Sunday, November 29, 2009


I fixed Facebook.
I have a lot of problems with Facebook that keep me from using and enjoying it. Anyone that is my "friend" on the site may have noticed that I have never updated my "status". Ever.
Now that I am making progress in fixing Facebook, I am closer to the possibility of my first "update".

When I first got onto Facebook I added people from high school that I remembered or remembered not hating. Next I added people that I have met online, including most of you reading this. Co-workers were excluded and always will be.

Since setting up my account and adding "friends", I found that I can barely tolerate Facebook. Too many "friends" are too annoying. I was constantly scrolling through two pages of crap to find two interesting updates. It was so bad that for several weeks I debated deleting more than half of my list.

Last week, as I scrolled through a sea of "updates", I found my way to fix Facebook. I selected the most annoying "friend" and noticed the option to block their updates from my view.

Within ten minutes I had blocked everyone that needed to be muted. I reloaded the site and saw four status updates.

All four were from people that I was really interested in hearing about. It was perfect!

That was the first day I started to enjoy using Facebook. One step at a time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas Lights

We took part of our Thanksgiving holiday to put up our Christmas decorations.  While most houses on our block were decorated in the week leading up to Thanksgiving day, one neighbor had the same idea we did.  Only their idea seemed a little bit crazier then ours.

Why waste time dragging a ladder from the back and trying to maneuver it around flowers and shrubs when you have a perfectly fearless teen around the house?  That seemed to be the mood across the street.

Meanwhile, since we don't own a fearless teen, I went and got my ladder.  I only dropped the ladder once while trying to reposition it.  In that single drop I managed to take out Cari's decorative flag pole hanging from the porch.  Out of frustration, I picked up the broken flag pole and threw it onto the porch.  As the pole hit the porch I heard it scream, "Owww!"

Seriously!  I didn't realize that Cari was sitting up there untangling lights.  Sorry!

Speaking of untangling light strands.  Cari had a good point when she said that she didn't remember putting them away in a big knot last winter.  She said she specifically remembers neatly winding them and setting them gently into the box.  How did they become so tangled in the attic?

The kids were observing (spying on) our conversation about the lights and chimed in,  "Maybe that's what the elves do during the summer."

By Thursday evening our house had joined the rest of the neighbors with bright Christmas lights.  Nobody fell off of the roof in the process, and we had no major injuries.  Oh yeah, and I figured out what to get Cari for Christmas in the process.  Do you think a new decorative flag pole will fit in her stocking?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Google Wave Invites?

If anyone is interested in giving Google Wave a try I have some invites to hand out.  Let me know.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I love owning the Motorola Droid!  I have never owned a smart phone before and I'm so excited at all the little things it does.  Having never used a device like this before, I have no way to compare it to others, but for me, this is awesome.

First of all, using the large touchscreen is fun!  It does the job it is supposed to do and is a whole new level of interaction for me.  Using arrow keys and pushing ok doesn't make sense to me anymore.   Trying to line up a button below a list of on-screen options, like an ATM, is so yesterday.  I want to touch the screen and interact with it.

Typing on the virtual keyboard that appears on the touchscreen when needed takes some getting used to.  At first I didn't like it.  I was slow and not very accurate.  That's ok, because the Droid has a full keyboard that slides out from its hiding space below the screen.  Like the virtual keys, I was a bit slow during the first few days on the slide out keyboard.   After owning the phone for two weeks, I am getting much more comfortable on the virtual keys and tons faster on the slide out keyboard.  Depending on what I am doing, I have found myself using both methods to type.  For longer messages, I usually slide out the keyboard because I'm more accurate and quicker with it.

I also am really enjoying getting my email sent to my phone as the author hits the send button.  You should see my eyes light up when I hear that notification sound.  I used to be so curious after work to get on the computer and see if I had a comment on my blog or a rare email that wasn't a forwarded joke.  Now I don't have a reason to randomly log in and check my email.  If I didn't get a notification on the Droid, I didn't get a new email.

The applications that can be downloaded add so many new functions to the phone.  It seems like new items are being added every time I look in the market place.  All the apps I have downloaded so far have been free and have worked great.   Some of the apps I have been using are Pandora internet radio, a task list app that sends me comments if I don't finish on time ("Get this done, I'm sick of it." or "You can do it!").  The little comments have actually helped motivate me to getting things done.  I've also downloaded an app for Geocaching, stock market quotes, a great notepad, a podcast player that manages subscriptions and auto downloads episodes, and a photo program that adds effects to your shots.

I also use my phone a lot for text messaging.  This is the first phone that I have used that manages my texts like this.  It keeps all the messages between a friend and me in a running thread allowing me to easily scroll through and follow the conversation back.  Adding a photo or video is easy too!

Last week, I wanted to listen to a podcast of This American Life.  I used the headphone jack with my headphones swiped off of my MP3 player, started up the program, and quickly realized that my MP3 player won't be getting used as much anymore.

Well, I didn't want this to be a review of the Motorola Droid.  There are plenty of professionals out there doing that.  The phone does so much more than the few things I have pointed out here.  I just wanted to let you know a few of the things that have got me excited about this device.  In fact I have only begun to scratch the surface on telling you all the things I love about DROID.  If you have any questions about the Droid, leave a comment and I'll get an answer posted as quickly as possible.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Running Late

The pictured lunch lets you know that I was running late for work Friday morning.

When I went into the kitchen Friday morning I knew I was supposed to have left five minutes earlier.  I grabbed a plastic bag and started throwing in some pre-packaged food.  As you can see that was water, Cheerwine, crackers x2, and an apple.

I kinda forgot about it until lunch time.  When I got out to the car, drove over to the park, and opened my lunch I had to stop and frown at it for a second.  I told myself that this is the result of hitting snooze an few extra times.  Was this really worth an extra ten minutes of sleep?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

One Million Dollars!

As Cari and I sat watching Survivor the other night, I asked her what she would do if she won a million dollars.  Without much thought she said she would pay off all of our debt.  Then she asked me what would be the first thing I would do with a million dollars.  I quickly said, "Quit my job."

That started a brief discussion if a million dollars would be enough to quit my job over.

My first argument, "How many years will I have to work before I have earned a million dollars?"

I think a million would be plenty enough to quit my job.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Brenna came running into the office today holding a small bottle of bubbles.  My first reaction was to grab it before she dumped it on the floor.  Once I had the bubbles in my hand she kept pointing at the bottle, wanting me to open it.

I told her we couldn't do bubbles in the house but she persisted.  She put my free hand on the cap as she was jabbering.  I'm sure she was telling me to open the bottle and make her happy.

My initial thought was that I didn't want bubble soap on my floor, but I finally gave in to her cuteness.  How could I not?   I decided that I would blow one burst of bubbles and be done with it.

Her reaction was adorable.  She squealed with joy and clasped her hands as the bubbles came down around her.  As the last one popped, she looked at me.  She, of course, wanted more.  I couldn't resist. All together we did bubbles for more than ten minutes in the office.  The soapy floor can be wiped up.  Watching her excitement was worth way more than a bit of clean up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Christians Ruin Everything!

One of the joys of working with the public, if there is one, is that I hear people say some crazy things.

This past Sunday, I overheard two people talking about going to Chick-Fil-A for lunch.  The man reminded the woman that Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sunday.  The woman grimaced and said that the restaurant must be like Hobby Lobby.

He looked over at her and asked what she meant and she said,

"Stupid Christians, ruining my Sunday!"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pinnacle Mountain Trail

Rick and I took a hike last week into Table Rock State park.  In the past we have tackled the Table Rock trail at the park during a severe thunderstorm.  Seriously!

This hike we decided to take on the Pinnacle Mountain Trail in much better weather.  Both trails are listed on the trail map as a strenuous hike.  The Pinnacle trail has a bit more elevation change and is also a bit longer overall compared to the Table Rock trail.  We would be hiking almost eight miles total in this hike.  We have done the Table Rock trail multiple times together and don't find it overly strenuous, so we were ready to tackle this trail.

Here is a overlay of our looped hike on Google Earth:

As we approached the three mile mark on our way up, we both agreed that we liked this trail more than the Table Rock trail.  The first part of this trail stays close to the Carrick creek which provides some nice background noise and some beautiful scenes.  We also hiked behind and below a few small waterfalls on our way to the top.

One of the best views along the trail is on a rock outcrop known as Bald Knob.  At this spot, we stood on the edge of a cliff that gave us awesome views.

It's a good thing we were able to stop and relax at that place because the toughest was yet to come.  We only had about half a mile left to the top from Bald Knob, yet we had over 500 ft left to climb.  The trail started to become steep and we were forced to take frequent, short breaks.  At one of our breaks, I looked up the hill and saw a posted white sign.  It wasn't far from us.  I pointed it out to Rick and indicated that it may be the end of our climb.  We pushed on and reached the sign just in time for another break.  Unfortunately, the sign was not the top, in fact there was a large hill still to our right.  The hill laughed at us as we realized we would have to climb it.  The sign was a marker for the beginning of the Foothills Trail.  It also had a trail map of the Table Rock park area.  Again, it listed both trails as "strenuous".

"Wait a second!", I said.  "If Table Rock is strenuous, then this should be listed as ridiculous!  "It's not even a fair comparison to put them on the same level.  The scale is broken!"

Rick was getting a drink of water while I ranted about the difficulty.  I pointed to the top of the hill and reminded my partner that we still had to climb it.  He asked me to stop trying to motivate him.

The last one or two tenths of a mile felt like a climb that would never end.  It was so steep that when I would stop to catch my breath, I held onto the trees to keep from falling back down the hill.  Both of us struggled for a bit, but it made it that much more satisfying when we reached the summit.  On the very tippy top of the mountain stood a tree in the middle of a small clearing.  No, there was no man handing out balloons for our success.  Not even a sign that congratulated us.  There was only the tree.

Instead of following the same trail down, we used the Ridge trail that headed East toward Table Rock.  This trail was much easier, but we were also going down, so it may have been deceiving.  As we worked our way down we kept looking for a clearing to have our lunch.  The Ridge trail doesn't offer very many views into the mountains, because it takes you through such dense forest.  We finally got tired enough that we found a fallen tree to use as a bench and gave up on finding a view.  At lunch Rick said that the climb to the top was about as much as he could take.  I agreed that it was the steepest hike I can remember taking and then I started to complain about the trail being described as "strenuous" instead of "ridiculous" again.

Below is a the elevation map that my Garmin captured while we hiked.  You can see the sharp incline on the left of the peak that we traveled and that almost killed my friend.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Balloon Photos

Here's a few of the shots I took last weekend at the balloon festival.

This balloon floated directly over my head.  I thought it was a different view than what you normally see.

I think I told you earlier this week that I got to stand in the middle of the launch field on Sunday morning.  As each balloon was filled with hot air, there was a person attached to a rope holding the top of the balloon.  These ropes seemed to be everywhere as the mass of balloons were be prepared.

This was something I wanted to try with the photos and I wasn't sure if it would work.  I ended up really liking this shot.  The challenge:  Would a black and white of colorful balloons work?

No balloons here.  This is sunrise on lake Hartwell.  Taken somewhere around 6:30am on Sunday morning.  There was no traffic, so I stopped my car on the bridge and snapped two quick shots out of the car window. Here's one of those two:

In photography, light is everything.  Getting up at 5:30am on my day off was well worth getting these shots.  As the balloons ascended into the air, the sun was low on the horizon, giving each balloon some great side lighting.  Taking balloon shots in the afternoon, with the sun up high, would not have had the same effect.  Well, unless the flight was at sunset.  

Can I post hot air balloon photos without showing you some flames?  I almost did, but I decided I owe you at least one.  First, they fill the balloon with air using a big fan.  When the balloon is mostly inflated, they start shooting the flames into it, heating the air.  At that point, it only takes about a minute for the balloon to stand upright and start to gently lift off the ground.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

worthless stats

Tuesday was family game night at our house.  The kids and I were setting up the game when Cari said, "You know a person with blue eyes has won four of the last six games we've played."

I laughed a bit while the kids started comparing eye color. Cari was making a joke that started while we watched Nascar last week.  The announcers were spouting off worthless stats like:

Nobody has ever won this race when starting any farther back then twenty second.
The last seven races we have had a caution by lap ten.

The list goes on.  The commentators don't seem to consider that over time we have different drivers, different cars, etc... Now when they quote these stats we just laugh.

When the kids and I finished the setup of our game, and we all sat down.  Cari said, "The person that sits to my left has never won family game night."  Then she smirked at Randy sitting to her left.

"I'm going to my room!", Randy said.
I stopped him from storming off with no hope of winning, but only after I agreed to switch seats with him.

Sitting to Cari's left on Tuesday night, would you believe that I lost?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Balloons Over Anderson 2009

Five people and a lot of volunteers really wanted to bring back a ballooning festival to Anderson, SC this year.  They worked hard to produce the first Balloons Over Anderson festival this past weekend.  I went on Saturday morning, Saturday night, and at sunrise on Sunday morning.  From my perspective, the festival turned out great.

In addition to a good turnout of balloons, we saw skydivers, and large scale model airplanes.

Saturday morning we noticed tethered rides in a balloon being offered and the line only had five people.

Randy and I paid and got in line.  As our turn was approaching, I started getting nervous.  I looked back at Cari to see if she would switch with me.  I had never been up in a wicker basket attached to a flame thrower attached to a large fabric envelope.  I was unable to get her attention before one of the workers was giving me instruction.  He told me as soon as the basket hit the ground, I needed to jump on because he would need my weight to help hold it down.  With no time for fear, I was in the basket.

Once we ascended, I realized how incredible it was.  It was such a gentle ride and my fear left me very quickly.  That's when we hit the full length of the tether at around 130 ft in the air. The basket jolted to the side a bit but nobody got kicked overboard. We continued floating in place for a few minutes before the balloon slowly drifted back down.

It was really awesome.  As soon as we got down, I begged Cari to go try.  She wasn't excited about it, but she went and Randy got his second ride.  Cari can be seen in this photo wearing the blue sweater:

Saturday night, Cari and I went back to see the balloons glow in the dark.  If you have never seen what I'm talking about, here's a video I made with my new Motorola Droid:

The final launch of the event was going to come on Sunday morning at sunrise, otherwise known as seven in the morning.  It's a thirty minute ride out there from the house and I wanted to have plenty of time to see the setup so I left my house at six.

I found myself in the middle of the launch field taking what would turn out to be 260 photos.  I was surrounded by balloons and it was really amazing.  Here's another video, again made with the Droid.

As I go through some more of my photos this week, I'll get some more ready to post toward the end of the week.

It's amazing what five people and their volunteers can put together.  I hope their efforts were well rewarded this weekend so they can start planning for next years event.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

It is MINE!

On Friday during lunch I headed over to the Verizon store with my lovely wife to pick up the new Motorola Droid.  I already blogged about this earlier in the week, so I'll just tell you . . .



Over the next week I'll try to type up some of my thoughts on this phone.  Maybe not a full, true review, but as close as I'll get to that.  For now, we're heading out to a balloon festival. . .

Thursday, November 05, 2009

QR Code

What is this funny looking square?  It's a QR Code!  I've been reading about smart phones over the past two weeks and I started to notice these codes on some websites.  A QR Code is like a barcode found on any product you purchase.  But the QR Code can hold MUCH more data than that silly old bar code on your box of tissues.  You can print a QR Code onto a business card that contains all of your contact info.  When someone needs your contact info, they can scan the code with their phones camera and instantly they have everything without typing a single key.

A company could put a QR Code into a magazine and when you scan the code, it would take you directly to their website.

There are some really interesting ways these codes can be utilized.  I've even seen photos of codes being used on giant screens like at Times Square.  When I get my first smart phone, this will be the first QR Code I will scan!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Over the past year I have become more and more interested in having a BlackBerry.  No, I don't need one.  It's just a really cool gadget that I want to have.  Really, I probably would have wanted an iPhone but I have zero interest in switching over to AT&T, so I have pretty well ignored the iPhone.

A few months ago my sister-in-law, Amanda, got herself a BlackBerry.  Initially, Cari and Amanda tried to keep it a secret from me.  Cari was afraid that my BlackBerry jealousy would cause me to run out and get one.  While it did ramp up my want of the device, I stayed fairly calm.

Then I heard that the BlackBerry Storm 2 was coming out at the end of October.  I started getting very excited and had the feeling that I just HAD to have one.

When Amanda visited in October, we got to see her with her BlackBerry.  Even the baby was excited about it!

 In the weeks leading up to the Storm 2 release, I started seeing more information about the Motorola Droid.

I quickly switched alliances and started scouring the internets for anything about the Droid.

At this point I have pretty much read every review and seen every YouTube video demonstrating the Droid.  I must have one.

Do I need one?  Nope.  Do I want one?  Yep.  Can I afford one?  Maybe.

The Droid comes out on Friday.  IF I get one, I'll be sure to post about it that day!

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Here's a shot of our carved pumpkins for 2009.

It was pretty cloudy and rainy through the evening last night.  We still managed to get out and get some candy from our neighbors, but only for about an hour.  Combine that with the candy we got on Friday night and we have more than enough to keep ourselves sick the rest of the week.

A few notes on the pumpkins.  Cari had a white pumpkin this year, though you wouldn't know it in that photo, she used a drill to poke her pattern of flames into it for a very cool result.  I traced my hand, cut it out, shaved the edges of the shell off and put the hand back in place with tooth pics.  Meredith used a similar style to do the ghost and Randy did a traditional face.  He worked in an 'R' as the left eye.