Wednesday, November 30, 2005

InBubbleWrap - Free Stuff?

InBubbleWrap

I don't claim to understand it -- but it sure is hard to argue with free. InBubbleWrap is a site that has contests you can enter on a very regular basis to win business related books and related materials.

As I said, I don't quite understand what the goal of the site is. But the tone is more of one where business ideas are informally exchanged, rather than a FREE FREE FREE contest site.

You may want to give the site a try and see how you fare.

textually.org: Mobile phone firm launches handset for four-year-olds

textually.org: Mobile phone firm launches handset for four-year-olds

As long as I'm on the theme today of how good kids have it...check out this item. A cellphone for kids. And by kids I mean 4 year olds.

I'm telling you, kids today - they have it so good.

Buy.com - FLY Pentop Computer

Buy.com - FLY Pentop Computer

Here's a chance to get (what seems to me) to be a pretty good deal on the new FLY Pentop Computer.There are reviews around and a good article in the latest issue of wired that talked about the device.I think it's a risky, but neat idea. Essentially, the toy is a computer that uses the pen as the input device and voice/the paper-you-draw-on as the output device. This makes the device portable, and gives you some interesting abilities to mix a computer with old-fashion media. In fact, the pen supports the ability to "scan" over a piece of paper and interpret the results as code to be run. In other words, LeapFrog could trivially publish a magazine that could contain "paper programs." It should also be nice and portable, which is something I assume parents will like. No clunky devices, just the pen and whatever sheets of paper they would like.

I'll guess I'll see what the hackers out there do to this device before I start drooling over one and consider buying it. Perhaps this is another good reason to consider having kids, so that I can buy them the gadgets I'd like to play with?Between this, and the $100 laptop, kids have it so good these days. Back in my day, after my 10 mile hike uphill to and from school, all I had to play with was a stick and some rocks.

TECTONIC: MIT's $100 laptop to run Redhat

TECTONIC: MIT's $100 laptop to run Redhat

More on the famous $100 laptop. They even included some pictures which I hadn't seen before. I think it's fairly clever that the form factor allows for the device to be used in the typical laptop fashion, as well as being held like an oversized novel.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Duct Tape Workshop

3M Canada | 3M Scotch� Duct Tape | Duct Tape Workshop

Step by step instructions for making something out of duct tape -- need anymore be said??

Thanks to my Dad, who knows my fondness for this all purpose utility device.

The "long hours at the new job" solution

So, I've been working and talking about my new job to Shira pretty much non-stop lately.

To thank her for putting up with me and for being so very supportive, I made a stop at my favorite jewelry store: Jared.

The result was an amethyst bracelet - and a happy wife.

The bear in the photos is also something Jared's is doing - you donate to St. Jude's Children Center and they give you another thing to give your wife to make her smile.

--Ben

Monday, November 28, 2005

Good Programming Style

Tutorial on Good Lisp Programming Style | Lambda the Ultimate

At work, the team I'm on is considering coming up with some more defined coding standards. The discussion above points to a well known tutorial on the topic. Yes, I know the title of the article contains the word "Lisp" -- but that's not why the article is interesting. It's interesting because the topic of standards is looked into with so much depth.

You can check out a PDF version of the tutorial here.

And when you are ready for a little laugh, you should also read the the guide to writing unmaintainable code.

MAKE: Blog: HOW TO - Make Flipbooks

MAKE: Blog: HOW TO - Make Flipbooks

An interesting project -- deliver a .avi movie on paper, how cool is that?

I agree with their suggestion: this could be a neat gift for that special someone.

Ben's law of printer behavior

Today I printed a short 1 page document (if you can call it that) from notepad. I walked over to the printer after a minute or two and found it saying: "Calibrating..." It then did so for approximately 5 minutes (which felt like 2 hours).

Excuse me? Do you really need to spend 5 minutes calibrating yourself to print a 1 page black and white document? That's a a rate of .2 pages per minutes.

Which brings us to Ben's law: the faster you need a document the longer the printer will "calibrate."

What laws have you discovered?

--Ben

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Cool Tool: The Curtis Creek Manifesto

http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/001044.php

Seems like more and more I can depend on Kevin Kelly and his Cool Tools blog to provide some thought provoking insight. Tonight's cool tool - a fly fishing manual.

Yep, you read that right. What makes this manual interesting is that it is written as a cartoon. As Kevin points out, cartoons are one of the most dense ways to pack information into a book.

I find this interesting, because as a programmer, I'm always curious how others solve the problem of packaging information. I do it with programming languages - where the goal is to have a concise program that is easy to read and understand.

Hmmm, I wonder if I could invent a cartoon based programming language? Or maybe we should use cartoons for the documentation? I guess the more serious question is to contemplate why cartoons are so dang effective.

Like I said, stuff to think about.

--Ben

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lucky via a Stranger

Tonight's entertainment was provided by a perfect stranger. Somebody let $10.00 in a lotto-card machine. We figured that someone else was going to take the cards, so why not us? We got 5 $2.00 cards.

In the end, we won $55.00. I'd love to know the story behind whoever invented the scratch-off game piece. What a novel concept - simple, yet apparently very hard to "beat."

Thanks to this anonymous stranger, we got to have that unique thrill of scraping off a paper card and hoping you would make $25,000 in the process.

And don't worry, the money is going to charity. So if it was your $10.00 you left in the machine, you can be happy you did something good for the world.

--Ben

Friday, November 25, 2005

Reuters: Cranberries may help prevent cavities: study

Reuters: Cranberries may help prevent cavities: study

Cool, I can stop brushing my teeth and just drink cranberry juice. That's ok, right Jeff?

(Jeff's my dentist friend, who I turn to whenever I make big dental decisions. My recommendation is, if you don't have a dental friend, get one today. I can't tell you how handy they are to have around.)

Tricycle of the Future


While following Cool Tools, I came across this article for the Sun USX Recumbent Tricycle (not exactly the model shown in the picture above, but I just couldn't resist). I particularly liked the comment:

What's significant about the USX? It's the most comfortable human powered vehicle ever, more comfortable than many cars. It's safe, practical, and affordable.

In other words, this $800 bike isn't being reviewed because it's an extreme machine, a custom made bike for Bike Geeks (there are Bike Geeks, aren't there?). It's because this is an alternative to buying a $15,000 car. I find that just remarkable.

How cool would it be if vehicles like this could become more mainstream? Perhaps you could even mix this concept with a the Zip Car concept. For your daily activities you could use a bike like this, and for longer trips, you could get access to a car.

This does remind me of a comment (joke?) my dad made about the current oil crisis. He explained to me that the US and China are changing places. Today, parking lots of American companies are jammed with cars, while the same parking lots in China are crammed with Bicycles. In the not-too-distant future, the roles will be reversed, we'll all be riding bicylces, while China will have the cars.

If the bikes are as cool and as comfortable as the one described in the review, I'm not sure I'm as bothered by that vision.

Software Teams

Glenn Vanderburg: The Right Team for Rails

Glenn Vanderburg had some interesting thoughts about what would make an ideal time for a Ruby on Rails project. Now, I know basically nothing about Ruby On Rails (my preferred framework is SISCweb of course), but I was still struck by his comments. He summarizes a quality team as:

  • Writing clean, expressive code
  • Avoiding duplication
  • Keeping responsibility well defined (in layers, components, classes, and methods)
  • Testing thoroughly
  • Aggressively employing automation for repetitive tasks

All I would add to his comments are this: I don't care if you are writing COBOL, Ruby, or Scheme, the above set of goals are still what you should be shooting for.

A Minor Redesign

A Minor Redesign

Joel Spolsky did a minor redesign of the look of his blog. What I found impressive was that he did it not to add more fluff, but with a very specific goal. I guess that's what a redesign should be about: recognizing what is broken, making sure you can test it to see if it's fixed, and then actually fixing it.

Check out his comments, and get inspired to do your own redesign.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

AIM bots...again...

I mentioned earlier that I'm a big fan of the AOLYellowPages bot, as I find it much easier to get address data over I'M than by using a browser.

My new favorite bot is SmarterChild - it's a kind of general purpose bot. One feature I really like is the spell checking. Just type:

Spell <yourword>

And the bot will give you suggested spellings. Spell the word right and you can get a definition.

Again, a useful UI that seems much more efficient than a browser.

Remember, to use these bots just add them as buddies to your AIM list and send them a message saying hello.

--Ben

Things to be thankful for

I'm about 99% sure that if the pilgrims had access to Philadelphia cream cheese and a mixer, then we would all be eating cheesecake today. Well, that's what Shira and I assume. So in that honor, Shira made home made cheesecake, and I ate it. Boy was it tasty!

Also, on the list of things to be thankful are our friends. Tonight, Perry and Irene had us over for dessert at their family meal. We had a great time and they couldn't have made us feel more welcome if they tried. We are so thankful to have friends like them.

Oh, and I'm thankful that I have blogger, so I can even publish this message.

And I'm most thankful I have my beautiful wife, who pays the cell phone bill, so I can use mobile blogging.

--Ben

Review: The Longest Yard

Last night I got to watch the Longest Yard, with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. The movie was effectivly a compromise: no long action scenes for the girls, and no chick-flick plot for the boys. So, we didn't have high hopes for the movie - it was just something we could kinda agree on.

With that said, I must say that I did enjoy the movie. It was nothing deep and provocitave, but I did get a surprising number of laughs out of the movie. And one usually doesn't get a lot of laughs from a prison related movie.

My suggestion - rent the movie for a buck and get some laughs. And remember, "prison inmates are people too."

--Ben

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

White Thanksgiving?

Looks like it is finally winter in DC.

Too bad kids have off of school tomorrow, with all the snow we got tonight they no doubt would have closed for weather.

--Ben

Unexpected Addition

The plan was simple. Hit Petco, buy some kitty food for friends. Go home. Ahhh, but it just wasn't that easy.

Instead, we are now the proud owners of a pretty blue Betta fish. This was something I didn't know that I even wanted. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was 100% against pet ownership. But that's all in the past. We are officially a pet owning family.

Now we have the tough part - choosing a name. We are currently thinking "Ali". He got this name because we accidentally dropped him on the ground, breaking his container and nearly suffocating him. So, we figure he's a fighter.

What's this I hear about having to clean the tank? That's optional, right?

--Ben

Making Windows Usable for Old Linux Farts

Making Windows Usable for Old Linux Farts

At my new job, this article turned out to be a huge help. Everyone around here runs windows on their machines, and right now all I have is a laptop. I was a little hesitent about putting Linux on my laptop -- afterall, I'd be getting things like Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint documents sent to me. But, after playing with Windows I quickly learned how much I miss emacs and gnus.

This article points out how you can set things up so that you pretty much feel like your on a unix box. I'm reading my mail in gnus, and typing away at the command line like the good 'ol days.

While most of the tips in this article are pretty intuitive - there was one that I really thought was useful. The bash cygwin terminal is nice -- but when it comes down to it, it still feels like an old, crummy dos box. For example, the cut and past handling is this rectangle business. And don't even get me started on this in-ability to resize the windows. Anyway, the article suggested something brilliant: run sshd on your laptop, and then use putty to connect to. Putty's screen handling is wonderful. You really do get the feeling that you are using a unix box.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A case of the Mondays

So, I've got a case of the Mondays, and it's Tuesday no less!

I got a shiny new laptop. That's good. However, it gets into this state where it thinks that the control key is always pressed. That's bad.

Try opening a browser and type www...what happen? The same as if you typed Control-w, close window.

Could it get worse? Of course. This morning it wouldn't recognize Control-Alt-Delete. Try logging on when you can't do that.

Ahh, what fun.

--Ben

Monday, November 21, 2005

AIM Bots: Useful or Spam?

Slashdot | AIM Bots: Useful or Spam?

Check out this article to watch people complain about AOL and AIM bots.

Me, I probably take a different position than most on this topic. I use the AOLYellowPages bot on my sidekick pretty frequently - and love it. In fact, I think the bot interface for some things can be much better than the web or e-mail. Consider what I need to do to find the number for my local theatre:

  • Switch to the IM app
  • Send the IM: cl 22204
  • Send the IM: Draft House

Keep in mind the cl ... step is only needed when I change locations.

So, I say to AOL: keep the bots coming. Though maybe instead of adding them to my buddy list automagically, you can publish a page on the web that lists well known bots.

If you want to try out some more bots yourself, check out the AIM section on this page.

My Subscription Numbers

Thanks to Dilbert for showing me how I can gently explain that 3 people read my blog.

Hacking an LCD

Hacking an LCD - hack a day - www.hackaday.com _

A fun when I have time hardware hacking project.

Though, as a first project, I probably should try this project instead.

Warning Label


Warning Label
Originally uploaded by benjisimon.
A warning label generated from http://www.warninglabelgenerator.com/.

Create yours today!

First day of work

Here's a snapshot of Me as I head out for my first day of work at Innovectra.

--Ben

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Goodwill Trip

I got to visit one of my favorite places in Arlington. As I've written on this blog before, I'm really impressed with Goodwill as an organization.

Lets see: first, they will take my junk - no questions asked. Second, I get some sort of tax deduction thing. Finally, I get to walk away knowing that I'm helping make this world a better place.

I can't think of many locations in town that can be a one stop shop for all of that.

I recommend you try it for yourself - checkout http://www.goodwill.org.

--Ben

Life Lesson

Lesson learned: always look before you leap.

Photo taken in the Mens room at Potomac Mills Outlet Mall.

--Ben

Bumper Sticker of the Day

As seen on the car in the included photo:

Bush Orwell '04 - Ignorance Is Strength

As a bonus, the car also had a: "Warner President 2008" sticker.

--Ben

Introduction to Mobloggling

Guardian Unlimited | Weekend | I am a camera

The above article is a terrific introduction to moblogging. It captures two important points well. First, moblogging is fun. As they say:

With the possible exception of exhibitionists, what's the point of posting photographs from your mobile phone on a website where strangers can gawp at them? And yet, as anyone who's ever tried moblogging will tell you, there's something addictive about documenting your days for the amusement of others.

Second, moblogging is different from maintaining a weblog. The moblog, because of the photos, is often easier to write. As I just pointed out here, the photo can provide the setup for your blog entry, and all you need to add are your witty comments.

The article talks about setting up your own moblog. I really enjoy using blogger, as it was quick to setup, works well with my phone, and allows me to maintain the posts after the fact like a regular blog.

So try moblogging today!

Warning Label?!

WARNING: this blog message has not been approved by Ben's wife. Read at your own risk.

I noticed something a bit strange on the bottom of this new mug - a warning label.

The label says soemething to the effect of: California Propsition 65 requires that you be warned that "materials used in color decorations" contain lead. It goes on to explain that consuming lead is a *bad* thing.

I guess this is supposed to discourage me from: (a) licking the outside of this mug, (b) using the outside of this mug as a cooking device and (c) from chipping off and eating those tasty looking gold letters.

My guess is that warning labels are an American obsession. No? What other country would be so concerned that people will sue them, that they label everthing. True, some labels are quite useful (I should know how many grams of fat are in a Krispy Kreme doughnut) - but do people stop drinking wine because of the warning label?

Maybe we should be focusing on really educating our citizens, rather than just protecting ourselves.

--Ben

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Alan Cooper's All About Homonyms

Alan Cooper's All About Homonyms

A gigantic list of homonyms. Why do we need such a list? Apparently, this list is useful for punning.

I list it here only to show one thing: you just never know what you are going to stumble across on the internet.

Update: Little known fact: My wife once won a homonym contest in school. Married for 7 years, and I've known her for 21 years, and yet she still never ceases to surprise me.

Friday, November 18, 2005

In Memory of Daniel J. Blumenthal

From the 11/12/2005 issue of the Democrat and Chronicle:
Daniel J. Blumenthal passed away Thursday, November 10, 2005. Predeceased by his parents, Sadie and Raphael J. Blumenthal and his father-in-law, William "Bill" Raskind. Survived by his wife of 31 years, Peggy (Raskind); daughters and son-in-law, Shira and Benjamin Simon, and Elana Blumenthal; mother-in-law, Bess Raskind; aunt, Ida Wattenberg; uncle, Benjamin Raskind and several cousins. Dan taught Chemistry and Physics in the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District for 25 years and did substitute teaching in several Rochester area school districts. He also practiced Pharmacy in Poughkeepsie and Rochester. Dan was a member of Fairport-Flower City Lodge 476 F&AM and was a past Master of Orawaupum-Siwanoy Lodge 1003 F&AM. He was Grand Steward from the second Westchester-Putnam District in 1984-1985. Masonic Services will be held in the Rabbi Abraham Solomon Chapel of Temple Beth El (139 Winton Rd., S.) on Sunday, November 13th, at 1:45 PM followed by Dan's funeral service at 2 PM. Interment, Mt. Hope Cemetery. Following the funeral the family will sit Shiva, Sunday 7-9 PM, Monday-Thursday 1-5 and 7-9 PM and Friday, 1-3 PM at 320 Council Rock Ave. Contributions in Dan's memory may be made to Benincasa Hospice Home for the Terminally Ill, 3880 Rush-Mendon Rd., Mendon, NY 14506, William Raskind Defibrillator Fund of Temple Beth El, 139 Winton Rd. S., Rochester, NY 14610 or Masonic Medical Research Laboratory, 2150 Bleecker St., Utica, NY 13501. Brighton Memorial Chapel, Inc. 427-8520

collision detection: Does Africa really need the $100 laptop?

collision detection: Does Africa really need the $100 laptop?

Apparently the $100 laptop is still alive, and I'm still interested in it.

This article is nice because it tries to answer the question -- does Africa need this $100 gadget?

And, as usual, I agree with Clive. The laptop as a consumer item Africa could live without. The laptop as a tool, a tool for thinking no less, is something that every child could use.

As I've said before -- the $100 laptop is an interesting problem to solve. The lesson plans, and uses for this laptop are what should be on everyone's mind next. Until I see those, the project won't be even close to successful.

The Thinker

This is my own portrait of The Thinker. Good O'l Grandpa Irv.

I can only imagine the complex thoughts passing through his brain. Witness the world's problems being solved.

Or maybe he's napping.

--Ben

First Impressions

I haven't even had my first day of work and Innovectra, the company I'm starting with on Monday, has already impressed me.

As if giving me huge flexibility in picking my start date - so I could have time with Shira's family during her Dad's illness - wasn't enough. They just sent us flowers to console us on his passing.

What a thoughtful thing to do.

Now, how am I going to make such a good impression to them?

--Ben

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Duct Tape Marketing: voice mail marketing

http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/weblog.php?id=P381

I start a new job on Monday. Maybe I'll take this article's advice and try to make my voice mail just a bit more interesting. The article suggests some ways in which your voice mail could help reinforce a subtle marketing message.

Any suggestions for what my message should say?

--Ben

Dinner from the Fam

Thanks to my family for providing chow tonight.

Through the magic of credit cards and local delivery, my family from around the country could provide us with a nice Thai meal.

Mmmmm.....

--Ben

Good to be back

Attached is a shot of another laoner phone I got from T-mobile. This one made the Nokia 6010 look like a top of the line model.

The phone in the photo was a tiny Motorola thing with - get this - 3 lines of screen real estate. It even had 'moto mixer' some kind of sound program, I guess useful for authoring ring tones on the phone. I guess that seemed useful to someone, though I'm not sure why.

Anyway, it sure is nice to have my Sidekick back. Should make my blog a lot more interesting. The photos add so much, because they put in a position to add extra commentary to a defined scene, versus describing the whole package.

I must say I'm pretty impressed with T-mobile through this process. True, their update is what killed their phone...but...

Tech support never blamed me. They offered to express ship me a phone for free. They provided a loaner phone very easily, for free. The sidekick server software meant that my phone's data was always available to me. And finally, because the state of sidekick is maintained on the sever, all I did was drop my SIM card in the new unit and all my settings and data showed up on my new sidekick.

Now if only they could partner with Verizon to provide a huge network, I'd be all set.

--Ben

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Killer App

What's the killer app of the nokia 6010?

Besides the phone and sms: wap + cnn mobile.

It's useful content in nibble size bites.

What's New?

Netscape.com's top level page

So I started up a version of Netscape and was greeted by their home page. According to this, here's what news is most important:

- One Way to Keep Teens From Having Sex
- Oops! Keira's Top Slips Off on Red Carpet
- 66% of Men on First Dates Say No to THIS
- 7 Feet Under: Astounding Find in Kansas
- Do This One Thing. Live 4 Years Longer?
- Did the Naked Chef Go Too Far This Time?
- Scary Side Effect of a Popular Birth Contro

C'mon -- Keria's Top Slips Off? That's important news? Oh, and from this page you can also learn about: "The Sexist Star Body Parts" and "Hollywood's sexiest redheads."

What makes a company like Netscape decide that their top level page needs to be nothing but sex and junk (Story: "Could the bird flu ruin thanksgiving?" -- ooh, what a hard hitting story)?

I guess sex sells and all...but you would think that with access to global sources of information they could do a bit better.


Update: OK, so the front is trashy. Here are a couple of things you could do about it, and how I feel about those actions:

ActionBen Agrees With?
Parents change the startup page avoiding this trashy pageYes
Church groups write letters to netscape telling them to change their page, or they'll recommend a boycottYes
Congress passes a law saying trashy web pages are not allowedNo
Bloggers complain about how trashy the front page of netscape is, recommeding they change itYes

Rental

Ben's rental phone. Slick, eh?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Deep Thought

Time for a deep thought in 160 characters.

Read not to believe, but to weigh and consider. - DJB

This rental phone is a nokia 6010. While it is a basic phone, it is pretty functional.

I've setup e-mail access and used aim.

Oops, out of sp

Monday, November 14, 2005

Further Wow

Not only does this new nokia phone make typing slow - but every post must be less via 160 characters.

Be brief.

(Wow)Gosh my sidekick had me spoiled. blogging from this nokia is painful. No wonder the mobile publishing reveloution is taking so long.

(Test)Oy. This is a test. A test of a rental cell phone. My sidekick is currently a paper weight.

I'm back to the joys of old fashion texting.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics

Google's at it again. Taking a service that typically cost (lots of) money, and makes it free for the world. How very nice of them. As they say:

Google Analytics gives us an opportunity to invest in our advertisers and everyone else who wants to create quality content on the web. Instead of spending money on web analytics, you can focus on creating targeted, ROI-driven marketing campaigns, and on improving your site design and content.

One day Google's strategy will become 100% clear -- and I really hope it is as nice as wanting to support "everyone else who wants to create quality content on the web."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Family breakfast

I had the pleasure of getting to eat a very loud and chaotic breakfast witha large chunk of my family. Josh, Iris, Dave, Mom, Dad and Grandparents were present.

I tried to get a shot of the group but had no luck. The attached shot I thought would do instead.

--Ben

Unbundled News

http://www.donatacom.com/papers/pomo49.htm

Check the above link for really interesting view of what the news media could be. The bottom line, is that Terry's suggesting that the news media needs to shift from pristine end-of-day broadcasts, to giving their viewers what they want: the real news, now.

Of course, that's kinda how I get my news now (bloglines + Reuters feed). I might watch a nightly news broadcast, but only if I'm hanging out with my Dad. What Terry seems to be suggesting is that your typical Channel 10 news program needs to start looking at news in this raw'ish streamwise fashion.

I also think what Terry's suggesting might help out with the news bias problem. Rather than delivering only the final summarized (and perhaps biased) version of the news, the news comes in first as raw facts and then gets a reaction added to it. This reaction can come from anywhere, including readers, giving the media a chance to see what the people really think about a story. At the end of the day, the summary broadcast will represent a variety of diverse input instead of just relying on the media to police itself.

Now, who has the guts to try this apporach first?

--Ben

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Shira's new obsession

The other day I cam across a link for Amazon's Mechanical Turk [1]. This is a really simple, but powerful idea. The concept works like this: some tasks are trivial for a human, and really tricky for a machine. The example Amazon uses is: "is there a pizza parlor in this picture?"

Amazon's Mechanical Turk allows companies (including Amazon) to register jobs with the system. The workers, like Shira (or yourself), can tackle these jobs. In Shira's case, each job pays a whopping $0.03 (that's right, three pennies). Yet, the jobs really are pretty simple, so it doesn't take long to make it to $0.25, and maybe even a buck.

Amazon calls it: Artificial Artificial Intelligence. I couldn't have put it better myself.

Anyway, Shira's hooked. She'll do just about anything to make an extra buck or two (except manual labor - she's gotta draw the line somewhere). She's having fun, and it's almost a game to see how you can optimize the process such that you make your pennies the fastest.

I, personally, am just impressed with the idea. The fact is, a company with one business guy (or gal) and one technical gal (or guy) could have launched this same idea with almost no resources. Gosh I love the internet.

Curious why they call it the Mechanical Turk? Google Mechanical Turk Hoax and find out the history behind the term.

My guess is, that by the time I've written this message, Shira will be $0.15 richer!

[1] http://mturk.com

--Ben

Friday, November 11, 2005

A real cell phone network

Here I am typing away on my T-mobile sidekick, yet I'm really impressed with this cheesy little LG cell phone. Why? It's not the phone that's impressing me - it's the network (gosh I sound like a late 90's commercial for SUN [1]).

For about 60%+ of our trip, my T-mobile sidekick has no signal. While this cheesy little Verizon phone had signal-bars the whole time. Wow.

If Verizon had the sidekick, I'd probably sign-up today.

Don't get me wrong, T-mobile works great in our local area. But it just can't compete out in the boonies.

Can you here me now? Sure can, on Verizon. Argh.

[1] SUN: The network *is* the computer. Huh? At least it stuck with me all these years, even if it didn't make any sense to me.

--Ben

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Adverblog: Heineken, online marketing with Google Image Search

Adverblog: Heineken, online marketing with Google Image Search

This is an interesting viral ad-campaign. Though, what really caught my eye was the use of the Google Image Search to power an application. Using Google Images you can create an application with a vast media library which is highly searchable.

As a test, I made a postcard for Arlington, VA. The images that Google found were really quite impressive and of high quality.

The Good House

For the last three weeks we have been living in a most remarkable home. Its name is Benincasa, and it is a hospice.

When I thought about hospice the first word that came to mind is 'institution.' Benincasa couldn't be farther from that image.

First, it's a real honest to goodness home, and feels like a warm place to be. Secondly, it is mainly staffed by volunteers. Isn't that amazing? This place only functions because people give of themselves. Finally, this place is focused on comfort. Comfort for the sick, and also for family and friends. Whatever you could ask for, they will provide. Heck, we moved in for weeks, and they made us feel like one of the family.

Places like Benincasa are not only special because of the work they do, but by the very fact that they can exist. The cynic in me says that a place like this could never survive on volunteers and donations. And the cynic is proven 100% wrong.

One message I got from being here is simple: there's simply no excuse to not go out and make a difference in people's lives. They do it here, every day, 24 hours a day.

Here's an idea - check to see if there's a hospice home in your local area, and if so donate to them. It can be your time, money, or even a plate of cookies.

If there's no hospice in your area, you can always give to Benincasa: 3880 Rush-Mendon Road; Mendon, NY 14506. I promise you'll be happy you did.

-For DJB-

--Ben

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Mind Games

My Dad introduced me to the game of Sudoku tonight. We worked on a beginner level game together, but didn't make much in the way of progress.

However, I could see a glimmer of hope that this could be a fun game to play.

Time to google "Sudoku Strategy" and try to learn how the heck I should be playing this game.

--Ben

Crafty Lady

Shira learned the fine art of knitting tonight. She made some very good progress on her first creation: a scarf.

Knitting is a fun skill because you essentially make something from almost nothing. It's also nice because, as my Mom has demonstrated, you can do it during other activities, from concerts and meetings to baseball games.

--Ben

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hibachi

We stopped for a hibachi lunch - one of Shira's favorite kind of restaurants. Me, on the other hand, is just fine not watching the cook perform in front of me. Frankly, I didn't enjoy watching the cook add three sticks of butter to my meal.

But, I have to admit, the food did taste good (because of the butter no doubt) and the chef was entertaining.

--Ben

DSL Setup Experience

Shira and I decided to setup DSL for some friends today. The process, with one exception, has been great.

We've managed to hit all the steps: (a) ordered the service from frontiernet.net (thanks to Wilma who set me up!) (b) bought a cheap ($30) WiFi router from Best Buy (c) had the DSL modem delivered to us on time.

Everthing plugs in as expected and the WiFi seems to be working great from downstairs.

The only catch? The service is turned on today, or so they told me. I called them to see why things aren't working and get this...it will be turned on today. Today at 11:59pm at night. Yikes.

First, why couldn't they manage to get it set up this morning, when the modem was delivered?

Second, why on earth would you set a customer's expectations that they'll have something on Tuesday, when it will really be Wednesday. Argh.

It's really too bad - they did so much right, but still left me frustrated. And all they needed to do was to be honest with me. That would have been free.

Let this be a lesson to us all: set your customer's expecations correctly or suffer the consequences.

--Ben

A gaggle of Simons

3 generations of Simon men, in order of age.

I won't ask you to choose the most handsome one.

--Ben

Monday, November 07, 2005

It's all greek to me

Due to some very good marketing by Victoria Secret, I ended up at one of their stores this afternoon. It was like I wandered into the computer department at Best Buy not knowing what the label: "1.8 Ghz, 512MB RAM, 15-in LCD with WiFi 802.11G" meant.

Consider the following bra choices: Ipex demi, Shaping demi, Shaping full coverage, Lined demi, Ipex full coverage, Body by Victoria and Ipex Angels.

Huh?

Hmmm, when I need undergarments I buy a 12 pack at Wal-Mart and I'm done.

Gosh, it must be tough being a female.

--Ben

True Happiness

Here is the world's happiest squirrel. He managed to gain access to this full bird feader and has been plundering it for days. He also provides us with entertainment as he dangles by a single leg, grabbing for food.

If only our lives could be this simple: discover ample food supply, eat, be happy.

--Ben

Discovery

This is a snapshot of my Grandma reading my blog for the first time.

Not only did my Grandma know about blogs, but when I explained the purpose of mine she totally got.

Go Grandma!

And just think, that's one more reader for me.

--Ben

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