Category Archives: Fun

Arcane Education: Alabama Code Camp IV

Yes, it’s spring time, when the flowers are in bloom, and a young man’s fancy turns to… .NET!

Alabama Code Camp IV is coming up quick, April 14th is just a few short weeks away. For those in the south-east, this one will be held in Mobile AL. See all the details at:

http://www.alabamacodecamp.com/

If this is anything like the previous ones it’ll be great, tons of great speakers and lots of good swag. If you have never been to Mobile before, there’s a lot to see and do. My family is coming along and we’re going to make a weekend of it.

Top on my list (after code camp of course) is seeing the USS Alabama (http://www.ussalabama.com/), a WW II Battleship. At the same location they have the USS Drum, a submarine, a B52, an A-12 Blackbird, and tons of other exhibits.

If battleships aren’t your thing, Mobile is loaded with opportunities, check out Yahoo’s top 16 list at http://travel.yahoo.com/p-travelguide-2833565-mobile_things_to_do-i,  or the Mobile city guide on AL.com (http://www.al.com/mobile/cityguide/index.ssf?attractions.html).

And for the beach goers, Orange Beach is right next door to Mobile (literally). Check out the fun in the Gulf of Mexico at http://www.gulfshores.com/things-to-do/attractions/.

So there you go, a whole day of geeky fun for you, and plenty of ways for the family to be out spending your money, oops I mean having fun while you are getting an education. Well, at least Code Camp is free!

So quit sitting on your duff and start making plans today!

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Arcane Thoughts: Ze Frank’s Web

Ze Frank has had me thinking about the role of creativity on the web. A lot. There’s a great deal of talk about Web 1.0 versus Web 2.0. Certainly there are some compelling new technologies that some might consider falling into the 2.0 field, such as AJAX.

I don’t think Web 2.0 can be defined by technology though. I think it’s more about the way people use the web. Web 1.0 became strongly driven by business. Sure, individuals had pages, but it was business who dominated Web 1.0.

With 2.0, it seems the individual has moved to the forefront. Blogs, podcasts, videocasts, twitter, all examples of the individual extending his or her creativity to the web. Not only does it give a place to host, but to communicate. An artist can get immediate feedback and interaction with their audience. A global, world wide audience.

In the interest of extending my own creative streak, I’m branching out, trying some of the new services. I’ve setup new twitter and tumblog accounts. Twitter, well I’m not sure why, to be honest I’m not 100% sold on the usefulness, but what the heck.

My tumblog will host my pictures. I’ve had a long interest in digital photography, and I’ll put some of my favorites here for you to enjoy.

http://twitter.com/arcanecode

http://arcanecode.tumblr.com/

Don’t worry, I’ll still be posting .Net magic here, but everyone has to find ways to be awesome. How about you?

So long Ze… You’ll be missed.

About six months ago I discovered The Show, with Ze Frank (http://www.zefrank.com/theshow). Each day Ze Frank puts on a video podcast that is humorous, entertaining, enraging, thought provoking, but above all, inspirational.

The running theme of the show, started one year ago today, was that Ze wanted to join something called “The League of Awesomeness”, a society out to make the world a more awesome place. His initiation into the league was to do a video podcast for one year, hence The Show.

The real point though, was not simply to do a video each day, but to engage in a conversation with the viewers, and to inspire them to debate, discuss, and create. The forums are populated with his fans, known as “sports racers”. Fans contribute greetings, graphics, songs, and more to make the show a true collaboration, with Ze at the helm.

Today, March 16, 2007 is the last episode of The Show. It comes to an end as Ze Frank fulfills his internship to the league. The real gift Ze has given over the last year is not videos, but inspiration. Through his encouragement to “be awesome” he has inspired countless sports racers to create their own content and share it with the web.

Now that Ze Frank has graduated to full league membership, I am hopeful the gift he gave, that of encouraging people to create and contribute, continues. I challenge everyone, go out and create something. Videos, songs, poetry, art, even a simple blog like this one, go create and share with the rest of the world. Unleash your potential to be awesome.

So long Ze, and welcome to the League of Awesomeness.

It couldn’t be more deserved.

Programming Possum

I’d like you to meet my Programming Possum. His name is Floyd the Ferocious, and he is one of my biggest helpers in coding.

[Programming Possum]

Floyd was a Christmas gift from my wife, to commemorate the dead possum I found in my hot tub shortly before Thanksgiving. Seems that possum was assigned to write an application in VB4 that generated Java code to be an interop layer between a Perl app and Ruby on Rails program.

Poor guy grabbed his chest and just keeled over in my hot tub, turning himself into a hot possum stew. I found him about four days later, when I went to top off the tub. The smell was, well it was something Mike Row would have wrinkled his nose at. And the stew was now a nice murky black. Yum, soups on!. But I digress.

A few weeks ago I was catching up on my Dot Net Rocks episodes. In episode 205 (http://www.dotnetrocks.com/default.aspx?showNum=205#download) guests Venkat Subramaniam and Andrew Hunt were talking about Agile Programming, and one of them mentioned he keeps a rubber duck on his computer. He keeps his duck around for the same reason Floyd hangs out on top of my monitors, to squash bugs.

Have you ever gone to one of your coworkers and started to explain an issue, when all of a sudden you smacked yourself in the head and gone “OK I know how to fix it now thanks!” Your coworker wittily replies “Uh, OK”.

For me, my Programming Possum is the first person I talk to about my issues. He’s like a hairy therapist with a tail, very attentive listener and never interrupts. (I used to talk to pictures of my wife, but found I kept getting interrupted.) About forty percent of the time, I find that I can work through all the alternatives and come up with a resolution. And if I can’t, when I do have to visit my coworkers at least my thoughts are more organized and coherent.

It doesn’t have to be a possum, it could be a rubber duck or even a rubber chicken. Scott keeps a yellow chicken by his cube.

[White Chicken]

Ben, another coworker, has a yellow chicken which keeps an eye on his code. (Which frankly we all think is a bit weird. I mean, who ever heard of a yellow chicken? White, sure, even brown or black, but yellow? I guess that’s where brown eggs come from.)

Whatever you pick, we all recommend you get your own Programming Possum. Something to focus on so you can talk your issues through while you look for solutions. You’d be surprised at how often it’ll work for you.

And don’t worry about your coworkers thinking you are nuts. I’ve talked to them, and they already think that.

Floyd the Ferocious, Programming Possum

Robert Scoble is a Space Alien and I’m Carrying His Love Child

[Picture of Tony Robbins] Self help guru and life trainer Anthony Robbins (http://www.anthonyrobbins.com/) talks about a principle he calls CANI, Constant And Never ending Improvement. As part of my process of continuous self improvement I was looking for advice on writing a better blog.

[Love Child] First let me set the record straight, I’m not really carrying Scoble’s love child. It can walk (well, slither) just fine on it’s own, thank you very much. And the space alien thing is just a rumor. Really. Any resemblance between the love child (above) and Scoble (below) is purely coincidental, antenna not withstanding.

[Robert Scoble - Space Alien??]In a recent post (http://scobleizer.com/2006/12/07/help-a-san-jose-mercury-news-columnist-blog/) Robert was giving some helpful hints to journalist Mike Cassidy (http://www.mercextra.com/blogs/cassidy/) on how to attract folks to his blog. Some really great tips, including using a catchy, controversial name for your entries. Oh, something like “Robert Scoble is a Space Alien and I’m Carrying His Love Child”.

In his advice, Mr. Scoble also suggests making the subtitle of your blog more meaningful, and focused on your target audience. This is good advice that I have implemented. You may notice in my header I’ve changed from “Computer Sorcery at it’s Best” to “Making Microsoft .Net Development Magical” which isn’t as catchy but does a much better job of describing the general theme of my blog. Of course this isn’t the first time Scoble has dispensed blogging advice, he has good information in his Naked Conversations work. (See http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2006/08/9_random_though.html ).

Robert’s not the only one in the family with good advice on blogging either. His lovely wife Maryam had a great post on her site titled 10 Ways To Write A Killer Blog: http://maryamie.spaces.live.com/Blog/cns!9592F3DEF41537A3!2373.entry#comment )

Looking for other good advice, I found an excellent post from someone named Helen’s. Her post “Increasing Traffic To Your Blog” can be found at http://imhelendt.wordpress.com/2006/09/16/increasing-traffic-to-your-blog/ . Over at ProBlogger, they have created a whole page full of good articles called “Blogging for Beginners” (http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/02/14/blogging-for-beginners-2/). Even if you are not wanting to make money from your blog, there is still a lot of good info here.

Dennis Mahoney has some good advice on writing for the web in his post “How To Write A Better Weblog” (http://alistapart.com/articles/writebetter/ ). While his advice is aimed at the blogger, overall it is sound for any form of written communication.

I’d like to wrap this up with a little advice of my own. First and foremost, offer value. One of my goals is to offer readers a little something extra that they might not find elsewhere. Perhaps it’s through consolidating information, like I’ve done here, or providing details that I have not seen elsewhere in the blogosphere, like my Virtual PC Step by Step entry.

My next piece of advice would be to write nearly every day. Consistency is the key to creating an effective blog and attracting an audience. It’s very disheartening to find what looks like it could be a good blog, but seeing it only gets updated once a month. I create new entries every week day, generally taking the weekends off.

The number of entries you post in a day is up to you, and the nature of your blog. Since I like to teach and try to do that through my blog, I tend to post one new item a day. Mike Cassidy (see link above) has a news oriented blog, so he too would typically want to present one story a day unless there was breaking news of some kind. Robert Scoble, however, tends to produce many entries a day because his blog is a mixture of quick newsbites mixed with personal observations.

If writing every day seems a bit too much, then do a weekly blog, or do what I do write up your entries in advance and then post one a day. As I mentioned, consistency is the key.

Finally, even if you are not interested in writing your own blog, I would encourage you to read through some of the links I’ve included. It will help you in providing quality feedback in your comments, and I highly encourage you to leave comments! It’s very helpful to us bloggers to hear what’s on your mind, if you found our items useful, and what we can do to make it better.

Happy Birthday Raven

Today is my oldest daughter’s birthday. Happy Birthday Raven!

Rather than doing something technical today I thought I’d give her and you a fun little gift. I’ve found a great internet comic strip by a guy named George Sfarnas called Being Five (http://beingfive.blogspot.com/). It’s about a five year old boy who blogs using voice recognition software. Go take a look, but don’t be drinking milk when you do. You’ll laugh so hard it’ll squirt out your nose!