Blog #229




Happy Thanksgiving


   Thanksgiving was pretty low key this year.  Joan has been sick and spent most of the day in bed. 




   Papa, the girls and I began rebuilding the ice rink in the backyard garden.  The heavy duty tarp ice rink lining is 20' by 30' which means that we are building a low 100' perimeter dam out of garden dirt.  We are about halfway done.  In the spring Papa shoveled the dam from last winter's rink back onto the garden.  He just stated that it would save us both much work if we left it up year round.  I filmed a time lapse of our work yesterday and will most likely post a movie after the job is finished.


   Last night I discovered a Korean blog that compared our Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving Photo from last year's Thanksgiving dinner to the original Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving Painting.




Blog #228




New Gifs


   A GIf is a digital image format that is limited to 256 colors; many other image formats can have up to 16 million colors.  The great thing about the gif image format is that it can be animated; several images can be strung together.  Once or twice a year I've updated the individual family member animated gifs that you see on the main hallbuzz front page.  Although gifs have serious color limitations, they don't always have to look pixilated or limited in color.  The animating program that I've used for the past six years did a pretty poor job of reconfiguring the colors; I've always been disappointed.  Free gif animating software didn't exist as far as I could tell six years ago.  I did another search today and found a simple free program; the great thing about it is that does not reconfigure the colors.  In the animated pictures below you can compare the image quality of the newer gifs in the top row to the older ones in the bottom row.

   I also rebuilt the blog gifs in the upper right and left corners of this page.  Altogether I cropped, resized and reformatted nearly 300 images; if you've spent over 30 seconds reading this page so far you have seen them all.  I wrote a great little macro script that automated a series of 18 keystrokes or clicks of the editing process which cut down about 80% of the work.


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Blog #227




The Halls Go Sledding


   Yesterday Svea and Brigitta and I dashed home after school and the family bundled up to go sledding at Munroe Falls Park.  We brought the big homemade toboggan and a few little plastic sleds as well.  After making a few runs with the girls we decided to let the three little ones go down by themselves.  Normally this wouldn't be an issue, but our big sled is quite possibly the fastest sled in Ohio.  Seriously, where the best sleds come to a stop after the hill flattens out, this thing is usually still moving at least 20 mph.  We often travel about 100 yards further than any other sled and at times have made it past trees and the road, which are way out of reach of any other sled.  Yesterday the conditions were dirty and wet, so it wasn't terribly fast.  It was a little frightening, however, to watch our little girls whizzing by so fast with Svea steering for the first time.  Joan and the girls also made a run together.  I filmed the four runs of the big sled; look for the video on out Movie page.  Oh, and we saw a Snowy Owl!






   Here's a shot of the sled.  It's made of high density foam with polycarbonate ribs, downhill skis and a slick plastic base between the skis.  I put the snow tires on the Volvo today; I use it for moving cargo to and from the shed.


   This Thursday I re-taught the blogging session that I prepared for the diocese last month.  This time I presented the lesson to IHM parents.  I enjoyed it and I think the parents did as well.  I find it quite interesting how differently things went compared to my presentation/lesson to teachers last month.  Being on a casual basis and somewhat knowing my "students" changed things quite a bit I suppose.  I went over the pros and cons of some of the biggest free services available: blogger.com, flickr.com, youtube.com, myspace.com, facebook.com, twitter.com and classreport.org.


   Lately I've been revamping my school Intranet and homepage.  In the past month or so I've thrown out most of my old lessons; especially the ones that were pre Vista and Office 2007.  I've decided to lean more on icon based hyperlinks on the homepage.  I've also been experimenting with narrated screenshot demonstration movies that play in Windows Media Player.


Hall Family Website hallbuzz.com


Blog #226




So my sister talked me into joining Facebook...


   It was better than I thought.  I joined MySpace a month ago to prepare for a class I taught on blogging.  I now dislike MySpace even more than I did before I joined.  It was difficult to work with and had numerous errors.  I found the terminology and updating process counterintuitive. 


   Facebook, on the other hand, was very straight forward; what you see is what you get.  I don't like the idea of updating one more thing, this site takes plenty of my time.  But the great thing about Facebook is that it has a huge following/base and it is very easy to find and read about quite a few old random friends. 


Hallbuzz Across the Globe


   The Internet never ceases to amaze me.  Our web host (http://www.bluehost.com/) provides a few different statistics engines/services that tell me quite a bit about: which files get the most hits, which IP addresses have viewed my sites, daily bandwidth, what search terms people have used to find my site or individual files and many other things.  One thing that I think is especially amazing is the list of countries and little flags that represent where our hits are coming from.  So far this year we have received hits from the following countries:  (In order of most hits in descending order beginning with the left column.)


us United States fi Finland mk Macedonia
Unknown Unknown ir Iran py Paraguay
eu European country tr Turkey bd Bangladesh
ca Canada il Israel cr Costa Rica
es Spain pt Portugal co Colombia
au Australia id Indonesia lb Lebanon
gb Great Britain gr Greece mv Maldives
kr South Korea sk Slovak Republic bs Bahamas
jp Japan kw Kuwait jm Jamaica
de Germany ar Argentina fj Fiji
nl Netherlands my Malaysia la Laos
it Italy ph Philippines sv El Salvador
pl Poland lk Sri Lanka hr Croatia
no Norway ba Bosnia-Herzegovina qa Qatar
at Austria yu Yugoslavia fm Micronesia
fr France bg Bulgaria pa Panama
ru Russian Federation ve Venezuela mn Mongolia
za South Africa vn Vietnam mm Myanmar
hk Hong Kong ro Romania ag Antigua and Barbuda
hu Hungary is Iceland ec Ecuador
se Sweden mt Malta bo Bolivia
ae United Arab Emirates bh Bahrain al Albania
tw Taiwan cl Chile mu Mauritius
sg Singapore jo Jordan gu Guam (USA)
br Brazil pr Puerto Rico lu Luxembourg
cz Czech Republic lv Latvia an Netherlands Antilles
th Thailand ee Estonia li Liechtenstein
be Belgium lt Lithuania tz Tanzania
dk Denmark pe Peru az Azerbaidjan
mx Mexico eg Egypt kh Cambodia
in India pk Pakistan np Nepal
ch Switzerland ke Kenya uy Uruguay
cn China do Dominican Republic ma Morocco
sa Saudi Arabia bm Bermuda bb Barbados
nz New Zealand ua Ukraine om Oman
si Slovenia ie Ireland by Belarus


Svea Rides a Horse


   Svea's Girl Scout troop went horseback riding last week.  It was more like a pony ride from what I understand, however.



Fun With Macros & Scripts


   I've never played with Macros in any program other than programming joysticks for flight simulators.  Although much of my work and play on computers can be somewhat repetitive I make pretty good use of shortcuts, keyboard commands and efficient copy and paste.  Some of the more repetitive things that I do, however, are in Paint.NET.  I typically resize a picture to 1600 pixels, manipulate it and save it with a filename ending with _1600.  I then resize it to 640 (our blog picture width) and save it with a filename ending with _640.  I make the smaller picture a hyperlink to the larger one.  It would be nice to automate as much of the process as possible.  I looked into Macros in Paint.NET; someone is working on it but they are not available yet.  I don't think Vista has much either.  So then I looked into free shareware programs and found AutoHotKey.  It's a very efficient program that can automate almost anything; but the directions are pretty awful and it really lacks examples.  Combine that with fact that it has hundreds of commands, terms and codes and the fact that I really know nothing about programming and the result was that I spent several hours trying to get a working script.  I was mostly in it for the challenge and was determined to figure it out.  Once I got past a few key concepts that were never explained well I got it to do what I wanted.  Now the keyboard command "Control-2" will resize a complete _1600 photo to 640 pixels and save it with my _640 naming convention in about two seconds.  I also created five other similar scripts for other common photo editing tasks.


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Blog #225





Brandywine Falls Hike & Picnic


   Yesterday I had the day off because we had parent teacher conferences on Wednesday and Thursday nights.  Joan suggested that we go to Brandywine Falls; she had never been there before.  I stopped by once while on a bike ride.  I've ridden past it many times but usually don't want to give up my kinetic energy to stop since the parking area is in the bottom of a valley. There is a nice walkway to a lookout next to the falls.  We also found a nice trail that crossed the lower portion of the river, ascended the cliffs on the opposite side of the lookout and crossed back on a bridge above the falls.  We had brought a picnic lunch that we left in the car; neither Joan or I felt like carrying it.  Svea insisted that we eat by the river so we hiked back to the lowest portion of the trail, crossed the river again and had lunch on the bank of the river.  After eating Svea and Brigitta wanted to cross the river on a fallen tree.  It didn't look terribly high and the river was not very deep so the three of us crossed.  We ended up walking along two trees that met on a sandbar near the closer shore.  Somehow Annika was the one who got wet and was not happy about her predicament.  Much of our hike was accented with horse clopping foley sounds - Svea brought two coconut halves along and we all took turns clapping them together.  I'll try to get a movie online.


































   I missed the Halloween party at GFS on Wednesday night due to parent teacher conferences.  I also missed trick-or-treat on Thursday  night due to parent teacher conferences.  Joan took the girls along with the neighbors and had her hands full.  As a result she didn't get many pictures. 






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