Friday, March 30, 2007

need help getting daily posts on blogger

So, I've been using a lot recently, and it's come at a cost to my posting here on the blog. Via Shrook, my feedreader, I've seen others like Ross Mayfield include their links in their feeds, and I want to do the same.

Much easier said than done.

The folks have provided a handy widget to generate daily blog postings, but in creating the widget, you must know full URL of the XML-RPC interface for your blog. I have yet to find said URL for my Blogger blog. I've checked the Blogger Help Groups and the closest I can get to an answer (LucyG asked the same question) is the unhelpful helpful tip to look here in the Blogger Data API Overview.

A helpful answer would have been "here's the URL just swap out NNNNN for your blogname." But it appears no one's yet cracked the code.

Has anyone seen a successful automatic post from to a Blogger hosted blog? As soon as I find the answer, I'll post it here. Talk about search keyword gold...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

planet earth as an hd showcase

I love it when all the technology in our living room functions as it should...

Our HR20 DVR has been faithfully recording all the episodes of Discovery Channel's new Planet Earth series, and it's been delightful to watch these high-def tours de force on our plasma TV with the sound streaming through the Harman Kardon AVR245.

Not only are the sights and sounds stunning, but the editing is top notch, too. You can hear the surrounding low rumble of volcanoes and the twitter tweet of all kinds of insects and birds as if they were in the room with you. The flyovers of mountains are as if you're looking out the window of the plain yourself.

And to the editing: as a father of two young ones, I really like how the chase scenes (wolf chasing caribou or leopard chasing goat) are shown up to the moment of the catch but not through to the disemboweling and consuming.

My daughters are mesmerized by these shows and I think they'll be leaving a lasting impression on them for years to come. Way to go, Discovery Channel.

Planet Earth should be the marketing campaign for all things High Def.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

lessons on surviving winter travel to boston - redux

A week ago, I was in Essex, MA (just outside Boston) looking out at six inches of fresh snow topped off by a little ice and sleet feeling grateful I hadn't paid attention to Lesson Number One from my nine lessons.

Instead of being booked on the first flight out, as Lesson Number One had taught me, I was on the penultimate flight out. And if not for that, I'd have been desperately trying to live lessons Three through Nine all over again, just two weeks after I'd learned them the first time.

Thanks to the winter storm that hit the Eastern Seaboard on March 16 and 17, United canceled its evening flights on the 16th and many of the morning flights on the 17th.

My St. Pat's flight was untouched, and thanks to my Mileage Plus Premier Exec status, my upgrade request was honored well before the cancellations threw bookings into a tizz and filled the flight to overflowing. Sitting in First Class never felt so good.

Perhaps my upcoming trip to Boston (third trip in six weeks) will yield more travel lessons. I just hope there's no snow involved this time. I'm in the mood for spring having sprung.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

flickr photos under creative commons license

After I uploaded my Stockholm pictures to Flickr, a good friend pointed out that (until today) I have not been practicing what I preach regarding content being available for others to build on in the Creative Commons. My own pix were under regular old copyright until just now. At last, I've put my own Flickr photostream out there under a Creative Commons license for others to use as they see fit (with attribution to me, of course). Stortorget buildings

Now, I chose the Attribution license for my own photos, as it allows for others the most creativity possible, as long as they attribute the original photo to me. But there are six different Creative Commons licenses available for employment on Flickr, and the Creative Commons web site has a very useful CC license FAQ that details the difference between each license.

Want to add your own photos to the Creative Commons? Here's how in six easy steps:
  • From any Flickr page, click on your account name to get to your account settings page
  • Scroll down to the Defaults for new uploads section and click "EDIT" next to "What license will your photos have?"
  • Choose your license from the dropdown and click the "Set Default License" button
  • IMPORTANT: once the license is set, you need to click "EDIT" on the "What license will your photos have?" again to change the license on all your existing Flickr photos.
  • Once you're on the license page, choose the "batch" link in the grey box above the dropdown.
  • On the new "set a license default for your photos" page, choose your license and click SAVE.
Voila! Your Flickr stream is now part of the Creative Commons set on Flickr for all the world to get jiggy with!

timely verizon wireless notice

So, we've just experienced our first "early" Daylight Savings Time switch, beginning March 11 and ending November 3.

What should I find delivered in the mail on Monday, March 12? The following IMPORTANT NOTICE from the good folks at Verizon Wireless [with my italicized comments]:
Please note that Daylight Savings time is going to take place 3 weeks earlier and end 1 week later this year as a result of the Energy Policy Act that Congress has passed. [read: don't grouse at us about this change]

Daylight Savings Time will begin on Sunday, March 11, 2007 and end on November 3, 2007. [what, this is a one-time gig? no change in 2008? cool!]

Although Verizon Wireless network is ready to seamlessly support the change, you may be required to update your device if you use a Blackberry®, PDA or Smarphone running Palm® OS or Windows Mobile®. [seamless, save remembering to send this reminder out on time]

Updating your device helps ensure that your calendar and time stamp calculations remain synced up with the United States and Canada. [Wait, Congress passed an Act that affects Canada, too? do they know about this? ]

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and appreciate your continued support. [and kindly overlook the blatant inconvenience of sending this to you late]

To get the required updates, please visit and follow the directions. [and here's hoping you can still access the web after the fact!]

Yer palz at verizonWireless
Funny how they never send out a bill late, huh?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

refreshing change of perspective

It's been over two years since I traveled outside the United States, and this trip to Sweden has served as a powerful reminder how refreshing it is to immerse yourself in a different culture.

Even though traveling to Scandinavia is far from the culture shock of a trip to say, South America or Southeast Asia or anywhere in Africa, the culture here is different enough from my daily American experience that I'm reminded just how insular my life is in California.

Among the biggest differences I've noticed:
  • I've yet to see any trash anywhere on any street in Stockholm (I'll keep looking)
  • The Swedes are very style-conscious, but in a sense of personal pride way, not in a "look at me" kind of way
  • The food is portioned perfectly on the plate... no heaping American-style servings spilling over the sides of the table here
  • Tax is included in the price you see on the shelf... no complicated additions at the cash register
  • There's a very strong push to mind how big a footprint one makes on the environment... I can't believe how green the adverts and marketing messages are here in Stockholm. It'll be interesting to see if the Dutch are as green as the Swedes seem to be.
  • Kaffe is king: If only I could fit the industrial-strength coffee-making machine at the GWP offices, there'd be a vacant spot where the machine now stands come tomorrow evening :-)
  • Politeness and courtesy overwhelms me everywhere I go: not in a sickly-sweet manner, but in a "I respect you and expect you to do the same of me" manner.
I've got to figure out how to bring this home with me.

madmundo: what rights for women?

In today's Global Action Network meeting, we were treated to content created by Patrice Barrat of the Bridge Initiative.

In celebration of International Women's Day, here's a snippet of video seen on his Madmundo site about Chahinaz, a young woman in Algeria, exploring why women don't have the same rights as men in her own country and how her experience is (or is not) shared by others elsewhere in the world:

Patrice also had a great idea, that's not as "out there" as it might seem: in conjunction with the upcoming Olympics in China, have an Olympiad for Change, where the competition would be about how to effect change in the world... we'll see how this unfolds.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

flying (to the) dutch, man

After a harried morning at work, I arrived at SFO with time to spare to take KLM flight 606 to Amsterdam. It's a code share flight with Northwest Airlines, and I had signed up for flight status notification at the Northwest web site. Having used United's EasyUpdate service for many years, I thought NWA's service would be similar.


Two hours before the flight was due to leave (and I was already in queue to go through security), I got the following email in my box from

Flight information is not available for NW flight 8606 scheduled to depart at 3:20 pm on March 6 and arrive in AMS at 10:55 am.

Luckily, the flight information notice, or lack thereof, was the low point of my experience flying KLM to Amsterdam. Flight 606 is a ten-hour nonstop flight aboard a McDonell Douglas MD-11. Depending on which flyer forum you visit, the MD-11 is either the last of a graceful line of three-engine long range aircraft, or it's a dying breed that should be parked in the deserts of Arizona without further delay.

Aside from lacking power ports at any seat on the aircraft, I found the aircraft to be rather comfortably appointed and unless I was looking really really close, I couldn't tell the aircraft hadn't been delivered in just the last couple years (in reality, the last MD-11 was delivered to KLM in 1997).

I'd been assigned seat 6G, an aisle seat, in the World Business Class section, and this sums up the experience:

  • the seat has 150 degree tilt, so is much more comfortable than coach, but in no way a comfortable position for sleeping
  • it has its own video monitor, so you're able to choose among 7 movies and 7 television program packages that run on a 2 hour loop
  • you can learn a surprising amount of useful Dutch by reading the captions to a spoken-english movie
  • shortly after boarding, you're given a convenience bag (with eye blocker, cabin socks, etc), noise-canceling headphones and breakfast menu to make your selections for the next "morning"
  • within the first two hours of flight, dinner is served, cleared and the shades are down and lights lowered to facilitate sleeping (or learning Dutch-by-caption for those of us who are restless)
  • the food was decent fare and the coffee and wine were actually quite good
  • the attending crew are polite and efficient at their tasks
  • the parting "gift" for the business class folks is a miniature model of Old Dutch Houses filled with "the famous Dutch young jenever, distilled by Bols Distilleries." Nice gift for me (at the hotel) and the girls (emptied for home)

In all, quite the pleasant transatlantic experience and I wouldn't hesitate to fly them again (after I return home Sunday, natch)

My Schiphol airport experience can be summed up in one word so far: smoky. What a difference from the clean-air US airports.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

directv hr20 dvr needs customer support

The latest software upgrade for my DirecTV HR20 DVR was downloaded on Feb 28.

I'm now running version 0x134, which has finally fixed the dreaded IKD bug, according to the Level 2 Tech Support supervisor I just spent 20 minutes on the phone with.

Was it a coincidence that on March 1, the day after the software upgrade, my HR20 failed to record either American Idol or Survivor like it was supposed to? Instead of finding them waiting in the playlist for me, I had to go to my History list and see that they've been registered as "deleted" with the following error message:
This episode was canceled because of an unexpected error. (2003)
Evidently I've discovered yet another bug that has now been reported to the tech team awaiting others to share their same pain. If you've had a series fail to record on your HR20 because of the (2003) error, please call customer support to report it so they can fix it quick by having more data points.

Even though DirecTV has claimed it's fixed the IKD bug, they have yet to "fix" their orientation toward how the problems are affecting their users. I spent 35 minutes on the phone this sunny afternoon trying to get to someone at DirecTV who would acknowledge that their product is failing to deliver what it's promised to do (record the shows I ask it to record).

The orientation of the first- and second-tier customer support reps seems to be to do what they can to get you to reset your DVR and assume all will be solved. I finally had to ask for a supervisor after spending 10 minutes with "Loretta" telling me that my problem was "fixed" with the reset and there was no problem whatsoever with the fact the HR20 had failed to record shows for me last week. She tried several times to ship a new unit to me to "fix" the problem which shows just how ignorant she is as to why folks use a DVR:
I have a DVR to reliably record shows for later playback at my leisure.
I don't have a DVR to help someone develop their technology. I didn't pay several hundred dollars to lease this HR20 so I could spend at least an hour a month on the phone with tech support to help squash bugs.

Here's an idea for the execs at DirecTV: look at your user account database and identify the people like me who call in for tech support only after already diagnosing and capturing in explicit detail what the bugs are. Give us free DirecTV service in exchange for us agreeing to be your beta testers with regular bug reporting and feedback looping. When you've got a true GM candidate after testing with us (and all the others who don't know how to beta test well but are along for the ride), you can begin charging us for the product.

As a longtime subscriber, I remember as recently as one year ago when I was a huge DirecTV fan and sang the company's praises. The HR20 ownership experience has done nothing but erode my goodwill toward them. And I'm sick of the phone-tree hell they force me to go through each time I want to help them debug their software.

BTW... the "fast access PIN" thru tech support is 1537 for the next five days. Call 1-800-695-9251 to get straight to the level-two support folks. If Loretta answers, hang up and queue up with someone else.