Tiptoe Through the Tulips

For anyone who lives in Skagit County, or even in the whole Northwest, it goes without saying that we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world (although it is sometimes worth reminding ourselves of when it has rained for 12 days straight). Tulip time in Skagit County might as well serve as the poster child for the Northwest's beauty, if you ask me.

It wasn't until 2 years ago that I visited the tulips the first time. Of course I had driven through from time to time, but I had never stopped. Since then, I've tried not to miss snapping at least one picture per year. (It makes for a perfect backdrop.) Today, with an out-of- towner in tow, Dave and I played toured guide. He played professional photographer while I attempted to follow his lead. While photography might not be my thing, at least I can do fun computery stuff with pictures. Check out this panorama (Java required).
Thursday April 12 2007File under: pics, Anacortes

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Web Guy for Hire

Over the past 7 years or so, I've often dreamed of making a career of independent web work: contracting for a company here, creating small business websites there, working on my own projects in between. While the projects (and therefore income) have been far from steady, I've done some really fun projects. One recent project of note is Cardinal Points, a website for my neighbors' small business.

I want to point this out for a number of reasons. For one, in the vast spider web of links on the internet, search engines reward those sites that are linked to. Also, there's something to be said for promoting local business. (Anybody need a water maker installed on their boat?) Finally, I wanted to use this as an example of the fine work I am capable of. (You knew there was going to be a plug in there somewhere.)

Do you or someone you know need a website: small business, blog, photo gallery, event announcement? Perhaps just a touch up on your current site, or adding a bit of that fancy Web 2.0 functionality? I'd love to help. I charge about half of what you'll find elsewhere (thanks, in part, to my low overhead*), but have the experience and skillz* that rival the best. I won't go into more of a pitch here (because, let's face it, 98% of BdW readers have as much need for my services as Saxtor has need for a blog (ZING!)), but if you have any interest at all, contact me and I'll answer all your questions.

( * hover over for additional ramblings)
Tuesday April 10 2007File under: work, coding

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Happy Easter



Have you ever wondered where Easter eggs come from?

(I just couldn't help myself. I've had this image on my computer for ages and love sharing it.)

Anyhoo, Happy Easter!
Friday April 6 2007File under: holidays, pics

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Project of the Month

One of the many benefits of all this free time I've arranged for myself is the interesting projects and experiments I've been able to play around with. I've posted about some of them before (puzzles, games, and food just to name a few). Now I would like to take the opportunity to share with you some of the environmentally related projects/experiments I've been playing around with. Conveniently, they've all been month long projects which has put me into a nice little routine.

In February, I experimented with 2 ideas. Firstly, I wanted to look at my personal transportation impact, esp. regarding automobile driving. I'm a firm believer that one of the best ways to lessen our personal impact (in many cases) is to simplify. In terms of transportation, I felt like simplification is best achieved by driving less. I gave myself the ambitious goal of driving less than 10 miles a day on average. That means a trip to Bellingham on the weekend must be offset by 8 or so days of not driving at all. Over the month of February, I closely watched my miles. By the end of the month, I was slightly over. Perhaps 100 miles a week is a more achievable goal. Give it a try and let me know!

The second February experiment was with home heating. With Ma in NZ, I was in control of the thermostat. As anyone who visited during that time knows, keeping it set to 63 makes an extra sweater a must. But in looking at the bill afterwards, the amount of natural gas saved was nothing to sneeze at.

March's environmental project of the month was unsubscribing from catalog mailing lists. We get tons at the house that we never even look at, so I thought: save the paper, save the fuel to ship and deliver them, and save the mail carrier's back. Done and done.

April's EPotM definitely falls into the experimentation category. I've decided to take a small foray into vegetarianism, at least for the month. (Those who know me know how I have wrestled with this before.) My experimental step for the month is to purchase no meat. I've got too much in the fridge to go cold turkey, and I hate seeing good food get thrown away on my behalf. But to the best of my ability, I will be doing what I can.
Wednesday April 4 2007File under: environment

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April Fool



or click here to go directly to YouTube page

Saturday March 31 2007File under: beard, video

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Blog Spam

As some of you noticed recently, Blog du Wren was "validated" with a barrage of blog spam. Many questions have arisen from this about why, how, etc. I thought now would be as good a time as any (better even, because I don't have anything of value to post about) to examine the phenomenon of blog spam.

Wikipedia has a great write up on Spam in blogs, although it is a bit skewed towards eliminating it rather than explaining it. Basically, an automated script goes around posting comments on blogs with a link to their own site in hopes of raising their site's search engine rank. (Search engine ranking is based on how many sites link to yours, among other things.) These scripts recognize a site as a blog (or guestbook, etc.) by their format and programming (which leads to my feelings of validation because BdW is put into the same formatting/programming arena as the professional blog software packages).

What has been very interesting is to see where these spam comments come from. With the IP tracking I added as part of the BdW 2.0 revamp, I have the ability to look at the comments last known transfer point. This is what I came up with: RUSSIAN FEDERATION, CHINA, INDIA, PAKISTAN, POLAND (with repeats from Russia and India).

In an attempt to spare us all from this initially interesting but quickly annoying phenomenon, I tweaked the way I do comments. Since every little change I make might make everything stop working, I would appreciate if you keep your eyes open for any bugs, esp. you mac users out there. Cheers!
Friday March 30 2007File under: blog

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Sunday

As I mentioned before, the concept of a weekend is somewhat lost on me, at least in practice. Well, I'm happy to report, I now get it! Starting last week, I am again a member of the working world. While only temporary, it is real, honest to goodness, start at 8:30, end at 4:30, make-you-tired-by-the-end-of-the-day work. The work mostly consists of lifting heavy things, for which I like to consider myself more than qualified. There is also some shoveling sand and mixing concrete thrown in for good measure.

"What do I care if your lazy bones finally got some work?" you say. Well, that means slightly less frequent blog posts. While I have a few projects brewing that I am anxious to post about, I'm afraid the days of playing at the computer full time are on hold. But have no fear: I foresee my foray into the working world somewhat temporary, at least this time around. Hopefully, I will be back to doing blog worthy things in no time.
Sunday March 25 2007File under: work

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Re-Taste of Anacortes

Once again, we (Amanda and I), accompanied by Marg, hit the town for the Taste of Anacortes. Like last time, it was a blast. Good food, a night on the town, and a little class (enough class that I felt out-classed, but we all know how much class that takes...). Sadly, this was the last Taste of the year. Here's hoping that they do it again next year! For all of you who didn't get to experience it all, here's what was served:
  • The Store: A smattering of hors d'oeuvres all made from ingredients available at the Store. They included asparagus with a chardonnay mustard sauce, cherry tomatoes stuffed with blue cheese, prawn with "green" tampanade and caper, snow peas piped with egg salad, and a couple of breads with some sauce.
  • Il Posto: Chicken wrapped with something served over polenta with gravy. Yummy!
  • Randy's Pier 36: Battered and fried calamari strips served with aioli and lemon.
  • El Jinete: Pollo al crema and rice.
  • Cheesecake Cafe: Chocolate truffle cheesecake and shortbread cookies with pink frosting.
Wednesday March 21 2007File under: food, Anacortes

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More Word Games

Speaking of word-nerdiness, working on Another Word Game started me on a slippery slope of word games, both playing them and creating them. The two latest games are offshoots of AWG, but different enough to be fun in their own right.
BUNGLE: Essentially, this combines Boggle game play, Scrabble scoring, and the tile replacement of Another Word Game. Oh, and it's timed. Like AWG, this is written in Java.

WORDOMANIA Based on the popular (and addictive) clickomania game, this is a puzzle word game similar to AWG. The object is to use as many of the initial tiles as possible. When one is used, it disappears and everything above it drops down. Once an entire column is used, everything to the right of it will slide left. This is written in Javascript, so even if Bungle and AWG didn't work, this should (although with a slightly higher chance for browser non-compatibility). Check out the screen shot.

Thanks again to those folks that helped work the kinks out by taking the time to test these. If you have any questions or encounter any bugs, let me know.
Sunday March 18 2007File under: games, coding

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Simpsons plus Word-nerdiness equals Happy Wren

The keen eyes of a friend found this recently and knew I needed to see it. From 1995, Lisa in Wordland is a comic featuring many beloved Simpsons characters and much word-nerdiness. It is even more pertinent, as I have been thinking of word play [almost] non-stop for the past week or so.

Some of the priceless phrases: "If bombastic periphrastic grandiloquence be the music of life, then rattle on, I say. Rattle on!" courtesy of Sideshow Bob. Or maybe you prefer palindromes (from Otto, of course): "Tired nude man in a pajama I am. A japan I named under it."

But since a picture is worth 1000 words check these out.
Thursday March 15 2007File under: misc

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