June 11, 2007: Koolats?

I forgot to mention on Friday that the Mazda 6 is finally sold and has been picked up. It is now officially gone. It was a great car and I am sad to see it go but boy am I relived not to have four cars to worry about right now. That is another large “overhead” item taken care of. Life is getting simpler by the day. I guess that it is time to find some “high maintenance” hobbies to make life complicated again.

I was pretty tired this morning and decided not to go to the gym as I needed to get caught up on sleep more than I needed to work out. And Oreo was feeling a little sick last night so I figured that he would appreciate not being left alone more than usual.

One of the strangest things that I have discovered since having started tracking detailed information about SGL is that the search term “koolats” is, I believe, the number one search term driving traffic to the site! How can that be? I even went on Google and looked up “koolats” and couldn’t find SGL listed at all under I searched for “koolats sgl” then one blog post comes up (although obviously this one will come up shortly as well.) So I switched over to Yahoo’s search engine and, low and behold, Sheep Guarding Llama is the number three authority on koolats. Sweet.

To make matters worse I am not even sure that I am spelling the word correctly. Does anyone know how it is officially spelled? Let’s get some comments going. Koolats? Coolats? If I do a search for coolats I find someone asking which way it should be spelled 🙂 I guess the debate will rage now. If you want to know what post is causing all of the hub-bub you can check it out at NASCAR Polos, Koolats and Guitar Hero.

I checked back with Technorati later today and at least you can find me talking about Frankfort Days in Frankfort, New York in the Mohawk Valley but I am the only one. I guess none of you Frankforters do any blogging about your own home town.

I did some searching on Technorati just to see who was talking about me (hey, it actually happens) and I found that I got quoted over at The Clingan Zone which is one of the official SUN blogs. Nice.

I worked until around six this evening but the drive home was surprisingly quick. There was a huge accident out on the New Jersey Turnpike or something like that that must have cut off traffic heading towards i78. So I got home around a quarter to seven.

I got home and found Dominica practicing her karaoke on the PS2. She sent me out to Food for Life to pick up dinner while she continued to sing karaoke. Their air conditioning broke, again, so it was insanely hot in there so I had to stand outside to keep relatively cool.

The Ralstons are coming down to Newark on Friday night and will be here for the weekend. On Friday night we are just planning on hanging out in Newark and then on Saturday we are going to go into Manhattan to see the city. Danielle hasn’t been there for sixteen years and Art may have never been there at all which is crazy.

Mary is considering coming down to visit next week. She, like almost everyone else that we know, has never seen our apartment down here in New Jersey. So we will see whether or not she actually bothers to come down. She has threatened to come down several times in the past year but hasn’t done it yet.

The rumor is that Craig is going to be coming down the following weekend. Dominica will most likely be going back up to Frankfort that weekend.

Dominica pretty much spent the evening relaxing and watching DVDs. I did a bunch of work on my Treo tonight. I am starting to notice some of the problems that people have been mentioning about the Treo 700p online. I have been having it crash on me now and then and getting the bluetooth devices to work with it is practically impossible. I actually had to buy some bluetooth software to manage the connection to the stereo headset. That now appears to be working but so far the audio isn’t coming through real consistently although the issue might be with the audio player and not the connection. We will see how it works down the road. I need to test it with the Audible Player to see if that works as that is much more solid software than most of the stuff on the Palm.

I am still trying to figure out how to get a good podcast aggregator working on the Treo.  I really want to be able to get podcasts easily on the Treo as that is a major benefit of the device – using it as an mp3 player replacement.  I did move over a folder of music that I got working.

Weight Lost So Far: 18lbs

June 10, 2007: Baptisms and Treo Accessories

Dominica got up sometime before me this morning and started working on her homework that is due today. Oreo stayed in bed (on the living room floor) which me and snuggled until eleven! He is such a snuggly dog.

Once I was up there wasn’t very much time before we all had to be ready to go. We have Abigail Hughes’ baptism party early this afternoon in downtown Utica at a lounge called Grimaldi’s which I have never been to before. The Utica area is full of weird mid-century holdout businesses that I have only ever seen previously in the movies or old pictures. Utica has a bizarre sense of remaining in 1948 no matter what happens in the outside world. At every turn you expect to hear strains of big bands and lounge singers, to see people ordering martinis and side-cars and smoking stogies. Utica hit its stride in the post-World War II era and decided to stop right there. That isn’t to say that it is bad. The era that Utica chose to stick with was a good one but the bands and the lounge singers are gone now and the remaining architecture and signage seems out of place and it makes much of the city seem closed and out of business even when some of these places are very alive and, in fact, thriving.

The party was very nice and the food was excellent at Grimaldi’s, especially the desserts. Dominica and I both fell off of the wagon pretty significantly this weekend. It is difficult being at several functions strung back to back where the main focus is eating food that is completely off of our allowed menus. So we pretty much just wrote the weekend off as a loss and hope to not be set back too much when we return to New Jersey tomorrow.

After the party we did some shopping with Joe and Francesca. Joe has been wanting to get an HDTV for his college apartment in Albany so we went out to the shops to see what there was. We went to Best Buy and he didn’t find any televisions that caught his eye but I managed to get all of the Palm Treo supplies that I have been needing which was really handy because going out shopping in Newark is so difficult for things like this that we would never get around to it.

For my Palm Treo 700p I picked up a 2GB SD flash memory card so that I can store tons of Audible books, podcasts and music on my PDA (I wanted 4GB but they didn’t carry that at that store,) a car charger, the official Palm belt pouch which is very nice, the Motorola BlueTooth hands free ear piece and a stereo Motorola leather padded headset for listening to music and other stereo material from the device via BlueTooth. I am anxious to try that feature out. It was not a cheap shopping trip for us but it was a lot of essential usability items that I think that I will get a tremendous amount of use out of.

Dominica did some video game shopping too and got a second DDR dance pad so that we can “supposedly” get some exercise without leaving the apartment and both SingStar karaoke video games for the PS2 (it is a different series than Francesca has.) We also got two copies of Age of Empires: Age of Kings for the Nintendo DS. It doesn’t look to be anywhere near as cool as the PC version but the games were on sale for less than half their normal price and with two copies we can attempt to play head to head and that might be enough to make it well worth it. We will see.

At Circuit City Joe and I just happened to find an open-box 50″ 720p Samsung real-project DLP television that just had a minor scratch on the front glass for just $720 USD which is less than half its normal price. He couldn’t resist and decided to buy it. That saved him a ton of money over anything else that he might have considered buying.

We hung out at Dominica’s parents’ house for a few hours before leaving for the weekend. Dominica had some homework that she needed to wrap up before we could leave so she set to work on that and Francesca, Madeline and I sat down and did some more karaoke video gaming.

Before we left Dominica’s father and I took Madeline and Emily out to the Knight Spot to get some ice cream. They had run out to get ice cream from the ice cream truck a little earlier but it had driven by and ignored them so they were sad.

It was about eight in the evening when we finally hit the road. The drive home went pretty well and we arrived around midnight. We were glad to be home and were very ready to be sleeping in our own bed again. Oreo was very excited to be the only dog once more.

Weight Lost So Far: No Weigh In Estimating 18lbs

June 9, 2007: Frankfort Days

Dominica and I rolled into Frankfort just after midnight last night (this morning) and everyone was still awake several people having just gotten in themselves. The drive went pretty well. We didn’t run into any problems the whole way. As always we take the eastern route now going to Frankfort which includes going north on the Garden State Parkway to the NY Thruway (i87) up to Albany and then west on i90 to Herkimer, NY. It normally takes just under four hours.

We were concerned about hitting some bad thunderstorms on the trip but we only ended up getting a few minutes of rain the entire way and nothing to worry about. Having the Treo 700p was great, though, because we were able to email people while driving and get regular weather updates and weather radar maps. Very handy for things that I would not have thought of on my own at all.

It was probably two in the morning before we got to go to bed. Dominica and I, Francesca and Madeline all camped out in the air conditioned living room. It was incredibly warm out last night and Min and I would not have been able to sleep in the dining room where there is almost no air flow at all and no air conditioning whatsoever.

This morning Dominica and I slept in nice and late. It was around eleven when we finally got up. Dominica made some cheese & eggs for breakfast which were very yummy but it would have been better if I was allowed to have toast with it.

We pretty much just hung out all day around the house. We got to meet Gizmo, Francesca’s new dog who just showed up one day in their garage. They were never able to find an owner looking for the untagged dog and were not willing to take him to a shelter so they have been keeping him. He is a small but very healthy and happy Pomeranian and pretty young by my estimation. He is a very nice dog and the most “normal” of any dog that Francesca has ever had.

This afternoon I had the first of my Isopure Zero Carb protein drinks made with whey protein. It wasn’t actually all that bad. But they suggest using a motorized blender to mix it as it is very difficult to mix it properly by hand and I agree. We were totally unable to get it really mixed and it was a little gross.

This evening we all (sans Joe) went to the Frankfort Fire Department’s Frankfort Days up at the Herkimer Country Fair Grounds right in Frankfort. I did a Technorati search on Frankfort Days and discovered that there is nothing talking about it anywhere which I find very strange. I did find a Topix page on Frankfort Days, however. It is hard to believe how little people are talking about any single event like this. Tiny, sure, but someone somewhere must have been there and written about it or something.

Frankfort Days used to be held down at the Frankfort Marina on the canal but this year they have moved it up to the Herkimer Country Fair Grounds. Apparently a lot of people aren’t happy about that. Personally I think that it was a bad decision simply because the fair grounds were far too large and it made the tiny event seem even smaller. There was so much open space it was really weird and uncomfortable. You really felt bad for them for having organized something so unpopular.

We went up before it got dark so that the girls could ride some of the rides. Rides included the tilt-a-whirl replacement (that doesn’t tilt) called “Bear Affair” and instead of traditional tilt-a-whirl whirlies you sat in a big bear. Weird. And there was a itty-bitty roller coasterish thing for very small children that I didn’t see move once the entire night. In fact, pretty much every ride was turned on just for Madeline and Emily. For the most part they were all just stationary and it was quite depressing.

There were a couple of “activity booths” on the “fairway” – three I think. One of those shoot water in the clowns’ mouthes things and a ring toss and maybe something else. I didn’t see a single person go to them all evening nor did any of them have anyone visibly operating them. It was awful.

A band called “The Main Event” played in the band shelter thing in the middle and were pretty decent but it was still depressing to see them playing to almost no one. Most everyone who was at Frankfort Days was in the band stand watching them but it was hardly anyone.

There was some food there like “Big Willie’s” Pizza from downtown Frankfort and the regular assortment of “Carnie” food like french fries, fried dough, funnel cakes, cotton candy, candied apples, fried Oreos, hot dogs, burgers, etc. The food was the only real draw for the whole event which was really bad for Dominica and I since we aren’t supposed to be eating this kind of stuff. We ended up breaking down and getting some bad food and sharing it including some funnel cake with cherry topping, fried Oreos and a slice of pizza. “Big Willie’s” pizza is some of the best anywhere.

Going to Frankfort Days was a very Keilloresqe experience.  Small town American at its strangest.  It is hard to believe that anyone is able to make enough money in a venue like this to make it worth it at all.  I have no idea how they manage to pay for the people to work there.  There was no one spending any money anywhere except for a few people at a couple of food stands and when we went to buy a funnel cake they looked honestly surprised to have a customer.  Same thing at Big Willie’s stand – they practically fell out of their chair when I asked for a slice!

After it got dark there was a short five to ten minute fireworks display.  Nothing like I am used to back home.  Back home at York when we did fireworks (which my family went to almost every year throughout my childhood) it was standing room only at a rather large, open venue.  If you wanted to have a blanket on the ground to lay on you had to get there early and stake your claim.  But at Frankfort Days there were about fifteen people standing by one of the rides watching the fireworks.  It was so short that you didn’t even think of looking for a place to lay down.  It was a completely different type of experience.  And there were barely any people watching the fireworks at all.  I think that that must have been the smallest fireworks display turnout I have ever seen in my life.

The entire Frankfort Days experience was quite surreal.  We had things like this back home, of course, like the Mt. Morris summer carnival or the York Fireman’s Day were we went to the field behind the firehouse and had a parade during the day and ate hot dogs at night but the venue was much smaller then and all of the local kids would go there and hang out because we didn’t have a real village so any event that brought everyone together was a big social occasion.  But in a well integrated little village like Frankfort where the entire population can walk to each others’ houses having an event like this does nothing to draw the local kids together as a place to hang out so it becomes a sad affair.  At least there was plenty of easy parking.

After we got back they all played a little “Guitar Hero II” on the XBox 360.  And then we broke out Francesca’s karaoke game and we all played that for several hours late into the night.  That was a lot of fun although not nearly as fun as actually doing karaoke.  The song selection was tiny and a lot of it was not stuff that was well suited to actually doing karaoke but is based more on selling the game rather being actually good.  But we all had a lot of fun doing it.  We didn’t get to bed until probably two in the morning again.

Weight Lost So Far: No Weight In, Estimated at 18lbs

June 8, 2007: Traveling to Frankfort for the Weekend

Before going to bed last night I managed to get Jabber/XMPP instant messaging working on the Treo 700p which is very exciting. That was the last major thing that I really needed in order to have full functionality on it. I can do just about anything from my handheld now. It is devices like these that will really play a major role in issuing in an era of persistent communications. You can see where we are headed when you use a device like this – several significant forms of communications (legacy telephony, SMS (i.e. paging), email, VoIP, instant messaging, Internet radio, web, subscription audio, etc.) all bundled into a single, portable, easy to use package.

Just for Raymond Chen at Microsoft, shopautodotca seocontest.

While I was in bed I was playing with the Treo and figured out that there was Internet Radio from RadioIO already ready to go on the phone and so I checked that out. That was incredibly easy and I discovered that I really like RadioIO. I really like the idea of portable Internet radio. Internet radio on my desktop is nice and I appreciate that a lot of people like that as an alternative to traditional radio but I don’t like to listen to either when I am sitting at my desk except for extremely rare occasions. But when driving, walking, resting, traveling, etc. I do like to listen to the radio sometimes but I don’t really like traditional radio much because the selection is awful, the DJs are annoying and when traveling either you can’t get any radio or it keeps going in and out. But with Internet radio on my Verizon powered Treo I get the best of everything. Very cool. It is like satellite radio except cheaper (free) and with a gigantic selection instead of just a few hundred channels each playing the same ten songs over and over again.

What I don’t have working yet but hope to have soon is an RSS/Podcast aggregator so that I can easily pull down podcasts that I want to listen to like the Daily Breakfast, InfoWorld and IT Conversations. One thing at a time. Having Audible and Internet Radio will get me through the weekend, I guess. Having RSS for reading the news would be handy too but that isn’t nearly as important for me. I spend very little time reading the news (whether Google/Yahoo News, OSNews, eWeek or LinuxToday) when I am away from the office because their isn’t enough to keep me occupied there.

It occurred to me today that I have been online for thirteen years (my first real Internet connection was at university in 1994.) I got my first home Internet access (other than logging into SUNY Geneseo’s VMS server a few times in 1996) which was dial-up through MSN in 1997. I got persistent “always-on” dial-up through AltaVista in 1998 and occasionally used an AOL dial-up line from Nicklin Associates in 2000 or so. I got my first real “broadband” connection from Time-Warner in 2000 and have been on high speed ever since then having used everything you can imagine from wireless to ADSL and SDSL to Cable.

Today was a moderately busy day at work. Like most Fridays the morning is slow and there is late work to be done once the market has closed. Nothing unusual.

I left work just after five thirty and raced home to do some late work before Dominica and I will be leaving for Frankfort.  There is a big storm coming tonight and we want to get out of Newark as early as possible in the hopes of hitting it as little as possible.  We will be in Frankfort all weekend.  We are taking the BMW as Francesca and the girls have not seen it yet.

Weight Lost So Far: 18lbs

June 7, 2007: Day One with my Verizon Palm Treo 700p

I slept in until seven this morning because I was quite tired from having gone to the gym very late last night. I went to the gym and did a short forty minute workout before having to run back to the apartment to do some early eight o’clock work that has been scheduled all week.

My morning was quite busy. I worked very solidly until at least ten if not quite a bit later. Oreo had me taken him on a morning walk around eleven which is when I passed by the front desk and discovered that my new Verizon Palm Treo 700p had arrived. So I was able to take that up to the apartment and get it set up.

The Treo 700p is really cool and I think that I am going to be really happy with it. It looks much larger in pictures than it actually is. It is quite small, in fact. It has a 320×320 (.1 megapixel) screen as opposed to the 240×240 (.05 megapixel screen) that comes on the equivalent Windows Mobile based model, the 700w and the 700wx. It didn’t take me long to get the Palm software loaded onto our Windows XP SP2 machine and got the Treo syncing to the desktop.

Once the Treo was syncing to the desktop I was able to start loading some additional software onto it. The first thing that I needed was VersaMail which is Palm’s included email client to compete with Outlook Mobile. In my opinion, VersaMail is far superiour to Outlook. I had Outlook on my Motorola Q and on my HP iPaq and it is not a pleasure to use at all. But VersaMail is much easier to set up, works much more easily with Zimbra’s security features and is easier to navigate and control. In addition, VersaMail is able to delete mail off of the server which Outlook would fail to accomplish on my Q.

A couple of surprise features of the Treo that I was not planning on when I first bought it were PalmOS versions of Audible and Google Maps. These are two of the most exciting applications on the platform. As my readers know, I am a huge fan of Audible and now I am going to be able to take my Audible library with me anywhere that I go without having to download loads of books ahead of time. There is a complete Audible player and manager that ships with the Treo. All I had to do was load the application from the Audible.com web site, plug in my username and password and I had instant access to my personal book library online that I can listen to anytime, anywhere. Awesome! That was worth the price of the Treo right there.

I also navigated in the web browser to see what would happen when I attempted to go to Google Maps – one of my favourite places to go online. And amazingly Google makes a Google Maps application specifically for the Treo. It is free and I was able to download it and have it working in no time at all. It works almost as well as the regular desktop version does! It is wonderful. It even gives you the satellite views and traffic information.

One of my biggest complaints about the Motorola Q was the lack of a working SSH client. PocketPutty is available for it but there are critical usability features missing and it might as well be nothing more than a toy. I was told by a friend that TuSSH was available and worked well for the Treo so I decided to give the Treo a try in the first place because SSH is a major factor for me in any remote access device. I use SSH so much that I happily downloaded and installed both TuSSH and pSSH so that I would have options and flexibility. As it turns out I think that both are going to work although I know for sure that pSSH meets my needs. Yay!

I found other applications that I am working on but haven’t ironed out the kinks with yet such as a Jabber/XMPP client that would give me access to my instant messaging.  That is my next thing to work on.  But quite quickly the Treo 700p is turning into a very useful device indeed.  Another thing that I really was impressed by was how easily VersaMail allowed me to connect to my backup GMail account from Google and use it just as easily as my regular mail.  Now my Treo has my regular mail as well as a backup account “just in case”.  And it gives me the ability to do email testing all from this one device.

The Treo does all the regular stuff that you would expect, of course, like calendaring, task lists, a calculator, some simple games (which I did not install but they are available on the expansion CD that came with the unit,) and it has the regular extra hardware features like voice recording, a built in still and video camera and a speaker so that you can listen to things without having to hold it to your ear or have headphones.

One thing that I have not had a chance to try yet but looks like it will be awesome is VZAccess which is Verizon’s Internet access software.  On my Motorola Q the ability to use the Q as a high-speed Internet “modem” was disabled making the unit nothing more than an expensive stand-alone email device.  But the Treo comes packaged with the connection software that would appear to allow the unit to be used as a modem easily so that we will have a backup should our cable go down and I can use my laptop on the road!  I have not tested this yet so don’t get too excited as this is a feature that people have been looking for for a long time.  But the software is all there and I will try it out very soon.  This is a very major feature if it is actually available.  I am quite excited about it.

Dominica came home and decided that she wanted a Treo as well.  We will see.  Her account with Verizon is up for renewal in January, 2008 so we have a little while to think about it and see if it is something that she will really use.

Tonight is our night to pack and get ready to go out of town for the weekend.  We have nothing in particular planned for tonight.  Just cooking some cabbage lasagna, packing and hitting the gym.  We had been hoping to have been assembling my new desk this evening but it did not arrive as scheduled.  It was supposed to only take one to three days to arrive and today is the third business day (it was ordered on Sunday so Monday was the first day) and it has not arrived yet.  We hope to have it tomorrow so that at least we know that it is here.

Weight Lost So Far: 18.5lbs