August 2007 – Stay N Alive

Yellowstone, Jackson Hole Trip

I’m going to turn this into a new “Stay on the Trail” series that who knows may become it’s own blog as I camp and hike more in the future.

For one of the first times in my life I had the opportunity to be completely disconnected from the outside world in the last several days as I visited Jackson Hole Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park. For those looking for such an opportunity, I suggest camping out near the lake or in the lodge, as you will be forced into absolutely no cell phone usage or internet while you are there. There is limited connectivity at Old Faithful and a few high places you can get a few bars on a CDMA network, but beyond that, nothing. I missed it, but it was actually pretty nice!

I started my trip visiting Jackson Hole and seeing “Nunsense” and “The Music Man” at my sister’s theatre, The Playmill Theatre. They were beautiful productions, and I really learned to enjoy Jackson Hole – I will definitely be back next year with my wife and kids (this trip I was accompanied by my Mother and Father and sisters while my kids started school).

The following two days we spent at Yellowstone. I am a huge Photography buff, and was in heaven, with Mannah of wildlife, geography, landscapes raining down on me everywhere we turned. Just on our way there we saw a large moose in Jackson Lake, a Coyote, 2 elk, one of those swiming out of Yellowstone lake onto the shore. We set up camp, and my dad and I braved the bears in a tent. We were woken up to some really cool animal calls, answered by other animal calls, of which some say sounded like Elk and I think sounded like Coyotes howling at each other. Maybe it was a combination of both. After some more sleep I was awakened by my sister telling us there were Buffalo all over our campground. I looked out and sure enough there were about 5 all over the place. I went back to sleep, and woke up to see them still further away, but surrounding our campground. We went out and got some excellent pics of the buffalo.

We then went out and saw the geographic landmarks in the North and East ends of the park. We saw Mud Volcano, the upper falls, and hiked down about 10 flights of stairs to the lower falls and ran all the way back up (I wanted to prove the trail I was taking was faster to the rest of the group – it wasn’t). On our way from the falls we saw some more Bison/Buffalo just taking their time through the road. One guy got out and started taking pictures about 5 feet from the Bison. We were in some ways kind of hoping for Darwin’s law to happen and make tons of money off the video on YouTube (my sister was our videographer). No, that wouldn’t be nice – but hey, can’t say we didn’t think about it. 😉 We also saw a bald eagle (a little white speck in some of the pictures) in a field next to a river on the way to the falls. We finished the first day seeing some more thermal events and geysers, and also saw Mammoth Springs, the highlight of that day. I hear about just 10-20 years ago those springs were all water – they have all dried out since the earthquake there of ’95, producing some beautiful colors and contrasts for photographers!

The first day we saw lots of Bison, a Bald Eagle, a Hawk or Golden Eagle (need to get out a bird book to tell for sure), a Stork, 2 more Bald Eagles (missed my shot on those), a Coyote, a whole herd of Elk, lots of ducks and Geese, and finished the day with a Moose crossing the river. Pictures are all in the album.

I spent the next evening sleeping in the lodge. I decided I wanted some sleep this time. We met the others back at the campground and I found out I missed a Bald Eagle sitting right on a tree in the campground! I was so mad! We did get to see either some sort of hawk or Peregrine Falcon before we left, squawking at us to get away from the top of its tree. Pictures are also in the album of this.

We then left to see the South and West side of the park. We started by seeing Old Faithful. A buffalo was right in front of it, making for some beautiful pictures with the Buffalo in the foreground! It was once in a lifetime photography! (although I did hear about 2 bears fighting in front of the geyser once) After some more pictures we went on and swam in some part of the river – the water was a little cold, but totally fun to ride the rapids and current around and around in really deep water.

We finished the day seeing the paint pots, the highlight of my trip. The colors, steam, and heat produced from those were absolutely stunning! There is a famous photo of one of them taken from above from a helicopter or aircraft of some kind. I got some nice side photos. My polarized lense did wonders at getting through the steam and really taking out the colors seen with the naked eye. We didn’t really see much more wildlife that day, other than an Osprey. We then headed back to Jackson Hole to finish out our trip.

In Jackson we saw our last musical at the Playmill, “Chaps”. We had a pleasant surprise when the cast prepared a special performance for me and my parents with my baby sister (I have 2 baby sisters) performing the lead as Maybel (/Polly/Molly). My sister has an absolutely stunning voice, and fits the timid nature of Maybel perfectly. It was her first lead role, and she handeled it wonderfully! If I wasn’t a guy I would have cried for her. So you now know even more of the artistic talent within my family (one sister owns a theatre, another performs musical theatre, my brother has a script in the top 200 of a major script writing competition in the US, and I almost majored in Music performing trumpet – we all sing too!).

In all it was a wonderful trip. I need to do more of these – it was quite healing and a great break from the real world, something I think more of us need, especially in the tech industry.

As I get more time here and get some time to catch up I’ll hopefully be able to start blogging regularly again. Here are some photos to keep you occupied in the meantime:

A Brilliant Success! The Playmill Theatre in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

First of all, let me apologize for the lack of posts lately. I am going somewhat dark, working on a revolutionary new payment method, termed “Pokkit” for now. More on that later – if I don’t post as much in the near future, bear with me. There will be many more posts to come!

I had the pleasure of visiting my Sister’s new theater in Jackson Hole, Wyoming yesterday. We watched the hilarious musical, Nunsense, of which they did a brilliant job. The Playmill Theater (not to be confused with the Jackson Hole Theater, which will be closed for renovations next year, might I mention) is quickly becoming a landmark of Jackson Hole – something for all ages to be sure and stop by when visiting the city. You can’t miss the theater (I’ll attach a pic or two to this as soon as I upload them from my camera) – it stands right on the main thoroughfair of Jackson Hole, right down the road from the town square, and has a huge sign out front with the trademark mill that the theater is named after.

The acting is superb! Knowing my sister, having stage managed in productions with Julie Andrews and Bett Midler, they did not skimp on the talent. Having actors from all over the nation helps too. The singing was beautiful, the acting made you feel a part of the show, and they even tap dance! They produce a true family atmosphere, inviting guests on stage as part of their pre-show. Accompanied by a live band, it truly is a piece of broadway in the Wild, Wild West. For any visiting Jackson Hole and looking for something to do in the evenings, the Playmill Theater is an attraction that can’t be looked over!

You may purchase tickets ahead of time on their website. Oh, and be sure to try the pineapple Dole Float when you’re there – delicious!

For Sale:

Several posts have been floating around the blogosphere lately about going up for sale. It appears the makers of Pligg are opening up bidding for the sale of Bids start at $25,000 on Sedo (just type in 24999, and then type in 25000 and you’ll see what I mean). This is a good thing. Pligg has had 60,000 downloads alone on and is continually growing, with sites like VH1’s Best Week Ever, and Rocket Boom. They need the help to propel it further. The code itself appears to continue to remain open source, with just the business going up for sale. I at least hope so, as I have code in the main source tree that I’d hate to see go. It will be interesting to see who takes this on.

Google Storage and the Facebook DataStore API – The New Wave of Storage

In line with my recent series on Web 3.0 and the “Social Web”, Google announced yesterday that they were going to roll up all of their storage, and offer even larger paid tiers above their free options. Google plans to give even more options for storage of your e-mail, documents, photos, and some are even saying music and videos. From the Official Google Blog:

“the Picasa team is pleased to tell you that in a few hours we’ll be rolling out extra storage that you can purchase to use across several Google products (today, Picasa Web Albums and Gmail; soon, other applications like Google Docs & Spreadsheets). That will help make storage really useful, like letting you upload lots of full resolution images to Picasa Web Albums.”

This is another big announcement. For years now I have argued that the hard drive in the future will be dead. Already, I store all my photos, documents, and mail in Google so I don’t have to worry about losing them on my computer. True, I do keep a backup on my machine, but now it has become my local machine that’s storing the backups, not a remote server or CD-ROM somewhere. Right now the majority of space on my hard drive is only devoted to music and video, and my operating system. It looks to be soon we’ll also be able to keep our CD collections, family videos, and more, all with access to Google’s rich API at the same time. I would love to see the option in Google to specify which of my stored items can be indexed for others to see – I can only imagine the repercussions for Family History were that to be enabled. Not to mention the advertising opportunities. I really look forward to seeing where they go with this.

In reading Joseph Scott’s blog, I found out that just last Monday, Facebook quietly made known a new feature they have in beta called The Facebook DataStore API on their wiki. Based on the docs, it looks as though Facebook is planning for some sort of “store anything” API on the Facebook servers. So, rather than storing user and other app information on your own servers you now have one more option.

At first I wasn’t so excited about this – I personally couldn’t think of any reasons I would want to store application and customer data on Facebook’s servers. To me Facebook is only a tool to bring more users and customers, along with more information about them to your applications outside of Facebook, or to propel a new application outside Facebook. We all learned from the Dot-Com Bust that you don’t want all of your eggs in one basket. To me this API just encouraged what I think is bad for Facebook business.

Then another thought came to mind. What if Facebook were to make your data available to other Facebook apps, should you allow it? What if Facebook were to provide an API to their API? Also, what if Facebook were providing a new way to securely store information to store in new places on your profile outside of your own profile application boxes that could be searchable by others? That, my friends, would be valuable.

We’re on the cusp of a new wave of storage. No longer do we need to worry about storage, backups, deleting our data. Not only do we need to not worry about that, but we can now share that data even easier with others! With Google, Facebook, Pownce, Mozy, and others, we’re on the verge of a new revolution, further defining Web 3.0.

If you are interested in upgrading your Google storage, you can go to:

Presenting at Utah Facebook Developers Garage Tomorrow

Just a reminder to everybody that I’ll be presenting at the Utah Facebook Developers Garage tomorrow (August 9th) evening at 6pm. The details are all on phil801’s blog (link above). I plan on doing a “Hello World” walk-through, where we’ll start with adding the application, work on setting it up, and actually write things for it. Hopefully we can cover a lot of the most useful features I’ve found to get you up and going. My preferred language is Perl, and the framework I use is Catalyst, so this might also be a good opportunity to get a glimpse into what the latest in Perl is doing, and how Rails’ up-and-coming competitor, Catalyst, is going to take the world. (okay, I’m biased – did I mention my license plate says “USE PERL”?)

Competitive Ad Filter for Mormons

It is really sad that Google can’t add a word filter to their adsense filters. I thought I’d share the list of URLs I’m using for my competitive ad filter I use for Stay N’ Alive and Note that not all of these urls are anti-mormon sites, and I have no issue with any of the religions listed – they just produced something that was in conflict with what I was publishing. They may have just had material that I thought either competed with or was at least somewhat questionable. Am I missing any that you have?:

Comcast Selling Their Customer Phone Numbers

First of all, welcome ConnectBlogs readers! Thanks Jordy for getting me added to that.

It’s been awhile since I had to blog about Comcast. I noticed something today that I think needs some attention. Recently I signed up with Comcast Digital Voice from Vonage in an effort to reduce my monthly internet/tv/phone costs. Hey – how could I refuse $40 in savings?

Well, the minute we got our new number we started getting telemarketers calling us multiple times daily. At first I thought it was because we weren’t yet on the Do Not Call List, but today something happened that made me question that. First of all, I haven’t given my phone number to anybody. I don’t even know my own home phone number. The only place that knows my number is GrandCentral – the minute I got my number I put it in GrandCentral and forgot about it.

Well, just today I received a call on my home phone number (that I don’t even know) from Farmers Insurance, asking for Jesse. There is absolutely no way Farmers can know about me or my number unless someone gave it to them! Well, we all know that wasn’t me, my family, or friends, or even any other company at that. There is only one company that knows that number, and that’s Comcast. Comcast, I’m ashamed. We all know that cold calling doesn’t work. And selling your customers’ information to this practice? Come on!

Facebook – Now Javascript Friendly!

I’ve been following this for awhile now, and have been meaning to blog it. Soon after my Post last week on the fb:fbjs-string tag, I noticed that Facebook had added a new “FBJS” page to their wiki. On it, they revealed exciting new methods of incorporating Javascript into your Facebook Application. Then, yesterday a Facebook developer responded to a thread I had been participating in on the fb:fbjs-string tag that they were about to publicly announce the wiki page. It appears that now you can post javascript in your Facebook app, and that javascript will be parsed into a Facebook-controlled javascript environment. Today, this functionality was announced and released for all developers!

Almost all javascript DOM and event methods work, and you can even post javascript in the profile object! The only catch is that if it’s a profile object you must trigger the first “active” event, such as an onclick handler or onmouseover handler. Beyond that, it’s an open world! Not just that, but they provide their own AJAX framework and Dialog box framework for anyone to tap into. This is huge, as now you can pretty much have full Web 2.0 apps all inside Facebook, using standard FBML syntax. So if Social apps like Facebook are Web 3.0, what does this become – Web 3.2? Web 3+2=5?

Introducing the “I’m a Mormon!” Facebook App

I decided to challenge myself last night and see how fast I could get a Facebook App together. I noticed Facebook currently has no Mormon/LDS Facebook applications. There are a few I know in the works, but no one seems to have anything complete. So, following my post on the fb:random tag yesterday, and the “release early, release often” mentality I took a simple idea and pushed it out live. I call it “I’m a Mormon!”, and I finished it in a record 3 hours (and boy am I tired)! I have had some input that’s too “in your face” – I’m curious if others agree and what other names they would suggest for the app. Basically, the app randomly selects a quote from the 4 LDS Standard works (the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Perl of Great Price), and displays it on your profile for others to see. You can see an example on my profile page. I will definitely be expanding on this and making it more social, but at least there is now officially a working “Mormon App” out there. I encourage all to add it to your profile and share it with your friends! The url to add the app is:

New Facebook Tag

Facebook just announced a new tag today, the fb:random tag. From their website:

“Fb:random allows the developer to input a series of tags, of which 1 or more will be shown randomly. Each item can have a weight and the tag can be specified to show more than one of the choices. Each option should be wrapped in an fb:random-option tag.”

You also have the option to assign a weight to any of the tags. So it looks like you now have the option to, with pure fbml, to include random items in your profile. Expect to see many more non-Flash 8-balls, dice, and random quotes in the near future on your friends’ profiles.