It has been quite a while since my last blog post and a whole lot has happened since then. I have a couple update posts coming soon, but wanted to quickly let you know that we have recently switched our webhost so if you see anything screwing on the websites or blogs, please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For what its worth, after nearly 8 years with a cheap ($2/mo) fly-by-night company called www.stayhosted.com we finally had to upgrade to a "real" hosting provider. After much research, we went with www.hostgator.com. It costs us almost double, but we went from a 500MB limit (which we had exceeded) to an unlimited provider. So far I have been very impressed. They have been quick to respond to my support tickets and even took care of doing the transfers between servers for me.
I admit, part of the reason for this post is to ferret out any complications with the transfer and subsequent DNS transfers, but I also wanted to give a shout out to HostGator because they seem to be doing a great job.
Hopefully you will hear from me again soon.
Over all, I think most people would pretty amazed at how "normal" our life is in Swaziland. We have a nice home in a safe area. We can get pretty much anything we need at the grocery store. We can drink the water. The cost of living is quite affordable, and we make more than we need. Of course if we lived in Manzini or Ezulwini or Mbabane, we would have access to even more amenities. As one person explained it to me, Swaziland is "Africa Lite" and that is a pretty accurate portrayal. That being said, there are still some things I miss:
- The convenience of being able to eat out – There hasn’t really been any foods that I have craved yet, but I do miss the opportunity to not have to fix a meal, or to just pick something up on the way home.
- High speed internet (or any regular internet for that matter) – Quite possibly the biggest challenge I knew of when making the move… especially to Cabrini. If we were in town, we would have decently reliable access.
- Being able to easily look up answers – This is related to the prior, but more specifically, I miss access to google / wikipedia / the library / easy phone-a-friend / etc. I never realized how much I relied on the internet to supplement my knowledge.
- Access to news – sure we have the Swazi Times, but unless you are interested in a strange combination of news, gossip and propaganda, you need to look elsewhere. (I have another post I am working on about the Swazi headlines, but I will save that for another time).
- Interacting with a variety of people – Here at St. Phillips there aren’t many people, and those who are here are usually all bound up in the same things. So it becomes difficult to get fresh ideas / perspectives / experiences.
- Netflix and Pandora – Yes, I am back on the internet thing… but, most of my "entertainment" came from these websites.
- Snobby Selection – I miss good wine, good beer, good spirits, good coffee, good cheese, good cuisine. We can get some of all that, but not a great selection.
- Ice Cream and Candy – you can get it here, but the selection is incredibly slim and it is very expensive.
- Being connected / "in the know" – There is a very steep learning curve here. Multiple times I have been told to complete a task that I have no idea how to do and with no guidance. I am also having to learn names and relationships by the truckload. I miss knowing what is going on.
- Family and Friends – Without doubt this is what I miss the most. We left behind some pretty incredible people and nothing can replace that.
And, here is Beth’s quick list of 10 things she says she misses:
- Getting things conveniently
- Good Coffee
- Kitchen Aid Mixer
- Reliable Oven
- Friends and Family
- Being able to "Go places"
- Ice Cream
- Having all her kitchen stuff and ingredients
This is the ninth in a series of ten Top 10 posts that Beth and I are completing. Today we will look at our 10 favorite websites and tomorrow (or the next day) we will conclude with the 10 ideas that define us as people. In listing these sites, I am trying to be very honest and go with sites I regularly use rather than sites with philosophical importance. Enjoy.
- Google – There is no question this (and offshoots of it) is my favorite online destination. In fact, I started to write this post earlier, but after 1,000 words I wasn’t past #1 and ended up branching it off as a separate post (which you can find here.)
- Facebook - I was later than most of my friends signing up for Facebook, but I have jumped in with both feet. In fact, I did not have it while in college, but not use it to keep up with friends all over the country and the world. We have so many friends we do not see on a regular basis, it really is a resource for maintaining connections.
- Zamzar – Probably a site most people are not familiar with, but for me, it is a lifesaver. I often work with files that are in the wrong format. Rather than always downloading a file conversion software, Zamzar will do it for you online and then send you the results. Great for audio, video, documents, etc.
- Straightbourbon – Most of you know I work in the spirits industry. While Corsair produces many unaged spirits, we are moving towards being a major whiskey producer. Most of what I have learned about bourbon (technical, historical, practical) I have picked up from the guys (and few gals) who frequent this site.
- Mint.com – This site serves as a financial account aggregator which provides a single place to view all your finances. It also helps you construct a budget and alerts you of irregular spending.
- Wikipedia – I know this is not a scholarly source, but it excellent for getting a general feel of a subject, or for learning about topics you never before would have been introduced to. I have to be careful when I get on Wikipedia because it is so easy for me to spend a significant time following endless linked stories.
- Kiva – In 2006 Muhammad Yunus won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with micro lending, which provides small short term loads to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Kiva allows you to get in on the action by choosing who you want to loan your own money to. The best part is that as your loans are repaid, you can roll them over to other people. Since we joined a few years ago we have made over 100 loans in 26 countries. You can view our profile here.
- Addicting Games – I have not been on here much since Mikayla was born, but sometimes I just need a break and a few minutes of mindless entertainment sometimes does the trick. I am pretty dang good at Max Dirt Bike.
- Twitter – First, let me admit, I really do not understand twitter, but I like it. I don’t use it to its fullest capacity, but I love being able to keep up with people in 140 character sound bites. Perhaps it is the next great thing in networked communication, or perhaps it will be the downfall of our ADHD society.
- MSNBC – While I don’t think their coverage is the best, I have consistently found MSNBC gets stories faster than any other source. If there is a plane wreck, or a shooting, MSNBC seems to have the most information consistently. I use it to supplement the other news sources I regularly look to (CNN, BBC, BG Daily News, Courier Journal, All Africa).
Categories: Random, Reviews addicting games, facebook, google, internet, Kiva, mint.com, msnbc, straighbourbon, top 10, twitter, websites, wikipedia, zamzar
If you have been following along, Beth and I have been walking through 10 top 10 lists. Today’s list is supposed to be top 10 websites. I began writing early this morning and after 45 minutes and almost 1000 words, I had not gotten past #1. So I have decided to break it off as a separate post.
You see, I kinda have an addiction. I am addicted to Google. Not just the search engine, but all the products they offer. One of the Mentoring Artists at Kaleidoscope even calls me “Google Man.” But what can I say, the things they create are instrumental in making my life easier. I would say well over half of the activities I do include google in some way. So, I have made a list of the google products I regularly use (at least on a weekly basis.) As for the other post — Top 10 Websites, it will have to come later today.
- Google Search - This one should be obvious. There is a reason Google has the lion’s share of the search market – it does a great job. But where Google’s strength really lies is in its more focused searches. These include:
- Shopping – Find the best prices online and read retailer reviews.
- Book - Like the card catalog, except you get to view the book right there. I even use it to find things in books I already own. More than once I have cited a book for a research paper using only this.
- Scholar – Not as roboust as some academic databases I have used before, but I have been able to find journal articles on Google Scholar that I have not been able to get elsewhere.
- Images – I use Google Image search almost daily. It has become so ubiquitous I need not say more.
- Videos – A cross between youtube and google image search. I am not thrilled with the interface – I like youtube better – but it includes videos on other hosting sites as well as longer videos. Great for watching documentaries online.
- Blog search – This has been excellent in trying to find out information on niche subjects (like Swaziland orphanages).
- Google Home Page – Every time I open a browser I am met with Google’s homepage. Here are the widgets I current have up: Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Reader, BBC, CNN, Courier Journal, BG Daily News, C-Net news, All Africa News, Times of Swaziland, Swazi Observer.
- Gmail – I have every email from the last 5 years archived in my gmail account. I got an account back when it was by invitation only. I also have all my other emails (k-scope, kickert.info, broadway, WKU, etc.) integrated into it as well. It makes searching for past correspondences super easy. Beth and I even use Gmail to video chat with mom and dad via webcam.
- Google Calendar – Beth and I both keep multiple calendars that we can share and turn on and off. I have a corsair calendar, a K-scope calendar, an academic calendar (not used anymore), Beth and I share family events and birthdays with a personal calendar. I can also pull up Beth’s regular calendar to see if she has anything going on to schedule an event.
- Google Docs – I have been so impressed with the versatility and functionality of this service that I have had it integrated into the daily operation of K-scope and Corsair. It is so easy to share files such as databases, or budget reports. It keeps an archive of past revisions in case a file gets screwed up, and it doesn’t require multiple versions of a file to be floating around during editing. Plus, it is great because you can access important information no matter where you are. We use Google Apps to integrate this into existing domains.
- Google Alerts - Whenever something is posted about a topic important to you, you can have an email sent to your inbox. For instance, any time there is a blog post or article or website about Corsair Artisan, Kaleidoscope or Ben Kickert I get an update. Very Useful!
- Google Voice – I am one of the lucky few that currently have access to this service. It was originally called Grand Central, but google bought it out and has it in a closed beta testing phase right now. We use it for K-scope. Google Voice is basically an online phone service. We have a Google Voice phone number. When someone calls it, it can ring any number of phones (i.e. your cell phone, your home phone, your spouce’s cell phone). At K-scope it rings the two administrators. Once you answer it, you can then transfer the call to other phones if you want. If you don’t answer, it will go to voicemail which google voice will record and you can check online. It even transcribes the message for you and you can have it sent SMS to your phone. At k-scope it has allowed us to have a permanent phone number without having to pay for any service where we can use our cell phones without giving out personal numbers. If we ever need to switch the contact person, we only need to change the settings. I also have this set up with a West Virginia number so Mom and Dad can call me on my cell in KY with local number.
- Google Maps – This, along with the more robust Google Earth, has been a life saver (and a time waster). I love taking a peak around the world and utilizing the various tools and map overlays that can be added. Of course I use it for directions, but I also use it for research.
- Feedburner – I run my blog feed through Google’s feedburner so I can track subscriptions and get a feel for what types of post people are most interested in.
- Google Reader – This is a feed aggregator that allows you to read multiple blogs/ RSS feeds in one location. You could argue it saves time because you aren’t having to go to various sites, but at the same time it probably is a time thief because you are more likely to read more entries.
- Goog411 - If you ever need a business phone number dial 1-800-GOOG-411. With its voice recognition system you can get the phone number and address of any business. Heck, it will even connect you so you don’t have to write the number down.
- Google Analytics – I have this integrated into my website so I can track visitors. So far my blog has had visitors from 26 states and 16 countries. Overwhelming the most popular posts are those with pictures of Mikaya… go figure.
- Adsense – With this I can integrate ads into my blog. So far I have made a whopping $0.03 from visitors like you.
- Software – In addition to the web based services, Google has several software packages that I use. Here are a few.
- Google Earth – Explore the world with this geographic program.
- Google SketchUp – design buildings and other structures without any training. I used this to sketch the Greenwood Campus and later was able to make measurements from my office.
- Google Chrome – a blazing fast web browser. I am just waiting for it to be released on Mac.
That is just my list of common uses. I did not even get into Blogger, Picasa, Groups, Notebook, or Finance which many people use regularly. There are also several things in the works that I am excited about, but have not been widely released such as Google Wave (next generation of communication protocal) and Google Andoid (operating system).
If Google really is trying to take over the world, I will be their first minion.
So far Beth and I have discussed what we like, what we want to accomplish, and a bit about who we are. Today our list of 10 will look at what we like to do. Here are my top 10 favorite activities:
- Disc Golfing – I was introduced to disc golfing while I was in college. I love it because it offers an easy escape outdoors, even if only for an hour or two. You can play by yourself or in groups. Best yet… is relatively cheap. You could play ’til your heart was content for $2 if you buy a used disc. For $20-30 you would be well on your way. Compared to my other outdoor activities, this one is by far the cheapest.
Discgolfing with some of Beth's students.
- Gardening – Beth and I are on our third year of gardening, and the first in our own backyard. I just got in from harvesting okra, tomatoes, corn and peppers. Here is link to post I wrote earlier, and some pictures of the garden from today.
Asparagus, corn, zucchini, okra, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, onions.
Tomatoes, basil, okra, corn.
- Rock Climbing – My first experience climbing was in high school at an indoor gym. I ended up buying my own equipment and then getting involved in an outdoors group my Freshman year in college where I got into real rock climbing. In the four years fighting fire in Idaho I expanded my experience. Now I only climb a couple times a year, but I treasure each one. It is not just the activity, but the comradery found sitting around at the bottom of the rocks too.
Climbing in the Bitterroots, circa 2001
- Backpacking – I was backpacking before I even knew what it was. I was lucky enough to have parents that valued the outdoors and introduced them to me early. In fact, my first camping trip was before I was a month old (at least that is what Dad says… but his memory is not what it used to be.) I try to have one big trip every couple years, but is has been a few years since I have been out. Just this week I went back through my pictures from a trip to Colorado. Backpacking is one of those things that is fun to prepare for, to do, and to talk about later.
Purifying water while backpacking in Colorado. (The day before we found an outfitter's stash of beer).
- Traveling – I have been very fortunate to be able to travel quite a bit in my life. I visited over 30 states in 18 months when I was in college and currently have visited all of the lower 48. I have been to Mexico (kinda), Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Austria and Italy. I enjoy traveling not only for the experiance, but also because it often forces me to reassess my own understandings of the world.
- Conversing with friends over beverages - I enjoy good conversations in relaxed settings. Like the activity above, this includes lots of things. I enjoy talking theology, philosophy, politics, and anything in between. I enjoy good drinks and people who enjoy good drinks.
- Being with my family - One of my favorite activities is simply being with my family. Not doing anything in particular… just being. I love a lazy Sunday in a cozy bed, or a evening of talking with my extended family. I feel very natural with my family and am comfortable just hanging out.
Family picture at Kentucky Lake.
- Working with my hands – Most of my work is cerebral, whether it is grant writing, or studying, or planning. After 20 years of schooling, and 5 years of jobs mostly made up of life behind a computer, I find great relief in working with my hands. If I get stressed out, I will work in the garage; if I have spent too much time writing grants, I get respite from mowing the lawn. I love my current job at Corsair Artisan Distillery because it includes science, craft, mundane tasks and grunt labor. My time fighting fire was probably my most fulfilling job at the end of the day (but not in terms of long range impact).
Practice Rappells at Moyer in Idaho, circa 2003.
- Driving long distances in the car alone – Everyone needs a way to relax and collect their thoughts. Some people golf, some people go for walks, some people journal. For me, the most calming time is driving alone in the car. Often I do this with the windows down and the radio off. When I was in Seminary, I would often leave at 4:30 in the morning and drive 2.5 hours. I would have loved my sleep, but seeing the sun come up while I processed my thoughts was the most therapeutic thing I could do.
- Researching – In all honesty, this is probably my favorite activity because it includes so much. I enjoy spending time in the Library combing through old journals and abstracts to find a hidden gem of information for a paper. I love pouring over a map trying to find the best route. I love browsing wikipedia to learn about random things like historic natural disasters, or the standard model of particle physics. I often get into a topic and try to read everything I can about it. I spend hours trying to understand things like PHP so I can edit a blog. And, if I am honest, much of the time I waste tinkering around on the internet is linked to this activity.
Categories: Family, Random backpacking, Beth, Corsair, disc golf, driving, Family, fire, friends, gardening, internet, research, road trip, rock climbing, travel