Browse Month: April 2009

04/20/2009

Alex was supposed to have a track meet last Friday but given the cold drizzle they cancelled the event and moved it to today. Good call– it was a beautiful 65-degree sunny day today.

He competed in three events and did really well in all of them…

Long jump:

400-meter run:

And the 100-meter hurdles:

Considering he was competing against sixth, seventh, and eighth graders and this was only his second meet, he did great. When he’s a little taller (and has longer legs) he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.

04/18/2009

For the past three years I’ve been scanning every piece of paper that seems important enough to keep: utility bills, bank statements, credit card statements, contracts, checks from clients, and so forth. It sure keeps the clutter level down around the house, and makes it really easy to find old records (no more paging through huge ring binders or boxes).

But it’s been kind of a drag because I have a flatbed scanner and that means I have to slip in each page, hit ‘scan’, wait about 30 seconds while it does its thing, and then save the file. Slip in the next page and repeat. Let me tell you, that’s not really a fun way to spend an afternoon. So I’ve got binder after binder of old statements and bills and whatever, and they just stay on the bookshelves in Laralee’s office because I don’t really feel like messing with them.

Anyway, I saw someone mention the Fujitsu ScanSnap S510 sheet-fed scanner, and I immediately perked up. This little puppy has a feed tray where you can slip in a stack of paper and it cranks through them, creating image files (or PDF’s) as it goes.

I read a lot of reviews and people said it was the greatest thing for office automation ever. After some hesitation (it’s not cheap) I decided to buy one. It showed up yesterday, so I was playing around with it a bit this afternoon. I can only think of one word for it.

WOW.

This thing is awesome. Not only can it crunch through a stack of paper, each individual scan takes about three seconds (admittedly at a fairly low resolution, but since these are ten-year-old bills I don’t really care that much). Put in the stack, set the initial filename, and click ‘scan’. Less than a minute later you’ve got a series of sequentially-numbered files and you’re ready to feed in the next stack. I literally went through two one-inch ring binders in about fifteen minutes. It can also duplex, create PDF’s on the fly, and use OCR to index those PDF’s so they’re searchable.

It’s still going to take some time to digitize all of my old paper records, but I suspect I could finish the job in a single day instead of a month.

The next mission for this thing will be to process all of my old photo albums. I’ve got a few thousand pictures I’d really like digital, but again didn’t relish the thought of scanning them one at a time. Now I can drop in a stack, set the resolution nice and high, and watch them churn.

Sweet.

04/18/2009

Laralee and I always have fun teaching the second-grade science classes on Fridays. We make up topics that are “science-y” and come up with experiments and demonstrations that teach the principles while also providing a bit of fun for the kids.

Of course it’s great to see the kids light up and ooh and ahh over the things we do. They get so excited about baking-soda volcanoes and slimy liquids and 3D solar system simulations.

Fun aside, it’s also very rewarding to get feedback from the kids’ parents. Yesterday Laralee received an e-mail from one of them:

Blake has been talking non-stop for the last hour about challenge science today– satellite images and all the different web sites… all the lights just turn on in him and he gets so involved.  He remembers all kinds of detail and is so animated about it.  It is really great for him… thank you again for the great gift you give with challenge science.

Notes like that make it all worthwhile.

04/17/2009

With five terabytes at my disposal, I have to begin the task of filling all that space. It started with about half a terabyte of shared data used by me and Laralee. That’s our music collection, digital photo album, fifteen years of e-mail, hundreds of television shows, and a metric ton of software thrown in for good measure. Then I mixed in a generous serving of backup files from my web hosting company and some other clients who pay me to store offsite backups of everything.

And yet I still find myself with a few terabytes empty. I suppose it’s only a matter of time… today I wonder how I can possibly fill all that space, and in six months I’ll be shopping for another hard drive enclosure.

Ahh, technology.

04/15/2009

I read an interesting article yesterday about a guy who decided to accept a challenge to go for 21 days without complaining.

I suspect most of us don’t even realize how much we complain in our everyday lives. There’s always something that bothers us, something that didn’t go right, or someone who’s getting on our nerves. And we almost can’t help but say something about it. But I think in doing so– in giving in to the temptation to gripe– we become just that much more negative.

So I’ve decided to follow this guy’s example, and work to not complain at all for the next 21 days.

Note that constructive criticism is okay. For example, the following would be a complaint:

Wow, your feet really smell.

But making it constructive or positive would be okay:

Wow, your feet really smell, but I saw some shoe inserts at Wal-Mart you might want to try.

Hopefully the result of this “experiment” will be a more positive outlook on… well, everything.

04/15/2009

My friend Michael is on a volleyball league team and they needed a sub, so he asked me to join them for their games tonight. It’s been about two years since I even touched a volleyball, but I guess it’s somewhat like riding a bike because I jumped in and actually did a decent job. My serves could use a little work, and a few of my bump passes were more like shanks, but overall I can’t complain. Hopefully they’ll need a sub again soon– I miss playing.

04/10/2009

Mmm… five terabytes of storage sitting on my desk.

Just a few years ago that kind of data required a refrigerator-sized rack of hard drives with massive cooling and cables everywhere. Now it fits into a box smaller than a six-pack. Amazing.

04/08/2009

I’ve always thought that “reality shows” were inane drivel (sorry, all you Survivor fans) but I think we’ve hit a new low:

Fox network is making a reality show out of the troubled economy. An upcoming series titled “Someone’s Gotta Go” lets employees of a small business decide which one of their colleagues will be laid off. Fox says it has no air date yet for the series, which is being developed by the company behind “Big Brother” and “Deal or No Deal.” Each week, a different company lays off an employee.

Wow. It’s dumb, tasteless, and mean all rolled into one big ball.

04/07/2009

An interesting thought from Seth Godin:

In my experience, much of marketing is a game of waiting for the other guy to go first. Well, if nothing is happening, you go first.

I’m hoping to do just that. In these “difficult economic times” (a term that’s about as overused as “war on terror”) I figure my business can offer other companies some pretty nifty things for a pretty nifty prices. Don’t pay ten thousand dollars a month for Salesforce when you can pay us a tiny fraction of that for a customer database system tailored just for you!

If only I can find the time to actually build these things…

04/07/2009

Since finding the thought monkeys magnets all those years ago, I’ve never failed to find humor in the phrase “thought monkeys”.

I even owned the domain for a while, but finally let it lapse because I honestly couldn’t think of what to put there.

I toyed with the idea of making that my official business title, but printing business cards with that just didn’t seem quite right.

But anyway, a few months ago I found a little fuzzy monkey head in the house.

It’s anyone’s guess what this head came from– it’s only about an inch across, apparently from some little doll. But I’ve had it on my desk ever since, and it keeps me amused and inspired when I’m working late at night (like tonight)…

04/01/2009

A few weeks ago Alex attended a Longmont City Council meeting as part of a Boy Scout merit badge he was working on (Citizenship in the Community). I found this drawing that he did while listening to the council members do their business.

Apparently those meetings aren’t all that exciting.