Archive for the 'General' Category


Wurdle: Thou art addicting

Oct 31, 2008 by Steve Belt in General

I stop in to the local Starbucks almost everyday. Naturally, you eventually get to know the other regulars who transform from acquaintence to friend.

Recently a bunch of us regulars have all gotten iPhones. About a week ago, they were chatting about this game Wurdle. I hadn’t heard of it, but for $1.99 I decided it was worth the download.

Boy was that a mistake. Not because it isn’t with two bucks, but because it is so addicting. It’s ridiculous.

Wurdle is similar to the game of Boggle and employs the touch screen of the iPhone perfectly. Anyway, I now profess to being a Wirdle addict. If you see me playing it, please tell me to stop. I must cure this addiction.

The Bailout: Handout or Investment?

Sep 25, 2008 by Steve Belt in General

This morning I received an email from one of my oldest friends.  A friend from high school, he’s an ex-navy guy, staunch Republican, and currently living in Kuwait, helping with something that he’s been a bit guarded in sharing details about.  Almost daily, he forwards me an email or two.  I imagine I’m on a rather large distribution list, though I don’t know, as I’m blind copied along with everyone else.  Usually the emails are jokes, while more recently, I’ve been getting some that are also politically minded.

Today, he sent an alternative to the proposed bailout, in which instead of the US government giving AIG $85B to keep it afloat, the US government would give each and every adult citizen $425,000 (the email assumes there are roughly 200 million adults in the US).

The email went on to say that individual Americans could use that money far better than AIG could, for things like paying off their mortgage, credit cards, etc.  And that AIG should simply be sold off for parts–liquidated for whatever it could fetch.

I was flabbergasted at the email, as it made no sense whatsoever, and replied, “You do realize the AIG bailout is a loan, don’t you?”  It’s not a hand out.  AIG will have to pay back the $85B, along with interest.  The same way Chrysler paid back their loan, and more recently, Mexico paid back their loan.  If AIG succeeds, this will be a huge boon for Americans, as it helps protect a significant financial company AND the interest revenue will funnel back into the tax pool.

To illustrate my point I said, “We wouldn’t allow citizens that live along a proposed $100M freeway to accept a cash disbursement if they’d just drive on a dirt road.”  The freeway is more important as a long term investment.

I honestly don’t know if the AIG bailout is a good investment.  It’s quite possible it’s a horrible investment.  But giving away money to citizens should not be compared to making an investment, as if the two things are interchangeable. This type of misleading email is simply preying on frenzied emotions right now.  If you get such an email, do yourself a favor, and just click delete.  Don’t forward it, and certainly don’t get caught up in trying to defend a silly notion.


Jul 27, 2008 by Steve Belt in General


Comments, participation is king

Jul 08, 2008 by Steve Belt in General

Tyson Crosbie is a local Phoenix photographer that I have met “virtually” through Twitter.  Many of the Phoenix area folks I follow on Twitter have recently had Tyson help them create excellent avatars for their online profile, as well as head shots for their business profile/cards/resume/etc.

It was a little over a month ago, that I noticed Tyson would ask for community feedback on Twitter with regard to a recent photo session he had done.  He would post a link to flickr, via Twitter, that had soft edit images from the photo session.  In Twitter he would ask for people to comment/vote for which image they liked best as an avatar and/or the formal head shot.  Then as each person voted, they often would Tweet.  Thus, throughout the day, if you were following your Tweets very closely, you’d notice the conversation thread develop.  Here’s an example of Tyson’s most recent photo session, where he was looking for feedback.

Using Twitter and flickr in this way is such a cool example of social media that “works”.  Obviously, for Tyson, it has generated some business, but for the client, they get feedback from the very community which they are a part of, to help them select the image that the community feels best represents them.  It’s absolutely fantastic.

Phoenix Photographer, Tyson Crosbie

So, in honor of a cool idea, that is executed very well, I’m adding Tyson’s Badge to the side bar. The adjustable width theme I use here isn’t ideal for such badges, but hopefully I’ve adjusted it well enough that you can see the entire badge.  Clicking on the badge will take you to Tyson’s flickr page with each of his sets that can be voted on.  It’s worth the click, just to see the type of work he does.  I think it’s great, and am remiss in not getting myself into the queue for a digital make over.

Giving Evernote a shot

May 28, 2008 by Steve Belt in General

I take notes on yellow legal pads for each phone call. These rough notes remind me who I talked to, their phone number, hopefully what property it is regarding, etc.. The trouble is, the legal pads are in the office, so that when I’m at home, in the car, wherever, away from my notes, I don’t have John Doe’s number handy.

Via Twitter, I was alerted to Evernote. I immediately understood how it could help me, so I asked for a beta invite and was granted one pretty quickly. So far, I’ve transferred all of my hand written notes to Evernote, which is great. I can now search those notes, and hopefully find names, numbers, email addresses, etc., for stuff I have captured. Let’s hope anyway.

For my needs, Evernote’s primary appeal is that is is online (and thus visible via the web from any computer).  I’m not using it much more differently than I might use Wordpad to do the same thing, again, except that it saves my notebook online.  Evernote can create multiple notebooks, thus I suppose I could do a notebook per call, or maybe per property, but what I really want is one ginormous log, otherwise the effort to name each notebook I create would be too much effort to bother with. Sure it might be nice for indexing and such, but I don’t need that as much as I just want to be able to quickly search a name or address.

So I like just having one notebook.  This brings me to the desire for a super-handy feature of the notebook, which is to have individual journal entries that were time stamped, automatically. This would capture my phone log better. Far better. I’d definitely love that feature.  It looks like I want to use Evernote in a way it wasn’t intended to be used (today), but the notion of lots and lots of tiny notebooks, just to keep my phone log doesn’t make much sense to me.

At any rate, if you want to try out Evernote, I can shoot you a beta invite. Just let me know.  It definitely has a bunch of features I’m not using right now.  I’m hoping that when I win my iPhone, I’ll be using Evernote all the time when I’m on the go.

The Diamondbacks are Off to an Amazing Start

May 01, 2008 by Steve Belt in General

The Arizona Diamondbacks have gotten off to an amazing start this year. Unfortunately, very few people were noticing, because the Suns were in the playoffs. With the Suns now out in the first round, all eyes in Phoenix will be on the DBacks for the foreseeable future. The DBacks finished April with the best record in all of baseball, and one of only a few teams to ever register 20 wins in April. At 20-8, the DBacks already have a 5 game lead in the NFC West.

What seems most noteworthy about this start to me, was something I noticed looking at their 8 losses. I couldn’t remember a loss that they had failed to score a decent number of runs in, so I looked into it more. Sure enough, the DBacks are averaging 4.25 runs scored in each of their losses. The fewest runs they have scored in any loss was 2. To beat the DBacks you must score 3 runs, and in all likelihood, you’ll need to score 5 runs or more. That’s simply amazing.

Also noteworthy is the hitting being done by their pitching staff. Pitchers are hitting .277! No wonder they are scoring so many runs. Micah Owings leads the DBack pitchers, hitting a torrid .421, including 1 home run (last night). Micah is simply a stud, and he’s now being used situationally by manager Bob Melvin as a pinch hitter.

Also impressive, is the start that Brandon Webb has had. He has 6 wins, a 1.98 ERA, and is pitching nearly 7 innings per start. He’s a true ace. He’s only hitting .167, but has driven in 4 runs to help his cause in several decisive situations. FYI, all of the starting pitchers (outside Micah

Then look at Chad Qualls. He has 15.2 innings pitched in 15 appearances for 0 earned runs. He’s also got 14 strike outs, while allowing just 6 hits so far. He’s nearly unhittable.

I predict Brandon Webb, Conor Jackson, and Orlando Hudson are sure fire locks to be on the all star roster, with Webby being the starting pitcher for the NL. Qualls should be on the roster, even though middle relievers rarely get in. Justin Upton has 5 home runs, and is hitting .327, making it difficult for him to miss the roster, even though he’s a rookie, if that pace keeps up.

Can the DBacks win the West? Absolutely. Can the DBacks win the NL? Again, I think they can and will. Will the DBacks win 100 games? I think they come up just shy. I predict they’ll win 98 games this season. A starting pitcher that is healthy today is going to get hurt, and we’ll lose some games due to injury, but overall, we are looking at a very strong, remarkable, hopefully memorable (flashbacks to 2001) team.

Upgraded my side door to wordpress 2.5

Apr 04, 2008 by Steve Belt in Blogging, General

What better blog to be the guinea pig for WordPress 2.5, then my personal blog that I know almost no one reads. Out of the box, I love the new interaction with plug-ins. In 2.3, we got notification that plug-ins were out-of-date. Now with 2.5, we get a way to download and install plug-ins that are out-of-date, directly from the admin panel. This was awesome!

I’m using Windows Live Writer to compose this message, and then I’ll see if I can save as draft and edit online, just as I was before.

===save draft and finish editing online===

Yep, that works well. There is a problem in the online editor…it seems the editing window is too wide, and it’s covering up the publish button that should be the right of this editor window. I suspect that has to do with my variable width CSS, and possibly one of my editing plug-ins that hasn’t updated to 2.5 yet. Switching to the HTML view fixes it, but it’s annoying none-the-less.

Now I’ll add a picture online, even though I suspect I’ll always do that from Live Writer in the future, just to see if it’s different. Well, that’s not going to work. I can upload a picture, but I can’t seem to get the picture to want to go into the post. This was supposed to be one of the premier features of 2.5, so that’s not a good result, and it’s unacceptable that picture insertion doesn’t work…completely unacceptable.

Another thing that’s always annoyed me, and is no different now, the Preview button doesn’t save before it previews. What’s up with that?

Hmm, my verdict: I love the plug-in change, but the pictures not working is a deal breaker.

UPDATE: In Firefox images load and are managed perfectly…so it’s something with IE. I should have guessed. In Trac for WordPress, defect 6502 is noted with the same symptoms I’m having, so I added a note to the defect that I’m experiencing it too.

Quick update: broken Canon camera

Nov 20, 2007 by Steve Belt in Blogging, General

Just a quick update on my broken camera.  Canon confirmed receipt of the camera at their repair facility today.  Also, Jefferson Graham from USA Today contacted me yesterday to discuss my broken camera.  He said he personally had 3 Canon cameras fail, and wanted to know more about mine and my experience.  I let him know that it was about 45 days old, and I had returned it to Canon’s repair center. 

He then let me know that he had spoken with Canon directly about it, and that Canon does not advise people to put these cameras in their pocket, but instead to store them in a case.  Ugh.  I bought the camera to put in my pocket and to have it handy everywhere I go.  I want a camera I can put in a jersey pocket on my bike, in a backpack, or in a pocket while I’m roaming around the city/on vacation, so that I always have a camera handy.  If I can’t count on this new Canon camera to be that camera for me, I’m going to be quite disappointed. 

My old Canon G3 has been through a number of bumps and bruises and has always worked.  It’s just too bulky to stick in a pocket.  I wanted the SD870is to do everything the G3 could do, but in a smaller package.  Hopefully I’ve been unlucky and it’ll work like I want, and not like Jefferson Graham from USA Today expects.

WordPress 2.3 Upgrade

Oct 03, 2007 by Steve Belt in Blogging, General Tags:, ,

WordpressWordPress is the software for this blogging platform.  They released their latest version 9 days ago, and I naturally waited for the more experienced bloggers to do the upgrade before I ventured into the craziness.  I figured let someone else be the guinea pigs.  Well, there were enough posts about it for me to get a feel for what to look out for, so I’m giving it a shot.

First I saved off my private content, which turned out to be super easy, with the database backup plug-in that I have.   Then I de-activated all of my plug-ins.  Then I downloaded the new upgraded onto the server, and overwrote my wordpress installation with the new files.  I was supposed to delete everything first, but that seemed a tad risky…I don’t like deleting if I don’t have to. 

Next, I ran the upgrade script which took less than a second.  In fact it was so fast, I thought for sure something didn’t work.  From there, I went back to the plug-ins page and sure enough, I could see one new feature work right away, the plug-ins upgrade alerter.  I got busy downloading all of the upgraded plug-ins, and activating everything that was active before.

As a test I wrote a test post, which immediately failed with this error:

WordPress database error: [Table ‘wordpress.wpsteve_categories’ doesn’t exist]
SELECT c.cat_ID AS ID, MAX(p.post_modified) AS last_mod FROM `wpsteve_categories` c, `wpsteve_post2cat` pc, `wpsteve_posts` p WHERE pc.category_id = c.cat_ID AND p.ID = pc.post_id AND p.post_status = 'publish' AND p.post_type='post' GROUP BY c.cat_id

Ugh. That’s not what I was hoping for.  I went to the Wordpress’ release notes, which stated that the categories table was removed.  This meant the offensive code above surely must have been a plug-in that hadn’t upgraded.  I decided to turn off my 2 sitemap plug-ins, because neither had an available upgrade, and sure enough, I can now save without error.  Now I just need to get a new auto-sitemap generator.

Otherwise, it all looks good.  As a result of the upgrade, I’m finally going to get around to implementing tags, since that was the #1 new feature of WordPress 2.3, while before you needed a plug-in to get tag support.

Update: The Google Sitemap-XML Plug-in that was giving me grief was updated by the author today.  I’ve downloaded the new version of the plug-in and it seems to be working as exptected.  Nice work.  I think this basically gets me back to even, and only in about an hour.  Not bad, really.

Ninjitsu update

Oct 03, 2007 by Steve Belt in General

Maui Saito NinjitsuI posted about Maui Saito’s Ninjitsu on the Phoenix Area Real Estate Blog today.  That post describes a bit about what Master Maui’s trying to teach and how it differs from many of the martial arts programs that are out there.

But, you haven’t heard anything about what I’m actually doing.  I’m loving the martial arts training there.  Right now I’m a yellow belt, along with Hayley and Emily.  I’m getting somewhat close to trying for my orange belt.  I just wish I could attend more of the open session Friday afternoon classes.  On Fridays, Maui and I are able to look over the test and see what I don’t yet know, and then I can practice those items in more depth.  I really love being there on Friday, but because his Friday session is 3pm-6pm, it’s not always possible for me to get in there that early.

As an example of the kind of “fun” we are having, on Monday we actually hit each other for the first time.  We practiced our most powerful punch struck into each other’s stomach.  First we’d strike just to brush their gi, and then we’d strike to make a 1″ penetration of their stomach.  Master Maui hit me as hard as he can, with almost 1″ penetration (I think he held back a tiny bit), and since it was my stomach, it really didn’t hurt.  I could feel his power, but no pain at all.  Then we all practiced that on each other, and honestly, it was fun.  At least, it was fun for me to hit someone without the intent NOT to hurt them.  1″ into a fleshy area, like your stomach won’t hurt.  1″ penetration into a rib, could actually break a rib, and that was the purpose of the practice: get used to punches with an intent not to damage, but still demonstrate our proficiency with the move.

Along with punching, we practice blocking (typically more time is spent here), wrist grabs (the most painful thing we practice), tumbling so that you don’t get hurt, and sword play (like a samurai).  The sword work is very interesting, and while I never thought of myself as any type of gymnast, I’m reasonably good at tumbling now.

One thing we’ve done very little of is practice kicking.  We’ll get to it I know, but it’s not something that we need at this point in our understanding of the art.

I started doing Ninjitsu as a chance to do something with Hayley and Emily, together as a family.  However, Emily has shown that she doesn’t like being with all of the adults that are now in the class at our 6pm timeslot on Monday/Wednesday.  So, we are moving her to an earlier timeslot where she can practice with a couple of other kids her size and age.  Master Maui says Emily is among his best young students.  In the current class, she basically refuses to practice with Hayley or an any other adult besides Maui and I.  So she’s often sitting around unhappy.  Hopefully she’ll feel more comfortable around the younger crowd, and even challenged to do as well as Maui’s other good young students.

Hayley is staying with me at 6pm.  She’s in Study Squad with Oxford after school, which helps get her homework done, so I don’t want to mess that up.