Ready or not, here we come

Well, Sam is all tucked into bed, and we are as ready as we can be for her to start at a new school tomorrow. Swim stuff is packed in a bag ( she goes in for Gym the first day and they are swimming) and she has a brand new swimsuit ( she needed a tankini, not a bikini like she owned), spiral notebooks and folders for her classes. We went over today and she met all of her teachers ( except for computer teacher who was not there) and did another couple of spins around the school to get a bit more oriented. Part of that comfort level will just come with time.The bus driver is all set to pick here up here at 7:22am, and she will be back about 3pm. Hold your breathe and cross your fingers that this first day will go well and she will ease into things and do well.

Whoa! That’ll clear up sinuses

Tomorrow Sam starts back to school at a new school, so while we were folder and notebook shopping, I bought a bag of little bags of potato chips for lunches as a treat. They are awful, they are environmentally evil, I know all of this. I never buy them, but I was just in the mood to take the sting off this whole thing for her a little bit. And they have little bags of Fritos in them. I was craving a Frito so badly I could taste it, and it has easily been over a year since I have had one.
Eating the Fritos not only would have broken the diet in an evil way, they probably would have had me doubled over in pain, because of the fat content. I was resisting, but it was making me nuts. So I decided to chaw on a piece of a sourdough pretzel to ease the craving a bit. And we have this really yummy looking stone ground horseradish mustard in the fridge that Ogre bought for NYE… it seemed a logical thing to squirt and dip the pretzel, just to kill the deep flavor craving.
Oiy. This is good mustard, but this is NOT a dipping mustard. I never had a bite of pretzel that cleared my sinuses and made my eyes water before…
It did, however, successfully kill the craving for Fritos…now I am pondering the 20 minute power nap.

Your future is here- will it be Blu… or just downloaded?

Well, there is quite a Kerfluffle in the DVD world this evening- especially at home at Toshiba, the backers of the HD DVD format. Earlier this weekend, Warner Bros, one of the leading DVD distributors ( I have read some figures as high as 20% of all DVDs) announced that they were switching camps and would be supporting only the Blu-Ray format. This is a huge turn-around, especially since when both Walmart and the Porn industry announced they were backing HD DVD, many had declared Blu-Ray dead. Is it over now? Will there finally be a “winner” in the next gen format wars? Some say the end is nigh, and some people say it is not over yet, but this video of Toshiba’s Jodi Sally shows Toshiba is at least a bit stressed over the whole thing.

The honest truth is that I am not convinced it really matters any more. I am a true blue Gadget Geek. I love new toys. But I have refused to invest in HD technology, because I would NOT be a victim in the next format war. And so I have waited… and waited… and waited. And honestly,I have even gotten bored of the debate. It has been going on a long long time, with the dead draw broken by declared wins by both sides at alternate times. ( you will notice that one of those links actually goes to an article in 2005). A Google search for “DVD format war” returns nearly a million results. ( it may even be over a million by the time you read this). The industry has been talking and arguing about this endlessly. And a whole lot of us have been standing on the sidelines, watching and waiting for a decision to be made. And what have we been doing in the meantime? Although we have gotten very comfortable with delivered to your door DVD services ( Netflix, Blockbuster, etc..) we have also gotten more and more comfortable watching video over the web. There are several services now experimenting with HD video over the web, and they are getting good results. While I am glad that there might be an end to the war soon ( merely to stop the news articles about it), I am still probably not going to run out and buy a player for the winning format. I have watched more TV and video over the internet in the last month that I have via traditional media. I am even considering scaling back my Netflix subscription, because we watch fewer and fewer hard DVDs.
There are a lot of rumors out there tonight that Sony paid Warner Big big money to come to the Blu side, but it may be that Warner decided some decision had to be made before the hope of ANY DVD sales were lost forever.

A Geek’s Wet Dream Week

This is the week of CES. This is the Gadget Geek’s wet dream week. And I am at home. One of these days I will get a job that will actually pay for me to go to CES, but in the meantime I will be spending my spare moments gleaning off the broadcasts of those who are there, and the vendors promoting their wares. It is funny that a YouTube search for CES 2008 already has a flood of entries- most of them vendors with video of products they are going to demo at CES from Jan 7-10. This is the time to wish and dream and yes, even laugh at the gizmos and gadgets that corporations are trying to flood into our lives. I was over at some friends this evening, trying to be a normal person for a while and missed the Bill Gates Keynote. I am sure that someone somewhere recorded or archived it and eventually I will be able to get it caught up. ( if you know where a copy is, drop me a line, eh?)

CES is where I get to be reassured that the future of my childhood will someday come true. Look I can even buy a Dick Tracy Watch now! ( would not really want one- but someone FINALY made a watch phone… now all we need is a shoe phone….)

Viewdle testing

I am not generally a name dropper. I am not much impressed with someone just because they are famous, or their name is batted about. I have no compunctions about walking up to someone and talking to them or asking them a question, if I have something interesting to say, or have a question I really want to ask them. Actions and the person themselves tend to garner my respect more than their title or the famous-ness of their name. However, I do occasionally have reason to mention someone by name, and so the development of Viewdle as a utility intrigues me. This is my post to try it out.

The concept behind Viewdle is that the company is developing and maintain a library of pictures of the faces of famous people ( maybe someday they will allow us to upload pictures of ourselves and have ordinary people registered as well..). By some simple javascript pasting and putting a custom tag around references to people in text, hovering over that person’s name should pop up a picture of the person. I like this idea, because I will often find myself reading someone’s blog, they mention someone and I find myself hitting Google to look them up and remember who the Heck Robert Metcalfe is. If this database expands and the technology works, that mental mind shake in the form of a picture could come to you without ever leaving the page!.

So here, let’s test it out a little bit.

At SC’07 this past November, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with lots of new people, some of them famous and some who probably should be, but aren’t yet.

Dr. Raymond Orbach, the US Undersecretary of State for Science was one of the keynote speakers, and I had a chance to chat with him for a few minutes after his talk. He is very excited about the expanding use of modeling and simulation in manufacturing and wants to see it grow more. It is, he believes, what will give any manufacturer the competitive edge.

I spent a great amount of time with Dave Pokorney. We met in the Twitterverse. I had put in a watch on all Twitters mentioning “SC07” and his ( and a few others) popped up. We chatted back and forth a bit, then met in person. He is deeply involved with the team that does all of the networking for the conference, and got me some great behind the scenes interviews. Hopefully a Network World and a PMI Journal article will come out of those interviews.

All in all, SC07 was great fun and over the next month there should be a good number of publications coming out of it. Too much name dropping here will spoil the fun.

I did notice in the news this afternoon that Marc Andreessen is being a remarkable person and standing up for free speech on Ning, even though there are people up in arms about people chatting about sex on it. Come on folks, chatting sex, is NOT porn. If it were and it were really illegal, they would have to shut down every chat network in the universe. You really think there are NOT people on Yahoo or AIM or Meebo or gTalk out there chatting sex sometimes? I know I am.. being a healthy human who is often separated from her fiance for long periods of time, chat is one of the things that keeps our relationship going. Just because Ning has “networks” published where like minded people can hang out, does not make it the anti-christ. Honestly, I had not spent much time checking out Ning, but it is now on my list of things to test this week. Review and report to come.

So– a little bit of name dropping there, though not the celebrity Madonna type of names…. so it will be interesting to see how Viewdle handles it. Give me some feedback, what do you see? What do you think?

Last Night On Earth:Review

Harv gave us this:
last night on earth game box a family copy of Flying Frog Productions’ “The Last Night on Earth” game for Christmas this year. Since we actually had Christmas with Harv on New Year’s day, last night was our first chance to sit down with the whole family and give it a run through. We enthusiastically give it a 6 thumbs up. We played with a group of 6 that ranged in age from 8 to 43, with a 43 year old female and a 16 year old female, the rest male. (My 13 year old daughter is currently on a rampage against the total family geekiness and shut herself in her room with a phone and 8th grade gossip while we played) The game was enough of a hit that after the first game, the next words out of most players mouth was “let’s play again”. We played two games in about 3 hours. Even with pauses for learning rules, the first game played in an hour. We started with the basic game ( “Die, Zombies, Die!”), and I agree with the game makers that this is a great game scenario to learn the turn rules.

The game is played with 1 or 2 zombie players and up to 4 hero players. The zombies are a team and the Heroes are a team, working together to meet their goals. If you have never seen a zombie movie in your life, but like strategy type board games, or RPG games, you will enjoy this game. If you are a fan of zombie movies, you will revel in this game. It is a cinematically rich game, with amazing graphics on all the game pieces, quotes from zombie movies and the classic zombie movie characters (the priest, the sheriff, high school sweetheart, high school hero, Jake the Drifter, the nurse, etc…). The item cards are lots of fun to play with ( revolvers, pump shotguns, pitchforks, baseball bats are some of the weapons) and the events are not only fun, but make a classic zombie movie ( teen angst, over confidence, zombies take over buildings or cut the power to make a black out, etc..). As a matter of fact, if you could record the game play for play, you would have the outline for a great B grade Zombie movie. The fun thing is, the game is so variable there are probably thousands of outlines in the box. Maybe some movie makers need to buy the game and play it to release a series of “Last Night on Earth” web flicks.

Our biggest complaints were from the zombie players- they wanted more zombies in their zombie pool. There were several times they had the ability to take over a building, but only had one zombie in the pool to place in the building. I agree that having more zombies on the board would make the game more fun and more challenging, even from the Hero Player’s perspective. A small technical detail, but one that was a constant ongoing issue was the colors of the zombies. The zombies in the pool are two colors, so that two players can play on the zombie team. One group of zombies is moldy green and the others are baby poo brown. The issue we had was that one of our zombie players was color blind, and the two groups of zombies looked exactly the same to him. Different colors or markings on the zombies would be helpful. We might get bored one winter day and start painting the plastic miniatures to make them easier to distinguish.

One of the features we really like about the game was that when a hero character dies, you are not out of the game. Your Hero becomes a Zombie Hero under control of the zombies and you get to draw a new hero character out of the set to start in the game. Because the game can go for an hour and a half, this works ell to keep all players engaged and not have “I am dead” dropout boredom issues. This was a nice twist and I wish more RPG board games did something in this manner.

All in all, it was a blast of an evening. Everyone is looking forward to playing again- it is without question getting added into the Kwakcon game round up and we are already looking forward to the expansion pack being advertised to come out this year. We would even pay to just have more packs of zombies and some zombie cards to add to the game– sort of like Heroscape expansion packs. It was a big enough hit that I was motivated this morning to clean out the hall closet and make a good space to store that and a few other family games for easy access, without putting the games in the midst of all the kid games where pieces are at risk of being lost.

Now? I am off to get lunch on the table and keep the kids from eating me…

It’s a wrap

Today is the 12th day of Christmas, and so Christmas at Sycamore House is officially packed away. I know a lot of people pack it away a lot sooner, but I am generally in no rush and like to keep up decorations for the full 12 days. Packing away Christmas is no small feat, and was about a two hour all hands on operation. All hands equals mine, Xandra’s and the boys off and on. Sam, having spent the night at a new friend’s house and stayed up much too late, was sound asleep through the whole process. Ogre and I have a deal. He helps me carry boxes up and down out of the attic, and then I am allowed to decorate to my heart’s content, as long as he does not have to be involved in the putting up or taking down. As a matter of fact, he ghosted himself through the process. As I had the kids go and fetch back decorations, candles and gee-gaws from around the house to pile up in the dining room t be sorted and packed, I could see that look of horror growing in his eyes. I calmly told him it would be fine, just disappear for an hour and a half and everything woudl be back to normal. And sure enough, after much sorting and packing in about an hour and a half we had all the boxes moved out into the garage. That was when I got the very nice surprise that Ogre had gone out in the garage and packed up all the tree parts into the new storage box I had bought. I had planned on having Sam do that when she woke up, but he was 2 steps ahead. It was really sweet of him.
Packing away Christmas is always a mixed emotion for me, By now, I am a little tired of the extra clutter and not having my normal room to look at, but I am still a bit enthralled with the sparkle and glimmer of the lights and shinies. When I was a child, we kept up all the Christmas decorations until my Sister’s Birthday- which is January 13, but by then we were just sick of them. I think it is a little better putting them away while they still have appeal, then getting them out again seems like much more fun.

How to earn a loyal customer

Let me just say up front, GooSync rocks. They have now earned my loyalty for a very long time. Here is my story:

I love and live in Google calendars. I live a life that is complex to the point of being confusing. We have a blended household. Both my fiance and I are divorced with kids from previous marriages. Both of us have shared custody situations. I have two girls, he has two sons. Currently we are in a situation where Mon-Fri during the school year he lives in a house an hour away with his two sons and on the weekends, holidays and summers he is back here with me. This means that sometimes there are 6 people who live in this house I call home and sometimes it is just me. Because the members of our clan need to access our schedule from work, from several homes and sometimes from the road- we needed something more flexible than a paper calendar hanging on the wall ( although we still have some of those.. they have such cool pictures…). Both my fiance and I also wanted to be able to have reminders sent to our treos, to keep us in line and make sure no child got left behind. Google Calendars fit this very well. We set up a joint family calendar and began filling it up. It nicely sends text messages to my phone, but it would not sync. When my work life was more crazed and I was running around the plant all day long from meeting to meeting, I used to sync my calendar with Outlook for work( yes, Outlook sucks, but I have no control over what is used from email and calendaring at work- I work for a very large corporation) and only my work appointments were on my treo. But then work shifted, and I work from home more- and do meetings more by teleconference- sitting here in front of my computer which can nicely remind me itself. No need to go through the hoops and hassles of a bluetooth sync up several times a day ( my sync cord for my treo long ago shorted out and refused to work). Before long, I was just ignoring the calendar feature on my Treo. This irritated me some… I wanted an easy way to check my schedule on the go. Besides, having technology that almost works is a pet peeve of mine.

In the meantime, our online google calendar life exploded. My fiance and his ex have a calendar for working out visitation issues- I have read access on that one, as I manage most of the family schedule. I am active in several professional arenas and have meetings for MESA, PMI-CIC IT committee and some other activities. Having all these professional commitments on the BnG Clan calendar was cluttering it up and confusing kids.. so I set up a professional calendar that has my professional commitments only in it. Besides, if I get to the point where my consulting/writing/speech giving schedule continues to grow ( one could hope) I will need a calendar like this to share on a professional website. My daughters rotate between my home and their dad’s home.. so having their family stuff online is helpful to them. They are old enough now that I am working hard to get them to use this as a management tool. Hopefully they will be adding things themselves. But having things like my monthly book club, Curtain Call executive committee meetings and other items of the sort on the family calendar drives clutter that confuses them, as well as puts them at risk for kid learning curve screw ups. So all of my personal life appointments are on their own google calendar.
As time went on, I continued to test and trial new gizmos and services that would sync your google calendar- but they all only synced your main calendar. This is nice, but no longer sufficient in our world.

Then came GooSync. I discovered them a week or so before Christmas. Tested, loved it and imediately bought it so I could sync multiple google calendars and not just one. It was amazing! I could even use categories and have new appointments on my treo auto sync to different google calendars. Brilliant! This was what I had been looking for. Oh ! And look- I can sync with Outlook as well! Cool!! This is a stroke of brilliance. Finally I will be able to use my mobile device the way it was meant to. But wait… Crap. That outlook sync just took all my personal, intimate,family appointments and dumped them into outlook as well. Groan. Facepalm. This is bad. HeadDesk. I quickly cleaned up Outlook to delete them all and moved into the Holidays. OK, honestly I cleaned up most of them, but left some in..the less intimate ones that I did not care if work saw– time was short. No more time to play with syncing gizmos when Santa was about to arrive. But the whole thing was buzzing about in my head in a semi-random way and a couple of days ago, I got the chance to test again. “What if”, I thought, “I did a one way sync from Outlook to my handheld and then a bi directional sync from the handheld to google? Then I get the work appointments dumped into the handheld and the 2 way sync with google. I have no reason to add work appointments on the fly in the treo and then want them to sync with outlook any more… so this should work, right?

(Let me here interject a word of advice that I should have known well. Back up your calendars before experimenting)

Here is what I thought would happen:

Outlook overwrites to the Treo. Treo is now full of only Work Appointments. Bi directional sync via GooSync to google calendars. GooSync: hmm… you have a bunch of appointments in google not on your handheld- let me add those in for you. Result: my entire world schedule in the palm of my hand.

Here is what actually happens:

Outlook overwrites to the Treo. Treo is now full of only Work Appointments. Bi directional sync via GooSync to Google Calendars. GooSync: hmmm…. you have a bunch of appointments that were removed from your handheld.. here let me remove those from Google for you as well. Result: my entire world schedule, other than work? Deleted. Not just from my handheld, but from Google as well. The only things that remained were personal items that had gotten inserted into outlook before Christmas that I had not bothered to delete.

Now, is this normal behavior, or a remnant of the sync and delete in Outlook before Christmas? I do not know. I will not try it again to find out, either. I Twittered my despair. I IM’d my fiance my panic ( especially before he could go to check the calendar and be caught by surprise when things were GONE). This may not seem like a big deal, but it was a total of almost 1700 items. ( I told you I lead a busy and complicated life….). I wrote an email to tech support at GooSync that was really just a rant. I just needed to vent. I did not expect it to fix anything, really. A while later, I got a response ” no problem, we can restore from tape. Just please tell us when this happened and stop syncing in the meantime”.

Holy majoly. This was an unexpected benefit ( you can see I did not carefully read all the fine print). And you know what? They did. All of my messed up calendars have been restored. I am happy syncing again. And I came up with a new solution for getting all of everything onto my treo without risking deletions and cross contaminations. I created a new work calendar in Google. I use a free version of Syncmycal to do a one way dump of Outlook to that specific google calendar. I added the new google calendar to my list of calendars that my treo does a bi drectional sync with over the air.. and everything is in the palm of my hand again. Now that I am using my treo to manage life and events, I need to go back and re-look at RTM for my todo lists as well.

The guys at GooSync? As far as I am concerned- they rock. I will stick with them for a long time now.

Supporting the Intellectual Life

I had recently written a post here, about how frustrated I am with the publish or perish cycle and how the focus on ROI by Granting organizations was shifting pure science from research to development.

The more it rattles in the back of my brain, the more it eats at me. It is not that development is a bad thing. Development has improved YouTube, so that more and more users can watch without having it crash. Development adds new features to AmieStreet, so that now I can send 10$ gifts to my friends ( I have a couple extra still– comment here if you are interested….). I am sure that development played a role in making the brand new Calphalon pots and pans I got for Christmas as amazing as they are. But without research, we soon stagnate and falter.

So how do we support researchers who want to do cool things, without creating another beaurocracy that slows them down? Since the Corporate mindset has invaded governments and the social ethos everywhere..( and with the recent move to block all but government sponsored video sites, I am now convinced this is even true in communist China), the current focus on ROI will prevent major funding agencies and large groups of people from supporting the sort of pure research that will take us to the next level.

At first, I thought- why not have a fund that is “Feed the Research”, instead of “Feed the Children“? People will donate 3.50$/month without thinking too much about it. Set it up in paypal and get the word out, you could actually fund something interesting. But then you need an oversight board- who decides what gets funded and based on what criteria? Oiy– back to large group mindset again. We already decided this was trouble. What about the model used by DonorsChoose, to fund small projects and the needs of teachers? Here the Teachers post what they need, donors get to choose who they want to fund and when all the money for a project is raised- voila! But these are small scale projects, and it is a whole lot easier to raise 500$ for classroom materials, than 500,000 for some seemingly whacky research project. Then there is Sellaband– a site where bands who want to record post music and fans who want them to record. Fans who like them invest in the band, until the band has raised enough( 50,000) to get a recording session. But here the fans are not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts- they get profit sharing later– which take us back to the ROI issue.

I know there has to be a way to make this work, a way to fund pure research that will revolutionize our world over and over again. I am a child of the 60s and 70s SciFi, dang it.. I grew up on the Jetsons and I want my jetpacks and rocket cars 😉 How would you model this so that good research could thrive without the tentacles of profit and ROI strangling it?

New Home

I am a long time blogger- I have had a blog on Livejournal for some time now, but in the last few months I have found myself more and more bumping up against the limits of what I could and could not do in my blog. This is a web 2.0 world, and I live it fully. I have a PalmOS Treo 700 that sends me messages for my schedule, from my kids, and from the world. I Twitter, Flickr, Meebo, Joost, Mozes, Hulu and Digg. I hang out on Facebook, LinkedIn, AmieStreet, Vox and YouTube. I love digital music and video and it is inherently entwined in who I am and what I do. I also get up and push away from my computer and interact directly with Mother Earth in a hands on fashion. I love to garden- both flower and veggie and in the summer my life is full of all things growing, and there is dirt under my nails. I love to dance- almost all forms but hardly ever have the time I want for it. I chase/shuffle/manage two teenage girls and have a partial live in fiance with two step sons. I am a gamer and love RPGs, and try to have massive gaming sessions a few times a year- at least.

I wanted my blog to reflect the interaction of pieces and parts of me, but the technical limits of LiveJournal were preventing me from doing that. So, with much thought and pondering and some little pain, I have decided to re-locate here and send a feed back there- at least for now. I also write other blogs, and if this works out and I can find an audience here, I may shift some of them here as well. So speak up, speak out and let me know you are here- you can also email or text message me directly- I take feedback in all forms.