Looking Back at 2009

With only hours to go in this year, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on it. While 2009 was a challenging year for so many, overall it was a good one for us. We started the year with hope and celebration – hope in the inauguration of new president, and celebration of … Continue reading Looking Back at 2009

Beef Bouillon Fondue

Last night Laura decided she wanted fondue for dinner. She wanted to try something other than the oil-based fondues we had done in the past, so she decided to try a bouillon-based one instead. It was a resounding success. Here’s what we did… Ingredients 2 14 oz cans of Swanson’s Beef Bouillon 2 bay leaves … Continue reading Beef Bouillon Fondue

Adventures in Customer Service

Two different stories of breakdowns in customer service.  One had a very simple solution, but one was most difficult to resolve.  Both resulted in ill-will on the part of the customer (us.)  Both of these prove the old saying my former boss used, “It takes ten ‘atta-boys’ to make up for one ‘Oh Sh*t!'”

The Lazy Goat

This was the simplest to resolve, but that didn’t happen.  The customer service faux pas could have been fixed with just one simple phrase, but the offending parties didn’t.

Laura and I celebrated our 21st anniversary last week.  However, we decided to wait until we got home from Florida to have a celebratory dinner at The Lazy Goat.  I made reservations, and specifically requested a table at the windows overlooking the Reedy River.  When we arrived, we were seated in the middle of the restaurant, our request notwithstanding.  The window tables had been taken.

Here’s where things broke down… Continue reading “Adventures in Customer Service”

2010 Calendar

hood ornament with texture

The past couple of years I haven’t been very successful with my photo calendars. In 2007 the company I used made misprints, and replaced all of the calendars I ordered. Some folks thought the calendars looked OK even with the faulty printing, and took them anyway. Last year I didn’t even get around to making a calendar. I couldn’t decide on which photos to use and the time slipped by. This year I had a theme, but once again time was a factor.

I order my calendars through Qoop.com from photos that I’ve posted to my Flickr account.  Since I’ve been doing so much with antiquing and adding texture, I thought it might be nice to create a collection of processed photographs.  Specifically, I was including old and vanishing structures and objects from the South.  I placed the order on December 6, which should have been plenty of time for the order to be processed.  However, the calendars didn’t arrive until after we had already left for Florida for Christmas – too late to be used as Christmas presents as intended.  I complained to Qoop, and they were gracious enough to refund my shipping fees and give me a coupon for future purchases, but this is two orders that they have messed up.

As for the calendars themselves, they were waiting when we got back home.  I may still use them as Epiphany presents, but the overall effect of the calendars wasn’t exactly what I expected.  They turned out a bit darker, and a bit more Gothic than I had thought.  Here’s a brief month-by-month rundown…

Continue reading “2010 Calendar”

Christmas a capella

I love a capella and close harmonies, for just about any genre of music.  My co-worker, Rick, alerted me to a new group he’d heard on XM radio called Straight No Chaser that does some absolutely fantastic Christmas music.   I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit lately, much to Laura’s dismay. Most of the group’s … Continue reading Christmas a capella

Teachers and Facebook

Yesterday there was an article in the Greenville News about development of a policy for teacher use of Facebook. The article stated that the board was holding off on approval of the policy because some members had raised “ethical, legal and technical questions.”    The new policy would put into place a procedure for dismissing teachers … Continue reading Teachers and Facebook

Babes in Toyland

Since we don’t have kids of our own, each year Laura and I contribute to Toys for Tots and other charities. Last night we went shopping at Toys R Us and ran into an interesting dilemma. We always try to get something for the older kids. It’s easy to run into a store and pick … Continue reading Babes in Toyland

Weekend Update

Cosmo in the Tree

It’s that time of year. Between concert schedules, Christmas parties, and a frantic work schedule I haven’t been able to post much. I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks off for winter break to catch my breath a bit. Here’s a quick update on what’s been happening, though…

Greenville Chorale

We did our Christmas Concert this year at McAlister Auditorium on the Furman campus. The concert last Friday night was well-attended. The music was more challenging than we had anticipated. We did Paul Patterson’s Magnificat, in addition to our standard fare of carols, etc. The Magnificat had difficult rhythms and strange jazz harmonies that didn’t resolve as expected. However, we made it through, and I’m sure the audience had no indication of the difficulties we had.

The Chamber Ensemble was asked to promote the concert on the local Fox TV station. We appeared on air Friday morning as part of the Fox Rocks segment. An octect from the group recorded in a fantastic new studio on Augusta Road, and we got some great audio tracks. Even though we recorded four songs, only about fifteen seconds actually aired. Here’s a link to a full song that they put on their website.

Continue reading “Weekend Update”

DARPA Challenge Update

Well, that didn’t take long. By 5:00 PM DARPA had already announced a winner in their 2009 Challenge. The challenge was supposed to last through December 14, but it was obvious from early on that it wouldn’t take that much time. As shown on the map above, the balloons were located in places where it would have been hard to miss them (although there is a large wedge of the Midwest with no ballooons.) The winner was the team from MIT.

I didn’t participate in the challenge as I thought I might. However, I did check in on the progress from time-to-time on Twitter. It was interesting to watch the competition progress. Most of the Twitter traffic seemed to be from those involved in the hunt, and I saw only one from someone that seemed to have honestly stumbled upon one (…sort of, but more on that in a bit.)

As I saw reports of balloons I wondered if I shouldn’t try to find the location and report them as my own. However, I figured that if the reports were THAT public, then others would have reported them. I just decided to watch the spectacle. Continue reading “DARPA Challenge Update”

99 Red Balloons

You and I in a little toy shop,
Buy a bag of balloons with the money we’ve got.
Set them free at the break of dawn
‘Til one by one, they were gone…

Actually, it’s 99 minus 89, but references to the 1980’s hit by Nena are inevitable. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Internet, DARPA has come up with a creative challenge “that will explore the roles the Internet and social networking play in the timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization required to solve broad-scope, time-critical problems.”

According to the challenge website ten red, eight-foot weather balloons will be tethered to locations around the United States. The first person (or team) to provide the latitude and longitude of all balloons will win a $40,000 prize.

CNN.com quotes Johanna Jones, a spokeswoman for DARPA, and provides a few more details…

At 10 a.m. ET, the 8-foot-wide red weather balloons will be released on property accessible to the public.

“They’re not going to be out in the middle of nowhere,” Jones said. “They’re going to be near places where there is traffic.”

She said the balloons will be tethered and will remain aloft for at least six hours. Each will be accompanied by a DARPA representative.

The first person to report the latitude and longitude coordinates of all 10 balloons will win the prize. The competition will remain open until December 14.

Nationwide balloon-hunt contest tests online networking
By Doug Gross, CNN
December 4, 2009

So, the balloons will only be aloft for a few hours on one day. That means no individual could travel to all 10 locations. Seekers will be forced to search for references to the balloons and reports in social media such as Twitter, Facebook, or Flickr. That is, of course, assuming someone reports the sighting and is willing to provide coordinates. If I didn’t already know about the challenge, I doubt I would stop and Tweet about a red balloon, giving its lat/long coordinates. Continue reading “99 Red Balloons”