Thursday, March 27, 2008

Eluma Beta Released

After a few minor delays, Eluma has finally opened itself up for private beta testing of version 2.0.

In the official Eluma blog, Richard Buck, Eluma CEO, summarizes Eluma 2.0 well.

In Eluma, we're combining folder and tag based organization techniques and intelligent "smartlists," with sharing, with community interaction, and with "social search." Some people will want to keep their stuff completely private, and that's cool. We are strong proponents of keeping private stuff private. Eluma is a great tool to help those folks stay organized. Some people will want to share what they're organizing in Eluma with their friends, or with team members at work. Eluma is great for that, too. And some other people will want to take advantage of the new techniques around social search to find new information that they won't easily find on Google. And we think Eluma is great for that, too.

I have several beta downloads to give away if anyone is interested.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

People are too funny

Today Gizmodo featured a video spoofing the BigDog robot by Boston Dynamics. The robot is impressive but the spoof will crack you up.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Buy me something del.icio.us!

I have been a del.icio.us user for years now. I have been slowly transitioning to Eluma (coming soon to Beta near you) but still maintain my del.icio.us account. Today I found out about del.ishli.st (or delishlist.com if you can't type that -- I sure can't) which is basically a wishlist for del.icio.us. It works by displaying items that you have tagged in del.icio.us with the tag "wishlist." My wishlist is http://del.ishli.st/zkent. I am going to go back into my del.icio.us account and tag a few more items. If you wanna buy me something, email me :)

You can further refine your wishlist items by tagging them with *, **, ***, etc to give the item a star ranking that is displayed in delishlist.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

White People

Click to visit the websiteStuff White People Like is a hilarious blog on the white culture in America. This is funny no matter who you are!

My favorite so far is #64 Recycling.


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Thursday, February 21, 2008

R2-D2 Beanie

I live in the Northeast (USA) and its mid-winter right now. Its hard to look cool wearing a beanie so why not let my geeky side shine through! Check out this R2-D2 hand-knitted beanie by some knitting chick named Carissa. I don't know how to knit so I am praying that she (or someone) is going to sell these.

For those of you who can knit, Carissa's blog has very detailed instructions.

WANT!

[via Gizmodo and Carissa Knits]


Got Images?

Recently I wrote about a tool to help keep you from losing time by getting lost in the web. I have found a tool for the person who has too much time and needs a tool to help them occupy their time. PicLens is a browswer plug-in from Cooliris that allows you to browse images on the web on a 3D wall. By entering a basic search term, PicLens pulls images from Google, Picasa, flikr, Yahoo!, facebook, and other image sites. It uses an incredible panning wall theme that allows you to scroll through hundreds of images quickly. Very nice interface.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine Pancakes


My family has never been big on Valentines Day and I am so glad for this. In our family, we make a big deal of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and especially birthdays. By the time February arrives, I am not quite recovered from the holidays and am busy trying to survive the Vermont Winters, spending money hand over foot for heating oil and my long commute to work. I am glad that I don't have to worry about roses, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, and the works. Actually my wife is picky about chocolate and almost nothing Valentine-y meets the minimum requirements, so I am off the hook there. I even looked for a card for my wife but none of them seemed to encapsulate our relationship-- they seemed all too shallow.

One tradition that we do adhere to is a heart-shaped pancake breakfast on Valentines. In the past, I used sheer pouring expertise to get the heart-shape but I have graduated to a heart-shaped egg/pancake mold. I almost feel guilty. Neglecting this tradition is unthinkable at my house. Any occasion to have pancakes is OK with me.


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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

No Links Please!

In my job at Content Manager at Eluma, I see a lot of websites, many of which I have never seen before, being collected by Eluma users. I have often found myself deep in an interesting website and wondered, "now, how did I end up here?" Likely I got lost at one web site and through a series of clicks I find myself exploring the far reaches of the web. I guess I am not the only one to fall victim to this time-stealing wandering. James Clark has created a solution for the wandering mouse that should keep us all more productive. James created a Greasemonkey script called "No Links Please" which strips HREF codes from the pages displayed in Firefox so you can't wander off from your task. The script does not remove links from Google pages so you can always google for what you need and read the resulting page, but no further. It requires the Greasemonkey Firefox extension to work. You can toggle the script on and off easily. I found I had to restart Firefox after installing the script before it would begin blocking Links. Now back to work.

Monday, January 28, 2008

New Rubik's cube

I have had a great time over the last few days learning to solve a the world's most popular puzzle, the Rubik's cube. Sure I had one when I was a kid but I had no idea how to solve it and any chance of coming close to solving one side was soon dashed. like most of you in your thirties, I resorted to such tactics as removing the stickers and/or breaking the cube apart and putting it back together again. Solving the Rubik's cube was left to the brilliant and overly bored to figure out.

Nowadays fanatics have broken the solutions down into calculated algorithms that you can use over and over to achieve the results you need. One such algorithm uses Left, Upper, Right, Front, etc and look like this: U, R, Ui (upper inverse), Li, U, Ri, Ui, L. Just follow these such algorithms over and over for a given situation and the cube magically does what you want it to. Memorizing this algorithms, however, is not as easy. Getting confused is easy though.

My cube came with instructions that walk you through solving the puzzle in 7 major steps. It took me a bit to get the hang of it but I can now solve it in less than 20 mins.

For the adventurous, there is a 4x4 cube too.



Monday, November 19, 2007

Nice GUI

I have grown very tired of the Windows Desktop metaphor. I am still using XP but from what I have seen of Vista, there isn't a ton of change there. In times past, I have had so many icons on my desktop I couldn't find anything and had to use Google desktop to search for stuff on my desktop. Sad but true. And multiple monitors can make matters worse. I have actually begun hiding my desktop icons to discourage myself from putting things there but filing them away is like deleting them in my world. I can stand the Windows Start Menu either but that is a different post.



I was sent this video by my boss at Eluma and I am excited that there might be a desktop GUI change on the horizon. A company called BumpTop has created a prototype desktop that mimiks a real physical desk with messy stacks (my method), tidy stacks, and a variety of sorting/viewing widgets. The BumpTop 3D desktop uses a physics engine to get its objects (windows and documents) to behave like real objects by bumping, tossing, pushing each other around the virtual desktop. Objects can be shuffled, tossed, stacked, dog-eared, sorted, and fanned out like a deck of cards. Its really fun to watch how many ways you can re-arrange the documents.

I tend to be more of a stacker than a filer, so I don't know if this GUI would help or make things worse by supporting my stacking lifestyle. I often tell people that its not just a stack but its a chronological stack-- the older things are at the bottom. This stack is X and this stack is Y. Its a system that has worked (debatable) for me for years. I have gotten better over the years and have almost gotten out of the stacking game but it is my personal path of least resistance and I find myself there rather quickly if I'm not careful.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Eluma Private Beta

Recently, Eluma, the desktop community application and personal web organizer, opened up registration for Beta testers. Eluma is aiming for a January 2008 Beta Release of Version 2.0 of the Eluma Desktop.

Eluma allows you to gather all of your web stuff into one application. Eluma functions as an RSS reader and a bookmark manager with a community flair. Eluma is a desktop application that fetches RSS feed items in the background so they are available if you are offline.

If you create a collection of related web materials and would like to share that collection, you can publish your collection so other Eluma users can discover your collection and subscribe to it. Users can also rate, tag, and comment on their own collected objects as well as objects in other collections. Objects in Eluma also have a forum feel as users can start a threaded conversation about an object they find in a published collection right in the object viewing pane.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

New Day for the Freelancer

One of the thing I have always hated.. wait, loathed.. about web design is finding good images. In times past, I was limited to the big image licensing firms. Images were hard to find and expensive. Going to the client with a photo-less website design was freelance suicide and telling the client each image would cost $400 and that was just for the website. If they wanted an image for a brochure, try $1000 and the license only covered a certain number of copies.

Last year I found, iStockPhoto. iStockPhoto allows artists, photographers and videographers to upload their work and iStockPhoto acts like a broker. 72 DPI versions of a photo are typically 1 credit (about a buck) and 300 DPI images are around 4 credits. At my last job we purchased one image for $200 and all of the others for about $10.

View My PortfolioNevermore will I create a lame website or brochure. I just created a website and business cards for my wife's new business and the pictures are so good.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rage agains the machine

Ever gotten frustrated with those automated telephone systems? If yes, press 1. God help you if you don't have your account number when you call because you probably won't get past the prompt and pressing 0 just doles out an error message and sends you right back. Someone got ticked off enough and created gethuman.comgethuman.com to battle the machine. Gethuman.com tells you how to get a human on the phone for hundreds of credit card, government, insurance, major retails store, and many other types of companies.




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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Meathead

Some artists are true wackos. Today I found a link to an "artist" (photographer, actually) named Julia Kissina who photographed women with meat on their heads made to look like hair -- loosely. I don't know who is the bigger meathead -- the artist or the models. I really think this type of work is giving true art a bad name.

Along a similar vein, I was listening to Michael Graham on 96.9 FM Talk out of Boston this morning. He pointed out that there is an "artist" exhibiting at the Boston Center for the Art named Martin Creed. His exhibit is called "The Lights Going On and Off" where the galleries lights go on and off. That's it. Every 5 seconds the lights flip on and 5 seconds later... they flip off again. Over and Over. You can read about this ridiculous Exhibit at the BCA website. Also, please note that this exhibit is paid for by tax dollars.

I don't see how anyone can even call either of these degrading, intelligence-insulting time and money wasting ventures "art." Micheal Graham made an interesting point about how, if you subscribe to the philosophy that art is in the eye of the beholder, a person might make the claim that flying airplanes into skyscrapers could be considered art in mind less warped than taxpayer-paid light flipping. I am inclined to agree. Its messed up.

Attention Real Artists: We know you are not all like these two bi-polar meatheads. Most of us hate this insulting crap pawned off as "art". I wish it were all of us.


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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Stay home and procreate

Russia has a good idea. Due to shrinking birth rate, Russia is giving couples Wednesdays off from work to stay home and make babies. Isn't that what the South Americans used the siesta for? Furthermore, why the whole day?... Anyway, good baby producing ruskies can also win TVs, microwaves, cars and houses.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Websnapr Advertising

I have been using Websnapr at work lately to generate website thumbnails. I use the thumbnails when creating content for Eluma communities to add visual appeal to bookmarks, rss feeds, and other website related content.

Websnapr is an excellent free service and I recommend it. They gained rapidly in popularity and their service slowed down considerably during those times. I remember one thumbnail took over a week to render, displaying a "Thumbnail has been Queued" image in its place.

But suddenly it sped up. Thumbnails were generating in seconds instead of days. I was so happy.

Then, it slowed down again. But this time the placeholder image had an advertisement in it for mister-wong.com. At first it annoyed me that rendering had slowed down to over 24 hours (at least) but today it hit me that it a marketing decision rather than a system slowdown. How genius is that?

At Eluma, we are currently writing our own thumbnail generator so we won't be dependent on a third-party for thumbnails but I think we would be wise to learn from Websnapr's advertising venue using thumbnails.

[Update: Eluma no longer uses websnapr for our thumbnails. Instead we have created our own thumbnail solution since we don't want to be dependent on a third-party service for our application. Eluma generates many thousands of thumbnails a day and regenerates them daily so we knew we would most likely hit a threshold with websnapr at some point.]

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Wikipedia

I love wikipedia.com. I go there first when I need to find out about anything quickly. In this day and age, things happen quickly and I have yet to look for something on wikipedia that wasn't there. Since wikipedia is created, edited, and maintained by any John Doe (hopefully he knows what he's talking about) it is fairly accurate and current.

Students find wikipedia invaluable but can get failing grades for citing wikipedia. That's because its not created by certified experts and isn't always accurate. You can't cite any anonymous source. Wikipedia didn't write the article, some John Doe did. But wikipedia can be a great place to start research and often has the source documents at the bottom of the article. A user can flag an article if its not cited correctly or incorrect so you can take the necessary precautions when using it. Even the creator of wikipedia recently stated that wikipedia should not be used for academic research.
“They say, ‘Please help me. I got an F on my paper because I cited
Wikipedia’” and the information turned out to be wrong, he says. But he
said he has no sympathy for their plight, noting that he thinks to
himself: “For God sake, you’re in college; don’t cite the encyclopedia”.
If that's the case, why does wikipedia offer a citation page for every article? It generates the APA, MLA, Chicago Style, Bluebook Style, and half a dozen others. Looks like they want you to cite them. Gets a lot of students failing grades.

Wikipedia, lose the citation pages.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

ScribeFire Blog Plug-in for Firefox

Today I am testing the blogging tool ScribeFire. Its a Firefox plug-in that allow you to post to you blog from within your browser. It supports multiple blogs by way of an Account Wizard and even supports custom blogs (limited, I'm sure).

ScribeFire is a good way to keep blogging without having to stop what you are doing. ScribeFire has some basic formatting tools (bold, italic,, quotes, links, images, etc) as well as allow access to the HTML code (for embedding YouTube video code) if you wish.

You can save a post as a note or publish it to your blog. Tagging is done using the tagging tab. You can even see a list of recent posts that you can edit right in the ScribeFire GUI.

Recommended.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stoned in Iran

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran 'adulterer' stoned to death

Apparently they still stone to death for adultery in some countries. If the rest of the world would have public punishment of crime I convinced there would be much less crime. I guarantee that the spectators at this stoning will think twice before committing adultery. I am not for stoning for adultery but I do believe that public executions (for worthy crimes) and other public sentencing would help curb crime.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Bad Mojo

Today I wiped out my hard disk. That's right, gone. I use a virtualization application called MojoPac that runs on a USB hard drive. I was attempting to do a backup using xxcopy which was recommended by the MojoPac support team for backing up the MojoPac drive to the host system. Xxcopy is a command-line tool and I grew up in a DOS world so command-line tools are not a problem. That is, unless it is late in the afternoon and I can't read worth a darn. I ended up transposing the location and the destination command-line switches and (since I know what I'm doing) dismissing the warning regarding erasure of the destination folder and its contents. A few minutes later I have a nice clean drive. I feel like an idiot.

Fortunately for me, I have a full backup of the drive dated 4/14 but I have still lost a lot of work. This backup was made with Windows XP native backup. Some of the scripts (PHP and Javascript) are up on the web servers so they are recoverable. Just not some of my recent development. Sigh.

Forget the trees and global warming, everyone please make a backup....

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Im not messy, I'm Horizontally Organized

Structured Procrastination - A Plea for the Horizontally Organized

I like this guy (John Perry) and I love the title of his website. John explains in this article how he must keep all of his work out in front of him in order to keep it in the forefront of his mind. His filing cabinet is basically a kill file and he knows it. John refers to being Horizontally Organized as a situational handicap in a vertically-oriented world much like a left-handed person is at a disadvantage in a right-sided writing desk. Not disabled, just disadvantaged.

After reading his article, I feel much better about some my organizational habits. I thought I was just unorganized and messy (I'm sure there is some of that). I believe that I too am horizontally organized. I am somewhat of an out-of-sight-out-of-mind person and I have been trying very hard to find a GTD method that works for me. I have been using online lists, like Backpack, to try to create a system I will actually use but no system really works without a level of diligence (unless you consider putting out fires as they arise a system).

On of my problems with filing is that I never know exactly where to put something so I can find it later. I have had this problem with email folders, filing cabinets, bookmarks, and just about anything that you can categorize. Enter tags. I love tags. I have become a del.icio.us fanatic. I love adding links to del.icio.us just so I can tag them. In my mind, I find it almost impossible to think of one category to put each item in. Just like filing paperwork at home, I can't decide if a power bill should go under unpaid bills, utilities, URGENT, electric, or what! With tagging, I can put it under all of them. If you don't use del.icio.us or GMail, get them.

I propose a new mechanical filing system that would allow you to put an item or a folder in a hopper, set a few tags for the items (and maybe a date to complete) and the folder is whisked away inside. Retrieval would be as simple as telling the filing cabinet to retrieve all records marked "unpaid bills" or "vacation" or "utilities and urgent". As a horizontally organized person, I want one of these. Google is probably already working on it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Finally a decent Windows keyboard editor

AutoHotkey - Free Mouse and Keyboard Macro Program with Hotkeys and AutoText

This program takes a little bit of time to get used to but its extremely powerful. For me, I use it for text replacement and it works with any windows application. If you find this a bit too complex, Lifehacker has a program called texter that is based on the AutoHotkeys code and its much simpler to use but only does text replacement (no mouse stuff).

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Save the steaks from sure destruction

steak-button-thermometer.jpgFinally I will be able to make a steak to order! In high school I worked in a restaurant and I cooked, among other things, steaks. I didn't have a clue of what I was doing but I rarely (no pun intended) got a mis-cooked (and they were) steak back. Anyway I am going to order a pack of these for this year's grilling season which is upon us.

Steak Button Thermometers | Uncrate

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bump Keys

I just found this video today. Apparently, this "bump key" allows the user to open any lock. Bump keys have been around for many years and are illegal in some states (unless you are a licensed locksmith) but the web has spread the knowledge of the bump key and its use. Right now I rarely lock my doors but I'm buying new locks.

Lock Bumping In The News - San Francisco #3 - More amazing video clips are a click away

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What the heck is locking my drive???

I really get annoyed with applications that lock my removable USB devices. I use a 60 GB Passport from Western Digital for my MojoPac at work. I like the Passport since it gets power from the USB. Anyway, when shutting down MojoPac, it sometimes takes minutes to be able to remove the device because something on the host system is still connected to the drive keeping me from removing it. In the early days of USB we just pulled them out and when on but I am trying to be a good USB user now.

Today I ran across a utility, Unlocker Assistant, that reads a file (or folder or, in my case, a drive) and reports on what processes are connected to the selected files. The Unlocker app also has tools to kill offending processes that won't let go. It might not solve all of the problem but it will at least answer the "What the hell is locking my drive?" question.

UNLOCKER 1.8.5 BY CEDRICK 'NITCH' COLLOMB

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Google Launches Free 411 Service

Google is my friend. As far as I am concerned, the World Wide Web would not be what is is today without Google. Before Google we needed to buy big books at Barnes and Noble and Books-a-million to find anything useful. Even when Yahoo came on board it was OK at best. Before Google, we had to pay hefty premiums to call 411 on our cell phones. Not anymore. Google has release a Free 411 service. I, for one, am happy.

Here is the TechCrunch blog entry. Google Launches Free 411 Service

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Al Qaeda claims killing of 9 U.S. troops in Iraq | Top News | Reuters.com

I am not anti-war nor am I pro-war. I think we have to do what needs to be done. I don't like hearing when US soldiers die in Iraq in an honest firefight but killing 9 US soldiers with a car-bomb is just cowardice. I wouldn't consider myself anti-Arab but I sure am getting some not-so-positive feelings about their beliefs, allegiances, and their backbones. Half of those guys slapping that statue with their shoe at the beginning of the war, jumping up and down, and taking US handouts are now fighting against us in one way or another. If I were in charge, I think I'd be prepping some nukes. If they aren't gonna fight fair, why should we? One well placed mushroom cloud and I'd bet those yellow-bellied fools would be waving an American flag again. wussies.

Al Qaeda claims killing of 9 U.S. troops in Iraq | Top News | Reuters.com

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Workstreaming

Today I ran across an entry on Web Worker Daily about workstreaming. First off, I love Web Worker Daily. I have recently gotten into GTD (Getting Things Done) concept and been exploring all of the nice tools out there to streamline my online life and get myself more organized.

Anyway, back to workstreaming. This is a quote from the WWD about workstreaming.
There is a web worker replacement for face time: workstreaming, the publishing of work-related activities and events to your remote colleagues, usually via RSS but sometimes in other formats and ways.
I work in Massachusetts and live in Vermont. Currently, I work from home a couple of days per week. I wanted a way to let my boss know that I am actively working without putting in a web cam or replying to every single email I get in order to show activity. Based on what I read in the article above, Twitter and Jaiku have tools to post quick messages that can be read via RSS feed. By posting quick, "What am I doing right now" messages, I create an up-to-date RSS feed of my online activities.

Right now my favorite is Twitter since I can update my workstream by IM which I keep running always. My current favorite IM is GTalk by Google (mainly because I love all things Google and it records all of my GTalk chats in my Gmail account). Once I link my Twitter account to my GTalk account, I can post a message to my Twitter account by sending an IM to twitter@twitter.com. Pretty sweet.

Of course Twitter and Jaiku offer adding friends, email/IM notifications, timelines, etc.

Bottom Line: I can use Twitter and GTalk to create an easy-to-update workstream that my boss (or client) can use to rest assured that I am working diligently when working from home.

Update: I found out that Twitters success has caused some growing pains. According to Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror, Twitter is the largest Rails website known right now and Rails may not support the multi-server database model that they need to grow into. Read about it here and here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Portable PC

Recently, I started a new Job at Eluma. When they asked me if I wanted a PC or a laptop, I had to make the difficult decision between power and portability. Now, I know I could design a laptop with enough power to spank your average PC but that's not the kind of laptop they were willing to purchase, so I chose the PC (with two Dell 19 inch LCDs). Eluma has a very liberal work from home policy so it was important that I be able to access my work PC from home. VPN and remote desktop are options but on snowy days when everyone works from home, those channels can get pretty clogged. So, I took the advice of my new boss to use a product called MojoPac to take my work applications with me.

MojoPac installs on a USB drive and allows you to install your windows apps on the MojoPac device and carry them with you. Once your apps are installed, you can take the device to any Windows PC, plug in the device, launch MojoPac (autoruns) and your MojoPac desktop is available with all of your apps waiting.

Secure. Running MojoPac on a PC leaves no traces on the host machine. All program settings, preferences, and files are written to the MojoPac and nothing is put onto the host machine.

Gamer. If you are a gamer, you can install your massive games onto the MojoPac and take them to any Windows PC without having to reinstall. Games like World of Warcraft, Battlefield 2142, Command and Conquer, etc. all have 1+ GB installs not to mention critical game patches that have to be installed before one can play online. Playing one of these games on a friend's PC is not a quick process unless you have MojoPac.

Professional. Taking applications and working files back and forth is invaluable. Most EULAs for business software allow the application to be installed on more than one PC as long as they are used by the same person.

Student. Pretty obvious at this point.

I have almost finished my MojoPac 30 day trial and am faced with purchasing. I have only found one application that does not install on the MojoPac and that is Visual Studio 2005 (including the free versions) which I really need for my work. I have been running Visual Studio and Outlook 2000 on the host machine and all other apps on the MojoPac. I can switch back and forth between the host and the MojoPac with a click. I am seriously thinking about using the VPN/Remote Desktop for normal work and using the MojoPac primarily for games. Either way, MojoPac is a very cool application.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Armour for cats and mice -- GENIOUS

I love suits of armor. Last year I saw an exhibit of armor at the MET in NY (I think). I love the craftsmanship that goes into creating something so beautiful. I realize that most of the armor there was probably built for nobles and high-ranking officials and the lesser warriors had the plain-Jane armor, but theses were immaculate. This particular exhibit in NY featured four riders on horseback. Each of the riders had a suit of armor, each unique and incredible. But what surprise me most was that each of the horses had a suit of armor too. I had never known that horse armor could be so elaborate. The exhibit has moved on now but I wish I could see it again. Every time I think I have a significant skill to offer the world, I see something like this and realize that I have to keep going.

Anyway, in my daily ramblings I came across an artist who among other things, makes armor for cats and mice. At first it sounds a bit strange but check it out first.

http://jeffdeboer.com/Galleries/CatsMice/tabid/63/Default.aspx

Thursday, November 02, 2006

OMG Superman is a .. weenie!

I ran across one of the funniest websites. Check out Superdickery.com. I used to collect a lot of comics (and I recognized a few on the site) but I never realized what an absolute jerk Superman was! Make sure you read the website author's comments.