Sunday, December 21, 2008

Now on Flickr

Well, I finally did it. I've broken down and created a Flickr account. I've actually had one for a little while but I hadn't really use it until recently. I guess I just instinctually resist popular services if I wasn't one of the first on board. Flickr has a lot going for it, though. The collaboration and sheer amount of uploads has stolen me away from Picasa Web.

Check out my Flickr Photostream here

One of the things that I loved so much about Picasa Web was it's fantastic integration with Picasa, the photo organizer. But I was soon disappointed with the way that Picasa handled geotagged information. It didn't like the way my application added data to the EXIF tag and would frequently refuse it altogether. So now I've switched.

I've gotten my hands on a copy of Adobe's Lightroom 2.0. So far, it seems very cool. I've even found a couple of cool plugins which automate the task of uploading photos to BOTH Picasa Web AND Flickr. Very cool.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Guitarist Pics from La Huerta

I got another chance to play around with my new D90 when Angel wasn't hogging it. Here's a link to all of the shots. None of these are retouched, but they're still nifty.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Angel's Sculpture/My New Camera

First, here is Angel's sculpture that she's been working on for a little while. It's still a work in progress. Hopefully she will finish it soon so that I can steal it for my office.

Second, this was taken with my brand spankin' new Nikon D90 with my also brand spankin' new Sigma 17-70mm lens. I LOVE this camera/lens so far. This was shot at 3200 ISO! If you don't know why that's so impressive, just take my word for it- it is. Much more to come, I'm sure.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hiking White River Bluff in Syllamore

Wow. Angel and I absolutely LOVED this trail and this area. I took some vacation this week and we decided to drive about 4 hours from Fort Smith over to Mountain View, Arkansas.

We stayed in a great little "cottage" called the Lincoln Street Cottage which turned out to be a nice little two bedroom house not far from non-alcoholic downtown. The nightly fee was only $65 which was $15 less than the Best Western in town which did not look very nice. Our cottage, on the other hand, had a private driveway, a sun room, full kitchen, and was kept immaculately clean. This was easily the best deal in town and I highly recommend them if you plan a visit to Mountain View.

Now to the trail.

We got started around 10:30 am, but because of the slope of the hillside, the light was like early morning. It was a brisk 50 degrees or so outside and there was still dew on the leaves as we began. I'm not generally the kind of guy who throws around adjectives like "magical," but I have to say that this trail was exactly that: magical. The first portion of the trail is filled with quartz peppered stones that shimmer as you pass which is just surreal. Further up, the trail turns to flint under foot and displays fantastic water shaped pale white outcroppings.

It also seems as though we picked the right time of the year to visit as the leaves were changing brilliantly and were out in full force. The trail winds through evergreen and deciduous forested portions which provide a varied path of soft pine needles and colorful fallen leaves.

The trail winds about along a ridge line which means that the elevation does not change very much, making for a nice gentle hike. At about mile 3.5, the rail opens up to a vista of the White River cutting through the community of Syllamore.

I'll stop typing at this point and let the pictures speak for themselves.

Hiking Lake Wister

I have very few nice things to say about our hike around Lake Wister. I'll go ahead and type them now: The weather was nice and... I can't really think of anything else. This park is terrible for hiking. There was no parking around around the trail head; we actually had to pull off to the side of a narrow dirt road. I guess we were lucky to find the trail head as it wasn't really marked. There was a receptacle for trash about a tenth of a mile away from where the trail started on a double track dirt road leading up to what we concluded was an aerator for the deep end of the lake. The trail was suppose to be about a 5 mile end loop. Unfortunately, we were only able to hike about two miles up, then double back as the trail was not marked and was overgrown. I guess this park is more about water sports than hiking, which is fine, I guess. It's just a shame to have so much acreage and potential for great trails without much improvement at all.

Here are a few shots from the trail.

Hiking Runestone Park

My sister and brother in law decided to come down and go hiking with Angel and me over the past weekend. We decided to go check out Runestone Park. Angel and I went here about a year ago and walked around the paved trail that leads down to the actual runestone (which is pretty cool), but hadn't really explored much of the surrounding grounds. I accidentally erased my GPS track for our little hike, resulting in a lot of cursing, no geotagged photos, and no data, but oh well. I estimate that it was around a mile and a half hike around the grounds. The path that we took may have actually been a deer trail as it was somewhat oergrown in areas, crossed over a dry runoff creek, and ha a fairly challenging climb towards the end. Also telling, the trail ended on the wrong side of a fence that we had to jump over to get back on the path. Oh well. I didn't take a lot of pictures on this one, but the results are below. We were at least able to add to our mushroom series.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Big Education Idea

As I watch my DVRed version of the 3rd and final presidential debate, I'm coming up with a fantastic idea regarding encouraging success in students and rewarding great teachers. As I think back to my school days, or at least to the days on which I chose to attend, I recall a great deal of apathy from my teachers toward their jobs. I don't think that many of them were there for success. I think that most of them were just there.

McCain and Obama both talked about rewarding good teachers but they didn't really specify how, which makes me believe that neither of them have really been able to outline that detail. Almost every business of which I'm aware revolves around a bottom line of numbers. Guidelines, plans, and mission statements are all fine and dandy, but everything leads to the objective and measurable bottom line. So what is the bottom line for teachers? How can one quantify a "good job" done by a teacher? To me, the end result of a good teacher is the acquired knowledge and understanding of his or her students. Knowledge and understanding is fairly easy to quantify through use of standardized testing.

So here's the solution: Base salaries and raises for math teachers off of the standardized testing scores of their students, and English teachers in turn, and science teachers in turn, etc.

This is a plan that I'm sure most teachers will despise. It's often hard for individuals to accept accountability where it has previously been absent. But I guarantee that a plan that structures teachers' pay based on performance will throw us to the front of the pack on education and will ensure the success of our students.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Toy: Mio C230 GPS

Here's my new toy. I just purchased the Mio C230 GPS for about 100 bucks from CompUSA. If you, my limited but privileged readership, have not yet figured out, I'm a GPS whore. I have been using a combination of an iBlue 747 GPS data logger linked via bluetooth with an HTC TyTn running BeeLineGPS as a display. I hope all that techno name dropping excited someone other than myself.

My iBlue/HTC setup has actually worked VERY well for a lot of applications such as geocaching, hiking via checkpoints, and pairing data with jpegs for geotagging photos. It is, however, lacking in the application that most "normal" people use GPS for: road navigation.

I've only taken this bad boy out for a cursery road test, but it looks pretty impressive to me so far. It has a 3D map display function that updates smoothly, voice prompts, and an SD expansion slot. It also runs on Windows CE which means I can hack it to my heart's content. I just can't leave well enough alone.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Hiking Spy Rock

My shoulder's sore. My hip is clicking. I have a blister the size of my big toe on my little toe and a pulled groin muscle. Other than that, I'm ship shape and happy after a trailblazing 9 mile trek around Spy Rock in Franklin County, Arkansas. The loop around is about 6 miles, but Angel, her brother, and myself decided to add on a side trip up to Spy Rock which tacked on another 2 miles. On top of that, the last leg of the trail back to the car was too overgrown to traverse, so we had to track around onto a forest service road which added on another mile.

Our total ascent was just a bit shy of 1900 feet with an altitude change of over 1000 feet in a total of 5 hours. The numbers make me feel better about my ass being kicked so bad by this hike. I don't think I'll be getting on the treadmill until at least Wednesday.

The trail was pretty nice. Its not very well traveled and was in need of some clearing and maintenance but that was a small price to pay for not seeing another soul all afternoon. There was a storm that blew by the day before the hike which made a few of the little tributaries trickle, but there were no moving waterfalls, unfortunately. We may have to go back in the spring as there were several places that I'm sure will look very nice in the wet season.

We were able to add a few shots to our mushroom series. Check out a few of them below. Here's a link to all the decent shots of the day.

Here is also a map of where they were all taken.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Picasa 3.0 Is The Shizzle

Picasa 3.0 rules my world. Check out the full resolution Collage Example from above. I've been playing round with the pictures that we took on our hiking trip today and stumbled across the new version of Picasa. I honestly couldn't tell you if the last version of Picasa had a Collage tool or not, but I can tell you that the curret version does and it's pretty cool. You can make contact sheets and all kinds of cool stuff. Plus it links up with Picasa Web Albums which I prefer over Flickr, Photobucket, and all the rest for the geotagging capabilities and bulk uploading. Plus it integrates perfectly with my blog which is powered by

I really hope Google never pairs down it's services or starts charging.

Favorite Things: Nalgene

I have no idea how it's said, (nal-geen, nail-jean??) but I do know that I absolutely love these bottles. They're extra tough, dishwasher safe, widemouthed, and last forever. I've always despised the old squeeze type water bottles due to the fact that the water always ended up tasting like plastic and I never could drink from them without inhaling a bunch of air as well (I know... I'm "special").

These Nalgene bottles are made specifically so that plasticy taste is NOT leeched into your beverage. I dig the wide mouth variety because it's easier to add a bunch of ice for hot days and I just prefer to drink from them over the narrower variety.

Sam's Club has a pretty good deal on a Brita water pitcher packaged with two narrow mouth Nalgene bottles for about $25. If you're lucky, you may find the same deal I did on closeout from Sam's: a Brita on-tap water filter with an extra filter plus two wide mouth 32 oz. Nalgenes for $15. Awesome deal.

Hiking Lake Fort Smith

Angel and I decided to go for a hike today at the recently reopened Lake Fort Smith State Park. The weather was beautiful but the park was a little bit of a disappointment. I recall riding mountain bikes here when I was younger, but unfortunately, most of the trails I used to run with my dad were flooded by the expansion of the lake. The only trail that remains is the beginning leg of the Ozark Highland Trail. To be honest, my legs were aching before we even began from jogging on the new treadmill, but we set out anyway.

We only made it about 1.5 miles up the trail and back. It's a fairly rugged trail in some parts, but isn't too strenuous. I got some really cool pictures along the way. Angel kept pointing out mushrooms as we went so we amassed a great little series. I also got to play with a new technique that I've only tested before called Geotagging. Basically, you turn on a gps that has the capability to timestamp while you walk around and snap pictures with a digital camera that has the capability to timestamp jpegs. Put the two data logs together with a nifty little application and presto-bango, the GPS data is embedded in the picture file enabling programs like Google Earth, Picasa, and several other programs and services to plot the pictures on a map. Check out my example.

Here are a few of the mushroom series pictures. To see more, click here...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Day 1: Assembly & Asphyxia

Well, the treadmill has arrived. I went online to track the shipment of my beloved new treadmill this afternoon and discovered with glee that it was already in the local distribution warehouse. I called the warehouse to see if they could deliver it this evening, but alas, they would not be able to schedule a drop off until Monday. "That simply will not do," I said in a huff as I hung up the phone (in a huff), borrowed a suitable transport (also in a huff), drove to the warehouse (huffy as well), placed my order sheet and identification in the hands of a very nice warehouse worker lady (only slightly in a huff, but still in a huff, regardless), carted my prize out the door (huffing and puffing), wedged it into the back of my suitable transport (huffily cursing), and drove it home (no huffing there). The box weighed slightly under 17 tons, so I was barely able to haul it into the house. I had to take an end-over-end approach to bringing it in which was productive... and entertaining for my useless neighbors.

Once inside, I assembled the parts uneventfully and began to explore my new workout toy with the curiosity and vigor of a 12 year old with a Playboy.

I am severely out of shape.

One half mile at 4.5 mph was enough for me. In my defense, my workout began at 1 A.M. after a full day of work, and the assembly/delivery of said product. That is all in my defense. I also run like a friggin' Clydesdale, stomping and clomping my way around with an occassional shuffle and stumble. We'll see how it all goes tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Because pee isn't as important


Isn't it beautiful? You know you're getting old and tame when you get excited over a toilet purchase. However, in my defense, it is a really cool crapper. This is what's called a "dual flush" unit. Basically, it has two different water usage levels: 1.6 gallons for solid waste and 1.05 gallons for liquid waste. In case you didn't follow, solid waste is poo-poo and liquid waste is pee-pee.

I don't know who came up with this thing, but they spend way too much time in the bathroom. How did they figure out how much water is needed to clear pee? I figure it had to be a guy standing in the bathroom with a case of beer repeatedly pissing, flushing, then bending the rod in the tank to find out the "break point" for when the pee didn't flush. I want that job.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Can't Make Fire

Ever since I re-jacked myself in to the Entertainment Super Highway, otherwise known as digital cable, I've been hooked on a show called "Man vs. Wild". If you've never seen it before, you should because it's pretty friggin' awesome. I'll give you the run-down: Basically, this skinny white English guy throws himself out of a helicopter with a knife and a chapstick, chows down on whatever bug or dead mammal comes across his path, climbs up mountains, and slides down glaciers to find his way back to civilization.

Now, some of the show is definitely staged, but it really doesn't take away at all from the overall effect. That effect is what prompted me to attempt to start a fire with nothing but a flint and grass clippings in my back yard. Did it work? Nope. Well, kind of. I did get several embers and a small flame on a few occasions but never anything substantial enough on which to cook the steak that I filleted off the cougar that attacked me which I killed with the spear I whittled from the giant oak that I felled with the axe that I smelted from the iron ore that I excavated from the bat cave that I repelled into with the rope that I wove from the vines that I trimmed in the jungle which I traversed on my journey to discover an ancient race of pygmies who live deep in the Amazon who have no running water, no modern textiles, no cars, no planes, no blogs, and no lighters but who still manage to make a freaking fire!

I feel useless.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sign of Apocalypse

I just ordered a treadmill, so I'm well on my way to becoming a lab rat. I did, however, get a great deal at $599 for a 2.25 horsepower motor and a 300 pound weight limit. The weight limit was important considering I've grown to become a quasi-fat-ass in the last three to four years.

In 2004, a year after I got hitched, I weighed in around 190, which is a weight at which I feel comfortable. I'm about 6'1 and still carry a lot of muscle mass built from soccer and karate way back in the day. I now weigh approximately 240 unpretty, James Gandolfini breathing pounds.

The wife and I were planning to go to Yosemite this October to take in all the sights, including Mono Lake. Unfortunately, in my present physical condition, I'd be more prone to take in all the fresh air, flat on my ass about a quarter of a mile up any trail. Thus, we have decided to delay our trip until 2009.

My goals in the meantime are thus: To weigh fewer than 200 pounds by the beginning of 2009. To be able to run/jog for at least 5 miles non-stop by 2009.

That second one is a hefty goal for me. I've never been much of a distance runner, even when I played soccer. I always seemed to be more accustomed to extended series of sprints rather than settling in for a long haul.

So we'll see how it goes. The wife and I have made a solemn pact to each other, as this is something of an anniversary gift to ourselves, to make sure that this path away from pudginess never be littered with hanging clothes. Repent!

Application Snobbery

I recently became hooked on a cool little music application called
FooBar2000 which is really customizable, uses a really low memory
footprint and looks sweet to boot. I found myself thinking, "man, what
was I thinking using Winamp when this was out there." Then I thought,
"god, what about those poor souls out there who are using MusicMatch or
iTunes... fools." At that very moment, I became guilty of Application

Application Snobbery is basically a smugness surrounding one's choice
in software for various tasks, and a feeling of superiority over those
who haven't made quite as intelligent a decision in their application
selection. App Snobs are the connoisseurs of their targeted application
communities and post rampantly in forums regarding the superiority of
the application they utilize and the obviously equal superiority of
their craniums.

So what can a person do to avoid becoming an App Snob after they've
experienced a software epiphany? Just look for the warning signs:

1. Posting to your software's forums when you aren't having a problem with software.
2. Sending out unsolicited software installers to friends and family.
3. Exhaling loudly when you are forced to use "that other piece of crap software" on your work computer.
4. Sending emails to your IT guy demanding to have your software installed on every computer in your office.
5. Getting into arguments with your IT guy, who is also an App Snob, over the hows and whys of who's software is better.
6. Purchasing a T-shirt with the logo of your software
7. Wearing a T-shirt with the logo of your software in public
8. Purchasing a T-shirt with the logo of your software as a gift for friends who "should be using it, too."
9. Installing your software on your Mom's computer even though she adamantly states that she "likes the old one just fine."
10. Beta testing.

Save yourself before it's too late

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I Carry A Purse

Some people call it a "Man-Bag." Some call it a "Murse." I need no masculine qualifier. It's a purse and I'm proud to call it by its proper name.

That's my purse. Well, its not specifically mine, but mine looks the same without the extra-geeky book accouterments. I do, however have several geeky accouterments contained in my purse such as a bluetooth GPS receiver, a 1/4 terabyte portable hard drive, a blackberry, a TYTN, a groovy bluetooth headset, and my own personal pharmaceutical department. I discovered after several years of emptying my pockets that I simply carry too much crap around. And after coming home from work and emptying my pockets, I felt liberated and free, like a homosexual in San Fransisco. Perhaps this imagery is what prompted me to explore the convenience and Uber-chicness of the purse.

I've been carrying for about a month now and I can tell you that in my quaint little Southern state, I'm definitely out of the ordinary. Striding into the grocery store with my purse slinged over my shoulder draws glances and curious gazes. I can read on some people faces, "where's his wife?" and "her purse certainly is butch." But, I don't care. I have all the toys I need with me at given moment. I'm totally prepared to blog at any given second with an attached geotagged digital photo. Plus I have ibuprofen available for my back aches which are caused from the strain created on my spine from the 20 pound bag that carries my ibuprofen. Ironic, huh?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Are You a Meetaholic?

Do you call meetings without the attendees knowing what the meeting is about? Do your meetings go on until 'question mark?' Do your meetings cover multiple topics, none of which gain resolution? Have you ever called a meeting to discuss coaching or disciplinary issues? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a complex called ''meetaholism." It's a common affliction which affects many managers spanning every industry. But there's hope for you and everyone else out there. Follow these 12 steps to defeating meetaholism:

Step one: Stop calling unnecessary meetings. If you can't define why you need to meet other than because ''well, we haven't in a while,'' then you don't need to.

Step two: Hold meetings to conquer one set of problems. The broader the spectrum of your meeting, the less focused your participation will be.

Step three: Codify your meeting announcements. I use a simple Who, Where, When, Why, How posting to show clearly who should attend, where it will be, when it will be (start AND finish), what the single purpose is, and the meeting format (brainstorm, correction of errors, etc)

Step four: Hold yourself and your attendees to time frames. I know some managers who use an egg timer to constrain participants which is a bit militant for me, but necessary in some situations. If you have one or two very chatty associates who always seem to run long or go off topic, assign them the task of taking notes/minutes - you'll be surprised how concise and to the point they'll become.

Step five: Keep it short. I once had a manager who announced at the beginning of every meeting he attended that he would be there for 30 minutes and only 30 minutes. His philosophy spawned from over 40 years of experience during which he probably attended thousands of meetings which taught him that after the half hour mark, most meetings break down into a cluttered mess. Following step two will aid with this immensely.

Step six: Use meetings to solve problems, not to remedy violations of policies. I've been to many meetings where the central theme was ''We/you all need to stop/start doing thus and so.'' Airing out coaching issues in a meeting format will achieve little other than whiplash from bobbing-head syndrome (ever look around and see everyone's head nodding and know that it's only for show?). Praise in public, coach in private. Real accountability is next to impossible to attain otherwise.

Step seven: Encourage and expect participation. Meetings are for communication and idea exchange. There should not be a soapbox nor a podium in the room- those are for presentations and Q&A sessions. A certain degree of 'controlled informality' will help to get folks talking. Call out individuals who are keeping quiet and ask for opinions on ideas that have been presented in order to keep everyone on topic.

Step eight: Create 'Go-Dos' from meeting notes and 'Go-Do' them! All this great communication and planning is for naught if no one actually executes. Furthermore, your attendees will be reluctant to work as hard during your meetings if they repeatedly see that the fruits of their labor are rotting on the ground.

Step nine: Think through your list of attendees. Keep it down to only the individuals who can really contribute, have information which will assist in your process, or who will be heavily affected by the outcomes generated. Any individuals who don't have anything to contribute to your meeting yet wish to be kept in the loop (or you wish to keep them in the loop) should be sent notes. Remember that, in the end, meetings cost time and time costs money.

Step ten: Leave the food in the fridge. This is time to confer, not dine. Food is a distraction and hampers speech. If your meetings are running so long that people are getting hungry, refer to steps two, four, and five.

Step eleven: Post your agenda. Make it as big as you reasonably can. This will add structure and will facilitate momentum. My postings usually include the problem being solved, a space for initial comments from every attendee with their opinion on how to solve it (depending upon how many attendees), and the goal for the session.

Step twelve: Know the difference between a meeting and a progress report. I hold or attend progress reports every day. Numbers from the previous day, week, or month are told, upcoming event details are announced, and policy changes are read. THIS IS NOT A MEETING. Keep these two separated like oil and water. They are detrimental to each other and when combined nullify anything good which could have come out of either of them.

Well, those are the steps to ridding yourself of this malicious illness. Do these things and your associates will thank you, your peers will admire you, and your bosses will cherish you. I'm sure there are more than 12 steps to this process, but this meeting has gone on long enough!

New Poster for Photo Lab

Here is my most recent creation. I created this (obviously) to display
in One Hour Photo centers to advertise photography classes. The finished
product is mounted in a 24x36 inch frame with glass front. Class times
and details are written in dry erase marker between the top and bottom
graphics. The quasi-handwriting font I used on the polaroid-like print
helps to make the dry erase writing look appropriate. This is actually
one of my favorite recent pieces.

The images in the 'polaroids' were taken while I was hiking around Shores
Lake (North of Mulberry, Arkansas) last Summer.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Leveraging Enthusiasm

Where does excitement come from? During a one on one session with a member of my inside sales team yesterday, the subject of a recent four day long sales promotion arose. The number of widgets sold across the four days were 18, 6, 9, and 8, respectively. I asked my associate what was different between day one and days two, three, and four. Her response was that everyone was focused on the specific task of increasing sales of widgets because of the excitement surrounding the beginning of the event (in not so many words, actually). I asked what an individual in her department could do to spread the excitement to other days of the event in the future. Her response was so simple and so complex at the same time. She thought for a moment and said, "Just get excited." The look on her face showed that she'd had an epiphany: Excitement can be summoned at will.

Many associates and managers wait for events, promotions, or incentives to come around in order to act as a catalyst for change or for increased productivity. I have to admit that sometimes I find myself doing just that. The key to breaking that cycle is to make rallying the troops a daily activity. Creativity and a little jocularity go a long way towards lightening loads and turning exasperatingly impossible tasks into manageable challenges to be overcome.

Excitement is contagious and leads to excellent results if your team has a firm training base and the skillset to direct their enthusiasm. Be sure you're not selling yourself and your team short by not capitalizing on easiest "event" to set up and maintain... your team's excitement and enthusiasm.
Fort Smith, Arkansas
...just narcissistic enough to own a blog.