Resurrecting the blog…

Posted by mac on May 11, 2009 in blog status, more random than usual

The blog is dead!!! We plan to resurrect it, sometime, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen anytime soon. Maybe in the meantime you could watch this video about how to make a robot out of a toothbrush:

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Tech Tuesday: Another Country Heard From

Posted by shana on Apr 7, 2009 in Tech Tuesdays, keeping you in the know

No, this is not some techy thing from an actual different country, as the title might lead you to believe…. it’s Shana’s first ever Tech Tuesday post!  Don’t worry though, pigs are not flying, this is as much “alternative transportation” related as it is techy.  

Anyway, check it out: this morning, Autoweek (yeah, I definitely don’t read Autoweek, it was forwarded to me) featured the following headline: 


… with a gallery full of pictures, including this one: 


yeah baby

You know, a lot of us have been saying for a long time that you don’t need a whole big, gas guzzling car to go five blocks up the road and pick up a bag of groceries – cars are, as the article states, “overengineered” for a lot of everyday situations.  This baby can reach speeds up to 35mph and lasts for about 35 miles between charges… yep, that’ll get you to the g-store and back, with a lot less wasted along the way. 

Anyway, they’re apparently not actually legal to drive on either streets or sidewalks at this point… which leaves us with… golf courses?  Just so long as it’s not bike lanes.  Anyway, they’re not commercially available yet, we’ve got lots of time to iron out logistics.  


Also, on totally unrelated note, my birthday’s in September, so… if you haven’t decided what you’re getting me yet… ;)

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The Incredible Machine

Posted by mac on Mar 31, 2009 in Tech Tuesdays

Watching the above video brings back fond memories of a computer game I used to play in elementary school called “The Incredible Machine.” In those days, it represented the best of consumer-class computer physics simulations. I didn’t have this game for my 286 IBM Compatible at home. Instead, my experiences with it were confined to those all too infrequent moments at school when I had a chance to use our classroom’s one computer workstation–a cutting-edge Macintosh LC.

So cool.

So cool.

To put all things in perspective a bit here, we’re talking about a machine that’s running at about 1/40 the processing power of the cellphone in your pocket, and yet the Macintosh LC represented the pinnacle of computer hardware in my life at that time. Of course, I was running at about 2/5 the life experience of what I have today. All that to say, “The Incredible Machine” instantly became the highlight of my day whenever I was allowed to play it. Ahh, those were the days…

While waxing nostalgic, I decided to see if there was perhaps a way to relive some of that childhood magic — a quick googling of “The Incredible Machine” seemed to present only false hope as I discovered a 2007 remake of the game in one click and learned of it’s mid-development cancellation in the next. Bummer.

Not being one to give up after a single googling, I persisted …a virtue that, for me, hasn’t been very rewarding lately (without getting too far off topic, it should suffice to say, I’ve spent far too much time stuck in the infinite regress of our natural gas companies arcane automated telephone system lately). Of course, this being such a trivial endeavor, I met with success! I’m pleased to be able to share with you, that the original “The Incredible Machine” game is indeed going to be re-released after all! … as a cellphone game!

I wonder if it will run 40 times faster….

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Video Sample!!

Posted by mac on Mar 17, 2009 in Tech Tuesdays

Here’s a little video with a bunch of random clips I shot today with our new Canon Vixia HG20. There’s nothing special here, I was just trying to get an idea for how the camera performs under different conditions. Enjoy!

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who doesn’t love a new toy

Posted by mac on Mar 17, 2009 in Tech Tuesdays

Let’s get straight to the point.

We just made a new technology purchase:

It's ok. Go ahead and be a little jealous.

It's ok. Go ahead and be a little jealous.

After MANY hours of research, we landed on the camera you see above: the Canon Vixia HG-20. It’s just about the best consumer class full HD camcorder available on the current market. This thing has a small army of features that should impress even the snobbiest of video aficionados. Aside from the ability to shoot in full and glorious 1920×1080 HD, it can do so in any number of different modes, including 24p, 30p and 60i — there’s also and optional “cinemode” for rich mid-tones and a more cinematic feel. Apparently while there’s no explicit macro mode, this camera nonetheless has an natural ability to take breath-taking macro footage. It’s amazing Optical Image Stabilization feature utilizes some new technology and manages to work miracles making the shakiest of shots look like it they were taken from a tripod. From a tech geek perspective, the number one thing that I like about this camera is that it’s implementation AVCHD (the controversional, compressed HD video format) can record at 24Mbit/s instead of the standard 13 Mbit/s. That’s a huge quality gain. Without getting into too many more details, let the following video suffice as evidence of the camera’s solid performance and quality.

Yes, the Canon Vixia HG-20 can make even a stupid video of a squirrel look impressive.

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‘Rok & Rohn vs. The Blog

Posted by mac on Mar 10, 2009 in Tech Tuesdays, blog status

“What if we were to advertise this humble little Chicago blog?”

That’s a question I’ve been pondering lately, and I’ll address it shortly, but first, allow me speculate a bit on why we blog.

We started sharing all these stories, photos and randomness from our lives mostly for the benefit of our family and friends. I think it’s fair to say that maintaining this blog helps us, and reportedly our readers, feel a bit more connected. My father lives in Portland, OR and my mother in Washington, DC. We talk on the phone with a healthy degree of regularity but being able to share all these photos and thoughtful stories seems to really deepen that dialogue. So, while it’s a whole lot of fun for both Shana and myself to work on this blog, I think the real reason we continue doing it, everyday, is because we receive such positive feedback from all of you.

Now, let’s talk about “gas money” (just bear with me here). I don’t know about you, but we could use some extra “gas money” now and again. I use the term “gas money” loosely because we don’t actually have … a car … per se … but it still seems like the right metaphor because we do have bicycles and I sure have felt a bit low on fuel lately. This is where that whole advertising idea I mentioned early comes into play. The basic idea being that if we could drive enough traffic to our site and gain a wide enough readership we might be able to slightly augment our income. It wouldn’t be much, but we wouldn’t be looking for much — just a little gas money.

Finally, to get to my point in all of this, I really like the idea of this blog getting more exposure, but I don’t want to change the way we write posts, or to feel like we need to censor the photos we share, or otherwise suck the life out of what we’re trying to do here in an attempt to accommodate a more generic readership. This blog is for you — not some generic “everyone.”

It’s with that balance in mind that I created our first ad (you might need to refresh the page to watch the animation!):

We are probably going start advertising the site and trying to bring in more readers, but we are not going to betray our original and intended readership–our friends, our family and, perhaps most importantly, our cats.

P.S. The banner ad above was made using a brand new SaaS (Software as a Service) application called BannerSnack. It takes all of the work out of creating cool flash web banners by providing a easy to use point and click design interface as well as generating all the code needed to share your new creations with the world. And with that now said, I’m totally counting this as my Tech Tuesday post.

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blip.tv and me

This is just a quick update to let you know that I’ve linked my blip.tv channel to our blog and that any new episodes I post over there will now show up here as well. Most of them are fairly dry technology tutorials created by yours truly. I don’t have much of anything there yet, but I will be posting a lot of videos in the weeks to come–mostly for my colleagues, but also for general viewing.

In part, this is an attempt to justify my recent purchase of some high-end screencasting software, but more so it’s my way of giving back a bit of what I’ve learned about web design, development and the internet. Anyway, I thought it’d be fun to have them cross-posted so that you all can see a bit more of what I’m up to.

Don’t let this little notice distract you though! Check out today’s Chicago Thursday post now!!!

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Tech Tuesday Cancelled!

Posted by mac on Mar 3, 2009 in Tech Tuesdays

I’m not feeling well. If you’re lucky, I might try to squeeze a fun and educational technology post in later the week. If you’re needing something to read, I’d strongly encourage you to check out Shana’s two awesome posts from yesterday. Though completely un-cat-related, she nonetheless finds a way to sneak a photo of our cats into each one. It’s really quite a talent, you know.




So, you leave the house and text public to 80289. You’re out for some coffee/tea. As you arrive at Argo, you text @argo to the same number. You then receive a text saying that there are two others at your location. !hello fellow argo people, you text. Both of the other users at the argo immediately get texts on there phones. You get to chatting a little and decide that one of these people, hipster123, is really cool and the other, douchebag123, is annoying. You text block douchebag123 … send, and then …  m hipster123 omg, douchebag123 is a real douchebag. You and hipster lol a bit about it all and decide you’re friends. friend hipster123

What’s going on!?!?

You’re using brightkite–a location-based social networking service.

Here’s what just happened above. First, you changed your visibility on the network by texting public to the brightkite shortcode 80289. You can always go private again by texting, you guessed it, private. Next, you had the keyword argo setup in your “placemarks” so it knew where to check you in.  If you hadn’t had this placemark setup you’d get a text back asking you which argo you wanted to checkin at — 3135 N Broadway or 2485 N Clark. I suggest setting up placemarks for places you frequent. If you don’t, it’ll always be guessing and while it’s guessing is supposed to be based on your last checkin location it’s not perfect–it thought I was in CA when I told it @melrose yesterday. So, back to the above story, you had “nearby notifications” turned on, so that’s why you received the text about the other brightkite users at your location. Turn on nearby notifications by texting nn on to the bright kite number. You change your nearby notification settings quite easily via texts … text nn friends to receive only info about friends near by or text nn all for info about any bright kite users near by. The radius of these notifications can be changed with the following commands: nn close, nn block, nn neighborhood, nn area. If you don’t like having the nearby notifications turned on, you can always manually check to see who’s near your location by texting who. So, anyhoo, you then posted a message to the location — !hello fellow argo people. If you’d felt like it you could have also taken a photo and posted it the location (instructions for that are on your account settings page — different for every user, or text postphoto to get instructions texted to your phone).  Back with our story above, you blocked douchebag123 (block username) and then directly messaged hipster123. (m username message). friend username sent a friend request. There are other things too that you could have done which are fun–For instance, want to see everyone who’s ever been to that Argo? Or see if any photos or messages have been left there? Text pastvisitors and find out.

Pwhew. Yeah–alot to remember but there’s a nitfy little pocketguide if you want it: http://brightkite.com/brightkite_pocket_reference.pdf

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