Archive for January, 2007

Exportable Shopping Carts

Posted by Arlo on Jan 10, 2007 under Here's an Idea

Figuring it out - in a car - for some reasonHere’s an idea.

You know about Web 2.0, right?  Social networking, the semantic web, blah, blah, blah.  Well, I got to thinking about the one aspect of that stuff I actually buy into: Trust linking.

There are a hundreds — maybe even thousands! — of hyperlinks out there on the world wide web.  You can’t check every web site to see if it might contain something that’ll interest you.  Instead, more often than not, you rely on some other method.  Searching for specific information is easy — Google to the rescue — but I’ve noticed that when I’m just surfing, I only really follow links that are either popular (everybody’s linking them) or links presented by people I trust.

If I enjoy a website, I’ll probably bookmark it or, better yet, subscribe to it.  And later, if the owner of that site decides to link to another site, there’s a good chance I’ll follow along.  Why?  Because by bookmarking their site, I’ve decided that their opinion is worth reading.  I trust that the author won’t waste my time.  The content they’re linking to may not even be in one of my areas of interest, but often I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.  It’s the trust that matters.

Web 2.0 sites like Technorati are based on popular linking. thrives on trust.

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Posted by Arlo on Jan 9, 2007 under Life of Arlo

USGS Earthquake MapI had a fun wake up call this morning.  After falling asleep at about 4:45am — what can I say; I’m on vacation — Oksana ran in at 6:49am and said, “Arlo, wake up!  It’s an earthquake!”

“Holy crap!” I replied.  I bounced out of bed and stood in the doorway just as the trembling faded away.

Wait, that doesn’t do my reaction justice.

“Holy crap!” I said, not understanding what she said, but reacting only to her tone of voice.  I stumbled out of bed, clad only in my undies, and stood in the bedroom doorway desperately trying to keep my eyelids open.  I may have only imagined the last of the rumbling, or perhaps my conscious mind was pulling up memories of the sensation from the previous 10 seconds of being fully asleep.  Oksana left me there and went to the front door.  It was already over.

I suspect that after most earthquakes, people take a few seconds to wonder “Was that really an earthquake?  Might have been thunder, or maybe an explosion.”  We live in an apartment above the post office, so our first reaction was “Did the freight truck run into building?  Again?”

Oksana was sure it’d been an earthquake, though.  She was in the bathroom when everything on the shelves started rattling around.  Her first thought, of course, was the post office truck, but then our notoriously precarious entertainment center started to wobble in the living room.  She heard all the knickknacks on it rocking madly back and forth.  By the time she woke me up, it was pretty much over.  Fortunately, nothing in our house fell over, down, or off anything.

I wanted to check to see if it had been a earthquake, and the first thing I could think of was to get online.  I knew about the USGS earthquake site and I called it up.  Unfortunately, they update in “near real time” and an update 30 seconds after the shaking ended was an unreasonable expectation.  I thought that the Juneau Empire or Google News might eventually verify it for me, but not for awhile yet.

I was still struggling to keep my eyes open when Oksana went back to getting ready for work.  I began to feel nauseated.  All of a sudden my mouth started watering and I was on the verge of throwing up.  I laid down on the couch, pulled a blanket over me, and promptly fell back asleep.  I have no idea why I felt so sick.  Maybe it was the shaking, or more likely the extremely rapid onset of stress (“Holy crap!”)  Or maybe it was just, you know, morning sickness.

At a more reasonable hour, I got up off the couch and checked again online for some news.  Yep, all three sources confirmed it.  5.6 on the Richter scale, roughly 160 miles northwest of Juneau, and 5.9 miles underground (+ or – 5.5 miles, heh).  Bet Haines and Skagway were bumpy this morning.

I thought about calling Oksana to let her know, but then she listens to the radio at work and they were sure to have had that on the news.  Duh.  The radio.  And the TV.  That’s how I could have quickly confirmed it earlier.  No doubt the morning radio hosts would have been fielding calls right away.

Funny how I defaulted into thinking that the internet would be the best way to get information on an earthquake.

Alaska Communications Systems, Part II

Posted by Arlo on Jan 5, 2007 under Life of Arlo

Fake Google ad, retracted!I got a call the other day that, frankly, surprised the hell out of me.  It was ACS, calling to tell me that they’d read my blog.

The call came in while I was asleep.  I woke up enough to grab the handset and check the caller ID.  “ACS PRODUCT MAN,” it said.  It occurred to my sleep-addled brain that it might have something to do with what I’d written, but it also occurred to me that they might be trying to sell me something.  Either way, I didn’t want to talk to THE MAN.  I settled back down, keeping an ear out for the answering machine.  It didn’t pick up when it was supposed to, but then my cell phone started to ring.  “How the hell did they get my cell number?” I thought.  Then I remembered they were the phone company.  (And later Oksana reminded me that we left our cell numbers on our answering machine’s outgoing message.)  I was tired.

When I finally checked my voice mail, there was a message from an ACS employee who said that she’d come across my blog over the weekend.  (Whoa.)  She sounded apologetic and wanted to offer Oksana and I a “special offer” to make things right.  I had a brainstorm and checked Google.  Sure enough, my blog was already on the first page of results for “Alaska Communications Systems.”  Could that be how they found it?

Listening to her message again, I noticed that she sounded most concerned about the treatment we’d received at the Juneau office.  It’s true, much of our frustration came out at the counter, but I’d hoped my writing conveyed that the letters from their marketing / retail sales department was the heart of the issue.   

I never expected to get anything out of ACS by writing in my blog.  Maybe in the back of my mind I thought that something might come of it, but honestly I was just venting my frustration.  I worried over the impression they must have had of me.  I didn’t want to be “that guy” on the other end of an unpleasant phone call.  I returned her call.

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Thomas Basin

Posted by Arlo on Jan 5, 2007 under Photography, Postcard Valet

Thomas Basin, Ketchikan, Alaska

Purchase a Print

Just after I managed to sell a framed print of one of my panoramas, I seriously thought about upgrading my digital camera.  By that point, I’d left hand-stitching in Photoshop behind because Autostich made assembling panoramas so much easier.  If I could iron out the work-flow, I deluded myself, I might be able to crank out salable photography on a regular basis!   I’d been shooting for years on a Canon PowerShot s30, and it was great for what it was: a tiny point-and-shoot with a tiny lens.  I longed for the days of SLR focusyness, but definitely didn’t want to go back to the 35mm work-flow.

Those were the thoughts in the back my head when we took a trip to Ketchikan.  Oksana and I made a point of getting out on a sunny day and hitting some photogenic spots.  We did Creek Street and Totem Bight, of course, but later I realized something.  My first panorama of the Mendenhall Glacier was an anomaly; it’s actually pretty damn hard to find a good panorama subject!  Creek street bowed out toward the camera (artifacts of perspective; I was too close to my subject) and the only position where I could fit the whole of Totem Bight’s park into frame ended up with the lodge dominating the shot.

At least cruise season hadn’t yet begun.  The docks downtown were completely empty.  We walked out to the end of one and I snapped off a row of pictures facing toward iconic Deer Mountain and Thomas Basin.  It was a great day for photographs.  The sun was at my back and even the normally gray Ketchikan sky decided to cooperate by sending up some puffy white clouds to fill in that expansive blue void.

When I first saw the completed picture, I worried about that radio tower in front of the mountain.  I thought about cloning it out, but anyone from Ketchikan would be quick to notice.  I see a few other imperfections (snow’s a bit overexposed, I’m not sold on the building in the left foreground, and I wish there were at least one more cloud to fill the upper right), but overall I really like this photo.

You know, tourists are rewarded with this exact view when they step off the cruise ships.  I’ll bet one or two might consider buying a print.  Some gallery owner in Ketchikan should hook me up.

Canon Powershot s30
Date: 17 April 2005
Focal Length: 10mm
Shutter: 1/318 second
Aperture: F/6.3
Photoshop:  Stitching of 9 images, Minor color correction

This is one of the last panoramas I shot on my s30 before I convinced Oksana that we should upgrade to a Canon XT.

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The Resolution Revolution

Posted by Arlo on Jan 3, 2007 under Thought Objects

New Year's Eve, 2002, Cusco PeruHave you heard of NANOWRIMO?  It’s the silly acronym for the National Novel Writing Month website.  The idea is that every participant attempts to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.  From their About section:

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

Wow, blockquotes work weird with pictures.

Anyway, they go on, describing their vision, but I’m bothered that you never see a disclaimer.  “NaNoWriMo: Pushing people towards disillusionment because they can’t even follow through on writing ‘crap.'”

Oh to be sure, there are some that finish writing their crap.  12,959 of 79,896 people over the past four years, if my non-scientific tabulating of their authors page is correct.  That’s 66,937 failures, though, or about an 84% failure rate.

I’ll bet that’s on par with your typical New Year’s resolutions.

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