Barack Obama, NOT politics as usual

While many other candidates have began to release ads containing personal attacks, Barak Obama has released an ad of hope and inspiration for a better and UNITED future.

Transcript of ad:
"We are in a defining moment in our history. Our nation is at war, the planet is in peril, the dream that so many generations fought for feels as if it's slowly slipping away. And that is why the same old Washington textbook campaigns just won't do. That's why telling the American people what we think they want to hear, instead of telling the American people what they need to hear, just won't do.

"America our moment is now. I don't want to spend the next year or the next four years refighting the same fights that we had in the 1990s. I don't want to pit "Red" America against "Blue" America. I want to be the President of the UNITED States of America."

-- Barack Obama


Forwarding to external lists with My INDY Lists

Many INDY members have been utilizing the My INDY Lists for some time now, mostly for use as wishlists. However, some members were hesitant to use the Lists as they were already comfortable with an existing list tool such as an Amazon.com wishlist or a Remember the Milk To-Do list.

Well, now those members can have their cake and eat it too! By giving a My INDY List an external URL the list will automatically forward to the external list.

So, for example, I could create a list called "Indy's Amazon Wishlist" and enter the URL of my Amazon wishlist. When another INDY member visits my "Indy's Amazon Wishlist", they will automatically be forwarded to my Amazon wishlist on Amazon.com!

(I know one member in particular who is going to love this feature. In fact, I added this feature with him in mind for this specific use!)

While on the subject of external lists, I wanted to take a moment to recommend Remember The Milk to my readers. RTM is a very robust and well designed web-based list tool. I manage ALL my chores using RTM and LK and I share a list which allows us to conveniently access our shopping list anywhere and anytime.


Google Maps with terrain

The Google Maps Team have out done themselves yet again. This time adding Terrain maps ("Explore new terrain" from Google LatLong Blog) to their already robust web service. You remember a few months back when they added customizable routes, not so long after adding StreetView, which came not to long after Traffic. The active imaginations fueling the internet giant seem to have no end to their outstanding ideas!

The new terrain view is beautiful! What was called "Hybrid" is now a labels feature of the Satellite view. Terrain is a graphical view of elevation. I can't wait to program it into the INDY Gallery, it will make the perfect backdrop for the photo mapping.


NY Times misses the point of the Grinch

For over a year now, I've found myself becoming increasingly environmentally concerned and conservative. It began last year with my interest in saving fuel which was spurred by the article I posted about here: OmniNerd - Articles: Fueling a Lifestyle. Things really picked up last month after I took that entertaining ecological footprint quiz I talked about in my post titled "Your impact on the planet". That quiz switched on my "green light" and since then I've continued to do what I can to lighten my load on both the planet and the family finances.

In part, those benefits are what I wanted to talk about today. Not only does green-thinking better our planet, but it has also been improving my family's finances (e.g. saving $50+/month on electricity and natural gas, saving money on fuel due to hypermiling, saving money bringing our own bags to the grocery store, etc.). So why then do I find a post at a blog I frequent which points out an article in the NY Times on How the Green Grinch is Stealing Christmas (TreeHugger)?

As you will find, if you read the TreeHugger blog entry, the NY Times essentially trashes environmentalism because of its avoidance of thoughtless consumption. It's infuriating!

However, there may be a way to turn the NY Times article on its ear. Let's take a look at the original Grinch of Dr. Seuss. In the story of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", a shady green creature steals the Christmas gifts from Whoville to prevent Christmas from coming. In the end, though, Christmas still comes because it is about more than just the decorations and presents. In 2000, Ron Howard's live-action remake of the story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (IMDB) even has the Grinch as the catalyst that actually awakens Whoville to the fact that Christmas is about community NOT materialism.

So, I ask this: Is it really bad to be a "Green Grinch"? After all, in the words of Lou Lou Who: "You can't hurt Christmas, Mr. Mayor, because it isn't about the... the gifts or the contest or the fancy lights. That's what Cindy's been trying to tell everyone... and me. I don't need anything more for Christmas than this right here: my family."

And that's right where I'll be spending my holidays this year, in a house full of the Love and thoughtful generosity of my family too! Happy holidays, everyone!


"Please Don't Print this E-mail" Revolution

The Daily Green has a small story today about The "Please Don't Print this E-mail" Revolution.

The "Please Don't Print this E-mail" Revolution can be summed up as the efforts of individuals across the nation adding a simple message to their automatic signatures spurring environmental awareness by asking email recipients not to waste paper by printing emails.

Who knows if this will catch on, but I'll be jumping in on this one by adding the following message to the signatures of my emails: "REDUCE - Print only when necessary. REUSE - Turn unneeded print-outs into scrap paper. RECYCLE - Recycle when you're through."


More new features for the INDY Gallery

In addition to the video capability and the subfolder listings already in place, I have now added to more features to the INDY Gallery: invited-public albums and Google Maps.

Invited-public albums, as I am calling them, refer to any album of the INDY Gallery in which the security level for it has been designated as "public". However, the only way to access said album is through a direct link. Meaning that an individual would have to be given the URL in order to go directly to the specific album. Any attempt to navigate outside that album would result in a authentication prompt (if the destination is secured). The feature exists at least, now it's just a matter of whether or not LK and I feel comfortable making any of the albums with the INDY Gallery public.

This next feature is one of my favorites.... I sometimes use my GPS receiver to sync Latitude and Longitude into photos. In the old gallery, I used a plugin to access that data and display the photos on a Google Map. Well, that plugin stopped working in the old system quite a while back and I've been anxious to regain the ability to view GPS tagged photos on a Google Map.

Yesterday, I tried using a Perl script called Tim's GMapper. Well, it was a great idea, but it was too limited in scope and didn't play well with the SPGM gallery I'm using. So, I decided to expand on his work and design a system myself which could be ported to pretty much any website configuration, but also worked very well with SPGM.

The end results were a reprogrammed Perl script and a set of modifications I'm calling SPGM-Map for use with Simple Picture Gallery Manager. (I'll eventually release the mods for SPGM-Map into the INDY DevDom along with the SPGM-Vid mods.)

If you're surfing around the INDY Gallery and see a link within an album to view a Google Map, click on it and you'll be shown a Google Map of the photos within that album containing GPS tags.

I'm going to take a few days off of programming while I formulate some more ideas and spend time with LK. To those of you who are able, I hope you enjoy the new features and that you are finding the new INDY Gallery setup to your liking!


Internet People! Flash Video

A friend of mine just sent me a link to this entertaining flash video: Internet People! -The Meth Minute 39 | Channel Frederator. It's a humorous run through of many of the more well-known internet fads. If you've ever witnessed or participated in any of these, you should find this video quite fun.

INDY Gallery now with video

I've completed one of the planned improvements to the INDY Gallery: adding audio and video support! I tweaked some code in the SPGM-Vid plugin to get things just the way I wanted. And the best thing is, I've been hiding videos within the albums of the gallery for quite some time. Go back through the years and you might find some hidden treasures. (For those of you interested in my SPGM-Vid tweaks, I'll be releasing them to the public in the INDY DevDom.)

Enjoy! More will be coming soon! Next I'll be working with LK on opening certain albums to the invited public. More on this when the idea is further developed.


Deploying new INDY Gallery today

I mentioned in my previous post, New INDY Gallery on the way, that I would deliver the new INDY Gallery within this next week. Well, that timeline has been moved up. Apparently, the most recent upgrade to the current system did not go so well; and I'd rather not go through the headache of making repairs to a soon-to-be-replaced system. So, I'll be deploying the new INDY Gallery today! Be aware, I'll be making the improvements promised over the next week, so things may "shift" slightly during and after the initial deployment.


New INDY Gallery on the way

I'd like to announce the fact that I'm in the process of developing a "new" INDY Gallery. I place new in quotes because, technically, this is actually a refacing of the old gallery which was called the INDY Albums.

I've decided to re-implement the old system (built on the Simple Picture Gallery Manager)in a new way, by integrating it more cleanly into the INDY interface. As of this posting, the current system used is built on the Gallery2 project. While Gallery2 is an amazing system and very easy to maintain, it is also so feature rich that it agitates my sweet tooth. So, I'm heeding the words of my old Star Trek PBeM RPG buddy and "Keep[ing] It Simple". What's more simple for gallery management than Simple Picture Gallery Manager?

For those of you who are worried about the possible feature loss or concerned that you might have to reset all your bookmarks.... Have no fear! I'll be keeping the same url for the new system, designing it to function much the same way as the old system, and plan on hand-coding any features that are sorely missed by key users. As for a timeline of delivery, you should expect the switch over to occur within the next week.


Senator Chris Dodd gives us hope

Daily Kos: State of the Nation blog brings us news that a Senator from Connecticut has put a hold on the bill that would have given TeleComs legal immunity for helping the Bush administration spy on US citizens.

Kargo X has a more in-depth description in the blog entry: So FISA's on hold. What does that mean?

Let's hope that this allows the door to be reopened in Congress' investigation into the administration.

The tail wags the dog again


- First, TeleComs agree to help the government in spying on citizens.
- Then, TeleComs "declined to answer lawmakers' questions about Bush administration efforts to spy on Americans' phone calls and e- mails, saying the government forbade them from doing so." [bloomberg.com]
- Now, the Senate has granted "legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program". [washingtonpost.com]

*sigh* Does anyone care?! Wake up, people! The tail has been wagging the dog long enough, don't you think?!


PartiallyClips Comic "Indians Marching"

I enjoy reading many Webcomics, one of which is PartiallyClips. I particularly enjoyed this specific strip from that comic and thought that others might as well: PartiallyClips - "Indians Marching"

PartiallyClips Comic - 'Indian's Marching'. Transcript of text included below.
One Bull: "Why are the whites so intent on conquest? Why can't they settle in one place?"
Friend: "They always were an agressive people, One Bull. But now they cannot help it. Colonialism has made them frantic.
One Bull: Mad for wealth and power, you mean?
Friend: No. Think about it.... Tea. Tobacco. Chocolate. Coffee. Cocaine. Every land they conquer brings them a new stimulant.
One Bull: So they've become--
Friend: The most violent and jittery people on Earth.

This explains a lot about our "civilization" in general, doesn't it? (NOTE: It is ironic that such a word should be used to describe many current human societies, when many seem to lack the very core of that word: civility.)


Your impact on the planet

Consumer Consequences | Sustainability Coverage From American Public Media is a "game" of sorts I recently found that calculates your ecological footprint [wikipedia].

It's a fun resource and a real eye-opener. Even though both LK and I are pretty environmentally conscientious, we each still scored 1.9 Earths before "changing policies" (you'll learn what that means after playing the game) and 1.7 Earths after changing policies!

The real advantage to trying this out is that you will see what areas of your life have the most impact (e.g. the amount of meat and dairy I eat). So give it a try and see how many Earths it would take if everyone lived like you.

Here's an excerpt from the Consumer Consequences main page:
Consumer Consequences will ask you a series of questions about your lifestyle, and as you play, it will show you how many "Earths" of natural resources it would take to sustain all 6.6 billion humans… if everyone lived like you.

Keep an eye on the background graphics of your in-game world as you play. They'll slide across the screen like theater scrims as you answer questions to illustrate what your "world" of consumption would look like. They'll reflect the waste you produce… the infrastructure (commercial, residential, industrial and transportation) you require… the energy (fossil, nuclear, and renewable) you consume… and how your lifestyle impinges on forests and other undeveloped land.

The impact of your lifestyle is calculated based on the "ecological footprint" model created by our research partner, Redefining Progress. Learn more about ecological footprinting or about the calculations that underlie Consumer Consequences.


INDY Outages Update

Well, there shouldn't be a need to take down the server anymore. However, I am having to rebuild the Gallery from scratch. Don't worry. I make really REALLY good backups, so NONE of the media has been lost. I just have to build the Gallery shell again. Not such a big deal, just a pain. Especially since I have to recreate all user accounts. I think I'm going to try and make some improvements to the user aspects of the Gallery while I'm in there. So, be watching for more updates! Especially since this is where I'll tell you when you can log back into the Gallery!

INDY Outages

I am in the midst of doing a pretty significant upgrade to the INDY server. It's likely that the website will be down frequently over the next couple days.


Google Presentations has arrived!

Time to start converting any worthy PPT files over! A new child has been born to the Google Docs family: Presentations! The presentation docs are pretty exciting: great interface and great slide show viewing. I'm going to spread the word as quickly as possible. No more "it worked this morning" or "sorry team, I thought I emailed it to myself". Just load up your browser and you're ready to go!


INDY Blog feed now on the INDY Homepage

A fellow webmaster recommended to me that I provide users with more content on my website's homepage. I thought it was an excellent recommendation, so now you will find a feed of the INDY Blog on the homepage. Thanks for the advice, Sean!


Wizards and Wii Remotes

As of late, I've been taking a lot of flak from family, friends, and colleagues regarding my Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix gaming habit. I have a kindred spirit over at Penny Arcade who has also fielded some ridicule for waving around a Wii remote while casting arcane spells. So, as was done by Tycho over at Penny Arcade, let me fess up to my habit and just lay it all out there for the world to know:

Do I really cast my spells in the Gryffindor spell-casting pose?
Yes. And to clarify for the muggles... the Gryffindor pose is wand hand forward, empty hand arched above head. (Watch Harry Potter vs. Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for more details.)

Do I say the spells aloud?
Sometimes. When I'm trying to joke with another human being in the same room. Otherwise, no.

Do I wear Hogwarts type clothing when I play?
No. I wear what I usually wear when lounging around the house. Which is nothing I'm embarrassed by when company is over, though some company does merit me putting my INDY sleeveless T-shirt on rather than going shirtless as is the norm. (Shameless plug: INDY Store - sleeveless INDY T-shirt currently only available to me.)

Do I know all the spells from all the books and games?
Yes. And if you laugh at that, I'll give you a real reason to laugh: RICTUSEMPRA!!!

Have I cast spells when not playing the game?
Yes, but only in my head.... I think.

So there you have it. The truth will set me free. Yes, I am a Harry Potter nerd. Deal with it. At least I'm not spouting off Dungeons and Dragons stuff all day. Oh wait....... OK. Maybe that should wait for another post though.



Well, there goes the Fifth Amendment...

The Bush Administration has unveiled an Executive Order Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq. The Guardian has a summary of sorts.

Basically, the Executive Order gives the Secretary of Treasury the authority to block the assets of people determined to "seriously impair my [President George W. Bush] ability to deal with the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315".

The Fifth Amendment, among other things, protects individuals from being "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation".

If it is determined that an individual has come in the way of George W. Bush's ability to deal with the national emergency which we are apparently in, that individual would be blocked from his/her assets. In effect, they are deprived of their property WITHOUT due process. A direct violation of the Fifth Amendment.)

Now, I am in no way wanting truly dangerous individuals to have access to those things which allow them to continue their activity, however I feel very strongly that due process of law should prove their endangerment of society.

I'm not normally a publicly political individual (people are just too zealous about many things these days), but I hope that many of my readers will realize the seriousness of what has come into effect with this Executive Order and spread the awareness to others.


Mark Wagner on What Evolution Left Behind On Humans

I was given a link to this article by a friend. It's about some theories on "What Evolution Left Behind On Humans". Pretty intriguing stuff. Especially since, if some are true, it would explain a lot about some of my stranger traits.


Psychology Today: Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature

Thanks to Slashdot, I came across a very interesting article in Psychology Today. It's titled Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature and presents a collection of widely observed - but not so widely understood - studies of human behaviors. It's definitely a fun read and may even help you to explain the crazy behaviors you see around you everyday. Enjoy!


INDY Media - A place for all things media

Well, here it is... INDY Media. Due to popular demand, I have thrown together a location for game and media related activities, content, and news. This began as an idea from a friend for a easily accessible location for narratives of our Dungeons and Dragons RPG sessions, but quickly expanded into a full fledged stand-alone blog for all things media related from INDY. (Thanks to Google's Blogger, this was not a difficult process.)

I will be populating the blog portion of this new location as quickly as possible, beginning with the narrative for last Sunday's Dungeons and Dragons session. Eventually, you will also find reviews of games and movies, and updates of my progress with the other Indiana Jones games' walkthroughs here as well.

Keep an eye on the labels area! As things build in here it may quickly become the easy way to find the content you are looking for. Good luck to you and hopefully some for me too as I attempt to keep yet another thing updated.


INDY.CC Updates: Weather and more preferences

I really need to get back on track with updated blog entries on a regular basis. I apologize for how useless my blog has become for what it is supposed to be: a place for updates about the INDY.CC websites. I will attempt to restart after my blogging stall today....

I recently made some updates to some of the INDY.CC member's areas. First, I added a few new preferences to your profile (e.g. pressure, volume, and more date selections). I also added a "Favorite Weather Underground Station ID", allowing members to set a favored station to receive weather information from.

I then used those new features to update both the My INDY page with a Weather graph display and the Trip Tracker with automatic lookup of same day ambient temperature. This means that you can now use a specified Weather Underground Station ID and the Time of Day of your trip to automatically enter the ambient temperature during that trip. If I find that these features are a bit confusing to use or understand, I'll post more information on them here in the future.

Now for a bit of a help request.... I'd very much like to add more non-member features to INDY and other associated sites. If you have any ideas or suggestions about what you would like to see, please let me know.


Google Presentations - COMING SOON

Google has a new baby on the way: Google Presentations. They've made my documentation needs simple and fun with Docs and Spreadsheets, now they are preparing to launch a Presentation module.

I am hoping this will hit big for college students and spread quickly. I, personally, no longer use presentations much, but I know I will convert over all my old (and useful) PPTs as soon as I can!



"Bye, Dad!"

Today has a fun occasion to remember. As I was leaving my daughter's day care today, I turned a said, "Bye, Evie". I was surprised to hear a clear, adorable, and understandable "Bye, Dad!" in response. First of all, it's great that she was not upset as LK and I were leaving, but to have her verbally acknowledge that fact was amazing.

A month or so ago, I got a "Hi, Dada" during bath time and have had that phrase repeated since then, but this was the first time she formulated a goodbye without encouragement. I hope that she will say "Bye, Mom" to Laura soon as well, as "Hi, Mama" followed not long after "Hi, Dada", but I think there's a bit more anxiety associated with saying bye to Mom than to Dad.



Groundhog Day 2007

Good morning and happy Groundhog Day!

Believe it or not, Groundhog Day is actually my favorite holiday. Groundhog Day to me is my New Year celebration. No, I don't mean that my calendar begins on February 2nd, I mean that this is the day that I set new goals and aspirations for myself in the coming year. This is a practice very similar to making resolutions on January 1st of each year, but also a rebellion against that as -- stereotypically -- people tend to lose interest or faith in their New Year's resolutions.

My Groundhog Day is a day to catch yourself in your faultering and reset. Get back on track and hit this year running! And this year you might even get an extra bonus as Punxsutawney Phil (the most famous prognosticating groundhog) has predicted an early spring for 2007.

Happy Groundhog Day!