Category Archives: review

The Sky’s the Limit: Game Review of Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures

I like video games.  I’m not a huge nut nor am I super good, but I enjoy playing video games.  My twins have an XBOX360, my little ones have a Nintendo DS & Nintendo DSi, and we have a Nintendo Wii hooked up in our living room.  For Christmas Aunt Kathy & Uncle Bob gave us all Walmart gift certificates, so the little ones and I combined our cards and purchased a new game, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures.  But Skylanders isn’t just a new game, no, it is a new gaming experience where the sky’s the limit!

Most games merely come with the game itself, the disk or cartridge.  And yeah, that’s usually good enough.  Sometimes a game might come with a collector’s figurine or an action figure to place on a shelf to collect dust and serve as a symbol of geekiness.  Skylanders comes with the game, three action figures and the Portal of Power-all required to play the game.  The action figures are placed on the physical platform; place different action figures on the Portal of Power and they come alive in the game and the game changes as you place different action figures to play different characters.  Different characters unlock different areas of the game.  The game with the portal and 3 action figures cost $70 on all platforms.

Portal of Power

The Portal of Power, the wireless platform that comes with the game, is one of  the first new cool things I’ve seen in recent years-since the Wii Fit balance board.  The Portal of Power platform connects to the game console (XBOX360, PS3, Wii & 3DS, PC) much like a wireless mouse, with a little USB connector. Initial setup was plug and play and completely painless.

Action Figures

Skylanders is one of the first games to take the concept of action figures and collecting to the next level-and they’ve done it brilliantly.  Each game comes with three action figures that become characters in the game.  Up to two action figures can be placed on the portal simultaneously, for cooperative or versus play.  There are 37 action figures in all. Toys R Us even has a couple of different carrying cases!  Individually packaged action figures cost about $8.  3-packs of action figures cost about $20.

Each action figure has a memory chip in the base.   The memory chip  stores progress and since the action figures are not platform-specific, the action figures can be ported to a different system and all progress is portable as well.  For instance, I bought the Wii version of the game which comes with an action figure, Trigger Happy, but I can use Trigger Happy on an XBOX360 (or PS3 or 3DS or PC) and the progress and all the character’s status will follow.

Collect them All?

As stated before, there are 37 action figures in all.  This is where things can get a bit confusing (and expensive).  There are eight different groups or families of characters called Element Classes: Air, Earth, Fire, Life, Magic, Tech, Undead & Water.

Although the game can be beaten with the three characters that come with the game & portal, there are areas of the game that you cannot access unless you have a character from each class.  This is where the marketing guys start to earn their salary! 

So you really only need eight action figures right?  Well…

In other games, any Mario game for instance, you collect free lives as you play the game.  In Skylanders you collect free lives by collecting more action figures!  One character runs out of steam then take him off the portal and replace him with another. Well played Mr. Marketer dude.

There are eight classes with four action figures/characters per class, which is 32 action figures/characters.  There’s a pretty cool full-sized poster of all 32 action figures in between Justin Bieber and The Marvel Superheroes at the poster display.

Although listed as part of the “official” 32 action figures, the Drill Sergeant action figure is exclusively sold at Walmart.  Another point to the Marketing guys!

Ghost Roaster is included exclusively with the Darklight Crypt Adventure Pack (another point for the mad men).

Dark Spyro is not listed among the “official” 32.  The Nintendo 3DS version of the game, portal & figurines comes with Dark Spyro, to my knowledge this is the only way to purchase this action figure-to purchase the Nintendo 3DS version of the game which includes Dark Spyro.  This is where the marketing guys took collecting to the next level!  Dark Spyro is selling for a pretty penny on Ebay. Although Dark Spyro can be played on any of the Portals of Power (any of the game systems) it is only listed in the 3DS packaging.

Toys R Us has three exclusive “legendary” action figures that are also not listed among the “official” 32.  Legendary BashLegendary Chop Chop and Legendary Spyro can only be purchased at Toys R US. More points to the marketing geeks.  When in stock, the exclusive Toys R Us Legendary 3-pack can be purchased through TRU for about $25, or for around $40 on Ebay-again props to the marketing guys for creating a demand for toy collecting.

And last, but not least, according to the Skylander Wiki website there is also a Legendary Trigger Happy that may also be exclusive to TRU,

Legendary Trigger Happy is a rare counterpart of Trigger Happy. Little is currently known about him. He was first

Legendarytriggerhappysmile.png

seen in the 3DS version of Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, in the list of all 37 Skylanders.

Here is a complete (as of this writing) list of all 37 action figures/characters:

Adventure Packs & Add-Ons

Adventure Packs come with an action figure and a few other object action figures-magic items.  Think of these as expansion packs.  Place a location figure on the Portal of Power and access a whole new chapter! Experience new challenges, menacing enemies and whimsical adventures.  An Action Pack with one action figure and a few object figures cost about $20.  There are four Adventure Packs:

Unreleased Adventure Packs (as of this post)

The Volcanic Vault is an exclusive portal, part of the Wii/360/PS3 Starter Pack when bought at Best Buy. When an action figure is placed on the Portal for the first time, it unlocks the multiplayer Volcanic Arena for play in Battle mode.

Game Play

The portal, action figures and collecting would be worthless if the game itself was boring and bland.  I’m happy to say that it is a fun game!  The game is geared to younger players, but has been getting very positive reviews from adult gamers (including the guy that works at my local Game Stop-he said he and his girlfriend are addicted!).  I’ve been playing it with my eight-year old and we’ve had a blast!  Like many video games there is a story line version that includes hunting and gathering, fighting, puzzles, collecting and powering up.  And like most video games there is a versus version where the characters fight each other in a battle royale, or street fighter  style.  I will say that the story line version of play, although very entertaining (the story was written by the writers of Toy Story), quick and fun is a little bit easy, but we are only about 15% through the game, so maybe I am speaking too soon.  And the key may be leveling up and buying powers.  UPDATE:  I am stuck at 33%…so it isn’t all THAT easy.

Obviously this game is the ultimate in hunting and gathering games!  There are lots of levels, lots of areas to unlock, lots of characters to collect, lots of things to find, lots of powers to buy, etc.

Playing Online

Each action figure comes with collectable cards and a code that can be entered to play the online version of Skylanders-much like Club Penguin (which means the online play is SAFE!). The Skylanders online game site is FREE and anyone can play without purchasing any pieces of the game.  The online version serves as an extension of the game and is completely safe for kids.  I’ve only played for an hour or so, but it seems pretty cool.  Especially designed for the young ones, if, as a parent, you find yourself addicted to the console game, give the keyboard and mouse to you child so you can play with the controller and nun chuck!

Its Not ALL About The Benjamins

One of the negatives of this game is the price.  The initial game, portal and three action figures, although not crazy expensive will cost you $70 on any console (including the 3DS).  Each additional action figure costs $7.00-$9.00 (dependeing on where you buy and if you buy in packs of three).  37 figurines x 8.00 = just under $300!  Plus the expansion packs and carrying cases…UGH!  Yeah, it can add up fast.  Here’s the good news, the game can be completed-without exploring ALL areas of the game-with the initial three action figures that come with the game.  And, if you aren’t into collecting, but want to complete all the areas of the the game, a minimum of eight action figures (about $75) are needed to unlock all of the areas of game play (maybe excluding the chapters introduced by the Adventure Packs).  However, if you really suck, keep purchasing more action figures to get more chances to pass that area you’re stuck on.

In all fairness it sounds like Activision’s marketing geniuses didn’t know that the game would take off.  Game Stop says that production should pick up and characters should flood the market at the end of February.

Overall Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures is an awesome game!

Skylanders Buyer’s Guide


Air
Lightening
Rod


Sonic Boom
Skylanders Spyro's Adventure: Sonic Boom

Warnado


Whirlwind

Earth
Bash

Dino-Rang

Legendary Bash

Prism Break
Skylanders Spyro's Adventure: Prism Break
Twrafin

Fire

Eruptor

Flameslinger

Ignitor

Sunburn

Life

Camo

Stealth Elf

Stump Smash

Zook


Magic


DARK Spyro


Double Trouble

Legendary
Spyro


Spyro

Voodood

Wrecking Ball

Tech
Boomer


Drill Sergeant


Drobot

Legendary Trigger Happy
Trigger Happy

Undead
Chop Chop

Cynder

Ghost Roaster

Hex

Legendary Chop Chop

Water
Gill Grunt

Slam Bam

Wham-Shell

Zap

3-PACKS Eruptor,
Chop Chop
Bash

Wrecking Ball,
Stealth Elf,
Sonic Boom


Whirlwind,
Double Trouble,
Drill Sergeant


Zap,
Hex,
Dino Rang


Drobot,
Flamslinger,
Stump Smash

Prism Break,
Boomer,
Voodood

Legendary Spyro
Legendary Chop
Chop Legendary Bash


ADVENTURE
PACKS(Expansion packs)
Darklight Crypt

Pirate Seas

 Empire of Ice

STARTER PACKGame,
Portal.
3 Skylanders
XBOX360

Wii

Nintendo 3DS

Playstatuin 3

PC

CASES(To store your Skylanders in!) Zip Case

Tower Case

Durk

I Believe in EVOlution

It is time to come clean, come out, shout to the heavens.  It has been awhile since I’ve known and I just can’t keep it to myself anymore.  There are folks who have certain preferences and I have recently switched mine.  So here goes.

Of course I am talking about my new Sprint 4G HTC EVO Android phone.  Duh.  I’ve had the phone for about 2 weeks now.  Here is a quick summary:  BEST.  PHONE.  EVER.  PERIOD.  OK, thanks for reading.  Until next time, drive safe, good night, kiss the kids.

More?  OK, you got it.  There is a lot of info, I tried to put it in chunks for you.

Why Such a Fancy Phone?
I am all about taking full advantage of technology that I have access to.  I don’t

I want to use the phone for good!

want to have a super cool phone just to show it off or as a status symbol.  I want to be more productive, better informed, entertained, I want it to do my laundry, and cook etc.  The days of using a mobile phone primarily for verbal conversations are over.  Heck, one-on-one communication isn’t the only thing phones can do, they can take pictures, offer GPS navigation and weather conditions for traveling (not to mention flight and traffic info), even take your heart rate, yep, I’ll get to that in a bit.

Image representing HTC as depicted in CrunchBase

HTC makes great phones.

Switching to the Other Team
I have had a Windows-based Pocket PC phone for years, starting with the PPC 6700 (Qualcomm/UTCStarcom who became HTC) and upgraded to the PPC 6800 (Sprint’s HTC Mogul).  HTC makes great phones.   The new Microsoft Windows Mobile 7.0 is coming out soon; I heard it can sync to XBOX Live, which is kinda cool I guess.  It was a pretty big decision for me to switch from Windows Mobile to Android.  Another switch:  No slide-out keyboard!  I was really worried about giving up a slide-out keyboard, so far it has been pretty good, I changed to a different keyboard program, and I am getting used to it.  I miss it, but I’m adapting. 

The Basics
The HTC EVO Android is a communication powerhouse.  Phone calls, text messaging, and email are the bare basics of any modern phone.  The Evo does all those things perfectly, but then steps it up.  The biggest complaint my wife and boss have about the Palm Pre is that it is difficult to make a call.  In the Evo, phone calls are extremely easy to make.  Contacts automatically integrate with social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.  For instance, any of my contacts that were missing pictures acquires the Facebook pic (keys in on matching email address).  It logically combines contact databases from any email account you set up.  Text messaging is a breeze with the on-screen keyboard.  All of this is pretty basic to most modern smart phones.

EVO Evolution
EVO and Android 2.2 Froyo OS is definitely the next evolution in smart phones.  The EVO is the first 4G phone on the market.  HTC has the largest screen on the market (4.3 inches) that some folks may find too big, I love it.  The EVO comes with a front-facing and back-facing camera, that’s right, 2 cameras; only a handful of phones have this-They can be used to video chat with Skype or Qik. The cameras can also be used as a webcam (although I am still working n that).  Although tethering  (Internet through the phone’s data connection) isn’t new the EVO phone will wirelessly tether and serve as a WiFi hotspot (for free if you root the phone).  Android takes a very clever approach to profiles called “scenes”.  Just like you can have profiles on a computer where the icons and backgrounds look and feel completely different, HTC uses scenes.  Say you want to configure your phone so that when you turn it on it has nothing but news and weather apps and widgets or just game apps and widgets, then just create different customizable scenes.  Another cool thing that is unique to the Evo, it has a kick stand that allows the phone to be propped up-in case you just want to stare in awe at the awesomeness of the Evo or I suppose you can watch movies.

Oh Em Gee (Goodness)
The Evo and Android have many super cool things that will make your jaw drop:  pictures, videos, social networking, GPS Navigation, flashlight, FM radio.  The Evo will wirelessly stream HD content to a compatible big-screen TV over WiFi-that’s cool!  One of the first things that I used the phone for was to read QR Codes. QR Codes use a technology that is just taking off:  A QR Code is a bar code that can be scanned using your camera phone and a QR Code Reader (free software installed on phone). You can easily create QR codes that when scanned takes you to a website or movie or asks you if you want to add a contact or displays text or adds a calendar event to your phone and more.  Bar-code readers can also be used to scan products off the shelf at a store to find the cheapest local pricing.  Here are what QR codes look like:

More info:  http://blog.purevisibility.com/2010/03/mobile_marketing_and_how_to_make_the_barcode_hip_again/
Here are a couple of QR Code generator sites:  http://zxing.appspot.com/generator/ & http://qrcode.kaywa.com/

Proprietary vs. Open-Source Software
I gave up my Windows Mobile phone for the Android-based Evo.  There are other smart phone platforms out there.  Blackberrys or “crackberry’s” have come a long way and are becoming an internationally used phone and are great for business use.  My wife and boss have the Palm Pre that is always connected to the Internet and constantly keeping you up-to-date.  But really, in the smart phone arena Android and iPhone are the 2 major competitors right now fighting for dominance.  The biggest fundamental difference between the iPhone OS (operating system) and the Android OS is the concept of open-source verses proprietary.  The iPhone (and the mobile OS for Mindows Mobile, Blackberry & Palm Pre) uses a proprietary or closed OS; they don’t share their precious source code and they make the public pay to use their software that they worked long and hard to create.  By contrast, Android takes the Unix and Linux approach-the open-source approach:  Make the source code freely available, let anyone develop software, let anyone improve on what has been created before.  If you find a flaw, there is a community to report it to, a community to collaborate with to fix it, and a community to share the results, everyone wins.  Successful example:  Ubantu for Linux.

There’s an Evo App for That
I have a couple of co-workers who have the iPhone AND THEY LOVE IT and are fiercely loyal to Apple (something that Apple has done EXTREMELY well).  And I can understand why, the iPhone looks great, functions VERY intuitively and hey, there really is an app for everything.  Say you’re at a restaurant and you can’t quite remember the name or artist of a song that’s playing overhead, hold your iPhone up and it will listen and give you the info…an app for everything.  Although it is true that there are more apps for the iPhone than there are for Android, keep in mind that the iPhone has had a couple of years head start.  One thing that the Evo will do that the iPhone will not:  Wirelessly sync to iTunes.  Again, the Apple iPhone OS is an example of a closed or proprietary operating system.  If you are a software developer and you want to make an app for the iPhone (or Microsoft Mobile, Blackberry, Palm Pre) first you are only going to have limited access to how the operating system works and second EVERY app has to go through an approval process for the app to be added to iTunes for “legal” distribution.  The Android OS is completely open, transparent and available.  This means that the source code to the OS is not only completely available, it is also free, I easily found the Software Development Kit and found instructions that encourage you to root the phone!  So anyone, anywhere can create an app.  And the USER community decides if it is useful, if it is safe, if it works well, etc.  I have some pretty awesome applications.  I am addicted to the game, Robo Defense.  Here is a short list of other (free) apps worth mentioning:

  • The Weather Channel (Pulls updates from the Internet)
  • Compass & Leveler
  • KeePass for Android (Password keeper)
  • Pandora (Streaming Internet Radio)
  • SkyFire (Internet browser)
  • Youtube, Google, Facebook
  • Barcode Scanner (uses camera to scan bar codes and QR Codes)
  • Navigator (uses GPS to verbally communicate directions)
  • Instant Heart Rate (Uses the camera and measures oxygen saturation change in your blood.  How cool is that?)

Geeky Stats (Deep Breath, There’s Lots)

  • 4.3-inch Touchscreen WVGA (800×480) 65K colors
  • 1 GHz Snapdragon™ processor
  • Access to 4G speeds that are up to 10x faster than 3G
  • Android™ 2.2
  • Dual cameras (8.0 Megapixels on back 1.3 on the front)
  • 3.5mm stereo headset jack
  • Capture and share HD-quality video (720p)
  • Live video sharing with Qik
  • Mobile Hotspot capable
  • Sprint TV®
  • GPS Navigation enabled
  • Digital compass (proximity and motion sensors)
  • HDMI port
  • Web browsing capable
  • Email capable
  • Bluetooth® 2.1 with A2DP Stereo and EDR
  • Expandable memory: 8GB microSD card included; supports up to 32GB
  • Voice activated dialing
  • Built-in kickstand for hands-free viewing
  • Supports multiple simultaneous users
  • Dimensions: 4.8″ x 2.6″ x .5″ (LxWxT)
  • Weight: 6 ounces
  • Standard removable 1500mAh Lithium (Li-on) battery
  • Memory: 1GB ROM, 512MB RAM

More pics:  http://now.sprint.com/firsts/evo4g/#/gallery/

Accessories
The Evo comes with a 8GB micro SD card; a bigger card can be used.  It comes with a mini USB cable that plugs into a wall charger.  I have an Otter Box protective shell that the Sprint store sold me,  I love it has a rubber inside and a plastic shell on the outside.  AND it comes with a screen protector.  I have yet to get a carrying case.  A headset or earbuds are needed for the FM radio.

The Bad

There are a few legitimate criticisms.  The battery life is terrible-I have to charge it whenever I am near an outlet, however, unlike the iPhone, the battery is replaceable and there is an extended battery available.  Battery life is MUCH better if you turn off all the extra networks and kill the programs that run in the background.  Although Android 2.1 offered a fix, Android 2.2 Froyo cannot play .wav files (yet), yeah, I don’t get it either.  Some say it is too big, (guffaw) I say there is no such thing!  The 8GB Micro SD card is under the freaking battery…so you have to take the phone out of the case, carefully pry the back off, dig out the battery, unlock the card (whew) and finally pull out the micro SD card.  It is also fair to mention that my boss’s boss is on his 3rd phone, but I keep asking around and that is definitely not the norm.

In Touch with your Inner Geek
Lastly it is worth mentioning that the Android is completely customizable.  This appeals to many user’s inner Geek.  I have mentioned rooting and this is something that advanced users love.  It is sorta like jailbreaking, except it is totally acceptable, folks just need to be more of an advanced user to understand the implications.  If you want to delete apps that come “standard” with the phone you can.  I have already found some ROM sites.  A ROM is a customized “loadset” or image for the phone.  There are tons of advanced geeky stuff that can be done with Android 2.2.  I never thought I’d give up Windows Mobile and a slide-out keyboard, but I’m sure glad I did.  It is the best phone I have ever owned.  It is big enough to not need a slide-out keyboard.  I constantly had to reset my Windows Mobile phone, I have yet to reset my Evo.  Many people won’t be able to handle the full awesomeness of the HTC Evo and Android 2.2-the combination of the hardware and software is a perfect marriage.  The Evo is a HUGE home run for Sprint.

-Derin-

More useful links:

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I hope to write more about QR codes in the near future…Stay tuned!

Security Software Review: KeePass Password Safe

Remember when you used to have passwords Post-It noted to your monitor?  Then you got all stealth and hid the sticky notes under your mouse pad?  Then graduated to a notebook locked up in a drawer?  And finally to a spreadsheet that has very little protection other than you have to hunt all over for it when you really need it?  Yeah, been there!  But that was “so 2009”.  We all struggle with password management, but I found an end-all, multi-security-layered solution:  KeePass Password Safe.

So here are the basic features, KeePass is FREE.  It is Open Source and OSI certified.  It is portable so it can be installed on a flash drive.  It uses real security-AES, Rijndael and the Twofish algorithms-to encrypt its password databases.  SHA-256 is used as password hash.  It has an auto-type feature.  It auto locks after a few minutes.  And it has a password generator feature!  Throw this all together and it is pretty sweet!

I installed the portable version on a USB drive and I used double authentication right away.  The program requires a master password (or one per database) and you can also create an encrypted file for the program to authenticate against.  I keep this key file on a different USB drive.  So already one must have both USB drives to use the program, a hacker would  have to brute-force the password and then figure out where the key file is to make the program usable.  I also saved a backup of the database and key file to a third USB drive that does not have the KeePass program on it.  Layered security.

First I simply added a few existing accounts to KeePass.  I use IE & Firefox at work.  I use tabs in each browser and have specific tabs open everyday in each browser.  Some are company Intranet pages and some are Internet websites.  You have to build your database in KeePass, but once you do it is very easy to use, once your mouse is at the login prompt you type a few keys (Ctrl+alt+whatever) and KeePass fires off its auto-login feature, login, tab, password, enter!  And Wham, you are logged in!  The script is customizable as well.  KeePass uses the title of the page to determine what account it should use.  KeePass also works with programs.

Have multiple Facebook accounts (hey, sometimes I just feel like a 14 year-old girl)?  No problem, highlight the account in KeePass and type Ctrl+C and the login and pass for the individual account is automatically used.  (I was kidding about the 14-year-old girl thing…really…)

I was one of the suckers who had a RockYou.com account that got hacked (I used to use it to store eBay pics)  And yep, the login and pass I used was pretty much the same one I used for everything!  To their credit they sent out several emails letting their users know what happened.  About this time I was testing the waters with KeePass, so I decided to step things up a bit.  I used the password-generator feature to not only create a password that was random, but it was whatever length I chose, and I had the option of mixing uppercase, lowercase, digits, underline, minus, space, special, brackets and even high ASCII characters!  How is this for ugly: Ì?:-Ôð?µg¤É;³$®7u?z??Êi¦×á_?Ñ? Or this:  붐>aG»q ?ÜT?ú-©Îç mvÀ/Reí$D?  So now I have a randomly-generated password that is ugly that I couldn’t remember it if I wanted to!  PERFECT!   KeePass saves the password as asterisks, but you can toggle to plain text if you actually wish to see the password.

The next step was to use the program as I signed up for new accounts, spideroak.com, snapfish.com, animoto.com, etc.  Yeah, I’ve been messing around with online storage and picture sharing lately, but I digress.  I don’t know the passwords to any of these new sites!  But I feel secure that they are safe in KeePass!

A bonus is that you start to get a feel for how secure websites really are.  Picturetrail.com limits passwords to 6 characters and only alphanumeric.  But zumodrive.com allows 20-characters and I was able to add brackets and special characters.

Lifehacker.com likes KeePass and wrote this article about KeePass plug-ins.

OK, yep, if I lose the USB drives I am kinda screwed-they are all on the same keyring (not smart).  But only until I get the backup db and file (maybe from a file sharing site?  Yes, after I use the “forgot password” button) and download the program again.  But then I will actually have a neat list of all the passwords that need to be changed, plus a password-generator to assist!

I encourage you to check out KeePass, ease into it and then THINK LAYERED SECURITY!

Out with the Old, In with the New

Although I did not blog a great deal this past year, I have been reading many blogs-mostly my friends’-that have challenged me and have helped me grow.  There are links to those blogs along the sides here, but a special thanks to Pastor Donnie, Pastor Monte Asbury, Joe Kumor, Joe Hays, Dave Brush & Bill Marty (also a shout out to Ben and Irene DeLong).

So here is a quick look back to 2008 and a possible peek at the future.

Looking Back at 2008

2008 was one of the fastest years for me.  It seemed to go by at light speed.  I am sure that working 2 jobs had a lot to do with it.  Minnie and the twins have been in drama classes and performances this past semester and that has also contributed to a very busy schedule.

Transportation was another issue that contributed to business as well as financial strain.  One minivan has had the engine replaced, the other had the transmission rebuilt and also had the head gasket replaced.  And now my minivan needs radiator work.  Fun times.  It is hard for us when we only have one vehicle.

It has been over a year since we entered into the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University program.  My check is being garnished to pay off student loan debt, but the amount that is being garnished doesn’t even cover the interest.  Our church now offers online tithing, and we are taking advantage of that-It isn’t even a conscious choice, tithe just automatically gets taken out of our check.  So we are regularly tithing, we feel pretty good about this.

I finally signed up with Facebook this past spring, which is likely a reason for less blogging.  I had never done any of the social networking sites, so it was all new to me.  I have been able to reconnect with friends from college, high school and even elementary school.  I joined a group dedicated to the alumni of my old youth group-that has been especially fun.  I have been able to better stay in touch with close friends and have had some relationships strengthen.  On the down side I am addicted to a couple of the games-Mob Wars in particular.  Join my mob, feed my addiction.

Daycare has been a pretty jolting change this month.  All of our children have been with the same daycare provider-so for over 12 years we have been with the same babysitter.  Earlier this month without notice, our daycare provider announced that she is closing the daycare, is divorcing her husband, moving out of her house and moving in with her lesbian friends.  Not much more to say about that.  We found a new daycare and will start in a few days.

Looking Forward

I kinda agree with my friend Dave B about not going on and on about new year resolutions.  Now having said that, Minnie wanted a Wii Fit and I found one at the very last minute.  I feel fat.  I look fat.  Heck, I probably smell, and sound fat too.  I would really like to lose weight.  Maybe I will this year.  It would be a very healthy move.

Other than that I have no major issues that I wish to address.  Notice I didn’t say that I have no major issues.  I have lots of issues.  I just wish to ignore them.

But that isn’t totally true.  I mean I am at a pretty healthy spot in my life.  Physically, spiritually, economically, relationally and emotionally I am pretty good.  Same thing for the rest of my family.  Of course there is always room to grow, to love better, to worship without barriers, to serve more, to rest more, to eat better, etc.  And I think most of the time my family is progressing on that endless journey.  Joe Kumor is our small group pastor and that has been a very healthy thing for our family.  Love you guys-had a blast ringing in the year on New Years Eve!

Kaleb and Keegan turn 13 this month.  Teenagers.  Yeah, pretty big deal.  They have been practicing their teen attitudes for awhile now.  But overall they are great kids.  They are healthy, doing well in school and have pretty good attitudes most of the time.  They have great friends and they have a zeal for life.  Not to mention that they own the Nintendo Wii and DS Lite.  Love you guys!  Remember the XBOX 360 is mine, so be good or you won’t be able to play Guitar Hero World Tour any more.  Just sayin’.

Calvin turned 5 last month and Corbin turns 3 at the end of this month.  Everyone is growing up.

And that has been the biggest awakening of all during 2008 that I can take into 2009-I am getting older.  We are all getting older.  All my boys are growing up, becoming young boys and on their way to young men.  Kaleb and Keegan will never get that tree house I promised them if we ever bought a house.  Minnie (turns 40 this year) and I are approaching *GULP* MID-LIFE.   And that just seems weird.  Is half of my life really over?  Most likely.

So I suppose that it is time for a mid-life crises.  I am open to suggestions.

-Derin-

For your Viewing & Listening Pleasure-Phil Keaggy & Stanley Jordan

I saw August Rush this weekend, it is a pretty cool movie about a kid musical prodigy. One of the styles the kid plays on guitar is tapping out sounds on the neck of the guitar. Very cool and it reminded me of a couple of musical geniuses!

As many of you know I am a HUGE Phil Keaggy fan. Phil Keaggy is one of the best guitarists in the world-it isn’t just my opinion, the rumor is that Hendrix and Clapton site him as one of the best too. It just so happens that he is also a follower of Christ. I own more than 30 of his CDs, 1 DVD, and have seen him in concert about a half a dozen times (with a band, with his band, Glass Harp and solo). He is INCREDIBLE! You can see some of his videos here, this one is my fav: Salvation Army Band:

One of the things that he does well is work with a digital loop machine and he just builds and builds and it is pretty cool.

While looking for more Keaggy stuff and people who Keaggy had had an influence on I stumbled across Stanley Jordan. When I first saw his stuff I was amazed. But then Chris B. sent me this super incredible clip of Stanley Jordan playing Led Zepplin’s Stairway to Heaven:

That’s right, he plays 2 guitars at the same time! Wow, it doesn’t get much cooler than that-unless you can find some genius to play a patriotic song with his feet or something.

Working at Home Depot & a Review of cl1p.net

I have come to the conclusion that Home Depot is the worst place on earth to be employed at. Not because of the pay or the people or the policy, all that is pretty good.

I used to work in the food service industry, Hardee’s, Arby’s, campus cafeteria, and as manager at an on-campus snack shack. When you work around food you get hungry. If you want to satisfy your desires you eat. You get full. You go on. And maybe you repeat the next shift.

But at Home Depot I work around stuff. Home improvement, gas grills, appliances, projects, gardening, and the list goes on and on. I get hungry for stuff. This door is on sale, a dryer has been marked down, there is a display of 100 shop vacs, I need a cordless drill, I want to redo my kitchen, I want to grow a new yard! And the list goes on and on. The problem is if I do give in and buy something-anything, there is just more expensive stuff to buy the next time!

Another dumb thing that Home Depot does is restrict technology, let me explain. Home Depot employs a person whose sole responsibility is to create the weekly schedule. Even though they have a paper form that you can fill out to request days off or to detail availability, how much easier would it be just to email the Scheduler? Nope, they have internal email, but not external. OK, so use the many PCs to create a document…NOPE, no such application-no MS Word, no Wordpad, no Notepad! NOTHING! AHH! BUT,

I persevered. And I remembered a really useful website called http://cl1p.net/ Now HD is pretty good about filtering out questionable sites (and not-so-questionable), but they let you go to Google and such, and it let me go to http://cl1p.net. You simply add your own subdirectory and type something up, save it and it is on the net! Notes, pics, storage, etc. It is like an online clipboard. Check this out: http://cl1p.net/durk-Home_Depot So I used this nifty website and typed up my availability schedule and submitted a professional-looking, printed page. And then I was asked to fill out a paper form anyway (sigh).

-Derin-

I Am With You Always-Jesus Action Figures

UPDATED POST:  The original website is here:  http://www.wearefishermen.com/home.html   But the website seems to no longer work.  It seems that the manufacturer is selling these through amazon.com. and I have linked to them below:

I am Freedom–Biker Jesus

Biker Jesus Figurine
by Fishermen

I am Freedom–Biker Jesus

I am Spirit–Surfing Jesus

Jesus Action Figure Surfing “I am Spirit”
by Fishermen

I am Spirit–Surfer Jesus

I am Victory–Soccer Jesus

Jesus Soccer Action Figure ‘I Am Victory’
by Fishermen

I am Victory–Soccer Jesus

I am Peace-Camo

Jesus Action Figure Military Outfit I am Peace

I am Peace–Camo Jesus

I’d like to hear what YOU have to say about these Jesus action figures.

-Derin-

Celebrate the Day That Christ was Born to Die

I love the Advent season. It is a season of anticipation. It is also a season of Christmas music. At the Home Depot they have been playing Christmas music since Black Friday.  I am about sick of it.  And I couldn’t figure it out at first…I mean yeah you hear the same song every 45 minutes, by a different artist, sung completely different, and sometimes, most depressingly, in a country style, but why do I have this urge to remove my eardrums out of my head with a utility knife?  And then it dawned on me:  None of the songs were actually about the birth of Christ!  They were all commercial Christmas music for the most part. Songs about winter and snow and lights and Christmas trees.  Trite and familiar and it is supposed to make people happy. It just pushes me closer to the postal edge.  I’ll give you a white Christmas in a winter wonderland…  Willie Nelson sings Christmas songs?  Brings shivers to my spine.

On a different note…(get it, on a different NOTE?  Because music is made up of notes?  And I’m talking about music…Yeah, pretty funny stuff!)

Ever since City On A Hill: Its Christmas Time came out I have been hooked. I hope you will check out the link and buy a copy of it, you will not be disappointed. It is Christmas worship pure and simple. There is one song in particular that cuts into my heart, it is an original song (new) and it is sung by Jars of Clay, but the lyrics just tear me up. It is talking about Mary: “…you gave birth to the death that would bring us to life.” Just insanely powerful. Jesus was born with one purpose: To die for our sins so that we may truly live.

The other series that I just can’t get enough of is BEC’s Happy Christmas volumes 1-4. There are many traditional songs that are sung traditionally and some that are sung with a rock edge. And some original stuff on it too. Here is my favorite song of the series by Reliant K. Click on the link to see the youtube video and hear the song.

Reliant K-I Celebrate the Day

Again, Christ came to this earth and was born to die so that one day I would pray that he would save my life. Wow. Incredible. Powerful. Simple and profound. It just makes me want to fall and worship the Christ Child and anticipate his return.

Jesus is the reason for the season.

Happy Christmas,

-Derin-

I love to Blog

I know, you would never guessed! But I love everything about blogging. I love the writing. Blogging has given me an avenue to vent, joke around, be creative, review, journal, and just ramble on and on. I love the recording aspect, the memorializing. I love the picture part of it, kinda a voyeuristic aspect and it allows you to share family pics with friends and family. I like the idea of having a presence on the web. Blogging is becoming a bit of a passion for me. As it has for millions!

In my pursuit of blogging I have run across some pretty cool stuff, photo sharing (I am not quite finished reviewing all of the photo sharing sites on my list), free space and new blogs.

The latest blog site that I have come across is wordpress.com. [I was blogging at blogger, I migrated to wordpress.] Check out keech17.wordpress.com and thewienerdogblog.wordpress.com.

I really like their blogging format, it is extremely intuitive and easy to use. I actually like it a tad bit better than blogger! I shall try to remain loyal. One of the things that the wordpress blog site can do that say this site cannot do: upload pictures. And their themes have a lot of options and customizations.

Like I mentioned, one of the limitations of blogger is the inability to upload pictures and files. I ran across another cool, but extremely simple web site that seems to not have too many restrictions on file storage- www.wikispaces.com. Check out Durk’s PPC software site. It is pretty simple and plain; not too many graphics or themes. But one very unique thing, you can create pages super quick and you can upload and link to files with ease and speed.

I have been trying to think of a way to use all of these cool websites with their unique services, storage, blog formats and various bells and whistles. I have been trying to think of them as tools at my disposal.

I plan on sticking with the photo sharing sites for a few reasons. They can hold a whole lot of pictures. It is a one-stop shop for organizing and backing up pictures. They allow you to put together some pretty cool shows and filmstrips and such. And then easily allow you to share. It makes sense to have one place to store all of our pictures.

I plan to use wikispaces.com for file sharing and if I need a link to a separate page-like what I did with the email correspondence and the PPC software. It makes sense to have one place to store files and host extra external pages.

I also decided to get the family involved.

Kaleb & Keegan created their Keech site; it is dedicated to their adventures with and cheats for Club Penguin.

I also started thewienerdogblog to have another blog to maintain! And of course to chisel out a spot on the web for our Dash and Izzy.

That pretty much covers everyone except for the wife. I am still working on her. She has concerns as to how she will be portrayed to current and prospective employers. Many employers will scour the internet searching for potential employee’s presences on the web.

This is a valid concern. But as long as one isn’t sharing inside secrets, dissing the boss or complaining about students by name, then you should be OK. And so should she.

-Durk-

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow about a week ago. So I thought it was time to give it my review.

I want to start out by saying that I thought it was a fantastic final chapter to a very entertaining series. It kept my attention and I enjoyed the story very much. There were many “loose ends” that were addressed at the end. I was just thinking yesterday that I would have liked to have known what happened to the house elf Kreatcher and maybe the plight of house elfs in general. But other than that most of my questions were answered. It definitely was an appropriate ending to the series.

So I liked the book and liked the series. But I am still hung up on the whole allegory thing. I still think it just might be JK Rowling’s intent for the series to be a complete Christian allegory. But it isn’t a perfect allegory by any stretch of the imagination.

There is a scene from CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where the Son of Adam and the Daughters of Eve are walking into Aslan’s camp. For me it was one of the first times that the allegory was staring me in the face. The younger brother, the other Son of Adam, had betrayed his family and was being held captive by the White Witch. The other 3 traveled to go see Aslan who might be able to help fight against the White Witch. And here they are entering the camp, walking through it to seek Aslan. And there are all of these other creatures, centaurs and such that they are walking by. It was very cool on the big screen. And then all of these creatures recognize that these three are human…and they do the most incredible thing-they bow, they offer respect! It was at that point that I lost it, I just started to cry, and not subtly, but in convulsions. I just kept thinking, “No, you don’t understand, stop! We don’t deserve that kind of honor and respect! You don’t know what kind of evil we are capable of.” And I thought of how heaven welcomes us in, these dirty, filthy, rotten sinners, they rejoice when we are gracously accepted by Christ.

And then there is the scene where Aslan lays slain. Suddenly his body disappears. The altar where he had laid is broken in two. Again the allegory smacks you upside the head. The curtain between the Holy of Holies and the priests ripped in two.

I have to say, there are no scenes in any of the Harry Potter books that scream out the allegory. There are things that happen and things that are said that can be taken in an alegorical manner, but nothing that is blatant. And for me that is most disappointing. I thought there may be something at the very end of the final chapter. But the death is nothing too special. There is no parallel of what happens to a Harry while he is dead. The “ressurection” is nothing special. And finally the victory is nothing special. Instead of the story representing the Gospel there are themes that are present: Harry conquers death, is a savior of humanity, overcomes evil with good, and is an example of a good person. In the end though I thought Harry was a pretty lame representation of Christ. I also thought that the author had a pretty good opportunty to create some pretty amazing final scenes that may be Gospel representations, just his reappearance alone could have defeated Voldermort. Maybe others could have been brought back to life. And as mentioned in the allegory editorial on mugglenet it would have been cool if the Veil of Death room had been destroyed or torn apart or whatever. And finally although there are “things worse than death” that was mentioned, nothing seemed to have come of it too much.

I want to state again that the book and the series are awesome stories! Just not that great of an alegory.

-Durk-

Music Video-"Jesus Christ" by the group BRAND NEW-

I don’t know if this is the original video or not-guessing not. It is what I found on youtube.

BRAND NEW LYRICS
“Jesus Christ”

Jesus Christ, that’s a pretty face
The kind you’d find on someone that could save
If they don’t put me away
It’ll be a miracle

Do you believe you’re missing out?
That everything good is happening somewhere else
With nobody in your bed
The night is hard to get through

And I will die all alone
And when I arrive I won’t know anyone

Well, Jesus Christ, I’m alone again
So what did you do those three days you were dead?
Because this problem is gonna last
More than the weekend

Well, Jesus Christ I’m not scared to die
But I’m a little bit scared of what comes after
Do I get the gold chariot
Do I float through the ceiling

Do I divide and pull apart
Cause my bright is too slight to hold back all my dark
This ship went down in sight of land
And at the gates does Thomas ask to see my hands?

I know you’re coming in the night like a thief
But I’ve had some time alone to hone my lying technique
I know you think that I’m someone you can trust
But I’m scared I’ll get scared and I swear I’ll try to nail you back up

So do you think that we could work out a sign
So I’ll know it’s you and that it’s over so I won’t even try
I know you’re coming for the people like me
But we all got wood and nails
tongue tied in hate factories

We all got wood and nails
tongue tied in hate factories
We all got wood and nails
And we sleep inside of this machine
————————

Finally my thoughts:
I think this song is a powerful look at how a secular world looks at death, Christ’s return and their own fearful and evil intentions. I like this song very much. It should speak VOLUMES to those that claim to follow Jesus Christ.

-Durk-

Harry Potter and the Christian Allegory

No, it isn’t the title of book number 8. It is the latest talk about the Harry Potter series. First read this article shockingly entitled, Is Harry Potter the Son of God? An original editorial by Abigail BeauSeigneur: http://www.mugglenet.com/editorials/editorials/edit-beauseigneura01.shtml

I guess I should first start by saying that I am a pretty big fan of the Harry Potter series. I have read all of the books thus far, have watched all of the movies thus far, have heard the books on tape, own 4 of the 5 movies (the 5th is in theaters now) and I have been planning the next big Line Standing Event to stand in line this Friday for the final book release at midnight. And then I need to profess my status as a born-again believer and follower of Jesus Christ. I am a pretty conservative kind of Christian. I believe that the Bible contains the word of God and is perfect and inerrant as it relates to salvation and reconciliation to a relationship with God. (I chose my wording very carefully there.) I am a Christian and a fan of Harry Potter!

I have to tell you, my first thoughts of the article were pretty negative. I have just NEVER thought of the Harry Potter series as a Christian allegory. I have NEVER thought of Harry as a representation of Jesus Christ. I am hung up on these points. But after reading the article I have little doubt that JK Rowlings, the author of the Harry Potter series, indeed intends the Harry Potter series to be an allegory of the Gospel. And JK is pretty cool, although she seems to be pretty quiet about her personal beliefs she seems to be a professing Christian or at least an attender of church. And she does site Christian authors CS Lewis as being influential on her life and literature. I have no problems with her or the series in general.

Next let’s talk about allegory versus a story about good and evil. Dictionary.com says, “John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (Bantam Classics) are allegories.” CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia is a Christian allegory. Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard is another Christian allegory. However, a great and epic story of good triumphing over evil is JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I consider the LOTR books to be THE best fiction literature ever, period. And although there are many allegoric symbolisms, it is not a complete allegory. Instead it is a story where good triumphs over evil. Tolkien didn’t really like the idea of Christian allegory-he was tiffed at Lewis over the Narnia Chronicles.

My wife reminded me of the sermon series that our Pastor Donnie gave at Trinity Family, “The Gospel According to Harry Potter.” It has been a while, but she asked if Donnie actually called the series an allegory. I don’t remember, but I do know that he made comparisons, but in the end I always thought of the series as a story of good triumphing over evil, not as an allegory.

I suppose it is the unorthodox parallels and the character of Harry Potter that hangs me up the most. One crucial point in the essay, BeauSeigneur states that “Harry may also have the power to resurrect himself.” The comparison that the writer was making was to Voldermort (the bad guy in the HP series)-who had magical powers to ressurect himself. But the implication is a parallel to Christ. I do not believe that Christ raised himself from the dead, God ressurected Christ from death. Most Christians who have a beef with the HP series get hung up on the point of magic and dark arts and such. I don’t have a lot of issues with this, but it does speak to where the power comes from. I have always read that HP’s (and the rest of the characters) power or ability to perform magic comes from within themselves. There is no mention of an external power source or a higher being or a power higher than their own. And the power that Jesus had always came from someone higher than himself, from God the Father-it was God giving Christ the power to heal and perform miracles. It was as though Jesus set aside his God-power and let God work through him in his humanness.

Like I say, my biggest, hugest hangup is the comparison or the representation of Harry Potter to Jesus Christ. To coin a phrase, “Harry Potter, you are no Jesus Christ…” Harry is by no means a spotless lamb. He does not personify a sanctified individual. Instead he is fully human. A human with all of the proper characteristics of such, with a sinful nature and a desire to satisfy the self. Compare this to Aslan in the Narnia Chronicles. Aslan is the righteous kingly lion-kind, compassionate, perfect and righteous. And Aslan ultimately lays down his life for humanity. Harry makes bad decisions. He alienates his friends. He hurts people by his actions. He’s just no where close to a Good Person. I have never seen righteousness within him.

I suppose JK will site the Greatest Goodness as Love. Maybe Harry will become such a good person. And Harry will end up making choices that demonstrate love and then sacrifice himself so evil can be defeated. And then have the innate power to ressurect himself. But what is lacking in all of the story is the constant righteous one. If it isn’t blatantly God then it needs to be a transparent 100% righteous individual. One who is spotless and clean. I just don’t see that in Harry. Maybe Dumbledore, maybe.

The author of the editorial makes an argument for Harry being Holy and pure and righteous based on the things that he possesses (wand, mother’s blood, etc.). The argument presented puts Harry in a position of holiness rather than a character of righteousness. That is most interesting.

All of this does raise some interesting points. It is as though JK has sneakily slipped a very cool and popularly accepted allegory about (gulp) CHRISTIANITY into the mainstream media. Onto the top-sellers lists, into the hands of millions, into CHILDREN’S HANDS! And into Hollywood! How long did it take Tolkien and Lewis to be immortalized and worshiped in Hollywood? What will the fundamentalists and The Christian Right do with this new revelation?

I don’t know. I know that it would be pretty cool if JK Rowlings comes out publicly and admits that the Harry Potter series is indeed a Gospel allegory. I think it would be cool to see her in the spotlight pimping God! Pointing people to Christ and maybe even encouraging people to read the Bible.

Maybe JK Rowlings will finally be asked spiritual questions in a kind and non-threatening environment. Maybe her “Satan” status will be elevated to “sister” status. Will the fundamentalists and The Christian Right change their minds and finally shelf the Harry Potter series along side The Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Ring trilogy?

Well, I am not even sure if I am ready to do that yet. I will wait to read the book and wait to hear from JK Rowlings. But the series will still be in the same room, along the same wall on the same set of shelves. Maybe just above the Left Behind series.

I’ll conclude with the last brilliant paragraph from Abigail BeauSeigneur’s editorial. It totally gives me chills, goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes.

She [JK Rowlings] has told us where to look to find out what is coming in the final book – her Christianity. She has told us that it’s so easy a 10-year -old could figure it out.(249) The secret to Harry Potter is tied to Rowling’s Christianity. The master of the red herring has done it. She has tricked the entire world. What appears to be a book about witchcraft is a story about Jesus Christ.

Durk

Summer Vacation 2007 (5 of 6)-Riding in Cars with Boys

All total we traveled 3000 miles. I must have filled up over 10 times! We stayed in 3 hotels. We went under mountains and through them and over them. We passed by fields, forests, lakes, an ocean, over bridges and through tunnels. All the while with four boys and a back-seat-driving wife! Minnie did something that she often does-something wonderful and magnificent and magical-she brought audio books along! SWEET!

We listened to 2 great books, Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen. And A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. we also listened to part of Culture Warrior by Bill O’Reilly, but since we did not finish I will save my review until another time-I will say I found what I heard extremely interesting and appreciative.

Water for elephants was about a man’s story in a circus in the 1930s in the midst of the Depression. It is told within a couple of years ago as he is much older. He starts out, “I am 90 or 93, I forget which…” It was a very touching story. It made me miss my dad. But it also made me thankful that he did not outlive his mind and body. It was also a story about life in a circus! It is a fairly new book and it was great, I highly recommend it. The ending was fantastic.

A 1000 Splendid Suns was also a great book. It journaled the life of 2 women who grew up in Afghanistan. It started in the mid 1970 and went to just a few years ago. Afghanistan, as it turns out, was peaceful and beautiful and radiant in the 1970s. Then the cold war hit smack dab in the middle and the U.S. gave the Afghanistan tribes weapons to fight off the Russians. Communism was established and land was taken away. The one thing that communism did bring to the region was a great importance on education and to have it equally to males and females. But women were allowed to learn and go to universities before this. Religion was downplayed and so was commerce. Once the Russians retreated the tribes were left with weapons and fought each other for power. Many people died at the hands of their own country men, but different tribes. There were fighters who tried to establish free elections, but they too were motivated by power and greed. Some tribes that had felt like they had been oppressed fought not for fair representation, but for total control. Then the Taliban came and everything went to hell. The Taliban proclaimed and enforce Sharia law. Women suddenly became worthless and oppressed. Women had to be covered in public by wearing burkas. They were never allowed to travel without a male escort and could not laugh in public or initiate conversation. Women were forbidden to work and attend schools. Hospitals were segregated. The character in the story was forced to attend a hospital with little electricity and ran only by women. They were not allowed anesthesia and the main character delivered a baby by cesarean with no pain medication whatsoever. A drought hit the region at the same time. Finally, Al Qaeda forced out the Taliban. I do not know how things went after that. There is actually a love story woven in and a relationship that strengthens between a young wife and an older wife married to the same abusive man. The few story lines take a bit to develop but are well worth the wait.

The Afghani book was written by an Afghan for Westerners. It showed how the people in general do not hate America, but have become oppressed and have been kept uneducated and taught to love war. It made me realize how little I know of the region, culture and history.

Since I am in review mode I will talk about Ratatouille which I saw with my family. Transformers was completely sold out. Disney’s Ratatouille was entertaining and the story was pretty good. The ending TOTALLY and completely sucked though. The multitude of rats running the kitchen was unbelievable and dumb. They spent all this time making us think that it is special and uncommon for a rat to interact with a human and to cook, then just expected us to think that it was OK for hundreds of rats to do the same, out goes special. It was like saying “Hey this is special and magical and now it is common life, no big deal.” The story with the food critic was pretty cool, I liked that-it was creative and fun-I liked the resolution. Then the very ending with the transitions that happen in the restaurant was just joltingly sudden and just disappointing. It was like they created a great script and built up to a great conflict then just wasn’t quite sure how to resolve and wrap things up-so they made a few wrong decisions…and it became boring and disappointing. I guess the theme came through: Anyone can cook. Yippy.

-Durk-

Ferris Wheel: The Scariest Ride of All!

At the end of every school year the MidAmerica Nazarene University region for the Nazarene denomination hosts Nazarene Night at Worlds of Fun. Worlds of Fun is an amusement theme park in Kansas City and the day holds special meanings as I get to reunite with old friends and catch up on their lives.

Last Friday was another Nazarene Night at Worlds of Fun. I took my 11-yr old twin boys. We love to ride roller coasters. The Mamba is an awesome ride! Unfortunately the Boomerang was closed. We got stuck and passed on the Fury of the Nile. It was a pretty darn good night. The boys had a blast.

As the evening started to come to a close I decided that it would be fun to ride the ferris wheel! WOF calls it the Skyliner. I know it is somewhat of a slow ride. But the line wasn’t too long and I thought it would be a nice pleasant ride.

I was wrong. Mistake #1 was opting to ride the scariest ride at the park.

There is always anticipation of the excitement you hope to have on the ride. Anticipation in a roller coaster line just adds to the thrills. We stood extra long in the Mamba ride so we could get the front car! Standing in the line for the Ferris Wheel we were fairly calm and relaxed. This was mistake number 2.

Hype in a roller coaster line might look like waiting until you are strapped in and commenting on how you hope the coaster doesn’t derail. Ha, ha. Funny. And the roller coaster only lasts for a couple of minutes. Hype on the ferris wheel consisted of looking at the signs that read “Do not rock cart.”

Something extra special about Nazarene Night at WOF is that the park hasn’t been open too many times in the season. So there are young teens still trying to figure out how to operate the rides. This always scares me just a little. What if Teen Operator makes the ride go a little too fast or puts the brakes on a little too soon? One thing that we noticed was that every other car on the wheel was empty. That was fine as our line wasn’t too long. But as we got closer to our turn the line got longer and the empty seats started to fill up. Keegan asked the operator why every other cart was empty and the reply was that the wheel needed to be balanced. We could see the operators trying to figure out which seats to fill as they filled all of the carts of the wheel.

Finally it was our turn to take a seat.

We sat in our ferris wheel cart and the bar latched in place. Keegan worriedly explained that he just heard the teen operators comment to each other as they tried to figure out which car to fill next, that the wheel would be impossible to control if it got off balanced. This was not what I wanted to hear. The wheel moved and more passengers got on.

With every stop the cart would shake just a little more violent than the time before. Kaleb & Keegan would scream louder each time. As our turn FINALLY came to get off the ferris wheel a girl in a cart behind us lost it. She started to scream that she wanted off. Thankfully Teen Operators understood and let her off.

As we exited the twins told anyone who would listen NOT to go on the ride. I saw a friend as we exited and I commented on the girl that lost it. My friend replied that the girl had been on the wheel for almost an hour!

I commented to another friend about our terrifying experience. He calmly replied that he couldn’t believe that I went on the ferris wheel! That it was the worst ride there!

This year’s scariest ride goes to the Skyliner, World’s of Fun’s ferris wheel. YIKES. Never again.

Durk

Fred Thompson for President

The older I get the more I like talk radio. Specifically, conservative AM talk radio. I tolerate NPR in the mornings, and then listen to AM 980 KMBZ on my way to work and when I can throughout the day with shows like Darla Jay, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilley. But just about every day I listen to KMBZ’s afternoon show on my way home. It is a local Kansas City talk show. First it was Russ Johnson then Jerry Agar and now Mike Shanin and Scott Parks are the hosts that fill the timeslot. They do a great job. I have also called in several times to give my opinions on different issues. I enjoy being on the radio, it is my personal claim to fame!

So I was disappointed when I tried to call in last week to comment on Fred Thompson. Although he hasn’t thrown his hat into the political ring for a Republican candidate he has said that he is seriously considering it. So I called in and was placed on hold while I practiced what I planned to say. But then they went on to a new topic and I got cut off.

Thankfully yesterday the topic came up again and I called in and was placed on hold but then got to speak my mind and I even won movie tickets-4 tickets to A Perfect Stranger! SWEET!

Fred Thompson (the links throughout relate to him) is the first potential Republican candidate that I am actually excited about! Not only in this race, but EVER! I love this guy! I had seen him before he became a regular on one of my favorite shows, Emmy Award-winning drama series Law & Order. Here is their bio. He plays a DA on TV. But I had seen him on C-SPAN or something as the politician that he is. This guy really is the next Ronald Reagan. He is smart, extremely articulate and straight forward in his answers and comments. And he is smooth in a genuine manner and he is calm as he speaks but you can still see the emotion on his face and in his voice.

He was actually on KMBZ just this morning and he answered every question, evaded nothing and was intelligent and articulate. Yeah, I like the guy.

Who is Fred Thompson? Many of you will know him from his political career or from the movies or from NBC’s popular Law & Order. He is over 60, and in his latest marriage he has a newborn baby boy and a 3-year old girl.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say:

Fred Dalton Thompson (born August 19, 1942) is an American lawyer, lobbyist, character actor and former Republican Senator from Tennessee (now a resident of McLean, Virginia)[1], who is considering a bid in the 2008 Presidential Election.
In addition to acting, Thompson is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. China Economic & Security Review Commission and a Visiting Fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, researching national security and intelligence (Communist China, North Korea, and Russia.) Thompson is also signed as a public speaker with the Washington Speakers Bureau.[2]
Thompson is also a special program host and senior analyst for ABC News Radio and fills in for Paul Harvey.

So let’s talk about his qualifications. He knows the law. He was a lawyer. He was co-chief counsel for the Senate Watergate committee, that’s right. Richard Nixon-30 years ago. He was actually responsible for one of the questions that ultimately led to the downfall of Nixon. So even though he is a conservative Republican he ultimately respects the law. I don’t think he’ll jump on the Presidential bandwagon to break or skirt the law.

He knows Washington. He was a lobbyist in Washington DC for 18 years. He been part of campaigns to get others elected. He has been a senator.

He knows how to present himself. His acting career just kinda took off as he acted in a movie that was based on a real case where he was the lawyer-he played himself. Then of course other movies and TV followed. He has been an ABC political analyst.

So he has the experience. He has the knowledge. He has the charisma. And some say he has the looks. I think he looks like a father figure. He is so calm and expressive when he speaks. He even has a bit of a southern drawl when he talks! Basically he has the substance and he has the superficial qualities to make him a leader and winner!

One of the things that I find fairly unique and very refreshing is Thompson’s straight forward style. When asked his stand on abortion he immediately responds that he is against it. When asked about his opinion about gay marriage he firmly responds that he is against it. There is no “I am researching what to think about what my position should be” or changing the subject. So unlike Hillary Clinton you know where he stands on issues.

He has lost a child to drug abuse. That saddens me. I don’t know the details.

Although there are no known skeletons in his closet, he’s not entirely perfect. He has some flaws. He’s been divorced, but so have most of the other candidates. Dr. James Dobson says that Thompson needs to express what his faith is. Although that would be nice, I am more concerned with the issues of the office. There is a concern that he may not have the name recognition that is needed to win national elections. But who had heard of Clinton before he was President? Who had heard of Gore or even Bush (dad or son) before Reagan? Maybe I am paying attention more as I get older, I don’t know, but I have actually liked Fred Thompson for many years now. I watch him on L & O, but I really pay attention when I can catch him on C-SPAN or as an analyst on the radio.

A March poll even showed him ahead of Hillary Clinton for the 2008 presidential run! He hasn’t even said he is running!

The Republican Party needs a front runner. Romney was in the news today saying that he was a life-long hunter and then one of his aids clarified that he had been on 2 hunting trips in his lifetime. He became a NRA member just last year to get their vote. I do think his Mormon faith will be a definite show stopper for many Christians.

Giuliani-YAWN. Don’t get me wrong, he is a 9/11 hero and he’s done great things for NYC. But he is not conservative enough on the issues.

Then there’s who? Oh yeah, McCain…he too is moderate on many issues as well. He is a war hero. And he likes to buddy up with Democrats against Bush.

My fear is that the 2008 Presidential race will come down to an extreme liberal on the Democrat side with Hillary and Gore and a moderate on the Republican side…How boring! Many of the liberal Democrats I know claim that they won’t vote for Hillary saying that she is too liberal. Many Christians won’t vote for Romney. Nor will they vote for Giuliani being pro abortion and pro gay. And McCain is not conservative enough. The Republican Party needs Fred Thompson to throw his hat in the race. I hope he decides to run soon. This morning on the radio he said he was still considering it.

Fred Thompson is a traditional Republican-he’s Reaganesque. He has the experience and knowledge. I think he has the name recognition. I think he has the money. And I actually am looking forward to this guy running and being president. America needs Fred Thompson.

FRED THOMPSON FOR PRESIDENT!

-Durk-

Accessories and Goodies for PPC6700

I wanted to provide an update or a review of sorts on how I have been using my super cool, I-can’t-live-without-it Sprint UTStarcomm PPC6700 Pocket PC phone. I want to share some goodies that I have found that enhance my pocket PC (ppc) phone experience.

First I am going to talk about accessories. I have had two issues with my phone from day one: The phone case and the ppc stylus. The case that the phone came with sucks rocks. It is flimsy, it is not very protective and it is just plain terrible. But for the longest time there were no alternatives. There were no leather cases specifically for the PPC6700 and there were no hard cases available. That has changed! There are leather cases, they are big and bulky and you might just find one you like. But what I am falling in love with is BoxWave’s Armor Case™. FINALLY an armor case SPECIFICALLY for the PPC6700! Check it out; it comes in 2 colors, silver and black and 2 styles, one for extended batteries and one for normal batteries. The armor hard case sells for about $25-$30.

My biggest gripe about the stylus is that it keeps falling out of the darn phone! It just slides right out and I lose it! I have lost about a half dozen. So I needed to (a) find them cheap and (b) find something that may be better. The Styra – Ballpoint Pen™ is the answer! It is a stylus and a writing pen all in one! I LOVE IT! You can find the pen stylus at boxWave or SUPER CHEAP from eBay. I bought a pack of 3 pen styli off eBay and the total price with shipping was under $8.00! ROCK ON!

Next I am gonna talk about services. These services are free and I use them quite a bit.

Freecycle.org & Phone email- I mentioned MSN email (msn.com’s email or hotmail.com) in my PPC6700 Review. The PPC67oo is capable of receiving email from hotmail or MSN. And that is very cool and handy in and of itself. However, I have found a great organization called freecycle.org. They are a nation-wide organization that is made up of community organizations that recycle stuff for free (free recycle or freecycle). If you wish to get rid of clothes, furniture, junk, etc and you don’t want to throw it away but want to give it to someone who can really use it (and you aren’t looking to make a buck) then this service allows you to do that. And if you are looking to score free stuff to use (not to sell!) then this is the service for you! Usually the local community is ran by a team of folks that use Yahoo Groups (Kansas City metro: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kcfreecycle/). After you sign up you will receive emails from folks who are giving stuff away or from folks who are looking for stuff. You respond and then go get your free stuff! My neighbor picked up a riding lawnmower, A FREE RIDING LAWNMOWER. The owner thought that the engine was toast and gave it away. With just some slight tinkering with the starter my neighbor got it running! My neighbor also has picked up a stove, a rocking glider, a refrigerator and some power tools. There are some slight catches, one: you might get as many as 100 emails a day and two: you have to be fast! So here is where my ppc phone comes in. I check my emails on my phone and respond quickly! I am number 4 on a list to get a free side-by-side refrigerator with an ice and water maker FOR FREE!! I received a chair and matching ottoman today. They were in great shape. My miniature weiner dog loves the ottoman!

Business Connection- The PPC6700 is capable of supporting a business connection email account. You will need to check with your employer’s email services. My company granted access and created a connection between my employer’s email server and my phone. I can receive work email directly to the PPC6700! I don’t use this during the day, but after hours or when I am not logged in to my PC I get emails pushed to my phone! I don’t have to click send/receive, my phone automatically goes out every so often and downloads new work emails!

Audible Player & Checking out Audio library e-books- The PPC6700 comes with several programs specifically designed to get you to spend your money on their services. One of those programs is Audible Player. It is an audio book player that can connect you to a whole library full of e-books that you can download for a fee (NOT FREE) and listen until you have mastered a dummies book or listened to the latest mystery novel. Sounds decent enough and my co-worker and fellow PPC6700 owner, Clyde, gave me a demonstration and a mini review-HE LIKES IT (THANKS CLYDE!)! But my friend Jacquie told me about a better way! Checking out e-books from your local library! That’s right folks! You can login and download e-books from the online library and save them on your PC, your pocket PC or an iPod or .MP3 player. FOR FREE. I would encourage you to check it out: Durk’s Local Library

I still totally love my PPC6700! I am constantly finding new ways to use it: Finding maps to navigate to my destination on the fly and in the car! Getting online to verify if an older XBOX game is backward compatible on the XBOX360…WHILE IN THE STORE! Finding new backgrounds while watching a sunset. Installing a TV remote control-that’s right I can change the channel with my phone! I was at a garage sale the other day and used my phone to see what the item was selling for on eBay. And the list goes on and on. And now I can better protect it with a case and find a cheap replacement stylus/pen.

-Durk-

Book Review: Titanium EBay by Skip McGrath

I love eBay. I love buying on eBay. I love selling on eBay. I love browsing eBay. I love sneaking in eBay at work. I love looking for silly stuff on eBay. I love wasting time on eBay. I love designing auctions and creating descriptions on eBay. I love making money on eBay.
It is that last one that I have been spending much time and interest in lately. And to that end I have picked up a great book by
Skip McGrath, entitled Titanium EBay.

Titanium is the top level of eBay power seller. A power seller is someone who sells a certain amount of stuff on eBay…the bottom level is brownse-$1000 a month. Once you have sold $1000 worth of stuff on eBay for three consecutive months and met the other requirements (account in good standing a descent feedback score, etc) then eBay invites you into the Power Seller Program. This doesn’t mean that they have profited $1000, just moved that amount of stuff on eBay within a 30-day period for at least 3 consecutive periods. If one is at the Titanium level then they are selling over $150,000 A MONTH on eBay! Basically you are an eBay Rock Star! There really are Titanium Power Sellers out there!

Titanium EBay is written to teach how to be an eBay rock star! It really is a great book. It covers all of the basics-getting officially organized as a business, how to sell something on eBay and where to find stuff to sell on eBay and how to sell stuff more efficiently on and off of eBay. It talks about business management, financing and organization. The not-so-basic is how McGrath simply explains the ins and outs of those subjects.

I have been thinking about officially getting organized (in the IRS sense) as a business for some time. But I thought it was expensive and complicated; I was very intimidated! But McGrath explains the process in plain English and it turns out it is fairly simple and not too expensive! Chapter 3 is dedicated to the different types of businesses-how businesses can be organized. Chapter 4 talks about local business licensing, federal tax ID numbers, state sales tax numbers, and talks about employee taxes. The author even provides links to download forms for organizing businesses. I printed out several forms and have been carrying them folded up in the book!

The book gives you very simple and powerful tips and tricks to sell on eBay. Much attention is given to researching products to sell on eBay. In my opinion this is one of the most important subjects of the book. My problem of late is not finding a source from which to buy products to sell, but which of those products will actually turn a profit on eBay, which ones will sell! McGrath goes into great detail about the different methods to research the salability of a product. He talks about life-cycles of a product. And even how to track products that have sold through eBay.

My other problem of late has been finding stuff to sell on eBay at a cheaper price! McGrath spends much time addressing this as well. In my opinion this is the other most important part of the book! One of the best quotes from the book:

There are four levels of wholesale distribution: manufacturer, importer,
distributor, and middleman. The closer you can get to the manufacturer the less
your product will cost. Never buy from the last level, the middleman. It is
virtually impossible to make money.

So of course I currently have access to a middleman. But after reading Part 3: Product Acquisition, I have a much better knowledge about finding products at a cheaper price.

I discovered that there is a whole lot that I am doing right on eBay and a whole lot that I already knew about. For instance, using auctions to promote store items and using the “About Me” page to promote an Internet web store (off eBay). It is a pretty cool feeling to know that I am on the right track. But there are many things that I learned and can’t wait to implement.

One thing that I did not know before reading the book and did not wait to implement was almost worth the price of the book: How to extend an auction from the normal 7 or 10 days to 26 days! This was almost worth the price of the book. Almost because eBay changed their policy! So this trick no longer works. I lost some money figuring that one out, over $100.00.

Which brings me to a big disappointment: The author directs you to his website where there should be a section devoted to those that have bought this book, his book; a sort of community. I was hoping for updates, corrections, or expanded explanation, maybe questions submitted by readers or a blog. But if you go to that address www.skipmcgrath.com/titanium the only thing you will see is “UNDER CONSTRUCTION”. I have been checking for about a month with the same results. The book has a copyright date of 2005, plenty of time to have SOMETHING up and running. I contacted Mr. McGrath and he responded to this issue, he had requested a Titanium site from his web server and they merely hadn’t put it up-they forgot (or made it a low priority) and no one had ever brought the issue to his attention, he promised that the site should be up in a day or two of our correspondence. The site should be up and running at the time this is initially posted. On a related note I was very impressed that the author took time out of his busy schedule to not only reply to my email, but respond to my specific issues and to correspond with me, thank you sir.

Automation is another huge issue that is addressed in the book. With the right tools one can automate most of the selling and buying process. There are many tools out there that will help you post many auctions or store items in large quantities. For instance, you can post 100 or even 1000 items at once. The more auctions the merrier right, more money to be made. But this brings a whole new problem: WHAT IF THEY ALL SELL?! How are you gonna handle that many orders? Again, automation is the answer.

With the tools mentioned in Titanium EBay one can easily impliment automation. An initial automated email from the seller indicating that the buyer has won an item. An automated email from the seller acknowledging payment has been received. Automated feedback. An automated email to the seller specifying what items need to be shipped and to where! An automated email from the seller verifying that the item has been shipped and maybe providing a tracking number. An automated follow-up email asking the buyer to provide feedback or asking them if they are satisfied. Customized up sells can also be provided at every level of the correspondence directing buyers back to an item you are selling on eBay or, better yet, directing them to your personal website where they can place an order. Automation solutions to automated postings. AWESOME!

I would have liked for the author to go just a little deeper concerning how one might “connect’ up with eBay. For instance, one of the things I would like to learn how to do is integrate my website with eBay’s so that I can automate myself. I would like to use my own code to interface with eBay and implement automation.

For instance I would like to create my website so that I can provide feedback automatically to an eBay customer; use the website that I am helping design so that MY website can automatically give an auction winner the appropriate feedback. I know it can be done; the author lists many services that are already doing it. Instead the author directs you to a myriad of services who have already figured out how to integrate with eBay. He could have, at the very least, pointed in the general direction. But the author lists many websites and programs that are available for folks to automate certain facets of their business operations. I contacted Mr. McGrath and he responded to this issue, it is possible to integrate with eBay, but that I would have to become an “eBay Certified Solutions Provider” and that “costs a lot of money”. McGrath encourages the use of Vendio within his book and within his email correspondence. Again, thank you Mr. McGrath for addressing this issue personally. This was especially useful to me as there may just come a day when I bite the bullet and take the Ebay certification journey.

It is fairly easy to implement automation. Most of these solutions require the eBay seller to direct the eBay customer to a 3rd party non-eBay site (such as Vendio). I would like to avoid that; I would like to automate as much as I can without directing the buyer to a different site, even if it is my site. I’ve heard negative feedback concerning having to use a checkout process that is not eBay’s-at best a matter of inconvenience at worst a nightmare of confusion for the buyer to make a payment! Regardless, the buyer’s info has to be initially entered into a personal website or a 3rd party site for the automation to work, so the final question is should the buyer do this manually or should the seller do it manually for each and every purchase?

One thing is for sure: It takes money to make money. For the person just starting out, there does not have to be that big of an investment, but there may be smaller profit margins than if you have money to invest to buy product at a cheaper cost. McGrath also addresses this problem with chapters on how to raise money; either through loans, grants, or investors. He also talks about creating business plans and proposals.

All in all it was a great read. It was an easy read and mildly inspiring. There was much information that could direct newbies to many different paths that could lead to success with hard work and determination and with just a little bit of money. Skip McGrath’s website is full of excellent resources, and I hope that web experience will only be enhanced once the Titanium section is finished.

-Durk-

Sending Pics from My Phone and Teaching eBay or Why I signed up for Myspace.com (X3), Spaces.msn.com, Photobucket.com, Hotmail.com & Yahoo.com

Even though I have had my own website in one form or another for years now, I took the blogspot.com plunge about a month ago with the purpose of having an online diary. I told myself I’d journal more. I’d write more. I’d be funny more. For all practical purposes I have, pretty darn cool (I AM VERY FUNNY NOW!). The next step is to get a real forum thread going.
Since I first signed up with blogspot.com I have also signed up with:

  • Myspace.com – a hip and happening, ever-growing and mostly for-the-young-people. A place where anyone can get a website and have a web-presence. No-name bands, politicians, every student, and really, anyone who is anyone has an account with these guys! It is almost creepy how their web presence has become a standard of sorts. So of course I have 2 or 3 accounts with these guys. We’ll get into that later.
  • Spaces.msn.com – This is klinda a cross between Blogspot.com and Myspace.com. This is a Blog-type of site, but with a few extras, you can upload pics, have lists of links, etc. I was looking for a place to merely store pics to use with eBay. It did not meet my needs, but since it is Microsoft you can link XBOX stuff, have Windows Media Player play lists, and pretty much help Bill Gates take over the world.
  • Hotmail.com – Hey everyone needs to have a free email account-so you don’t use your work email! And with hotmail I can use the MSN email program on my pocket pc phone-so I can send pics and such. This was a new account to replace my old account that I can’t remember the password of…nice…more about that later.
  • Yahoo.com – OK, this I have had. You can use your Yahoo ID to sign in to MSN, but not use it for MSN’s Pocket PC Phone email account…Why? Well, anyway, you can’t.
  • Photobucket.com – This is a gem of a site, I can’t believe I didn’t know about this before! Basically a FREE site that allows you to VERY EASILY upload pictures from your hard drive and then store them in a photo album and in a place where they can be accessed from many other programs like eBay and Blogspot! It even let’s you do a filmstrip-type of display (below) where you can take several pictures and have them scroll by! Or in a “photo stamp” that you see under “links” on the main page of my Blog. SWEET!

All of this form-filing and login & password recording originated from a couple of different goals.

First, I wanted to send pics from my totally awesome Sprint PC phone. The phone comes with Pocket MSN-a program which in addition to allowing you to access MSN from the phone and not a website (you can check news, weather and IM chat), it also allows you to check email-again not from a browser, but from a program! It is fast, simple and works with Pocket Outlook! SUPER SWEET! MSN (Microsoft Network) is just one way that Microsoft is taking over the world; it is their Internet entertainment/web presence. And I discovered that I can login to MSN using my very old Yahoo.com login and password. You haven’t lived until you have played online pool with Yahoo.games.com! But what I can’t do is login to MSN mail with my Yahoo login/pass. For that you have to have a Hotmail account. WHICH I DO! So I use it…password does not work…No problem, just have the password sent to…email address, well that isn’t gonna work now is it? I CAN’T ACCESS EMAIL BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW MY OWN PASSWORD. OK, so I can answer my secret question. What is my favorite pet’s name? WHAT? Well I don’t know, Mr. Pibb was my first pet, lower case upper case periods and spaces…no I must not have used that…Well then there is Roman Greco…Roman or Greco? No, well I just got Dash, the mini wiener dog…nope that does not work either. Now my password isn’t just forgotten it is fried, as in too many attempts. So now what? Well after click after click after click and after getting an email response that I can have my password sent to an alternate address THAT I HAD TO SET UP TO BEGIN WITH, and finally getting NOWHERE I throw my hands up in the air and just sign up for a new account! Heck it’s free, takes just a couple of minutes. FINE. But I really liked my old name and it matches my XBOX360 screen name…so NOW what? All well.

Second, I wanted to store pictures online so I could access them via HTML from somewhere else. I did not merely want a photo album and I didn’t want to use a web server, real honest-to-goodness web space that I am paying for (which is what I do for MY auctions)! I have been showing a friend how to get all setup on eBay. One of the very cool things about eBay is that you can use HTML to create auctions. The biggest advantage: You can show folks more pics without having to pay extra. Disadvantage: You have to “store” your pics somewhere else; you have to have your pics somewhere where the HTML can pull them from-NOT ON EBAY! The answer came in a passing conversation about Myspace and Ebay: Photobucket.com Photobucket is a free site where you can sign up in seconds and start uploading pics immediately and VERY EASILY! There is a form with a browse button, you find the pic on your local drive, you can give it a title, and whalla! STORED PICS! Not too sure where they actually are within this Photobucket website? No prob! Click a couple of buttons and THEY PROVIDE THE URL FOR YOU! Want to get all fancy? Click a couple more buttons and it gives you the code and url in a couple of different formats (Flash or DHTML) to post in a filmstrip format or a “stamp” format (see above bullet for examples). Still not good enough? IT ALSO DOES VIDEO! SA-WEET! All of that is free, there is other cool stuff that you can pay for, but the freebies are pretty powerful stuff. I had been trying to show my HTML-illiterate friend how to upload pics from his PC to his cable companies web space…not real easy. Photobucket takes away ALL of the headaches!

I know, I know, there are a whole lot of cool websites out there! I know this! I used to collect all kinds of addresses. And now it seems I have started up again! I welcome YOUR favorites!

-Durk-