Three Presentations

I have spent the last month working on three presentations to give at an internal conference at work.  Two on jQuery (intermediate and advanced) and one on Designing Faster Websites.

I have a new respect for those who give presentations.  It takes many many, many hours to come up with 45 minutes worth of thoughtful information.  Making sure you have the right content, making sure it is accurate and timely, putting it in an order that makes sense, making sure it is in a pleasant format that the audience will be able to consume easily, creating examples, tossing in humor or other elements to break up the constant stream of information you are trying to provide, etc, etc.  All that and I haven’t even had to go through the discomfort of actually presenting them yet.

Unfortunately due to this being an internal conference I won’t be able to put the slides up here when I’m done. It’s not like these subjects haven’t been done to death or anything, I’m just putting a spin on them that is more specific to those that I work with and the work that we do.

Yes, this was a lame little post to at least have SOMETHING on the blog this month.


Local Hero: Tim “the balloon man” Taylor

One of our family traditions has always been to go to the Freedom Festival balloon launch.  We go all 3 days, getting up at 5:30am to be there by 6am to watch them inflate and launch. Yeah I know, nuts.  But give it a try once… you’ll be hooked :).

Over the years I have been in love with one specific balloon (above).  What I always called “the flag balloon” but then found out it is actually the Dee III.  There are two reasons I love this balloon.  One, it’s just gorgeous.  Two, the pilot (is that what balloonists are called?) Tim Taylor.

Now Tim may be a gorgeous man in his own right (I have no opinion on that), but that isn’t the reason I like the man.  For all these years that I have chased his balloon around to get pics I have always been amazed at how he treats the public.

When he is preparing his balloon for launch, he always grabs a group of kids and walks them under the balloon. They are probably thinking how cool it is that they get to walk under a balloon, but then the unthinkable happens.  He stops in the middle and opens one of the air vents and all the kids are now standing in the middle of a 105,000 cubic foot balloon envelope.  Looking around with jaws open, and parents frantically taking pictures from the bottom opening.  Pure awesomeness.

When most balloons land, the crew keeps people as far away as possible.  When Tim lands, he gets them as close as possible.  He invites everyone in to help him put his balloon away.

Line of kids helping with the balloonNow this isn’t just the responsible adults that he invites, but every kid in the area… such as my rambunctious 3 year old Dallin.  He trusts his balloon (worth 10’s of thousands) to the hands of kids… and loves doing it.

Through a series of events last year I got to know Tim and his wonderful wife Daren.  He told me how he loves to see the faces of the kids when they get asked to come closer, instead of being pushed away.  Then to find out that they not only get to look, but to touch.  He knows that he is creating memories that will last lifetimes for these kids (and their parents).

Tim talking to DallinI speak from experience where as a result of our chats, he has taken Dallin under his wing whenever he sees him.  Dallin thinks he is the coolest guy in the word (well 2nd after me of course ;)).  Tim always takes the time to say hi to him and listen to whatever cute ramblings he is spouting at that moment.  Not the normal adult “yeah get it over with” but with genuine interest.

This year when I went out to chase Tim’s balloon, I decided to skip the artsy balloon pictures I normally take of the Dee III (I only have like 900 of them so far) and to focus on the kids that would inevitably show.  It was very cool to see things through his eyes, even more so then I recognized in the past.

Tim talking to the kids that came to helpTim actively seeks out places to land where he will be able to get the most kids involved.  Sure the wind and balloon gods have something to do with where he lands, but when they aren’t in control the kids are.  Several times I have seen him land in the street in neighborhoods and watched as dozens of kids come out of their houses in their pajamas, awoken by frantic parents alerting them of the hot air balloon that just landed outside.

These kids come out groggy and sleepy eyed, and slowly you watch the transformation as they are invited in.  They are in awe, they are excited, and when Tim is done with them they leave with an experience they will be telling their friends about for weeks, and a new love for hot air balloons.

Tim may think that my family is stalking him, and to some extent we are.  But we just love to see the man in action, and to watch a neighborhood light up by his presence.  We feel honored to call him a friend, and are glad that he is someone that we can be happy that our son looks up to.

Tim stepping aside to even make a teenagers dayLine of kids helping with the balloonTim talking to the kids in his superman posePanorama of kids helping out


Searching for an HD Video camera… an excercise in pain

ce24057-lWith some upcoming trips I thougt it was time for us to move to the world of HD video recording.  I bumped into a sweet deal at Costco on one and so picked it up (can’t remember the model… a Canon something or other).

Got it home and loved the quality of the video when plugging into the HDMI port and watching on my HDTV.

That’s where the fun ended.

When you save off the video from the camera it saved with a mt2s extension which is in a AVCHD format (yes those lovely acronymns of confusion).  There is most likely nothing on your computer that can read this format.  There are very few programs period that can read this format.  Most of the programs that CAN read this format, cost you some coin… sometimes some serious coin.

Our current video situation is using the video mode on our Canon S2-IS, that is 640×480 @ 30 fps.  The main issues I have with this is it’s not wide format, and can only go for 1GB at a time, or about 7 minutes. BUT… I can pull the video off of the camera and instantly watch it as they are simple .avi files which most computers have several programs that can read (my personal fav is VLC).

The fact that I had to download the video, and then run it through some converter (that I apparently need to pay for) before being able to watch it really bugged me.  I tried several freebies and all of them produced choppy results.  Even the esteemed iMovie on my work MacBook Pro came out choppy.

Not to mention the conversion process for a 2 minute video was like 30 minutes.

flip-ultra-hd-02aThis was plain unacceptable to me so I returned it to Costco (love their return policy).  A few weeks later we picked up a Flip Ultra HD.  This little unit has the advantage of being small, shoots 720p (for better then 480 quality, but not the ginormous size of 1080), shoots up to 2 hours of video (all at once if desired) and saves as .mov files for instant viewing.

The disadantages are it has no zoom (well 2x digital zoom, but yuck!) and no image stabilization. I thought I could live with this, but the image stabalization is REALLY getting to me.  Every one of our videos is incredibly shaky.  It also just seems to randomly skip frames or something, which I need to contact their customer support about, as it’s really bad.

So again, I am left wanting in the HD video market. Is it really THAT hard to come out with a useable product?  Something that has decent features including the ability to watch the videos I take without paying for additional software and goign through hours of conversion processes?

If anyone knows of something out there that has a decent 10x or so zoom, image stabalization, the ability to record for longer then 20 mins at a stretch (most photo cameras that do video have this type of restriction) and that I can watch as soon as I copy it to my comptuer, let me know.  I’d love to give some company my money, but no one seems to be ready to take it.


I’ve taken up smoking

p-1600-1200-f03b8d18-e07b-42db-81ca-11a2508a8841.jpegNo, not that kind of smoking.  Meat smoking.

My friend Randy recently found the instructions for a UDS, or Ugly Drum Smoker.  It’s a meat smoker that it made out of a 55 gallon drum that when working correctly can go for up to 15 hours without intervention.  It is able to stay at the requisite temperatures for longer then smokers you purchase at the local Home Depot or wherever, hold more meat, and are cheaper to make then buy.  All great qualities 😉

Thus far I have had issues with mine keeping a consistent temperature, but I am pretty sure that is due to a faulty lid, which I have now got a replacement for.

So far I have cooked two Pork Butts (shoulder actually) and some chicken.  Not sure what I’ll try this weekend.  They have all tasted great, even though I have had temperature or timing problems on each one.  They will taste all the better when I get the temperature, timing and process all nailed down.

Quality pictures thanks to my iPhone.  Yeah not my normal quality, but it was the camera that was handy.



New Carpet, and how to prepare for it

So as part of our preparing to move we wanted to get new carpet.  The stuff the came with the house was nasty and dirty, and Dallin had grabbed a hold of a few strings of it and pulled, leaving nice long lines of no carpet.

After a bit of a search we went with Home Depot who had a good deal on Stainmaster carpet, plus $150 or so installation for the whole house.  Long story short… it took them 3 weeks to get it installed.  This was the final thing we had to get done before putting the house on the market, and so it delayed our plans by 3 weeks.  But we had a LOT of junk to declutter from our house, so it was probably a good thing in the end.

So the night before they come to install we start ripping out the carpet.  I Google on how to remove carpet staples and get lots of talk about needle-nose pliers being the best.  So that’s what Kaylene and I do… for 6 hours.  12 man/woman hours of staple pulling.  Blisters, sore knees, all the fun that comes with it.

We leave one patch of carpet under the TV stand so Dallin could watch TV while we waited for them to come (sometimes between 12:01 AM and midnight).  When they get here we move the stand, pull up the carpet and I kneel down with my pliers to start pulling the 5 or so staples out.

Then the carpet installer guy says “I can get those”, and busts out a scraper and takes care of all 5 staples in about 2 seconds.  He then goes around the whole room in about 2 minutes.  The room we had spend 2 man/woman hours the night before meticulously pulling out staples.  I was dumbfounded.

I don’t know why Google failed me, but here it is for Google to index.

When removing flooring staples DO NOT USE pliers.  Go get you a floor scraper and be done in a fraction of the time, and with less body aches and blisters.  Let me say this again in a few different ways to make sure Google gets it.

To remove floor staples don’t use needle nose pliers.  Go rent a scraper from Home Depot.

Get a scraper to remove carpet pad staples.

When removing staples from carpet or padding, use a scraper to save yourself some pain and heartache.

Hopefully someone will find this post and save themselves some effort.


Let’s try this again… shall we?

It’s been tried, and tried again.  I’ve tried to bring my other blog to life several times, but I had set it up to be a techy place and that isn’t what I always wanted to talk about.  So I never talked.

So this time we’ll try a “anything Aaron likes” topic for this blog, and see if it gets me to blog more often.