Oct 2 2009

As the days get shorter and the website & blogging bug started biting, it is easier to slip behind the computer in the evening and high time to share some of this summer’s news, which was intentionally kept a secret ’till family visited (so it would be a surprise).

Rather than getting into a lenghty post (and carrying on about the absolutely  horrible summer weather), I thought this snapshot might reveal some  changes in our life:

Car and house

Car and house

Yes, that is a different car in front of a different garage, which is of course attached to a different house.

So, yes :) we bought a new car and moved into a bigger  house.

We’re pretty excited. A super comfortable and safe all wheel drive vehicle for when winter hits. The house was not as easy nor quick a decision, but we after some negotiating, we bit the bullet.  We’re still getting settled, but you can look forward to a house tour soon.

Sep 19 2009

Good question!

Once again history repeated itself with a blogging hiatus. Mea culpa. It starts out with extra work, some garden duties, another project or two … doing stuff for other people and ends up being “where did the summer go?”.

I’m actually typing this in tropical 90+ degrees Fahrenheit Florida. Just landed yesterday and I think this is the first day in over two months I am actually sitting down and doing absolutely nothing (right now).

Thanks to the wonders of mobile broadband en netbooks I can post from a bench in the shade under some live oaks & palm trees, watching all kinds of wildlife (buzzards, herons, woodpeckers, …) with the adopted wild cat Perdu by my side.  It’s good to see her healthy after she had been lost, abandoned and neglected.

Things are good. Busier than ever and more complicated than ever as well because of the extra responsibilities.  Two remodeling projects have been on hold, due to some changes in our life (more on that in a next post) and other things creeping up as priorities.

We had a horrible summer weather wise. Plants died because of too much rain and lack of sun. We didn’t even pull the boat out of storage ’till a few weeks ago and somehow managed not to go out on the water or even have a barbecue! That’s how crappy the weather was and how busy we’ve been.

I’m still not sure how we’re going to fit everything we need to do into the next three months, before winter kicks into high gear up north, but time will tell and there’s always next year :)

Apr 29 2009

I thought it felt a little warm out yesterday. Especially since this is the end of April and we’re in Maine, so I put two thermometers in the shade on the patio table.

93F in the shade

It was >90F (>32C) in the shade!

Quite a departure and historic heat record in Maine, considering the previous record was 73F, according to wunderground

April heat record in Maine

Apr 12 2009

Daffodils 2008

We wish everybody a Happy Easter. Hopefully you can enjoy some nice weather and time off, just like we are, to relax in the garden.

Apr 1 2009

Our first flower has been blooming for a week now, with a dozen more just days away from unfolding. 

First krokus

Spring came a good two weeks or so early this year. We haven’t had snow since the beginning of March, which is exceptional, and the snow cover is practically entirely gone. Apart from some little shaded corners, you would not know we had quite a hard winter with high snowfall and record breaking cold temperatures.

The other weekend we were finally able to put our outdoor christmas lights away. No, it is not that we’re lazy! That’s what happens in a northern climate when the stuff gets covered by many feet of snow and wiring gets encased in a thick ice layer on the ground as the snow melts.  

While it is still to early to do anything in the gardens, we were able to start the first remodeling project of 2009: creating access to a 100 year old unused attic and converting it into storage space. It feels good to hammer  something together.

Mar 19 2009

We had two FedEx deliveries within 5 minutes of each other this morning. One of which is this “mystery” box.

mystery box

2.9 KGs from Shenzhen, China? MMmm.

Mar 16 2009

Positive temperatures have returned. The snow is melting and since I can step outside in a t-shirt (I am pretty cold tolerant), spring must be around the corner. Finally! Though, I shouldn’t say it too loud. While spring may come next week, according to the calendar, we are looking at another month and a half before it will stop freezing (crossing fingers).

The past winter was the coldest and strongest we have experienced. Record cold temperatures – as cold as -50F or -45C is a new state record – and back to back snow storms really make you wish at times you were in a tropical place instead of the Maine foothills and mountains. One is almost a prisoner inside his/her house. Absent a january and february thaw, today is the first day I can start pulling up our outdoor Christmas decor, now that the last bit of snow & ice is melting. It looked great for about two weeks, until it was entirely burried under snow.

A few people have asked how things are, since I haven’t blogged in way too long (mea culpa).

Things are good. We can’t complain. 2008 was an odd year, and a busy one too. I don’t know how many trips we made and miles I drove, off the top of my head. Looking back it feels like I was somewhere else every few weeks and didn’t get anything done, so to speak.

The year started out nice and quiet, spring came, we started gardening and prepared for some DIY projects. Then extra family responsibilities cropped up … and time flew. We ended up not doing much remodeling, besides a total redo of the TV room & closet under the stairs. I had planned  to work on the cabin, but we were just too busy and pre-occupied with work and family matters.  I did learn a thing our two about cars, trailers and boats though. There is a Jeep in the family now and I am the captain of our boat :)

But, more on that in a short while.

Apr 15 2008

Or maybe I should say DNS hell? If you have tried to email me in the past week, you will have received a 550 Relay Prohibited automated reply. Which is unfortunately not fixed yet.

This 1and1 domain now points correctly to mediatemple (not .mac or wordpress.com), but it also ate my email settings. 1and1 Support said that shouldn’t have happened and has given me instructions on how to solve it. Basically you revert Basic DNS Settings back to 1and1 and then switch back to My Name Server, add mediatemple again as your own name server, save, wait for updating. You see the web domain go down … and back up. And, you still don’t get email. Wonderful. A second call. Followed the instructions on the phone. Wait. Still no email.

To me it seems there is an issue with their setup where Basic and Advanced DNS don’t mix.

With the Default Basic DNS you get access to the MX mail server.

Strangely enough once you point to your own DNS server – as per their instructions on how to do it – the MX server disappears from Advanced DNS.

I think their support suggestion of applying settings under both Basic DNS settings doesn’t work. To me it seems like a clear selection from a pull down menu for a reason. Which ever you have selected in Basic is what is retained when you hit Save.

Time for call #3.

I sometimes really cannot understand how something so simple can be so hard with large companies. I can’t be the only one, let alone the first one, having this problem. Can I?

I’m also trying to get some input from MediaTemple (mt). I have recreated my mailbox there, but neither the old mailbox at 1and1 nor new one at (mt) is getting any mail.

Hopefully things will be back to normal shortly. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to fix something you don’t have control over.

Update: Fixed!

Now, why didn’t any of the smart people at 1and1 tell me that after changing the DNS setting, the record is actually controlled by (mt)? Rooting around (mt) moments ago I just found I could edit my own zone file which contained my new MX server setting. And, (mt) just informed me I had created my email account correctly, but not activated it in another screen. Eh? All right. My bad then.

Mar 14 2008

This weeks marks the 8th anniversary of moving to the US.

It certainly makes you reflect on how fast time flies. I remember living and working in Belgium like it was 3 years ago. How could it be 8 years already?

Rather than writing a long story, I figured I could do a quick Question & Answer round of frequently asked questions:

Happy? Yes.

Any regrets? No. Not really. You hate leaving a void with your closest family and friends, especially when some are going through a hard time. But as a whole, do I regret moving to the US? No.

How are things with you and Carolyn? Things are good. We are very happy together and are both doing well. We are in a good place and good situation.

Is living there how you thought it would be? Yes & No. Yes, because I knew it a little bit from traveling here. At the same time, we are living quite differently than we had originally planned. We have not settled down yet. We have been pretty mobile and plan to stay that way. We live in two places, so there are some practical long distance issues, as you can imagine. Business is different than we had planned, but we are doing good. We will see what the future brings.

Are you a US citizen now? No. Not yet.

Do you miss Belgium? Sometimes. I haven’t been there in several years, so one automatically misses friends & family. From time to time we catch a travel show on TV highlighting Belgium or places we have visited. It brings back memories and makes you want to pop in to say hi and refresh your memory of what it is really like to be there.

When are you coming to Belgium/Europe again? Not in the near future. Have you seen the Euro/Dollar rate lately? 1.55 USD for 1 EURO is a 50% tax for Americans to come to the EU. I can’t imagine paying 50% extra for fuel, hotels, … Maybe you guys can swing this way? It is a bargain at 50% off.

What’s the biggest thing that is different about you now? Doing construction work. I thought I would be doing purely computer stuff and clerical work. I didn’t think I was cut out for construction work, but it turns out I am. And, I owe it all to a little encouragement from Carolyn with the first few little projects. We were unhappy with the cost and results of a couple things we hired done at our first home and I figured I could do a lot better for less cost. Apply some brain power. Analyze it, come up with a strategy and go for it.

And the second thing? Smarter & braver. I can for instance jump in the car and drive anywhere in the US with minimal notice & minor to no preparations. Initially the US it is kind of intimidating because being from Flanders you think small. Drive an hour each way and you are in different country. Years ago I couldn’t understand why Americans would travel across Europe in 7 days. But travel and distance are different here. A few hours driving is nothing. Things are on an entirely different scale. By the way: Americans don’t get much time off from work, so they pack as much as they can in a short vacation.

What haven’t you done enough? Travel & sightseeing. Windsurfing.

Anything that surprised you? Hearing I have a talent for skiing and water skiing.

Are there some things you wish would be different in the US?

Health insurance. The cost goes through the roof. Large sections of the population can’t afford insurance. Other sections of the population have insurance but are denied treatment. Any reason is good enough to deny coverage. Way too much time and money is wasted on paperwork, applications, pre-approval processes, reviewers, … and not enough care given. The administration just drives up the cost of providing care and insurance itself. A never ending spiral.

Commercials on TV. Most channels are like Eurosport. Commercial break every five minutes. It just makes we want to turn the TV off.

Political campaigning. The amount of money spent on campaigning and the amount of coverage in every news cast on every channel, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year is just … insane. It just doesn’t stop. What is next? Strapping a camera to the candidate’s head and following every word & move 24/7?

Driving. In a way driving in the US is relaxed because of the lower speed limits, but quite a lot of people have totally unsafe driving habits: no safe driving distance, aggressive driving, not stopping at stop signs, running red lights, slow traffic staying in the left lane,text-ing behind the wheel, etc. And all the police seem to focus on is speeding. Maybe if everybody would drive safer, we could get some higher speed limits on the interstate that are more in keeping with our rushed lives and save a little time on long distance hauls. It doesn’t have to be 65-70mph on many quiet stretches of interstate, but it is not likely to change.

What car do you drive? A Chrysler minivan. No convertible yet. Right now I’m more thinking about a pick-up truck with a snow plow.

Are you still into computers & electronics? Of course! I have scaled back some, but yeah, I’m still quite ahead of the curve.

Any cool hardware recently? I still think the Nokia N800/810 & OQO o2 are marvelous pieces of technology.

iPhone? Not enough features yet and tied to AT&T, so no.

Mac or PC? Both. I indeed switch to Apple in 2002, but Apple isn’t all it could be and should be so, I found my way back to using pc systems because Apple’s product line is too limited in some respects and under featured.

Linux? Some. Not enough time to delve into it. I have enough to catch up with as it is.

When will the site be updated? Soon, I hope. I am waiting on an iBlog export function to centralize things without having to edit every single entry and have been distracted with a few other projects.

Feb 29 2008

http://www.geotagicons.com launched today.

Geotag Icon website screengrab
In large part due to google maps & google earth and a variety of other initiatives; as well as people having easier access to GPS devices; photos and information in general are more and more being published with their geographical coordinates. So, it was only time that somebody would think about a standardized visual reference for that information.

Bruce McKenzie announced the idea on his blog last week. What started with a white push pin silhouette icon on an earth tone background, quickly evolved based on feedback from around the world. Inclusion of a representation of the globe, more red for better contrast, bigger pin, 45 degree angle, etc. Of course while keeping the button style of the RSS icons and others. I am very satisfied by the result which truly is a mix of ideas from different people and technical restrictions.

There are two main reasons for the icon’s simple form. It has to be iconic for easy recognition and it has scale properly to different sizes. Fancy designs are great, but at the smallest scale of 16 by 16 pixels there is no room for any of the details you drew at 256 by 256 or 512 by 512 pixels. Many great ideas, shapes, sizes and colors were rejected simply due to their representation at 16 x 16 pixels.

Again, I am pleased with the outcome and very happy to have been part of the process. It was interesting, busy and fun.