Friday, May 23, 2008


Authors Note:
I actually began this post in early December of last year, shortly after the trip. Obviously, I haven't been keeping the blog up too well lately as my last post prior to this one is from July of last year, but here's this post finally, and I hope to post more regularly as this year goes along.

Peggy and I enjoyed our trip down the Talimena Scenic Drive last year that we decided to do it again this past fall. Last year we went around the middle of October and were a bit early for the peak fall colors. Some tree's leaves had begun turning colors, but overall things were still pretty green. So this year we decided to go later. Initially we planned on the last weekend in October, but we waited too long to book a place to stay so we ended up moving it back to the middle of November.

When we went last year, Peggy really wanted to find a cabin in the area to stay in but since we tend to "plan" our vacations at the last moment (we like to think we're spontaneous), we couldn't find anything that looked good so we stayed in hotels. This year Peggy began searching earlier and found the River's Edge website. Looking at the virtual tours of their cabins soon convinced us to reserve one of them.

We reserved the Bear Cottage, one of the lower priced cabins. It seems a lot of their pricing is based on cabin location as some of them sit right on cliffs overlooking the Mountain Fork River making for spectacular views. Our cabin wasn't situated like that, but the view from the living room was still quite beautiful, especially with all the fall colors going on as the photo below shows (you can click on any of the photos in this post to see a large version of it).

View from the front porch

I shot this photo of the big tree right outside the front window from the cabin's living room.

Another nice thing about our cabin was the size. Most of the cabins are essentially one-room affairs, with a fireplace/living area, kitchen and bed all spread around the large room. The Bear Cottage however has two bedrooms, the living room and a kitchen. Each bedroom also has its own bathroom and shower and the master bedroom has a two-person jacuzzi (all the cabins have a jacuzzi).

A shot of the fireplace in the living room.

Here's a photo looking up toward the kitchen where Peggy was preparing breakfast.

The master bedroom sits off the kitchen and has a door to the back porch which has a picnic table and charcoal grill. There is also a fire pit behind the porch. They also provide all the firewood you could possibly need. We used the charcoal grill the evening of our second day there for our dinner.

Here's one more photo of the cabin interior. I shot this from the kitchen looking down over the living room where Peggy was enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, the morning of our last day there. You can see the large front windows that provided the excellent view.

Looking down on the living room

On top of the beautiful cabin and peaceful seclusion we had, we got our own dog to go with it all! Okay, technically it wasn't our dog. The proprietors of River's Edge own a couple of retrievers and Pete, the younger of the two adopted us during our stay. When we were outside he was right there with us most of the time, and when we were inside he tended to sleep on the front porch or hang out in back waiting for us to come out.

Pete takes a nap.

There is a minimum two night stay at River's Edge, and that gives you one full day there, plus the afternoon/evening of the day you arrive and the morning of the day you leave. Our first day, we arrived right at 4 PM which is the normal check-in time. We found our cabin and unloaded the car and put everything away. The place is quite secluded and they recommend bringing all the food and whatever else you think you might need while you're there because it's a bit of a hassle to get somewhere you can buy food and supplies. After settling in we took a hike down to the river which is a couple of hundred yards down from the cabin. After a bit of time there, we went back to the cabin and made dinner. After dinner we built a fire out back and sat on the back porch watching the fire for a while before retiring to the cabin for the rest of the evening.

The next day turned out quite nice for the middle of November in Oklahoma. A good part of November this year was unseasonably warm and the highs were in the low 70's while we were on this little trip. Since it was such a nice day we decided to take the canoe (provided free with the cabin) out on the river and look around. We paddled downstream a ways while Pete swam along with us, hoping we would let him in the canoe.

Pete takes a break from swimming.

We found a good spot and beached the canoe then got out and walked the bank a ways, taking some photos and looking for good rocks. Pete busied himself finding sticks for us to throw for him.

Pete tries to get Peggy to notice the stick he has subdued.

Looking down river.

Nice color along the river banks.

After a bit, we decided to go the other direction and paddle upstream a ways. The river thru this area was very slow moving so going upstream was not any trouble other than working our way through some shallows.

Looking upstream.

We worked our way upstream around a big bend and continued thru a couple of narrow, shallow areas until we came to the last cabin owned and operated by Rivers Edge, a three-story affair for families. We stopped in that area for a while, enjoying the scenery and looking for more rocks.

More fall color.

Pete found a big stick

As we headed back, we noticed the couple of cabins Rivers Edge offers that are perched on one of the cliffs overlooking the river. Here's a shot of them from down on the river. The one on the right is kind of hard to see as it's partially obscured by the trees in the foreground at the bend in the river.

Cabins on the cliffs.

After returning to our cabin, we enjoyed a lazy afternoon then took the bicycles (also provided free, with the cabin) out for a little ride. We started to go up the road that leads to the cliff-situated cabins, but it turned out to be too steep for us to tackle so we rode down the road that comes in to Rivers Edge for a half mile or so before turning around and heading back.

We enjoyed our last evening there, cooking our dinner on the charcoal grill on the back porch and watching a movie on our laptop later on. We ate breakfast the next morning then reluctantly began packing everything up and loading it back in the car.

Bidding Rivers Edge a fond farewell, we headed East to Mena, Arkansas which lies on the East end of the Talimena Drive. After a short stop in Mena we began the drive. As we climbed the mountains the temperature dropped significantly, and it became overcast and very windy. After passing the Queen Wilhamena Lodge, we noticed a marker on the side of the road and pulled over to see what it was. It pointed us to the "Pioneer Cemetery" a short hike from the road so we decided to take a look. It was a very small area bordered by railroad ties and populated with a small number of graves, most of them only marked with large rocks. In fact, there was only one "real" headstone in the cemetery. As we left we noticed an unusual tree, its trunk and one large branch forming the number "4". Here's a photo of it.

The Pioneer Cemetery was used by the handful of residents that lived on the mountain in that area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After the cemetery, we continued a few more miles before pulling over at one of the many scenic stops along the drive to eat our lunch. As we ate, we watched the sky which was mostly overcast, but had breaks in the clouds through which rays of sun shone creating a beautiful vista. The wind was blowing hard and the sky was constantly changing because of that so we decided I ought to get out and shoot some pictures while the view was so good.

I set up my tripod and put the camera in panorama mode and fired off several shots that I later assembled in Photoshop to get the following photo. You can click on that picture to see a 1600 pixel-wide version of it.

We continued the drive for the next two hours or so, stopping at some of the scenic pullover spots to appreciate the scenery and shoot more photos. Here are a few of them.

Some of the beautiful foliage.

Another shot from the same area.

Some more sky ambience.

Looking up the road from one of the scenic pullouts.

We stopped at a nature center (which was closed) along the way and hiked around in the woods surrounding it for a little while. It had a couple of beautiful maples planted out in front.

As it got late in the day, we had some really cool clouds surrounding us. You really ought to click on the picture below to see the large version of it. These clouds are excellent!

As evening neared, a the sky below the clouds took on a beautiful golden hue which was soon followed by a spectacular sunset.

A golden sky shortly before sunset.

We found ourselves finishing as the sun was setting. We originally planned on staying the night somewhere in the area and heading home the next day, but we decided to go ahead and drive home that evening. We actually made pretty good time and arrived home at a reasonable hour. If anything, we enjoyed the trip even more this year than last and are tentatively planning to make the trip again this year.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

New Orleans

I went on a two-day business trip to New Orleans on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. We are looking at a prepress workflow/soft proofing system and are getting serious about the systems made by Dalim. Their chief distributer/partner in the U.S. is Blanchard Systems which is based in New Orleans. After doing some research and going through an online demo with Blanchard Systems, we were invited to take a trip to New Orleans to see the software in action on some of our own files and get a better feel for what it can do for us.

So, the company owner Barry, my boss Debbie and I took the trip down there to evaluate the system. I've never been to New Orleans and looked forward to the trip, although I expected we'd really not have time for any sort of sight-seeing. The trip turned out really well and we did get to spend a bit of time checking out the French Quarter and Bourbon Street.

We spent the morning flying in, first to Houston then catching a flight to New Orleans (no direct OKC to New Orleans flights unfortunately). Once we arrived we were picked up by the Blanchard Systems people and delivered to their headquarters where we spent the afternoon watching what the system can do, and asking questions.

That evening they took us out for an excellent dinner at Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse. It is right by Bourbon Street and so they took us on a little tour.

We probably spent about an hour and a half in the area, looking at the sights and checking out a couple of the souvenir shops. We walked to Pat O'Brian's Bar and and sat down in the courtyard to sample their famous Hurricane and enjoy ourselves for a bit. The atmosphere in the courtyard was tremendous, with candle-lit tables, streetlamps, palms and a centerpiece fountain with a huge flame in the middle of it.

We really enjoyed the evening, and overall, the whole trip with the only unpleasant part being a two-hour wait on the plane out of Houston on our way home because of thunderstorms. Debbie and I both brought our cameras and took quite a few pictures while we toured Bourbon Street.

For most of them I didn't use the flash It only goes out about 15 to 20 feet and so it's not really useful for capturing anything that's not immediately in front of the camera. That will actually make photos like I took, worse, because it will illuminate the area in front of the camera, but everything further back (which is what I was usually trying to capture) will be completely dark. Thanks to my camera's image stabalization, most of the photos turned out pretty good despite being shot hand held and using fairly long exposures, since it was dark out. Here are a few of the pictures I shot.

That's the big boss, Barry on the left, walking down Bourbon Street.

Proof we were there! Jean LaFitte's Old Absinthe House at the corner of Bienville and Boubon.

The Blues! A blues bar/club on Bourbon Street.

This fountain sits in the courtyard of Pat O'Brian's. That's a huge flame that burns in the middle of the fountain.

Looking back at downtown New Orleans from Bourbon Street.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Web Site Traffic

I was looking over the web site log statistics for earlier this week and there's a definite draw on the site that's generating most of the traffic.

I signed up for Google Analytics a few months ago and have finally got it set up to log all the site's pages. Before this, I would downloaded the raw log files provided by my site's hosting company, then run them through Analog, a log file analyzer. Analog is pretty configurable and you can find out a lot from its reports, but I'm finding Google Analytics gives you more data and gives you a lot of ways of looking at that data too.

A couple of years ago, I was submitting a lot of stories to Slashdot and getting quite a few of them accepted to the front page. I found this to be a good method for getting your web site placed in Google since you can have your website linked to your name as a story submitter. Since Slashdot gets a huge amount of traffic and there are a lot of sites around the internet that mirror their headlines, you end up getting a lot of links to your site scattered around the internet, and the number of sites linking to a particular site is one of the important metrics Google uses in its page ranking algorithm.

But I'm not getting as much page rank and traffic from that as I used to because I'm not submitting stories to Slashdot much these days. The site does get some traffic to the POV Ray pages that I have although my impression is that POV Ray has fallen off a bit in popularity as home computers have become more powerful and more free or low-cost 3D programs have become widely available. It also gets some traffic viewing the couple of stories it has about the tornados that plowed through Moore Oklahoma in 1999 and 2003.

But most traffic these days is coming in to look at and/or download Scaletron!, the scaling calculator application that I wrote and maintain. This also has the side effect of causing more traffic to the site to be from Macintosh computers than Windows machines which is pretty unusual because of the huge marketshare that Windows enjoys.

So, I've been thinking a bit more these days about adding to the software available at However there are some issues involved in accomplishing this. More about that later.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Writing Daily

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post here where I stated my intention to begin trying to do some writing every day, primarily on this, my original blog. This is a progress report. So far, I've not done too badly with it. I really didn't expect to get something written every day, because things come up, or, some days there's just a complete lack of inspiration. Not all my writing has been posted to this blog either. A couple of days have seen me posting over on my GNN blog. I've also got a couple of in-progress pieces that I'll hack on some days and hopefully, they'll eventually get finished and posted here or on one of my other blogs.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

iTunes, EMI and non-DRM Music

The iTunes Store began selling DRM-free music from EMI's catalog today. When Steve Jobs made the announcement a couple of months ago that Apple and EMI had reached an agreement to do this, he predicted more than half the songs on iTunes would be available without DRM by the end of the year. The heads of the other three major music labels disputed Jobs' optimism on that, standing by their policy that DRM is necessary to keep digital music from being pirated.

According to some posters at the Macintouch web site, there appears to be a huge initial response to the DRM-free music being offered at the iTunes Store. The site has been slow and downloads have timed out, presumably due to heavy traffic on the site.

Provided the apparent, huge interest isn't a brief one-time event, it would seem the other major labels may begin to rethink their position with regard to the DRM issue and Jobs' prediction may very well come to pass.

Personally, I never previously considered purchasing any songs from the iTunes Store because of the DRM and the limitation of all songs being encoded at 128 Kbps. With the availability of DRM-free songs and the much higher 256 Kbps encoding, I expect I will buy the occasional song there in the future.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

It's The Little Things

It's no secret that when it comes to computers I'm a 'Mac guy'. I've never owned a Windows computer but I have had my share of opportunity to use Windows and I've maintained for years that I know more about Windows than the average Windows user. Of course that's not really claiming a lot, because the average Windows user really doesn't know a lot about how computers work and the role an operating system plays in that. They don't learn how to do more with their computer than the minimum to accomplish what they want or need to accomplish with it.

Over the years, Microsoft has made huge strides in improving Windows' useability, but in my opinion, it still falls well short of the Macintosh's useability. And that is after Apple arguably went backward in useablility in some respects with the transition from what is now known as the classic Mac OS to OS X.

It seems to me that Apple spends more time and energy with the little things in your day-to-day computing experience. Things that, by themselves don't seem that important, but as you add them together, they begin to affect one's overall perception and expectations as well as the machine's user friendliness.

I give you an example that I encounter every day at work. Our prepress department is Mac based. We have an Apple Xserve for our file server and four out of six workstations are Macs. We do have a couple of Windows machines that are used for the occasional job that arrives as Windows-native files although those have largely been eliminated with the trasition to PDF workflows that has taken place in the print industry over the past few years.

The company's internal email is handled by a Microsoft Exchange server. The Macs in prepress have their email client configured to send and receive mail for the operator of each machine's email account. This works fine for exchanging email with computers that are outside of the company, but for email that is exchanged within the company we have to have an account set up on one of the Windows machines and get the mail there.

So each morning when I arrive at work, I go to one of the Windows machines and log off of the default account (which is set up for our data collection service) and log in to my user account on the machine so I can check any email sent within the company over that last day. To log into my account, I go to the start menu and choose Shut Down, then from the dialog that pops up, I choose "log off of dcollect". Windows quits any running programs, logs off the dcollect account and brings up the login window.

Now here's the irritating part. The login window has three fields. A field for the user's account name, a field for their password and a field for the Windows domain that the computer is on (which we can disregard here). When the login window comes up, the account name field still has the name of the account you're logging out of filled in, and the cursor is positioned in the password field. This means you have to backward tab to the account name field to type in the name of the account you're logging into, then tab to the password field and type your password.

I just told the machine I wanted to log off of the account it was logged into. If the programmers were thinking about the process being done here, when the login window appears, the field for the account name would be highlighted, ready for the user to type their account name into. Then they can tab to the password field. If they really didn't want to log into a different account, they don't need to type a new account name, they just tab to the password field, leaving the account name field filled in with the previously logged in account. In case you wondered, that is the way that a Mac handles logging into different user accounts.

It's a simple thing, but those are the small touches that make a difference the the overall impression the two operating systems leave with you.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Weekend

We drove down to Fort Worth yesterday to visit Peggy's sister Mickey, who has been in intensive care at a hospital there for two weeks now, because of a series of problems resulting from a problem with her diabetes. I'm writing this post from the waiting room on the third floor neuro ICU.

Lyndsey and her boyfriend Jeremiah came down here with us. After we got to the hospital yesterday, we left Peggy and Lyndsey, Jeremiah and I went to get a hotel to stay the night in. After we had done that and eaten some lunch we came back to the hospital.

Peggy was back visiting her sister so Lyndsey and I decided to go on back there. We went back and donned the gowns and gloves they make us wear then went in the room. Mickey seemed a bit out of it when we first got there but after a few minutes she began responding well to Peggy. After we had been back there about ten minutes or so, Lyndsey remarked that she was really tired and said she had gotten up too early. A couple of minutes later Lyndsey suddenly pitched forward and fell face first onto the bed, across Mickey's legs. After the initial shock of seeing Lyndsey collapse, I quick realized she had fainted.

I helped her to her feet and asked her if she was okay. She said yes and nodded her head, even as she slowly sank to the ground. I worked on getting her back up while Peggy got one of the nurses. We got Lyndsey up and sat her down in a chair. The nurse began asking if I wanted to take her down to Emergency and have them take a look at her. I said I thought we could probably go back to the waiting room and sit there for a few minutes and see how she felt. She was still extremely pale but kept saying she was okay. The nurse continued to suggest going down to the emergency room, and then Peggy began to agree with the nurse, so I finally agreed that we could go down there and have them take a look at her.

They got a wheelchair and had an intern accompany her and me down. We got to the emergency room and they put us in triage because the place was packed! By now her color was coming back and she said she really did feel fine now. I thought we should go ahead and have them look at her to ease her mom's mind so we waited.

That turned out to be a mistake. Jeremiah joined us and we slowly worked our way through the emegency room. They ended up putting her on a gurney in the hall and hooking her up to a monitor right there. A young doctor eventually showed up and looked at her then said she was probably just fine, but he wanted to go ahead and run a couple of blood tests. So we waited for someone to come and draw blood, then they hooked her up to an IV and we waited some more.

We left Mickey's room for the emergency room around 4:20 and they finally let her go from Emergency around 7:15. There was nothing wrong with her.

This morning when Lyndsey went back to visit Mickey, Mickey told her she'd better sit down!