8 years in the US. Some reflections.

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….

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The geotag icon is born

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

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Icerabbit for your ears via finetune

As a teen I loved to listen to music and make mix tapes for personal use in the Walkman, car, etc. I really don’t know what I would have done or what would have become of me if I had a computer and mp3s back then! I did not become a DJ and life went on. Since starting a homepage, back in ’96, I have thought it would be neat to have a little radio section on the website. Of course bandwith was a huge obstacle back then. Nowadays, regardless of the mechanism, with an occasional click through, bandwith use would be relatively limited. But, then there are the DCMA and copyright royalties, which dampen your enthusiasm pretty quickly, if you want to keep it legal. Enter finetune.com C told me about it several months ago and I thought it would be the ideal solution to share a music and playlists through the website / blog. No cost, no DCMA, no royalties, … Select a minimum of 45 songs, maximum 3 per artist (to comply with internet radio restrictions and avoid on demand listening) and you’re ready to share your playlist with friends and family. So, here is my first finetune playlist which can also be found on my user page icerabbit on finetune. (I did embed the player here, but wordpress.com strips it out) It is a broad mix of songs and instrumental work that energizes, inspires or relaxes me, with a few odd ones thrown in for fun. With some extra time I will split it up into three mixes and feature them permanently in the sidebar of the redesigned blog. Enjoy :)

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Resolutions 2008

Live from the gym, it’s the icerabbit’s New Year’s resolutions. While I’m burning some extra calories at 3 mph on the treadmill and checking some news; why not go online and share some of my resolutions.- Focus. Work harder. Play better. It is easy to get distracted with many different things going on and often times being weather dependent. Can’t fit in a bigger project, how about a couple smaller things? Throw some of those time management and planning skills into the remodeling of the house. Update that old to do list. Remove the finished half with a smile, add new ideas and draft a plan and schedule with the new stuff. – Keep working out. I did good last year for the first few months till construction work picked up and skipping a week turned into a month etc. This year both have to run side by side. Even if it is just a little some days or weeks due to remodeling work. Make some time and do the minimum. One thing that should help us both is cable and internet access. Time literally flies when your mind is busy because you mix in something you like. I’m usually bored by television. With the internet, I read what I like. And, can actually blog. – Eat more conservative. No, no diet. Just eating smarter. Many days I need plenty of fuel and burn it off too. But, being older and more sedentary than I used to be, spending more time in car, enjoying a great cook at home and snacking often times with movie or while on the go … a few pounds are quickly gained. So I’ll eat a little less and smarter. Learn to look at those labels on the boxes a bit more. Oh, and cut the soda at least in half. – Mission organization. Add 1 part ADD and 1 part bad habit of not putting things away at the end of the work day or night and/or simply working/playing around till it is literally time to quit or even go to bed … and soon you drown in stuff. My primary workbench is covered in materials, supplies, tools and documentation. My desk has a dozen different things on it. You know: papers, bills, peripherals, computer parts, documentation. Some shelves are full with just too many computer parts, cameras, lenses, misc. electronics … Time to sort that out. Donate some and maybe sell some things on Ebay. – Mail reduction. Bulk is a problem for most American families. We successfully curbed the majority of it last year, but we can do better. Next step: less magazines, less professional mail, less regular mail & less email. Opt out. – Fix annoyances. Little things can make a big difference and may be very easy to implement. Last year I wired gigabit ethernet because I was tired of the fast ethernet bottlenecks. 2008. Better phone system. Out with the three separate digital 5.8 systems, each of which covered…

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Hello, I am Swizzle

We have an extra cat! This has been in the wings the past few days. While shopping around for an aquarium, we fell in love with Swizzle who was in a little cage at the pet store, waiting for adoption. She was just too cute and sweet not to react. We submitted the online application with Save Our Strays of Maine and were in touch via email and phone. We talked about us, our cats Seven & Wizard, etc. and they gave it the green light. We are approved to be the adoptive parents of Swizzle. So signed the paperwork and picked her up at the pet store today. Swizzle is such a sweetheart!

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