Monthly Archives: September 2006

Where is the Secret of Life?

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Balloon Festival follow up

The Pellissippi State Balloon Festival turned out to be little more than a bunch of hot air.  Mother Nature did not cooperate; it drizzled rain most of the night.  The advertised Balloon Glow did not occur.  Only two of the balloons were inflated at all on the first evening of the event, and because they were tethered to the ground, they never got more than a couple of hundred feet off the ground at most.  The nice lake beside which the event was scheduled was apparently the happy hunting ground for all the mosquitos in Knox county.  All-in-all the event turned out to be disappointing.  It was a nice idea that just didn’t turn out as well as Mike and I had hoped it would.

On the positive side, I got to spend a bit of time with my son.  We wisely left Connor at home with his mother, and as it turns out, he wouldn’t have had any fun with us at the event anyway. 

This morning it is raining, so today’s events aren’t likely to be any better than last night’s.  So we have decided not to return for day two of the event.  No one is really at fault for the fizzle that this outing turned out to be, unless we want to blame Mother Nature.  Maybe next year, or maybe I’ll just have to follow through on my wish to visit Albuquerque for their big Balloon Festival in October one of these years.

One thing in common

Having one thing in common is a starting point, a place where differences can be bridged. Whether you are talking about couples who are struggling through a divorce, the representatives of management and labor trying to resolve issues in the workplace, or nations who are trying to find a way to co-exist, the starting point is often finding something that both parties have in common, something they can both agree on. It’s not always easy to find such common ground, but it is the point at which the resolution to conflict and disagreement begins. Such commonalities should be celebrated.

Today, September 22, has been designated as the first annual global celebration of OneWebDay, a day to pause and think about how the Internet has changed our lives. It was conceived by Susan Crawford, a law professor and member of ICANN, who explained yesterday, in an interview with OhMyNews, what she had in mind for the event.  Many events have been planned around the world to celebrate it.  Webshots, a photo sharing service, is hosting photos that people take and tag with OneWebDay, and they plan to produce a collection of them.

My friend and fellow blogger, Tom Simpson, whom I met online but have never met in person, suggests in a blog post this morning that we may be the last generation who can remember what life was like before the Internet existed.  And Tom is but one of many people whom I know primarily because of my connection with them through the Internet.  I suspect that, like me, you too can identify many such friends who have come into your life because of this new medium. 

And while the Internet has helped me make new friends in other parts of my own country and even locally, it has also enabled me to meet people from other countries, people like Colm Smyth, a fellow blogger who lives in Dublin, Ireland.  And it has enabled old friends, like Jerry Pounds, to find me again after almost 30 years without our having any contact.  Because of email I communicate with friends, relatives and even former clients much more frequently and quickly than I would have ever done if I had to write a letter, put a stamp on it and drop it into the mail.  And as I have reported many times on this blog, I am able to talk almost daily by Skype with my friend Paul Moor who in 1995 moved back to Berlin to live out the remainder of his life.  Paul and I met online back in the days of Echo BBSes and maintained and nurtured our friendship primarily through email but also with occasional face-to-face visits.

The Internet is one thing we all have in common.  It is a starting point.  Let’s hope that as we celebrate all the ways it has impacted our lives on this OneWebDay, we’ll see it as a way to build bridges that span the gulf that too frequently divides us.

Pellissippi State’s Hot Air Balloon Festival

Do you own a camera? Want a good photo op? This weekend might be just the ticket.

Mike, my son, called this afternoon to alert me to the fact that Pellissippi State’s Hot Air Balloon Festival is scheduled for this coming weekend, Sept. 22 and 23.  Here’s the schedule of events.  Since Mike has recently gotten a new camera and is eager to concoct occasions to experiment with it, this one caught his eye.  It sounds like fun, so we’re going to take it in.  The only concern is the weatherWBIR’s forecast suggests that Mother Nature might not cooperate, but it’s certainly worth being there in case she does.  Things start at 4:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon if all goes well.  From the college’s web site, you should note, “The charge is $10 per vehicle for a weekend pass, which includes parking.”

Blogged with Flock

KnoxBloggers ride again

Tonight at 7:00 p.m. the KnoxBloggers group will meet for the second time at Mike Neel’s home (directions available upon request), and we’ll have the pleasure of meeting John Fields, who will speak to us on the subject of Podcasting.  John does a regular podcast on the subject of College Football.  In preparation for attending tonight, I listened to his most recent podcast and was impressed.  John does a nice job of giving one man’s opinion of the big games of the upcoming weekend, gives his prediction about the likely winners of some important games, and discusses the implications of all those games on the national standings.  Like anyone else who makes predictions about the future, he is fallible, but he has a reasoned basis for his predictions, so he can be forgiven for not being perfect about predicting the future.  I appreciated hearing a show like this that isn’t just another call-in show for fans.

I have one specific issue that I’m interested in getting John to answer tonight and that is how one sets up iTunes to carry the podcast and what is entailed with that.  The podPress plugin I have for my WordPress blog has the provision for making the podcast available through iTunes, but I haven’t yet set it up to do that because I knew this event was coming up and I wanted to wait to hear from someone who has done it before tackling it.  Maybe John will show me how he has set his up, and what if any limitations doing that imposes on him.  In any event I am looking forward to meeting him and hearing what he has to say.  I would encourage you to join us if you are in the area, are a blogger, or have an interest in podcasting. 

del.icio.us turns three

The social bookmarking service, del.icio.us, turned three years old yesterday.

For some time I have been meaning to discuss this service and how I use it, so the occasion of its third birthday seems like a good stimulus to do that. Because this service is tightly integrated and therefore essentially effortless with Flock, I have relied on it more since I began using Flock than I did prior to then. Any time I mark something as a favorite, it is also added to my del.icio.us bookmarks. It’s true that in Flock you can choose to use Shadows rather than del.icio.us but since I have chosen to use del.icio.us I’ll ignore that fact for the purposes of this discussion.

So what the heck is a social bookmarking service anyway? First and foremost is it a site on the web where the things I bookmark are listed so that when I am away from my own computer, I can find those sites if I wish. But more than that, it is “social” in the sense that you can, if you choose, see the things I’ve bookmarked, and conversely I can see yours, if you also use the service. In fact, I can, and have, set up a network of people whose bookmarked sites I check periodically, and when I see a link they have bookmarked that interests me, I can add it to my bookmarks as well. By using the service like this, I benefit from what others discover and thus extend my “coverage” of all that’s new on the ‘net. It is also easy to recommend a site to someone who has a del.icio.us account by simply using the “for:username” tag, where the username is their username on del.icio.us.

Perhaps the most useful part to me about using del.icio.us is that I can tag a site when I bookmark it with as few or as many different words or combination of words as I think will help me recall it when I search for it later. In addition to all those tags, I can add notes to my bookmarks that permit me to write a narrative description of that bookmark if I choose. I’ve noticed that many people don’t do that, and that’s okay, but I find that writing some brief description only takes a few seconds and can prove quite useful when I look at the bookmark later.

When I visit my del.icio.us page, the most recently bookmarked sites are at the top of the list and in the right hand column all my tags are listed. Those tags can also be listed as a tag cloud, if I choose. The site has a search facility with which I can search for a tag and have all the sites that contain it displayed.

If you are interested in using del.icio.us, I recommend you spend some time reading through the help facility there. Among the things that are covered in that help facility are a few suggestions about ways to use del.icio.us, and one of those is that tagging can help as you research a particular topic. For instance, as a blogger I frequently encounter topics that I might want to blog about. By tagging those sites as “blogfodder” I can later return to them and write a blog post about them if I choose. So as you can see, the tags you apply don’t have to be real words. They can be anything you find useful.

One final thought. In my opinion, there are no right or wrong tags. Tagging web sites isn’t about guessing what other people would use to tag it, because it doesn’t matter how others tag it. The purpose in adding tags is to give you a way to find the site again when you want to return to it. That’s why, when I tag, I add as many tags as come to mind when I bookmark it. Who knows what I’ll be thinking when I try to go back to find the site later? So the more tags I have used, the greater the likelihood I’ll be able to find it.

Whether you choose to use del.icio.us or not, I must say that having used it now for more than a year, I can hardly imagine not having it available to me. So when I say “Happy Birthday” to the service, it isn’t just that I wish them well. It’s that I find their service indispensable to my life online. If you’d like someone else’s perspective on this service, you might enjoy reading my friend Mike Neel’s post called Golden, Blogged and Del.icio.us.

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Blogged with Flock

Windows Live Writer

About a month ago, Microsoft released the beta version of their Windows Live Writer, a blogging editor that can be used with existing blogs as well as with Microsoft’s own blogging service, Windows Live Spaces.  I have downloaded a copy of it, installed it, and this post is being written with it.  Because I have written a part of only one paragraph with it that means I am just at the starting point of playing with the program, so any significant evaluation will have to wait until I’ve used it more extensively.  However, I can say the installation and setup of my blog with it went smoothly and without incident.

One thing that led me to want to test this program out was this screencast that I watched yesterday.  I had also read Paul Stamatiou’s review of it for the second time.  Since I subscribe to Paul’s RSS feed, I had read this review when he first published it, but because I wasn’t yet ready to experiment with WLW at the time, I hadn’t followed his recommendation to take it for a spin … until now.

One of the features that I’m interested in seeing in action is how WLW handles images.  According to both the screencast I mentioned earlier and the WLW web site, handling photos is easy with Live Writer and you have considerable flexibility and control over how they appear on your blog post.

Happy Tails sign  So without further ado, I’ve now inserted this picture of a sign in my neighborhood so that I can see how it is handled when I publish this post.  I’ve always liked the name of this pet service, perhaps because I’ve always been fond of puns and because I grew up listening to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sing “Happy Trails to You” at the end of their TV show.  You’ll notice that I’ve added the so-called “photopaper” border to it, which makes the digital image look a bit more like an “old school” photograph.  A feature I like about inserting images with this editor is that you can specify how the text wraps (or not) around the picture and the amount of margin between the image and the text. 

Well the final test of this tool for the moment will be to see how it handles publishing this post to my blog.  So the only way to test that is to publish it and see what happens.