Archive for April, 2004

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Paige’s Birthday Gift

April 26, 2004

Angela and I gave Paige a Canon Powershot A60 digital camera for her 14th birthday last week. She seems pleased with the gift. I also figured she’d need a place to publish all those great photos so I subtly changed the name and permissions of the gallery so that she and I can both upload there. (Here’s where you realize that my streamlining the camera-to-iPhoto-to-web workflow a few days ago wasn’t just for nothing!) So now she has an album of recent shots to show off to her friends.

But then just to show that I am indeed the coolest father that the world has ever known, i thought I’d give her a random gallery image on her main page like on mine. Yes I am cool, I know.

But nothing’s too good for my little girl!

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Music Recommendations

April 22, 2004

Okay, I have 12 winning Pepsi caps burning a hole in my pocket and I have to spend them by the end of the month. What should I buy? Please recommend some music to me. Don’t know what I might like? I don’t know either, but here in no particular order are a few of my recent favorites to go by. (Note: the URLs link directly to the album on the iTunes music store. If you don’t have iTunes get it. It’s free. And then you can hear the music I’m talking about – and buy it if you like it.)

Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips. Hard to explain. I fell in love with the title track a few months ago and now that I own the album I love the whole thing. It’s eminently listenable. There’s no “skip” tracks on it. A great commuter’s CD.

Finally Woken by Jem. Jem is a gem. I had to say it. There’s one silly track on here (number two) where this Welsh girl tries to act like she’s a stripper doing a pole dance with 80’s hair band guitar sounds accompanying her. But the rest of it is really quite nice and I highly recommend it. I had never heard of her. I bought this based on the 30-second previews on iTunes and I am extremely pleased with the purchase.

All That We Let In by Indigo Girls. Not their best album, but there’s no such thing as a bad IG album. They’re longtime favorites. If you don’t know them, they’re folk/rock in nature and absolutely brilliant songwriters. Their harmonies are killer, too.

Details by Frou Frou. Exquisite. Just get it. If you like electronic music, if you like pop music, just get it. The sounds on this record are amazing and this girls voice is one of a kind.

Poem by Delerium. The first five tracks alone are worth the price of admission. How can I describe? Electronic soundscapes with dancy beats and a lot of melodic drama? I tried.

Emotional Technology by BT. Simply Being Loved hooked me and the rest of the album doesn’t disappoint. This guy’s an electronic texture genius.

So what do you like? What do you think I might like? I have to spend these free song credits on something. Help!

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Copper Kettle Confections

April 19, 2004

Angela went to Sturgeon Bay with a friend this past weekend. The kids and I stayed home. Don’t feel too sorry for me, though, because she brought home one of the best parts of the trip – chocolate covered cherries from Copper Kettle Confections in downtown Sturgeon Bay.

Apparently she chatted a while with the guy behind the counter, too, and told him that we’d posted pictures of him on the web after our first visit in February of 2002. He visited the site looking for them but, alas, he couldn’t find any pictures of his fine establishment. I had long since taken them down.

But wait! We dug out a few for your viewing pleasure. Up for a limited time only, this blast from the past, pictures of Copper Kettle Candy Confections and it’s proprietor Terry Ullman. Copper Kettle Confections is located at 24 N. 3rd Ave. Sturgeon Bay, WI, 54235, (920) 746-0924. The chocolate covered cherries are the best.

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Travis, Smooth Jazz Bjork and More Pepsi Caps

April 19, 2004

Yesterday I drove up to my brother-in-law Keith’s place in Mayville to celebrate my neice’s beau’s birthday. Travis, now 25 years old, is a good guy. And besides that any excuse is good enough to have dinner with this crew. My mother-in-law and I drove up together. I got a surprise out of her when she announced that she was aboslutely in love with the CD I was playing in the Pathfinder. You’ll never guess. Give up? Bjork’s Greatest Hits. Of all things for Ms. Smooth Jazz to like.

Dinner was great and I even had dessert. There’s a few pictures up in shot recently. Get ’em while they’re hot and don’t forget to vote for whichever ones you like.

In other news Keith gave me a bunch of winning Pepsi caps. How cool is that? I’ve got 14 banked up now and I have to spend them all before next Friday. Thanks, man! Now do me one more favor and tell me what I should I buy!

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More on Wal-Mart

April 18, 2004

Great article on Wal-Mart over at the New York Times. Here’s my handy guide.

Point:

“What do low-cost goods mean in light of the pressing issues of the global environment, global human rights and the global labor force?” Ms. Strasser asked. “And how do we move beyond the single-minded self-interest of price?”

Low prices come at a cost, she and other speakers insisted, arguing, for instance, that Wal-Mart encouraged overconsumption and overdevelopment, which place strains on natural resources and the environment.

“Everything is based on the consumer first,” said Edna Bonacich, a sociology professor at the University of California, Riverside. “Is this the way we want to live? [more…]

Counterpoint:

“If anybody is proposing that they’re going to solve what they see as the Wal-Mart problem by urging people not to think of themselves as consumers, they’re barking up the wrong tree.” [more…]

My point:

“My Wal-mart purchase has a negative and a positive component. The positive component is the low, low price I pay. The negative component is the union-busting, job exporting impact it has on the job market. See how the positive aspect is mine alone while the negative one is spread out over everyone in my community? The benefit to me of purchasing something at Wal-mart far outweighs the cost to me. So I predict that left to our own devices we will shop ourselves right out of our own jobs… Unless we resort to collective action” [more…]

Disclaimer: I bought a shirt, some razors, shaving gel and some socks for Paige at Wal-Mart today. They say the first step is admitting you have a problem…

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Photo Publishing On The Web

April 18, 2004

The other day I was participating in an interesting discussion of online photo printing services at MacSlash when I stumbled upon something very cool that I’d never heard of: iPhoto2Gallery. Let me back the truck up here a second and explain not only why it’s so great, but also why it eventually led me to improve scottfeldstein.net

I use Apple’s iPhoto software to import, organize, edit, print at home, order professional prints, create hardcover books and otherwise fuss over my digital photos. (PC users, don’t fret! Adobe now has a similiar product for Windows called Photoshop Album. There’s even a free version!) Prior to this, there just wasn’t an elegant end-to-end workflow solution for home digital photography. With iPhoto digital photography really began to “happen” for me.

Gallery is another indispensable piece of software that I use. It is a web application that lives on my web server. It’s main function is to allow me to automate the publishing of my photos on the web. It uses templates and scripts to help me organize and display my photos and even automatically resizes them and generates thumbnails. Best of all Gallery is totally free. But what does Gallery really do? This.

Okay, if you’re with me so far, let’s get back to the really cool thing mentioned above: iPhoto2Gallery. iPhoto2Gallery is a plugin for iPhoto that allows it to export directly to my Gallery installation! I was ecstatic when I read about it. Immediately I went to download and try it. This would mean a significant time savings when publishing my photos to the web. No more exporting from iPhoto to a folder on my desktop, uploading a few at a time to Gallery via a web browser… Not any more. I could simply tell iPhoto to put them in my Gallery and tell it which album to put it in. Done.

Problem was, it didn’t seem to work. Not even a tiny Bit. It kept complaining that it couldn’t see my Gallery installation at the URL I provided. I began to suspect something was wrong with my installation. Perhaps upgrading Gallery would kill whatever bug ailed it. So I did. I upgraded from Gallery 1.3.1 to 1.4.2.

Gallery 1.4.2, as it turns out, has a couple of new features. Most notably it allows you the visitor to rate the photos! So go ahead. Be merciless. Rate away. Choose from Poor, Average, Good, Very Good, or Excellent. There were also a few other administrative functions that I was glad to see in this new version, but most importantly iPhoto2Gallery plugin started working. So now I can even further streamline the workflow from camera to web. And once the pictures get there you can express yourself by leaving a comment under a picture and also by rating it on a 1-through-5 scale.

Speaking of photos, I did take some Friday night at tae kwon do testing. Neither Dan nor I tested. We just went to help out. But Paige did. She passed for her blue belt. Go, Paige! We went to Pizza Hut afterwards. Click here to see, comment on, and rate the pics.

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The String Cheese Incident

April 17, 2004

This is not a review of a popular musical group. It is a story. A tragedy to be precise. And by tragedy I mean the kind of situation where something goes terribly wrong and in retrospect you might have seen it coming a mile away and avoided it, but you didn’t. You remained oblivious to it until it was too late and thus all that was left to you in the aftermath was to gnash your teeth, shake your fist at the sky and curse your fate. That kind of tragedy. I’m still amazed when I reflect that this almost inconcievable calamity was set in motion by – of all things – a piece of string cheese. That is why it shall be known ever after in my house as “the string cheese incident.” Here’s how it happened.

Sometimes on cold mornings my wife, Angela, offers our 13-year-old daughter, Paige, a ride to school. When this offer is extended Paige has to hurry so her mother won’t be late for work. And on this particular winter morning Paige was so hurried in fact that she didn’t have time for a proper sit-down breakfast. Rather than go to school on an empty stomach, however, she very wisely decided to grab a piece of string cheese on her way out the door. It seems that no matter what other food items our household might lack at any given time, we almost always have string cheese. Angela likes it. And she always shares it with the dog. It’s become a kind of ritual between them. Anyway, if Paige only knew what was going to happen next she probably would have left the cheese and gone hungry instead.

snowdog.jpgSpeaking of our dog, his name is Logan. He’s part Newfoundland which makes him an avid swimmer. But we often overlook his other heritage: Collie. Collies, as you probably know, are herding dogs. They like to round ’em up and keep ’em in line. Sheep, cattle, other dogs…just about anything. We knew that Logan had a herding instinct. We’d all had a good laugh watching him carry the cats around by the scruff of their necks when they were kittens. He’d just pick them up and move them to where he wanted them to be. In fact, Logan can still be relied upon to help round up our indoor cats when on occasion they dart out the door under our feet. We’d tell him he was a good dog once the absconding cat had been recaptured. How could we have known how far it would one day go?

Rufus is one of our two cats. He’s not terribly bright, but I’m fond of saying that what he lacks in smarts he makes up for with enthusiasm. He’s a good natured animal but he never seems to know quite what’s going on or how he got wherever he is. “Perpetually perplexed” about covers it. And every now and then this simple but affectionate creature gets it into his head that he would very much like to dart out the back door. It is a testament to his stunning inability to learn from experience that he still to this day – even after the infamous string cheese incident – tries to dart outside.

So, on this cold morning Angela offers to take Paige to school. Paige grabs the string cheese on her way out. Backpack in one hand, cheese in the other, she opens the back door. Her mother is already waiting near the car. Rufus sees his big chance and scurries across the threshold into the chilly morning air of the back yard. And thus, as the wizard Gandalf said in The Return of the King, “the board is set and the pieces are moving.” He was reflecting on the inescapable war ahead, but he might as well have been observing the goings on in my back yard at that moment.

Suddenly there’s yelling. “Rufus is out! Rufus!” Shouting and chaos. Then someone remembers our dog. Collie. Herding. “Logan! Get him, boy! Get Rufus!”

Logan, who had been tending business of his own in another part of the yard, sprang into action. In about three bounds he’d caught Rufus. Imagine for a moment how Rufus felt. Instead of enjoying an adventure in the frosty unknown of our wintertime back yard, here he was pinned between Logan’s front paws. And to make double sure Rufus didn’t try to squirm out from between them, Logan, butt in the air, was pressing Rufus down into the snow with his nose.

rufus.jpg
So far so good. This is where one of us humans usually walks over and picks the cat up. Logan is a good dog, but he has no thumbs. Catching is his job, carrying his quarry back into the house is ours. Paige approaches Logan and Rufus. She bends down to pick up the cat. “Good dog, logan,” She says. As Paige bends down Logan sees the cheese in her hand. Logan likes cheese and expects that this treat is his reward. He suddenly remembers what good dogs are supposed to do before they receive their treats – sit! His behind goes down, his head goes up, and Rufus, seeing his chance, runs for it.

“No! Rufus! Logan, go get him!” More chaos.

Logan, having received no cheese, probably feels a little cheated, but he knows his duty. In another three bounds he’s caught Rufus again and is pushing the cats face into the snow for a second time. “Good dog!” says Paige as she approaches. She bends to get the cat, Logan sees his cheesy reward, Logan sits, the cat runs away.

In the ensuing chaos it’s impossible to tell exactly how many repetitions there were. But everyone agrees that there were at least three. And so, for several confused minutes the action continued. Logan teeter-tottered back and forth between holding the cat down with his nose and sitting pretty for his treat, Paige ran to retrieve the cat every time the dog pinned him down, the cat, who was perhaps the most bewildered of all, was undoubtedly growing quite tired of being repeatedly pushed face-first in the snow. By the end of it Rufus’ head resembled nothing so much as a large misshapen snowball, the inset pair of blinking cat eyes being the only outward indication of his presence beneath this frosty exterior. Angela, my wife, stood back and yelled instructions at each of them in turn.

If this extraordinary scene was produced by an incredibly unlikely concurrence of diabolical events, how much stranger is it that what finally ended it was the good sense of my not-so-bright cat? Apparently Rufus had had enough. He finally darted away from the dog and ran straight back into the house. And that was it. It was over. The other three players were left panting and blinking in the cold air of the back yard wondering what the hell had just happened. There was shock and puzzlement as everyone slowly returned to their morning routine. Like survivors of some great catastrophe who find that everyday life seems rather meaningless after having lived through such an incredible event. It wasn’t until later that the true cause of the whole thing became clear to us.

It was the string cheese that did it.