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Sunset over the Gulf

Gulf of Mexico Sunset 22

Gulf of Mexico Sunset 22,
originally uploaded by Martin Gordon.

I've added a photoset of 27 photos to Flickr that were taken of the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico on my birthday, August 20th. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them.

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After The Storm

The weather started calming down at around 6, when the eye was passing over us. My sister and I were hungry so we waiting for our parents to wake up from their nap to go eat at Flanigan's, open and only two blocks away. They didn't want to come with us so I went alone with my sister. We got to Flanigan's and it seemed like business as usual. There was sports on almost all of the TVs and people at the bar and most of the tables. Our parents started watching TV and saw that there were 60mph winds just a couple of miles away so they told us to get our food to go. We did, and as we were leaving Flanigan's, the storm picked up again. Not 10 minutes after we get home, we lose power (around 9pm). After eating dinner in the dark, we kept ourselves entertained by draining the battery on a few laptops. We started watching a Mexican movie about a wedding which we couldn't bear to watch for more than half an hour. After that, we watched National Treasure which, despite having essentially the same plot as The Da Vinci Code was quite an entertaining movie.

We only got some rain and very little wind today. A lot of places without power (our house included) but still a lot of people out. I ended up going to the Apple Store for a bit to check my e-mail and do some web browsing. The Mac mini I was using had a Mighty Mouse attached, so I finally got to try it out. I came back home and the power came back around 5pm. We were lucky to only have had lost power for less than 24 hours. I've heard that a lot of people are still without it and both Miami-Dade and Broward County officials will be handing out bags of ice tomorrow for people to keep perishable items cold.

From what I've seen, the damage here on the beach is pretty minimal. I've seen lots of downed and uprooted trees and some crooked electricity poles (and one that came down completely at the corner of our street) as well as lots of missing signs. The worst damage I've seen by far is the roof (the part that's over the pumps) of a Shell gas station in Sunny Isles that has collapsed completely. The station is across the street from the beach, but other similarly located gas stations didn't see that kind of damage. The worst damage they saw (at least visibly) is some missing numbers from their price lists (free gas!).

Hurricane Katrina was only a Category 1 (winds of 74-95 mph) when it hit South Florida, but she came with very little advance warning. Notwithstanding, I think officials got everything squared away pretty quickly with regards to closing services and opening up shelters and I applaud them for that. They say Katrina could develop into a Category 4 hurricane (winds of 131-155 mph) in the warm Gulf waters before making landfall again. I wish people on the northern Gulf Coast the best of luck and hope that everything will be alright.

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Katrina

Katrina is practically upon us. Most (if not all) municipal services are closed, my sister is off from school today and tomorrow. Luckily I made it out to Publix last night to pick up some supplies. So far there's just been rain and it hasn't been that bad, but the National Weather Service predicts that it will become a Category 1 hurricane by the time the eye makes landfall. The storm is only moving at 6mph, so flooding is expected to be the biggest problem. Here on the beach we've never had much trouble with flooding, but further west it's always a problem. I'm hoping Blockbuster is still open so I can pick up some DVDs because it looks like we'll be indoors for a while.

Google Talk[s] - Is anyone listening?

Google's latest foray into world domination has them tackling AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo in the Instant Messaging arena. Google Talk is currently only a Windows-only application but any Jabber client will do. I've been signed on to talk.google.com using Adium for since yesterday and had a short conversation on it.

For myself and for other advanced users (who don't use first-party clients), using GTalk will be seemless because most third-party party clients already include Jabber support. For the millions of first-party client users, however, I see very little reason to run a seperate IM client just to say they're running GTalk. For one, getting a GMail account, while easier than before, is still much harder to get than an AOL, MSN or Yahoo account because it requires an invitation from a friend or knowing about invitation-collecting sites that give them out.

So for people like me, we can either use our AIM/MSN/Yahoo accounts from a single client to talk to people who are using those services with first-party clients. For our "advanced" friends who are running multi-protocol cleints, there is no reason why we can't use any of the existing services to communicate with them.

I also don't see the VoIP feature driving many people to GTalk either. For one, all the other big clients have a voice chat feature, and at least in my experience, they haven't seen much use. More importantly, there's the Skype issue. Say what you will about the validity of Skype's 152 million downloads number, there's no question that a lot of people are using Skype. With so many people using Skype and being perfectly happy with it, why would anyone want to run another client for VoIP? You run into the installed base problem again. Skype has a huge installed base, so when Joe User wants to hop on the VoIP bandwagon, he'll jump onto whatever protocol his friends are using — and that protocol will most likely be Skype. Skype's killer feature, in my opinion, is its SkypeIn and SkypeOut services, which lets a computer dial a phone number and give a phone number to a computer. At the moment, GTalk's VoIP is limited to the GTalk network only, a much smaller network than say, the world's plain old telephone network that SkypeIn/Out give Skype users access to (for a fee).

With regard to Google Talk's current feature set, color me unimpressed. It just seems a bit too bare to pose a serious threat to AIM/MSN/Yahoo and Skype and it makes me wonder why they're even bothering. Yes, it will probably be a huge success, but is it because it's Google, or is it because GTalk is a superior product? Is it because we feel safer lying in Google's pristine white home page than in the arms of AOL's running man?

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of Google and their products (even though they're all Windows-only), but once you see past the hype and the "Google can do no evil" mantra, Google Talk sounds more like Google Yawn.

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The Onion: Dave Matthews Not That Into Himself Anymore

The Onion has a somewhat funny article featuring Dave Matthews. As the title suggests, the article talks about how Dave isn't into himself anymore. It starts out pretty funny, but when Dave starts talking about performing on stage, it loses the funniness of Dave the fan. Regardless, it's short and does have its moments.

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Vacation

I finished work last Friday and the family and I went to Marco Island to spend my birthday (which was Saturday). We drove down Friday night and stopped at the first restaurant we could find after getting off Alligator Alley. It turned out to be Cracker Barrel, which we had never been to despite passing one almost daily when we lived in Gainesville. I was really excited to try it, especially after seeing some interesting things in the general store and the fascinating decor on the walls in the dining room. It's too bad the food wasn't up to par. After dinner we continued down Collier Blvd, which I later realized has very few posted speed limit signs, until we reached Marco Island.

On Saturday we spent some time down at the beach (what we could bear with the heat index being so high). The beach wasn't like it is here on the east coast. Instead of being 100% sand, most of the beach is covered in shells. In the afternoon, we also drove to Naples and on the way looked at the bazillion dollar homes in the area. Suffice to say, downtown Naples is not suitable for people under 40. there were way too many art galleries and old people clothing stores for me and my sister's liking. There were also no buildings taller than three stories in the area. Southwest Florida is very sparsely populated and much more southern than the east coast. The area also seems to have the highest number of Walgreens and CVS stores per capita in the world. On almost every corner, there was either a Walgreens, a CVS, or both. To my delight, the one Walgreens we did stop at had a Delorean (of Back to the Future fame) parked in the lot. We came back to the hotel ust in time to see the sun set over the Gulf. I snapped a lot of photos which I still haven't processed yet. I'll hopefully have them ready for today or tomorrow. We ate dinner at a restaurant called Konrad's, which was a block away from the hotel. It was a typical steak/seafood joint but with an entire menu page dedicated to German specialties. Feeling a bit risky, I had the sauerbraten, which turned out to be a good choice. It was a roast marinated in a type of red wine sauce with spaetzel (small, rice-like pasta). It was good and I'm glad my risky departure from the standard steak and potatoes paid off.

On Sunday we spent some more time at the beach before check out. Either the sun was harsher or our skin was already decimated from the day before, but it hurt a lot more to be out there. Slightly crispier than when we left, we headed home in the early afternoon. A nice, relaxing vacation (as opposed to the kind where you come back "needing a vacation from the vacation") was a great way to finish off the summer.

You can see some of the photos from the trip here. Keep checking it over the next couple of days as I add those sunset pictures and the pictures from the other camera.

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Dream Girl Music Video

The video for DMB's new single, Dreamgirl, debuted this past Wednesday on VH1. After some difficulty getting the stream from VH1's site to work on my work PC (and not even trying it on my Mac), I was able to find an MPG version of it.

After the string of terrible videos from Busted Stuff, which were pretty much just live videos of the songs (except for Where Are You Going?, which appeared on the Mr. Deeds soundtrack and had an okay video), and a decent American Baby video, this one is one of the band's best.

The fact that the video stars Dave's long-time friend, Julia Roberts, as the "dream girl" will hopefully bring some much needed mainstream exposure to the band, Stand Up and the song itself.Apparently she did the video for free on the condition that she'd be given time off to take care of her new twins. Dave plays a prominent role in the video (though you don't know it) and the rest of the band have seconds-long cameos.

I'm hosting the video here.

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voo2do

voo2do is a simple web-based to-do app utilizing AJAX. I've tried a couple of online list apps, including 37 Signals' Backpack and Ta-Da Lists and the excellent (and completely self-enclosed) TiddlyWiki. They never really stuck, though, since they weren't very time management-oriented but more organizational-oriented. The deal breaker for me was that I couldn't assign due dates to tasks.

In comparison to the aforementioned alternatives, voo2do is more like the Tasks/To-Do function of a PIM than a simplified Wiki. For example, voo2do lets me assign projects to tasks and add notes to them, as well as letting me add time estimates a la Joel Spolsky's Painless Software Schedules system, none of which any of the alternatives allows me to do.

Here's a quick overview of all of voo2do's features:

  • The Dashboard tab gives a general overview, providing a list of tasks on the left hand side and (the latest?) notes on the right.
  • The Tasks tab is where the action happens. On this tab, you can create new tasks, edit their details, mark them as completed or delete them. This tab is split between Pending Tasks and Recently Completed Tasks.
  • The Projects tab lists your different projects, listing the number of tasks, the number of hours a project will take and the number of hours remaining for each project. In addition, you can create different "views" that will allow you to group any number of projects together. I can see this appealing to Getting Things Done fans who will most likely use voo2do views as GTD projects, voo2do projects as GTD contexts and tasks as next actions.
  • The Notes tab will display the notes attached to all your tasks. It provides a convenient "delete" button to eliminate the hassle of going through and having to click multiple times to get into a task and delete each note the long way. I would like to see a way to free-standing create notes that aren't attached to any task, but I suppose I could just create a task called "Notes" to get around this limitation for now.
  • The Deadlines tab displays tasks by due date. Overdue tasks are listed at the top, followed by tasks due today, then tasks due tomorrow and finally, tasks due this week.

Though I haven't used it much yet, I'm already a big fan of voo2do. It is a simple app which only does one thing, but it does that one thing very well.

The bottom line is, if you need central repository for text that's available online, give Backpack or TiddlyWiki a try. If you're like me and need an online to-do list application, or are looking for the best app to implement GTD with, voo2do is the best I've found so far.

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More Tag-based Organization

I've added a weighted categories plugin that formats the categories in the sidebar a bit better than the simple categories list Wordpress comes with by default.

I was a bit skeptical about using tags on this blog because I didn't like that long list of categories, but I'm satisfied with this implementation of tags. The circle is now complete.

That event taking place in the capital of the UK in 7 years

There is currently a bill out there in the British Parliament that, if passed, "will make it illegal to combine words like 'games', 'medals', 'gold', '2012', 'sponsor' or 'summer' in any form of advertising." Violators can be punished by fines of up to £20,000. So basically, anyone who isn't an official sponsor must completely ignore the Olympics are taking place. Will movie studios be sued because their movies are coming out in "summer 2012"? Will developers come under fire when they issue a press release mentioning that a video game has gone gold?

Sure, the word "Windows" is an every day word and it's trademarked, but you don't see Microsoft going around suing Home Depot for selling window treatments. The difference between "Windows" and the words the IOC is trying to effectively trademark is that the IOC's words include a year and a season. Not only that, since they have sponsors in a vast number of industries (from airliners to restaurants to clothing manufacturers), they can claim that practically anything using "their" words is an infringing use of those trademarks.

How much of our every day language will companies be able to own? Will we have to eventually pay royalties for every word we post in our blog or send over IM? What if we had a word surcharge line on our cell phone bills?

You know, I have to make money to survive. I'm going to get legislation passed that prevents any advertisers from using dollar and cents signs and periods. After all, why should other people cash in at my expense?

(from the BBC via Slashdot)

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