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Entries in General (20)


Thursday Tidbits

There are times when I want to write, but no major topic seems to bubble forth. Those are tidbit days. In no particular order, here are the latest tidbits...

A Clean Bill
Visited the doctor yesterday and received a clean bill of health. I'd been waiting for this visit for a few weeks, because of my weight loss now that we are on the South Beach diet. I was genuinely curious to see how my doctor would react. He was pleased, listening to my explanation of getting interested and trying the South Beach diet.

Boy, it's a wonderful feeling to hear the doctor say "great job!" His reaction surprised me, as I'd suspected he'd be pleased, but not this pleased. But hey, I'm not complaining. I still have a blood test Friday, which should verify if my cholesterol levels are down.

We now have decided on a name for our new kitty — Jasmine. It took a while to settle on something Gail and I both liked. Oreo and Checkers were cute, but we both felt a girl's name suited her better. Jasmine has been settling right in, and becoming warmer each day. We can even pick her up and hold her now, and she loves being brushed. She's still very gentle with Nathan, even after his constant chasing. ;-)

There have been some good developments on the podcasting front this past week. I've created three private podcasts for friends of mine, using the iSight camera as a microphone through a freeware app called Audio In. Audio In generates an AIFF file (uncompressed audio), which is then converted to MP3 format in iTunes.

These podcasts have been great fun, bringing back memories of mix tapes I loved to create in the 80s and 90s. One podcast was created as a reply to an email, another as an audio update sent to friends in the UK, and the latest included Gail, Nathan and myself, sharing some thoughts about eateries, with Michael Ashby (who may be visiting with his wife and mom on Saturday).

I can truly see some benefit in doing private, dedicated podcasts. There's no real schedule to meet, and they can be as short or as long as needed. In all cases, the recipients commented on how nice it was to hear my/our voices in this way. Private podcasts also avoid bandwidth over-usage that many podcasters are seeing lately.

As long as it's fun, my friends enjoy the results and it's easy, I'll keep doing it.

Tungsten E
I've been pleased with the combination of my 256MB SD card and Tungsten E, directly related to hearing other podcasts and music. It's great to carry a selection of favorite tunes and podcasts, particularly for listening on the road.

When my brother Steve was here last weekend, we tested out his Griffin FM transmitter and I was hooked! I've been using a cassette adapter for years, which works, but wireless FM is much more convenient. Have to keep a sharp eye open for deals on these now.

So, that's the tidbit update for Thursday. I have a few fuzzy ideas for dedicated posts, which might appear early next week. Until then, have a great weekend everyone!


VW Beetle for Sale

BeetleOur good friends Sharon and Conrad have gone back to the UK after a few years here in the States and we're missing them greatly already. They sold and shipped away everything but their toaster and their VW Beetle before departing last week.

I've been entrusted with selling their little red VW Beetle. I thought it might be interesting to mention their car here on the weblog, in case any readers out there are interested.

Features at a glance: 1999 VW Beetle GLS, 57,000 miles, manual transmission, 4 CYL, CD Player, Cruise Control, Remote Keyless Entry, Anti-Lock Brakes, Airbag: Driver, Power Windows, Power Locks, Alarm, A/C: Front, Power Steering, CD Changer, Fog Lights.

If you're near the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area and might be keen on a clean, fun little red 1999 VW Beetle, drop me a line at mike (at) The car even Includes a ski rack, all for $8,000 (well below Blue Book value of $8,477).

UPDATE: The car has now been sold. :-)


Friday Notes

Well, it's now been nearly two weeks away from my weblog, with the combo of vacation and a busy follow-up week. I've intended on posting here later this week, but nothing came to mind, so it just didn't seem right to force it yet. Today, I feel as though there are several tidbits to mention that would be a good way to roll back into daily postings once again.

Rest & Evaluation
While I was trying to drum up ideas for weblog posts on Thursday, I realized how out of the loop I've gotten in just a 2 weeks. I've stopped visiting most of my daily sites, and now I feel out of the loop.

But you know what, at first it felt like I was "behind" but now, after some thought, I like this feeling. In some ways I feel as though I have a chance to decide what to continue doing, which sites to keep reading — a second chance to evaluate my time and energy choices.

Moveable Type 3
Today I learned about Moveable Type version 3.0 from a post at It seems there are big changes in the licensing and pricing of 3. From what I can tell, Six Apart is becoming more controlling of MT, which they certainly have a right to do.

There is now more emphasis on paid users (good for Six Apart) as free modes are now limited to a single user and 3 weblogs. In fact the personal license is identical to the free, except for support and some other tidbits. For some users who had enjoyed the unlimited author/weblog of past MT versions, this seems to be quite a shocking and potentially pricey change.

Should be interesting to see if the new licensing and pricing restrictiveness will push old MT users elsewhere, or to stick with older versions of MT. I'm guessing that for most people (like me), the single author / 3 weblog limit is just dandy. My gut says that folks to have many author/weblog instances are the exceptions rather than the rule.

Not sure what will happen on this weblog, since I just have one MT installation that's hosted by my company, MakaluMedia. I'm mostly happy with MT 2 — other than the scourge that is commentspam. If the commentspam continues to get worse, maybe MT 3 is a next logical step. But for now, 2.X seems to work just fine.

Dark Star Safari
The book I bought at Paul Theroux's Milwaukee appearance, is excellent, as I expected. It's a treat to read his descriptions of places and characters in Africa, just as I'd read about South America, China, India or the Mediterranean in his past travelogues.

!! Spoiler Alert !!

However, I can sense a much more personal view and reflection in Dark Star Safari, since Paul spent several years in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer and then teacher. In general he's very disappointed to see that Africa in general and Malawi in particular are no better off 40 years after his time there. In fact, Theroux's impression is that Africa may be far worse after 40 years of charity work and donations from other countries.

I'm at about the 75% mark of the book now, and by this time Paul has concluded that Africa's problems must be taken over by Africans — that the charities which are intending to help Africa are in reality turning Africans into beggars, living for chartiy and forgetting how to do things themselves. Meanwhile, he observes that those who leave Africa for education elsewhere (in Europe or the US) seem to seldom return.

I could really sense Theroux's despondency in the chapters about Malawi, where he lived, because the school where he taught had nearly fallen apart. Houses were in ruins, the books of the library had been stolen and nobody knew who he was or why the school had been founded. There was a real sense of despair in those chapters... a sense from his descriptions of anger and pain at seeing something he and many others had worked so hard for, forgotten and having no impact.

!! End Spoiler Alert !!

Anyway, I don't want to give away the entire book here, but I can say that I am thoroughly enjoying the read. It's funny, interesting, challenging and sobering to hear the account of a traveller crossing Africa the hard way.

So, I'm back to blogging. It was a good break (they always are) and now I'm ready to roll once again. Thanks for all the emails of kind support while I was away. :-)

Have a great weekend!


Family Photo Flashback

Steve & Mike

Heh! Last night, while spring cleaning, I came across a cache of old photos my dad took back in the mid 70s with his Minolta SRT-101 35mm SLR. The photo to the right really cracked me up — it's a shot of my brother Steve and I, when we lived in Chicago. I have no clue what we're holding up in this shot... some kind of box as far as I can tell. I suspect it was a box of candy, but I can't quite make it out.

What cracked me up was our fashion... check out the stripes and plaids there! That patch on my poplin jacket is a Road Runner patch (I had to enlarge the shot massively in Photoshop to read the patch). Steve's hat has some sort of baseball motif going on — so stylin!

Check out our glasses: molded industrial grade plastic, heavy duty glass lenses, all designed to withstand a nuclear blast — very important for rough and tumble 5 and 9 year old boys.

This is one of those reality-check pictures — the kind that reminds me no matter how cool I think I am, I can't avoid the fact that I was once a 9 year old wearing striped pants and geeky horn-rimmed glasses. ;-)


Friday Tidbits

Well, it's been a busy week and while quite a bit was accomplished here, I'm glad to be at the end of it. Well, a busy weekend is ahead, but that's another story.

Since I haven't a clue about a specific topic tonight, I thought it might be better to post various tidbits as I think of them. Hope this isn't too stream of consciousness...

PalmSource DevCon
I'm getting very excited about PalmSource DevCon coming next week. It'll be great to see old friends there and meet some new ones too. Traveling to other places is always enjoyable for me, so this is something I'm looking forward to.

I'll be trying out a few new things this trip, such as a battery operated Remmington shaver, my Tungsten E and a copy of Day Notez for taking notes and blogging/traveloging en route. I'll also be bringing my analog journals (diary, sketchbook and idea journal) to capture thoughts and ideas. I hope to scan and include sketches with my travelogue journals, right here on the weblog.

I sill haven't worked out how the travelogues and Mobile Whack Dispatches will look, but once I get into them I think they will become more defined. Probably the travelogue entries will provide much more extracurricular observations. Look for those posts to begin Monday night or maybe Tuesday morning, depending on how things go once I arrive.

The PDAs Zenith Reached?
My friend Andy and I had a short conversation Thursday that's made me think. I really want to devote an entire (separate) post to this, but essentially the idea was this:

What if the popularity of the PDA has hit its zenith? What if nearly everyone who might have wanted a PDA has now gotten one?

Could it be that there are just a small chunk of people in the world that would be willing to use any organizing tool, like a PDA or even a paper planner? Is there a large majority of people in the world who will never, ever use anything to get organized? Hmmm.

It seems pretty obvious now that compared to the mobile phone, the PDA is a niche item. I mean, the mobile phone has clear attractiveness and ease of use -- dial a number and talk. No organizing to worry about, unless you choose to. Yeah, a mobile phone could also do more stuff, but the basic functionality is communication (voice, then text, then images) which are immediately apparent to anyone.

A PDA, on the other hand, is much less obvious to use and takes somewhat of a learning curve to adapt to (Graffiti, UI, etc. depending on the user). In that context, it seems the PDA will never eclipse the mobile phone, but of course these are two very different devices. Smartphones are yet another thing, halfway between, which are maybe better than a straight PDA, but how much?

I don't know the answers and frankly, taking this line of thinking is kind of bumming me out. I love my regular ol' PDA and don't have much need for a mobile phone, but I also realize I am a pretty unusual user. Question is, how unusual am I?

I'm still working through this thought, and would love your input. I also plan to pose this question at the DevCon, to friends, developers and bigwigs at PalmSource to see what their thoughts are. More on their thoughts and mine in a dedicated future post.

Sharing My Sketchbook
I've begun sharing pages of my little Moleskine sketchbook. If I know someone is artistic, or is just willing to share a sketch, I've been offering them a page to play with. So far I have two pages filled by artist friends. In fact, just tonight, an art student friend put a sketch on a page, thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to sketch with a gel pen. It's wonderful to have a bit of a my friends' art in my little book. :-)

So, it's late and there is still a busy weekend ahead. By the way, I've greatly appreciated all of the emails from readers in the past week -- thanks to Arthur, Nicola, Tom, Kevin, Bryan, Zane and David particularly. You guys and gals have really made my week, and have encouraged me to keep on bloggin' with a passion! :-)

Have a great weekend everyone!!