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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ATM's

I was reading a friends blog about his time abroad and one post made me remember something that happened to me. I tried to post a longish comment, but due to technical problems with his blogging platform, I was not able to. So I decided to post it here.


Funny how things we take for granted are in other countries. I discovered our hotel wanted to charge me an extra 25% if I wanted to pay by credit card, so I went to take a couple hundred out at an ATM. After trying unsuccessfully twice, the machine-gun-armed guard told me I was trying to take out more than the limit. Daily withdrawal limits were $100 USD.

I went into the bank and got $300 when the teller came back with my cash I realized they had not asked me what denominations. Since things were so cheap, twenty dollar bills were difficult to get change for, so it was all in $10 bills. I felt like I was a drug dealer or paying some ransom with my bulging fanny pack and jacket pockets.

I was a bit concerned for my safety till I got back to the hotel and paid my bill for most of the week (getting rid of about half of the cash) and secreting most of the rest in my money belt.

Funny how things we may take for granted (taking $100 from an ATM and getting 5 $20 bills) are not the same everywhere.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What's it worth?

Value is often subjective. A gallon of gas is under $2.00 most places in the US right now, but if you needed to get somewhere urgently, you would be likely to pay a lot more.

I can get a gallon of water at a machine near my house for 25 cents. If I was stuck in the middle of a hot desert, I would easily pay $100 (if I had it) for a glass of water to ensure my survival.

Stimator claims to be a Real Website Value Estimator. I was not sure about it, so I took a look at it and ran a couple websites through.

The first was a domain I have had for about 2 years. I use AndertFamily.net to post race reports and some family photos. I would classify this web page as "lightly used, personal information". Stimator reported this domain is worth $54 US dollars.

The second was a domain I have had for about 4 months. I use FlowingDesert.com as a main entry point for my new business venture, Flowing Desert Photography. I would classify this web page as "somewhat actively used, business information" and have been actively promoting this domain as well as 2 subdomains. Stimator reported this domain is worth $1,150 US dollars.

While these numbers make a bit of relative sense based on how and how much I use them, they really have no significant impact on me since I do not intend on selling either domain. It is nice however to see that there is value in the promotion activity I have done with my Flowing Desert domain.

What do you think? Run some of your domains against Stimator and let me know how accurate you think the numbers are in the comments here or give me a shout at @CactusTri over on Twitter.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No such thing as free lunch.

But there are some contests that you can enter (for free) and possibly win something (for free).

One of the blogs I regularly read, The Pipers are participating in "A Requirement-free Giveaway: Make Your Favorite Picture a Poster". This post is the hardest thing I've done to enter and there are other ways to enter that are even easier. You can also send a tweet on Twitter, click that link to see mine and you can ReTweet it if you want.

If I win, I will probably decide between this one:
and this one:
What do you think? Leave me a comment and let me know which you think would look best on a big wall. Or visit my photography site and see if you think a different one would be a better choice. Spread this contest around and say hi to me over on Twitter if you get a chance.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Day hike

The Plan.

This kind of weather makes it hard to stay inside so I decided to head out for an afternoon hike up in the mountains. My youngest son decided to join me so we grabbed my camera bag and headed out early afternoon.

Execution.

We headed out to the Superstition mountains and found the trailhead we had selected without any problem. About 3pm, we headed out from the car. We had no rush to set a fast pace and just set out along the trail. We had great weather, mostly clear skies with just a few white puffy clouds floating by. Perfect t-shirt weather.

The chart on the right shows the elevation. Pretty gentle till the last section before we turned around where it go a bit steep.

The overall pace is surprisingly low, even when you consider that this was the longest my son and I have gone together, but we stopped quite a few times for sight-seeing. There are some amazing views in the Superstition mountains as well as quite a bit of wildlife. Several times we saw several hummingbirds at the same time.

The Numbers.

Just over 4 miles
About 1450 ft of elevation gain
Average temp was 56* F
110 pictures taken (keep an eye over at blog.FlowingDesert.com, they will start turning up soon).

Conclusion.

A great way to spend an afternoon.

Love is in the air...

OK, maybe not in the air, but it is definitely somewhere. I know it is. I can smell it. At least I think that is love. Maybe it is just a new fabric softener.

I am scheduling this to publish early on the 14th, so in case you forgot, you still have a chance to get a card before the only thing left are the leftover Christmas cards.

I'll admit it. I am a softie at times. I like to do nice things for my wife "just because". While I do not do them as often as I would like, I sort of resent being told I am required to spend $$ on roses on a specific day when a week before or after that day I could give her twice as many flowers for half as much. And a dinner out the week before Valentine's Day is much more relaxing than bumping elbows with everyone else because the restaurant squeezed another 10 tables to make a few extra bucks.

Will the current financial state curb plans for folks? Will more people have a surprise Valentine's Day a few days early? Will the jewelry gifts be a bit more subdued than during the boom years of dot-com mania?

What do you think? Is Valentines day over marketed? Do some of us need to take a hint and start being more romantic on a more regular (though not predictable) basis? Let me know in the comments or give me a shout over on Twitter.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sequential or Random Access snack machines

Of Databases:
As a Database Administrator (DBA) by profession and training, I understand a bit about database technology. I have learned about the early versions that required data to be read sequentially. If you had to use a phone book sequentially, that means in order to look up someone with the last name Smith, you would first have to scan past every other name in the book that came before Smith. Anderson, Barker, Cadwell, etc. For some purposes, this was acceptable, since machines were doing the work and it was much faster than a human could do the same thing.

The next major improvement became what is called a Relational Database. This allows the data to be retrieved from any place in the table without needing to read all the records before it. This makes a database more efficient and practical for data sets with very large numbers of records. This allowed what we consider random data access.

Of Snack Machines:
Snack machines allow for the buyer to choose which product (record) they want. Press A1 for m&m's, B4 for Milky Way, C3 for Trail Mix or D5 for Zingers, the choice is yours. When you make your choice, the machine (database) activates the spiral for your product, dropping it into the tray for your snacking pleasure. The selections can be made in any order without a difference in how long it will take to get your snack (data).

So databases and snack machines are both relational. HOWEVER, you may have seen vending machines that intentionally break this by putting different snacks in the same selection. So A1 may be plain m&m's now, but the next one might be peanut m&m's. This is very frustrating if you want peanut m&m's now. One option the vending machine people have is to use the choices as separate selections. This way, A1 will always be plain m&m's and A2 will always be peanut m&m's which is great for thos of us who will only eat plain (or peanut) m&m's. Unfortunately, space is at a premium and doing things like that means that other choices will no longer have a spot, so maybe the Milky Way or 3 Musketeer fans lose out.

In the same way, sometimes people will take a field in a database like SourceID and instead of using it for the ID of the referral source, will use whatever sounds right. Now SourceID has valid entries like TV101 (for a tv advertising campaign) or EC (for existing customer) along with invalid entries like Bob (the name of the friend that referred them) or TVINET (because they saw an ad on tv as well as an email). The problem with these invalid entries is that the people in charge of analyzing the success or failure of a marketing campaign no longer can accurately tell how much business impact a given campaign has produced.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Running

WooHoo! What a great way to end a weekend. Saturday, I drove up to Prescott for a portrait session with my cousin, Frankie! She is a doll and had a great time. My aunt had a great spot picked out and we had a lot of fun. I hope to put a few of the pictures up on my photo site later this week.

Then, later in the day, I went for a 5 mile run. Same as last weekend only with newer shoes. No soreness today at all! Just over 15 miles again.

Sunday afternoon, DS#2 took me out for a run so he can stick to his c25k plan. Just as we started running after our warm-up walk, he asks me if that is a woodpecker. Go take a look and let me know what you think. Or you can cheat and go to my photoblog site when it posts and see it there.

What a fun way to end a week (of course, I'll pay for it tomorrow since I am up so late, but that is the price of playing with Lightroom for hours on end).

How was your week? Leave me a comment here or say "Hi" over on Twitter.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Speed!

Running last night was great. First 2.1 miles were run/walk with my youngest son and was at about 15 mpm avg including the ~5 min warm up and another ~5 min cool down. He is working through Couch to 5k (C25k) and just started week 2. I am using the runs with him as either an easy day or a warm-up depending on my schedule.

So after the 2.1 miles with him, kept going and decided to do another mile or so "faster". To be honest, I was thinking a mile or 2 at 10 mpm or so would be ok. After about 2 min, I checked my pace and Mr Garmin said I was doing about 8:30. It felt ok and I thought I could hold that for a mile, so I picked up the effort a bit, and got my average for that mile as low as about 7:20 for a bit and just tried to hold it together for the rest of the mile. I faded a bit by the end of the mile, but still managed to make that 3rd mile in under 8 minutes.

This morning, I felt fine, with to tightness or soreness. I had a 20 min chair massage and she said that there was very little tightness in my back or shoulders.

I am trying to balance taking it easy with getting back my endurance and speed from last year in hopes of getting another marathon under my belt this year and possibly getting closer to qualifying for the Boston Marathon. That is a big goal and one I want to achieve before tackling Ironman again in a few years.

What about you? How are your fitness goals coming? Are you making any progress toward them? Let me know in the comments or head over to Twitter and let me know.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The List

I have never made a list of things I wanted to do by the time I was 40, 50 or any other age. I never made an infamous "Bucket List", at least not in writing. I am not against any of these lists, but like the idea of having a "To-Do" list. Here is my first official release of my list. I am including a few items that I have already done, just because I feel they are momentous enough that they have influenced my life.

Learn a second language (Spanish 1976ish)
Complete a marathon (Twin Cities Marathon 2006)
Complete an Ironman Triathlon (IMAZ April 2008)
Take a photo workshop/class
Sell a photograph to someone I do not know
Learn to program better in Perl
Learn to fly an airplane
Visit China

I am sure that there will be things that I will discover later. Some of these things are easier to do and some are harder and will take longer. For now though, this will be my list.

What about you? Do you have a list of things that you want to accomplish in your life? Are you making any progress toward them? Let me know in the comments or head over to Twitter and let me know.