0 comments Saturday, November 8, 2008

Ok so this BLOG has moved. If you're watching it via an RSS feed reader you'll need to change the feed URL to:

http://roeckerfam.com/jacob/feed/ [Link]

Other than that you should be able to see the blog visiting http://jacobroecker.blogspot.com or http://jacob.roeckerfam.com

Sorry about the inconvenience.

0 comments Sunday, November 2, 2008

Welcome to all the (like 10) people who visit the blog!

My latest project: Reprise has it's own home online--and by the end of the day it should have a new logo!

Got an old computer? Let me recycle it!

0 comments Friday, October 31, 2008

Cell phones are a great way to communicate. They're especially good to help me find my wife in Wal-Mart. She seems to turn into some sort of super-spy and manages to hide while I wander the entire store. Thanks to cel phones I'm able to get a hold of her and she can tell me she's in the diaper aisle.

There's news out now of cel phones causing cancer and more recently causing allergic reactions. The iPhone is a hit with those who can afford it and despite the hype no one cel phone provider has done significantly better than any other in national reviews. That's the news you can read elsewhere.

Here's something you won't be able to find elsewhere. Got a problem with your phone? Call 611. Odd are your problem isn't an allergic reaction, or developing cancer. It's probably a lack of minutes and a bill become a financial burden--at least ours has that habit sometime.

So dial 611--give them your explanation and ask for something called "bonus minutes." When I was graduating in May and moving we used up more minutes than we had in 4 months. In response to a phone call AT&T donated 1,000 bonus minutes to ease the burden--man did it help. Verizon gives a standard 250, and T-Mobile has similar standards.

Moving or got a good reason to be killing minutes? Just give them a call and see if they can help. Now this doesn't apply to my mother who bought her cell phone two years before she turned it on. If mom could transfer her minutes to us (we're both on AT&T) we'd be set for at least 18 months! :-)

Mom we love you, and because we're on the same network we love calling you for free. We're hoping that dad keeps his iPhone on a little more these days. It's a bummer to have to cut conversations short because of a land line.

0 comments Wednesday, October 29, 2008

So this blog has been somewhat silent of late. That's totally my fault. After all, I've accepted no one else to help me author it.

Wanna know what I've been up to? Let me introduce you to the latest project. It's called "Reprise" as in the repetition of a music piece. The idea is a simple one.

I noticed there was a need for kids in the area to grow up with computers, but there's quite a few families that can't afford them. Then I discovered something. Remember how I told you I started messing with Ubuntu [here & here]? Well, I've done so because the operating system runs clean, and doesn't need a fancy computer or a whole lot of space.

Then I discovered something. It's called Edubuntu. The idea is to develop the already good operating system for schools. It works! It works well.

So now I can give away computers with an operating system designed for students, and I don't need powerful machines.

I noticed though, that I didn't have a budget to buy them all computers. So next week the principle of Eliza's school and I will be launching a campaign in town to get old computers donated from families and businesses in the area. I'll pick them up, clean them, and install edubuntu. Over the next few days I've got to put together all the promotional material for the idea, FAQ, website, etc. If this model works it can be followed by other communities. The idea is up and running. It's going to be a hit!

Visit the Reprise website for more information.

0 comments Sunday, October 26, 2008

So I realized that my blog posts will probably still be online by the time that my kids have their own kids. They may even look to them for advice on how to address issues in their lives. I know that there's several times I've asked mom to copy pages from her Journal so I could read them. I'm really interested in what it was like raising me.

So here's a bit of practical advice that has nothing to do with your computer. Whether you stick multiple kids in the same room or not, have them all separate their clothes--give each kid a color. "China"-mart generally has mutliple colors for hangars, and they usual go on sale about the same time of the "back to school stuff" goes on sale.

This solves a lot of parental confusion for who's clothes are who's. Daniel's closet now has a rod that's at his level. At three he knows which clothes are his (blue hangar). Eliza knows which ones are hers (pink hangars--and the more girly clothes). Rainey doesn't have as much of a clue yet--but his hangars are white.

There's like a rule about blogs that says you can't post text without a picture. Since I didn't have a picture of hangars I googled it. Found the picture above, but then I also found this one.

There's something about a giant gorilla made of coat hangars that tells me someone's got too much time on their hands! WOW for creativity.

Hopefully my posterity will read the post tagged "Gorilla" when they're looking at how to organize their kids' closets.

1 comments Monday, October 20, 2008

Ok: So one of my favorite compliments to this blog was from Logan. I didn't know that he didn't know that there were things called feed readers out there that would allow you watch other people's blogs. After all there's like 29,100,000 resuls for blog reader on google. I figured that he would have just googled it.

Well, let's talk about web browsers. My experience this morning with myspace was less than positive. I was able to fix the problem. Two things allowed me to do so. First, I knew that there was a solution, and second I'm using software that empowers the solution.

Thanks to google analytics I can see that most of my blog visitors are using windows:

1. 215 65.15%
2. 83 25.15%
3. 32 9.70%

And most are using Firefox:

1. 232 70.30%
2. 88 26.67%
3. 5 1.52%
4. 4 1.21%
5. 1 0.30%

That's great! For those 5 of you who are using Safari and the 88 folks using Internet Explorer this blog post is for you.

I'm the guy that likes to take a computer out of the box and performs a series of tweaks to get it working efficiently for whatever the user wants to do with it. Apple likes their computers to do a number of tasks "out of the box." That's one reason why the software is integrated so well. It's part of the company's mentality.

Microsoft has tried to keep up, but the biggest advantage to windows is it's miracle. It's a miracle that you can proprietarily run on operating system on so many diverse types of comptuers. The other advantage to windows is the wide distribution of the software. It's popularity increases it's functionality.

Each operating system comes with a browser. A browser is what you use to view web pages. The internet before browsers was really a rather sad affair--but we wont talk about that now. Apple comes with a browser called "Safari," and Windows has "Internet Explorer." Internet Explorer has a history of being unsecure, exploitive, and unresponsive to user demands. Safari has fared better in the contests over time.

The current versions of both browsers use something called "tabbed browsing." They each address the security issues a lot quicker than they used to. In fact some of the issues are addressed proactively.

Why is there a fight over the browsers? Well, there's money to be made in browsers. Safari has a little box in the upper right hand corner that allows you to search google. Apple gets an estimated $25 million a year for all the times people just decide to 'look for something.'

Microsoft launced their own search service in 2005. Instead of searching google you search Microsoft's version of the internet. Most users wont notice the difference. Popular sites are annotated in each search feature. Watch out though. If you launched a website this week, it may take up to 6 weeks before it appears on Windows Live (Blumen Barrettes doesn't exist there yet). There's other differences, but the internet is not the same depending on who's search you're using. Microsoft gleans the revenue from Windows Live outright.

Did you notice something? Let's Q&A:
  • Who's got the most popular Operating System?
  • Microsoft.
  • What's the way they search?
  • Windows Live.
  • Who makes money off of it?
  • Microsoft.
  • Is their search as powerful as others?
  • NO.
  • Can you change it?
  • Yes, but it takes several steps--not fun.
Remember those adds I was miffed about on my previous post? Microsoft and Apple would have those stay there. Why? Because they have a vested interest in me clicking on ads. When I search using their box I see ads. If I click on those ads, they get money. If I can't see those ads, I can't click and they don't get any money.

The alternative browsers are less glitchy than they used to be. If you're going simple download firefox. (My parents generation: I'm talking to you.) Firefox is stable, popular, secure, and customizable.

The default search engine is google. But Firefox doesn't want the money. Download Adblock Plus and get rid of the ads. No one will be mad at you.

There's other browsers out there as well, but even Chrissy doesn't read my blogs when they're this long--so I better stop my rant.

I'm not anti-Microsoft. They have bills to pay as well. They do a great job. I just think that innovation has a foothold in the future of how we do computers. Stop thinking in Microsoft labels and it's amazing what's out there. My dad's started to discover that from his Mac. At some point I hope to get them (and others) thinking beyond the Mac and Microsoft and Google label for things. There's things in the cauldron bubbling away. Eventually dinner will be served. Firefox is an appetizer. :-)


So for the most part I hate myspace. Sure I'm thrilled that social networking is now the primary use for the internet. Especially since the previous king was pornography websites. It's certainly an improvement--but not much.

Myspace is great for hunting independent artists. Every few weeks I look up a couple of more for my collections. This week I ran into three bands. "The Corrections" wrote me back and sent me a song of theirs.

So I'm thinking cool, free music. They're a nice band. Wanna hear? Check out their myspace page here.

When you get there I've got to say I'm sorry for having to send you to their site. You see myspace has consistantly been finding ways to take "yourspace" and make it "yourspace with our ads." It's no wonder more people are flocking to facebook.

The screenshots are from the final communicatin I had with "The Corrections." Based upon my limited profile, myspace decided to show me ads asking me to question my choice of auto insurance, calculate when I'm going to die, and encourage me to cheat on my wife. Everything in red circles is an add. The green arrow is the only bit of information relevant to what I was doing.

Yeah, I'm offended. This is absolutely disgusting.

So I think I'll get a plugin for my browser that blocks every ad across the internet everywhere. It takes the offensive page that you saw earlier and turns it into this nice, simple, page with a blue header on the left.

Facebook has less ads, less offensive ads, more features, and keeps us in touch with our friends better. Wanna talk about music? I found Cherie Call on facebook and she added me as her 'friend.' That's pretty cool eh?

0 comments Sunday, October 19, 2008

So I was having a rather terrible day a few weeks back and needed a pick-me-up. I remembered something Dr Ballum said in the Creative Arts class I took at USU. He talked about a bad day he had that ended with reading a letter from Ludwig Beethoven to his brother. In the letter he describes what it is like to be a great composer going deaf.

We should all be fairly familiar with the story. At the end of his life Beethoven concluded his compositional career with an unparalleled masterpiece. He composed his final symphony while deaf and incorporated Shiller's 1785 composition "Ode to Joy."

Let's review some of the lyrics in translation:

33 You bow down, millions?
34 Can you sense the Creator, world?

35 Seek him above the starry canopy.

36 Above the stars He must dwell.

37 Joy is called the strong motivation

38 In eternal nature.

39 Joy, joy moves the wheels

40 In the universal time machine.

41 Flowers it calls forth from their buds,

42 Suns from the Firmament,
43 Spheres it moves far out in Space,
44 Where our telescopes cannot reach.

It's no wonder to me that Beethoven used this poem for the song. It contains such vision and inspiring words! Ode to Joy is about humanity and the joy that is possible for unifying humanity. There seems to be fewer and fewer people each day that are willing to champion the idea of uniting the world. I certainly haven't seen any of them on the news recently.

Needles to say my bad day was melted away. I was pretending to conduct the greatest symphony ever written while driving in my car belting out German nonsesne at the same time. I must have looked crazy, but I was in love with life. I was being reminded that there is hope for unifying humanity and the great denominator for it happens to be someone I know.

One of the slow-downs to life has been the new road they're putting on top of the old one. I wouldn't mind so much, except for the fact that it's the road I have to drive on to and from home each day. Since the Beethoven incident I've changed my perspective about the road a bit. I've also recently changed my attitude.

Imagine yourself being out in the sun all day. The weather has added about 10 years to your appearance. Each day unappreciative people drive by you cursing the fact that you're trying to make a living on their commute. They consider your actions a personal attack on their routine. As they drive by you can see the cartoon thought captions in their facial expressions. "How dare they build this now?" "They're doing it wrong." "Please don't stop me." "Why do I have to slow down?"

Now imagine after a day like this that someone in a 2002 red, Ford Focus drives up, gets your attention and says "Thank you!"

Why not? It's a nice new road. It's better for the car. It's fun to drive on. It looks good. And the best part---I didn't have to build it! I certainly should say thanks.

So I'm no Beethoven. I'm no Shiller. But their words and songs mean nothing unless someone puts their message into action. I'll be the action guy, and who knows. Maybe they'll see me as their hero. Then I'll be an Action Hero!

0 comments Friday, October 17, 2008

So this post is a sort of informal poll, and I'm hoping to get some comments. We're trying to get http://clips.roeckerfam.com up and running. So far we've had a couple of sales after much effort. It's time to start getting the site tweaked for search engines. With our limited description on most pages, it's going to be difficult to increase traffic.

Today I had an idea that was a part of a solution. I made up a story about one particular pair of barrettes. So I'd like to know if the story helps to increase the saleability of the item.

Here's the 'standard' description:

Product Description
These stylish accessories are made with 1, 3/4"alligator clips. The clips have been lined with durable grosgrain ribbon. All ends have been heat treated to prevent fraying. All clips are sold in pairs unless otherwise listed.

This is the story I came up with for the "Dororthy" barrettes:

These barrettes make an excellent accessory. More fantastic however is the tale of how they were created.
The story goes that during the filming of the movie about the magical land called “Oz” a visitor was sent from the Wizard himself. Hogwash you say! There is no such thing! Well, for every fairy tale there is an element of reality behind the story. Behind the fable of Oz is an actual Oz, and the wizard is certainly a Wizard indeed. Well, this Wizard heard about the movie and was so flattered that humans would take the time to honor his country so, that he decided to present Judy Garland with a gift. He sent one of the munchkins who blended in perfectly on the set, to deliver a box. Inside the box for the young actress were chocolates, various exotic fruits from Oz, and two red-ribbon barrettes. Judy was thrilled, and she had initially planned to wear them during the movie's signature song: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Everyone approved, until the film was announced to be released in color. The costume department and director insisted that Judy's dress be blue for the film. The barrettes would clash, and were left in the dressing room. The Wizard was offended at the release of the film. Not only did it assume him to be a bumbling charlatan, but Judy Garland wasn't wearing the barrettes she had been given. So if you wonder why no one has heard from the land of Oz to this day, Wizards tend to live a long time, and are much better at holding grudges than people. By coincidence the original design for the barrettes has reappeared after all these years. Now available in pairs for only $5 you two can own this piece of Hollywood fabledom.

I think stories can help make the website more fun, increase traffic, and pass along a few more smiles. If you've got an idea for a story (like the lady-bugs) let me know and we might make it official. If you're thinking this is generally a bad idea, let me know too.

Thanks to Jenny for the logo! It's awesome! We use it on the stationary here in town.

0 comments Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Matt Hargrave is not only a relative (thanks to Haley) he's also a really great guy to have in the family. He's been telling me how Haley bought a really really nice new computer.

There's only two flaws with it:

  1. There's a partially eaten piece of fruit on the front of it.
  2. There's no office suite (word processing, spreadsheets, etc)
So Haley's been leaving the computer "off" and going to the library to the wee hours of the evening to get papers done.

There's a better way. Sure you can shell out anywhere between $150 and $500 to get Microsoft's Office suite. It's popular, looks flashy, and is so confusing sometimes it's hard to get a job done.

Before you spend the money shop around a bit and see what else is out there. This week OpenOffice 3.0 was released. So many people downloaded it that the servers are overloaded. Still want to try it out? You can download it here. Since it comes in so many flavors, you'll need to know a bit about your computer. Most of you will probably not use the version for Solaris.

There's two changes you'll want to make when switching office suites. The first one is in your head:
  1. Stop thinking in terms of the Microsoft Labels. You'll have to tell yourself that you don't want Excel anymore. You want to make spreadsheets. Your formulas, functions, shortcuts, graphs, and charts will all be at your disposal, but they'll be in a 'spreadsheet application,' not in Excel.
  2. Pay attention to this one. Open Office by default likes to save things in the OpenOffice format. Microsoft Word saves things as a word document ".doc" OpenOffice has it's own file format to save things as. Guess what Microsoft's applications wont read it. (How they do like their monopoly). We can change it to help you avoid any incompatability issues
  • Open the Word Application.
  • Tools
  • Options
  • Load/Save
  • General
  • Under Document type select "Text Document"
  • Always save as "Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP"
  • Under Document type select "Spreadsheet"
  • Always save as "Microsoft Excel 97/2000/XP"
  • Under Document type select "Presentation"
  • Always save as "Microsoft PowerPoint 97/2000/XP"
It's a lot simpler than it looks and the program is fairly solid. If you're not able to get student discounts and rebates for the Microsoft Version this one is worth considering.

Actually the software is so good between linux and open office I'm considering getting donated computers, repairing them and loading them up with the free software out there and donating them to the school. The final state will be that the school gives them to students who otherwise wouldn't have a computer. I'll probably start setting this up towards December.

0 comments Saturday, October 11, 2008

I understand that the music industry is a difficult one to get into. Why not? It seems very depressing to be a musician. Maybe that's why they do so many drugs. Then of course there's also the death of musicians. I mean really it's like a statistically bad thing to be taking a plane ride once you're a famous musician. Remember Richie Valens, Aaliyah, Buddy Clark, Buddy Holly, Dean Paul Martin, Jim Croce, Jim Reeves, and John Denver?

That's why many musicians see the road they're headed down and decide to avoid the pathway of destruction. Some choose rather productive outlets. Brian Biehle writes music for/with his kids. Other musicians end up being high school music teachers--a fine route but it seems more like a desperate attempt to avoid eating ramen noodles more than 4 nights a week.

Out of all the possible outlets for musicians who don't make the 'big time' who sells out to make elevator music. I mean really. You've got to call mom and be like "Hey mom, I recorded my fourth album today." She'll ask what's on it. "I used a soprano sax on the love-theme from Superman."

Do we really need that?

I've become an expert on elevator music. I've had to deal with Yahoo's customer service on several occasions this past week for one issue or another regarding websites. I've listened to quite a bit of elevator music. I hope I don't have to listen to very much of it in the future. I think that they use the music as a means to deter you from staying on the phone. Someone at customer service must have sat there and said "let's play the most obnoxious calming music possible so people will either hang up, or be placated."

At 30 I'm looking at life as though there are some things I'll just never get around to accomplishing. Becoming a musician is for sure off the list. Why? I probably wouldn't make it--I don't want to teach high school--Drugs aren't an option--Fiery plane crashes look cooler on movies than they do up close.

0 comments Friday, October 10, 2008

I've got Chrissy's business up online and running. We're waiting for our first order with the new site.

This model is called "Tuxedo." We're working on an email to send you all a coupon for free shipping.

To get added to the list email: sales (at) roeckerfam.com (had to write it that way to avoid spammers)

See you soon!


So I arranged for these two to go out on a date just before I left Utah. Then my job was to back off and see what would happen. I asked how they were doing a bit later and in response I got this photo.

It says a lot!

I haven't been getting much sleep these past few weeks. About 10 days ago I was finally going to get some rest (more than 5.5 hours) and went to bed. At 11:30pm I got a phone call. It was from Mike. It was good news. Something he and I had been talking about for a long time finally happened. He was excited. I was sleepy.

As mention in the previous post, I had to be in at work early and had a 3:00am wakeup. Yes there is a 3:00 in the morning for those of you who didn't know. So I crashed putting the boys to bed last night.

Wouldn't you know it, around 11:00 there was a phone call from Mike. Chrissy answered, woke me up and it was good news once again.

He wanted to tell me that McKell got a new ring and he bought it for her.

There's a bit of pride involved in playing match maker. After all this makes two couples I've introduced. My efforts are minimal compared to the amount of work it takes to create a family and keep it together. They're wonderful people. They're a wonderful couple. Just the sort of wonderful people that causes a loving Heavenly Father to send an invitation to the highest covenant man can make here on earth.

Congrats Mike and McKell! I'm glad to be your friends.

This photo is definitely NOT their baby. If we give them time I'm sure we'll see one like it in a few years. :-)

0 comments Thursday, October 9, 2008

There's two great reasons for celebrating today. You're going to need a little background for me to tell you why it's so great first. My mother and father have both gone through several computers. My dad has always loved gadgets. He also loves to read about them. One concern you can't help but reading about when you read about computers is their security. Dad's a bit concerned about loosing the hours of work he's put into the family history files he's created.

So for all of these years my parents have used the internet very little at home. I've been trying politely to change that.

Mom got a new computer. I got my opportunity. Last night, with only a little hesitation, I talked her through downloading skype. I've known for a while how simple the program was to install and use. Within 7 minutes we were webcamming each other for the first time.

Then the kids saw grandma online. Rainey climbed up onto the couch. Eliza and Daniel started talking. Pretty soon grandma had to sort through conflicting streams of conversation. I'm sure it was probably wonderfully overwhelming!

It could have been the fact that I had been up since 3 in the morning, but I felt a great weight lifted off my shoulders. I was able to let out a big sigh. Finally we can use all this technology to keep our family a bit closer together. For years we have been talking with Chrissy's parents via webcam. As parents we've watched our kids develop a close (although long distance) relationship with one set of grandparents. Naturally I've wanted to balance the scales.

Daniel can show grandma how he's learning to draw letters.
Eliza can show off her homework.
Rainey blows kisses at the screen all day long--if you'll let him.

You can do the research yourself but I'll tell you quickly why I use skype:

  • Low footprint: not a whole lot of hard disk space and you can 'call' over dialup
  • Security: each conversation/chat is 256bit encrypted
  • Cross platform: I've got computers running Linux, Windows, and OS X. Skype works on all of them
  • Add free: Unlike MSN and Yahoo Messenger which are outlets for large corporations to display their advertising, skype doesn't do that.
Thanks for skyping mom! I'm hoping we can make a habit of having meals together.

5 comments Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Last time the dog got skunked it was my turn to give him a bath. This time the dog got skunked and it was still my turn to give him a bath.

Isn't there like a thing where you're supposed to take turns on this one? Or is this like the dishes where it's just my chore every night and I should be grateful to get any help?

I'm also thinking that if we actually lived in a town--it's mascot would be a skunk. In the 15 miles I drive to and from work there's usually a two skunk minimum. (Two dead skunks on the road)

I guess this is just what happens when you live in the country.

0 comments Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tonight I finished the code for the Book of Mormon Podcast. I can now go to sleep knowing that it's completed.

Since I started the podcast as a way to keep busy while listening to Spring's General Conference I've had more than 400 people sign up for the podcast. It's neat to think that they depend on me for something as important as their scripture study.

When you search in iTunes for the podcast you'll notice there's another gentleman that has podcasted the book of Mormon under the title of "The Official Audio Book of Mormon." There's nothing "official" about his version of the podcast--except that is uses the same church audio files.

One of the reason why my version took so long to produce is that each chapter contains the summary information integrated with the files. This makes the podcast appear more professional.

What's the next step? I'd encourage the fellow bloggers out there to add a link to http://roeckerfam.com/bom.xml on their webpages with the title of "The Book of Mormon Podcast." Every search engine looks at blogs to find new and popular topics. They increase the ranking of a search's keywords based upon how many blogs & websites that have the link. Right now "the book of mormon podcast" shows this podcast as 7th. If you can take the time to link to it eventually it'll win out as the first choice.

Oddly enough this is an online project where I don't actually get anything out of it. I could have built the podcast for some gain, but didn't because it didn't feel right. The other six search results that are ahead of this one--didn't deliver a free version of the scriptures :-(.

Well, thanks for listening!


Growing up with my dad was an experience, and for every experience there's a story to tell. Dad has always been a gadget guy.

When it was time to go Christmas shopping I remember going to Toys R Us. It was a big deal for us to be in a store with that many toys. It was a big deal for dad as well.

Dad used to detour to the calculator section (no computers back then). It was only after some prodding that he'd come join the rest of the family at the register. Dad's always been a gadget guy.

Now from what mom tells me, dad does the same thing with the Mac store. This video is dedicated to the gadget man that's never grown up.

Dad gets these blogs emailed to him. So if he wants to see the vid he'll need to click here.

0 comments Saturday, October 4, 2008

So as it turns out everyone's fallen in love with the barrettes Chrissy's been making. Well, I've been playing around with the idea that she should sell them online. She's already had a few orders here in town.

Today I figured out how to do it and got the website up and running. You can now visit clips.roeckerfam.com and order some of the barrettes. As we get photos of the other one's we'll be putting them up online as well. In the meantime there's three to choose from.

Blumen Barrettes is born! We can handle shipments to Canada and the US.

We're sure to be getting more photos up soon. Chrissy's already designed argyle ones as well as some others in great fall colors. Someone out there is going to be our first order--could it be you?

We've included a link to the clips on the upper right hand side of Chrissy's Blog. Please spread the word!

Thanks to our cute models! Kyla and Megan!

6 comments Wednesday, October 1, 2008

So I was running an errand on Saturday and Chrissy told me to look in a neighbor's yard and that I'd see a zebra. I kinda didn't really believe her, but hey this is Fletcher/Elgin (Felgin) Oklahoma--Anything can happen!

I ran my errand, saw the "zebra," and on the way home interviewed the owner. As it turns out it's a half-zebra half donkey. So literally this is our "Half-Assed" Neighbor.

There are very few instances where I can use that phrase. After suppressing the phrase in my lexicon for several years, I now get to use it with a smile.

Some interesting facts:
  • The animals are known by several different names source
    • zonkey, zedonk, or even zebrass
    • one zoo in Japan even announced they had a zenky
    • no formal name is approved
  • In South Africa they occur where zebras and donkeys are found in proximity to each other. Like mules, however, they cannot usually breed, due to an odd number of chromosomes disrupting meiosis. However, in The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin reported a case of a zonkey that apparently bred with a bay mare to produce a "triple hybrid." source
  • More Images
Who knows, maybe next week I'll go run an errand and get to see a Liger!!!
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I'm going through a spell right now where I'm listening to a lot of folk music. The genre is still full of people that are creative because they want to be--not because there's money in the industry. I think it brings out some of the most clever ideas.

This happens to me every couple of years--I decide that every song on my playlists are overplayed--ditch them and start afresh with a new genre. Today I heard a song that is so wonderfully slightly irreverent and clever it's worth sharing on a blogpost.

I'd recommend anyone else willing to try out the genre for free take a detour from this blog to folkalley.com. It's worth the trip . For those of you who are exceptionally lazy just subscribe to their podcast here:

Remember Podcasts are FREE, don't require an iPod, and if you don't like it delete it. But when you're making that commute to work they're great companions to have around.

3 comments Tuesday, September 30, 2008

So when you've got to go to a mandatory function there's a few things you do.
  • You get dressed up fancy.
  • You open the door for your wife.
  • You compliment her appearance
  • Oh yeah! And you get a baby-sitter!
Since it was a school night we couldn't ask any of the neighborhood kids. So we asked Matt Hargrave to watch the munchkins. For payment, we fed him.

He brought over his gas-powered remote controlled car. It was a curiosity with the kids. I mean it was like Lehi discovering the Liahona. They watched intently. As it sputtered and revved there were awaiting what it was going to do next.

Then it started. The revving turned into motion and it sped across the grass, driveway and the road. The small machine ran one direction then another. It darted around like a rabbit chance from Wild America.

I stood there with the camera on the side and I could almost hear the voice of Marty Stouffer talk about the great hunter emerging to it's pray. Moby was very interested. He didn't bite it, but tried to intimidate it through barking at it.

He barked and ran, and ran and barked. He did this for about 20 minutes. The other dogs in the neighborhood joined in. Moby was leader of the pack of barkers. What great fun! He barked so much he was hyperventilating for a few minutes afterwards.

Chrissy and I left for our function. Matt was off to a good start. He had the kid's attention. When we came home they were dressed and watching Florence Henderson on the Muppet show. We said prayers, and put them to bed.

Matt may tell you that he feels like he lives in a prison. When he's here, our home feels better. I think he's got a crappy barracks room to encourage him to come visit more often.
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So I posted about RSS readers and as it tuns out Logan learned something from the post. So I've got another insight I'd figured is worth sharing. Today's topic: Water. More specifically bottled water--or as I like to call it--bottled sham.

I recently watched a news article about a company that was putting NYC tap water in bottles. It's a clever idea. Almost as clever as the idea of paying off our debt a nickel at a time. Hopefully the tap water is up higher than the debt begging program I started. I'm still at $.00.

Well, as crazy as it sounds if you've drunk a bottle of water you've probably been drinking tap water already. Most water on the market comes from Reverse Osmosis Water Purification (ROWPU). The military uses this process to take water from the lakes at Saddam's palaces in Baghdad and turn it into bottled water (see photo--not me fishing).

I'd just figured I'd let you know that the stuff you paid good money for may have been sewage the day before. After all, the process removes nearly every natural pollutant to give you something wet and safe to drink.

There's no question that it's clean and safe and tastes good--they add just the right minerals for taste--the real question is--was it worth your money? After all you can buy a small ROWPU unit for under $300.

4 comments Monday, September 29, 2008

So last week Eliza had to take a shower before school. She decided to use the one in the master bathroom. She told Chrissy there was mouse on the floor.

We believed her. We live in the country.

Later that week I got up early and saw the mouse running around behind some photos we still haven't hung up yet.

Now Chrissy and I have been talking about getting a cat for outside and the kids and I went to the dollar store to get some mouse traps.

Yes, I prefer doing things the old-fashioned way. I bait my traps with peanut butter (chunky) and sunflower seeds. It worked well in Iraq, and now it works in Oklahoma.

Yes, we got 'em.

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4 comments Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dear Blog Fans:

I appreciate that you folks come out and visit me here online. I've got this blog set up so that Mom and Dad get emails of whatever I type. One problem with that is the emails strip a great deal of the layout. Dad's email at work actually strips out all the photos I put on the blog. This week's entry is completely lost without the accompanied photos.

Looking at the blogs online is a bit of a pain in the rear as well. If you do things the traditional way you may have to check more than 50 blogs each time you want to find out what's going on. That's a bit more than tedious. For a while though, that's all we had, and that's what we did.

Then we discovered these things called RSS readers. You've probably seen this logo on websites as you've been traveling the internet. Most blogs are written using blogspot or wordpress. Both of these formats create a RSS feed.

Without getting too complicated the feed is sort of like the flag on the mailbox. If it's up the mailman needs to check for mail. What if there was a way to check your blogs and other news by simply looking for "red flags?" Because RSS feeds are so popular there's several programs you can use as RSS feed readers. Let's run down three that have different flavors.

Google Reader: The Online Category

Since work computers often come with serious restrictions about installing new software, an online solution is the only option left available. Leave it to google to put something together that makes sense. It basically creates a web page summary of the feeds you like paying attention to. All you need to have is google account--nowadays google doesn't require you to change email addresses either. Just log in with your current email address.

Google's stake in the whole thing? They put a few of their adds on the right hand side. Odds are you're used to them by now and probably ignore them anyway.

Mozilla Thunderbird: The Mail Category

Email has changed the way we do things. Email came first, then RSS. While RSS was evolving a great deal of folks associated it with how we view email. So, they combined email programs with RSS readers. My personal favorite is Mozilla's Thunderbird. It's a free download, runs on MAC, Linux, and Windows. My first look at it included reading a quote from the Wall Street Journal. It surprised the author how functional it was. The quotes, awards, and other attention seem to continue. I'm still surprised with how well it works.

Most of the critics agree, the only thing missing is an integrated calendar application. That'll be coming out in the next version. In the meantime you have to add it by selecting "lightning" among it's many add-ons.

You don't need to run Thunderbird as an email client if you don't want to. You can set it up strictly as an RSS reader. The software asks you plenty of questions to guide you through the process.

Flock: The Browser Category

So after people associated RSS with email they decided it wasn't like email. In fact, they decided it was nothing like email. It's a very own category to itself. They still had the problem with how to get people to use it. Well, we surf the internet don't we? Why not get our "red-flags" in our web browser? The only problem with that idea is that none of the browsers were doing it "right." So flock took the code from "Mozilla Firefox" and made it social networking friendly--Including RSS feeds from blogs!

Picture your browser like a good cake. Normally you'd expect to have frosting, and in most cases frosting would be appropriate. Some people don't prefer cake with frosting. Often times someone prefers ice cream, or maybe fruit. Flock is your browser (because it works very similarly to Internet Explorer & Firefox) with a different topping. The left hand side of your window gets turned into your notice board. Flock also works well with Flikr, Facebook, youtube, and many other sites that provide the "people information" you go online to read.

In conclusion:

Don't get intimidated--this is supposed to be fun. Whatever reader format works for you, you're going to have to take some time getting familiar with it. Once you've gotten familiar with it you'll probably love how it checks things for you. On the Hill side of the family there's close to 18 blogs to pay attention to. Having a reader is a great help. Let me know which one you go with in the comments below.


There's more that happens in a week than can be summed up during the week. Each weekend there's a few minutes spent reflecting upon what has gone on before. This Saturday is no different. Chrissy's at work. The kids are procrastinating going to bed--and I'm letting them get away with it (for a few minutes).

Rainey's had an interesting day. He seems to be bumping into everything, falling down from everything, and generally just being uncoordinated. This has happened with the previous kids when their sick with a cold (stuffy nose/ears) or their going through a growth spurt. Chrissy and I have both had a bit of a cold and so we'll see how much of this is related to health and how much is related growing up.

Grandma Hill went in for surgery this week. We were told from the doctors that things were going well. We were also told that when she's coming out of the anesthesia she's rather funny to listen to. That's the only word we've gotten so far. It gives us hope that all the prayers said are being answered. The kids have a real sweep spirit when you ask them to pray for "GG Hill."

Well, our various projects seem to be providing us some hope for the future as well. Our "Bug Board" is getting a lot of attention. It's mounted above the piano in the living room (my mother would not approve in her house). Chrissy's helped to contribute several of the creatures. I've been impressed at how much she participates. This story should help illustrate:

Earlier in the week we found two really cool looking bugs. Chrissy donated a cotton ball soaked in her facial cleaner. We didn't have any other strong smelling stuff to kill it with. After a while it did the job and we had two good specimens to add. It's one thing when you get someone's reluctant help. It's another when you get their creative energy flowing to help.

Creative juices started flowing earlier this week when I noticed a pile of scrap wood being created from the four houses going up in the neighborhood. Those framers are good about using the wood, but what they don't use helps me in my projects. So what sort of project did I create this time?

Well, let's start off with a review: First we got used to making things by creating a bird feeder. Although no birds have been sighted using it the project went off without any injuries and is safely mounted to the house.

The next project was and still is a big hit. It's a see-saw that accommodates different size folks. Last week Matt Hargrave helped me adjust it for Daniel and Rainey sized people. The see-saw looked too cool for him to leave alone. So we put it on the adult setting and he and I had a go at it.

I'm not the only one who's been feeling a bit creative this week. Chrissy has finished the quilt she was working on, and managed to make quite a few barrettes as well. She's been really quite busy getting all of this done, fighting off a cold, not sleeping well at night, and raising three children. Not to mention she's been working.

While she's been working on these projects I've been trying to be supportive. So I "hired" a couple of models to show off her barrettes. The models are actually a neighborhood teenager and her friend. I think they manage to do a good job showing off Chrissy's work. The girl on the left is Kyla, and her friend is Megan. Both of them have great smiles (makes it a lot easier). They're a delightful bunch to have around. Wouldn't you buy some barrettes if you saw these faces online?

When they were through taking photos, and telling me which ones I had to delete. The walked out the front door. To my surprise they had taken the liberty of adjusting the see-saw to "adult size" and were having a go at it. I'm used to my projects failing and I can't tell you how much I love seeing other people just randomly use them. So I had to take a photo.

I guess we're a family that does projects. We've already started teaching the next generation. Tonight Eliza made a 'wood floor' for her playscape. I didn't take photos, and it's going to kill the grass. But she thought it through and did a good job. This week her father (me!) has also taught her to use the internet. Our 6 year old sent her first email!!! I was listening to her read with Chrissy and realized that she's got enough reading words to carry on a basic conversation over email.

She's been emailing my mom (with a bit of help) and really doing well with learning the words she wants to say. She's also using a linux computer running Ubuntu. Her email program is Thunderbird.

Well, now that I've written on just about every project that we've done this week it's time to share today's project with you all. Using only scrap lumber from down the street I created a table for our back porch.

In Germany we used to eat outside nearly every day (when the weather was good). It's one of those times in our family's life that we look back on with romantic memories. I'm trying to get some of those memories to come back. We'll see how breakfast goes tomorrow. I've got good memories from putting it together.

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