have noticed that particular post. Very strange! I dropped him an email telling him as much, in case he never ventures this way again. I hope to pick his brain about his experience of living in Talkeetna, AK.

Thanks for the comment, Jim, and for the suggested reading!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Wilderness Living

I recently saw part of a special on public television entitled Alone in the Wilderness, which was a story of a man named Dick Proenneke who moved (alone) to the Alaskan wilderness. It reminded me of an earlier post, in which I mentioned the story of Tom Neale, except this takes place in a colder climate.

This story has sparked an interest for me, so I'm thinking about exploring the concept in a novel. I need to do some research on the subject before I write anything, so I'm going to keep a list of links to follow up with (these are all books or DVDs - a Google search should help with online research).

Alone in the Wilderness DVD set
One Man's Wilderness (Proenneke's book)
Wilderness Living - Davenport
Hatchet - Paulson (also see the other books by Paulson along this line)
My Side of the Mountain - George (actually, this is to the trilogy, which I didn't realize existed)
Edible Plants, blah blah blah - Brill
Arctic Homestead... - Cobb
Edges of the Earth - Richard Leo (thanks, Jim)
Into the Wild - Krakauer (thanks, RBS)

There is a TON of information out there. I could spend years just researching it all!

Many Happy Returns

Merry Christmas! Now that the holiday is over, we can begin the real holiday tradition... returning or exchanging gifts. My wife bought a digital voice recorder for me so I could play at author in the car, and I've already ordered a replacement. I have to admit that even though I was pretty sure I was going to return it and order something different, it was very hard to leave it in its plastic bubble packaging. The idea of an unopened gadget is enough to give me indigestion. Wait, that's my normal state.

I mentioned earlier that I wanted an Olympus DM-20, but when I looked at them again, I decided to go with the DS-2300. There was really nothing wrong with the one she got me, but I needed it to be compatible with IBM ViaVoice software, so I can automatically transcribe what I dictate en route.

I'm excited about this new, as yet unexplored medium. I usually have lots of energy when I get in the car to head home, and fall flat in the evening, so this way I can get some work done on my way home and then let my computer 'type' it up for me while I play with my son. This way, I can write The Great American Novel and be a model father. Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too?

Great Quotes

File this under the list of great all-time quotes:

I once heard someone pray for the strength to pray for the strength and faith to believe that He would give her the strength to believe that He listened to her prayers.

From J-Walk Blog.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Stereographic Photography

This is a topic that I've always found interesting, since I had to practice a technique similar to this when I was younger (to strengthen my eyes, or something, I think). Basically, you take two very similar pictures, place them side by side, and cross your eyes until they merge. The result is what appears to be a 3D image. This example, from this site, is my favorite.

Update: my apologies to those of you who looked at this post and thought I was smoking crack. How are you supposed to cross your eyes and overlay two images that are lined up vertically? I've resized them to line up correctly. Sheesh!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

U.S. Postage Stamps

Let's talk about stamps, shall we? On January 8th, the price of sending a first class letter is going to rise by 2 cents. Now, in order to use the $0.37 stamps at my house, I'll have to buy $0.02 stamps to add to my letters (not that I really send letters all that frequently). All I have to say is, WTF?
Here's how I look at it. I buy stamps from the Postal Service in, say, January 2005. They take my money, and keep my money. I don't send a letter after buying the stamps. Therefore, I have effectively loaned the government money. Now, in 2006*, I want to send a letter. Suddenly, the government wants two more cents to send it. What? I've loaned you money for a year, and you're ostensibly earning interest on it, and all I want is the right to send a package at some point in the future. But now you're telling me that I owe you more money? You've been earning interest on the money that I already gave you, and I haven't utilized the services that I purchased with my 37 frigging cents! I was basically buying an option on a future transaction, and all of a sudden you're changing the contract after the exchange has taken place. That is total B.S., and not at all surprising from our government. Anyone else have any experiences like this?

* Assumes that we're living in the future. Flying cars, food pellets, the works. Don't you wish you were here?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


You should check out this GeoQuiz. I used to play with it every day, and got to the point where I could get 100% on the US, Canada, South America, Australia, and Europe. I forgot about it before I mastered all the maps, but I think I'm going to start it up again. It's kind of neat to know exactly where the countries are that you read about, don't you think?

Try some out and post your scores in the comments. I just took U.S. and got 145/150 points. Not bad for not having studied it in over 6 months...

Dream Vacation?

I recommend reading An Island to Oneself, by Tom Neale. You can read it online here. I read it on a different site that was friendlier to the eyes, but couldn't find it when I went searching just now. It's a great book about a truly stupid brave man who sets out to live alone on a tiny atoll in the Pacific.

It's tempting...

Via the J-Walk Blog

Monday, December 05, 2005

Feeling Old

Last Wednesday, my wife and I did something unusual - we dropped off our son at her mom's house and drove 2 hours to the U of I campus to see Dave Matthews Band in concert. I'm not a big fan of concerts, honestly, so I won't attempt to review this one, because it's probably skewed by my own stay-at-home tendencies.

I do have this to say, however. I was on a college campus for the first time since I graduated, and although I'm only 3 1/2 years removed from that same stage in life, I felt old. I looked around at these (dare I say it?) kids, and I felt totally and completely out of place. One of the biggest factors in that feeling was the prolific cell phone use that I observed. The three students in front of me used their cells phones throughout the concert to talk and text message, and as I looked around I saw lots and LOTS of others doing the same. I couldn't even hear my wife talking, and she was sitting right next to me!

I remember that when I started college, cell phones hadn't so completely infiltrated our society. When I was a freshman or sophomore, one of my suite-mates acquired a cell phone and started using that exclusively to make calls, and would give out his number to others. I remember thinking how weird that was.... and now you can't walk down the street without seeing a million people on their cell phones. Hell, you can't even shop for groceries without listening to someone's conversation, and for some reason I find that super annoying; much more annoying than listening to two people having a conversation in front of me. I wonder if that's a common annoyance, or if I'm alone. Thoughts?