Monday, November 27, 2006

SharedPlan - the evil Huns

I recently discovered this goofy website that identifies interesting mnemonics that can be made from your phone number.

I put in SharedPlan's phone number (303-845-4861) and the most interesting result was "30 Evil Hun 1."

If you need any help with SharedPlan, feel free to call the 30 Evil Huns at extension 1.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A day at the aquarium

I avoided Black Friday by taking the boys to the Denver Downtown Aquarium. (I don't really get why they need the word "Downtown" in the name. It's not like there are many aquaria in the metro area.) We had not been to the aquarium since its former incarnation, Ocean Journey, and it has changed dramatically. In fact, although I only went to Ocean Journey a couple of times, there is little of Ocean Journey that I recognize in the new aquarium.

I say that even though the big exhibit tanks, with the sharks, coral reefs, and tigers haven't changed much, and the flash flood simulation is still there. But gone are the large displays of Colorado river life, i.e. 10 kinds of trout. Good riddance.

They have crammed many more revenue-generating activities in every possible area. Balloon animal-makers, palm tree climbing, much larger gift shop, sit-down restaurant, bar, gold-panning, etc. are everywhere. It's a little claustrophobic, but if it keeps this version of the aquarium solvent so that my kids can enjoy it for a few more years, I'm OK with it.

Overall, it's significantly improved, even with all the nickel-and-dime stuff everywhere. We had a terrific time.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Andy Goldsworthy

Every several months, my lovely friend Loui accompanies her husband Rick on his sales trips to Colorado, and Gina (now nicknamed Rockhead, but that's the subject of another post sometime) and I always try to get together with them. Loui is always a very thoughtful gift-giver on these visits. For instance, on her last visit, she gave us Keb Mo's Keep It Simple, introducing us to this wonderful artist. I have since recommended this CD to several people.

This time, she introduced us to Andy Goldsworthy, by giving us both a book and a documentary DVD of his work. Both the book and the DVD are mesmerizing descriptions of how Andy creates art in nature and of nature, using materials he finds out in the woods or by the sea to create sculptures in the same environment.

These pieces often are soon destroyed by the same natural forces, such as the tide or the sun, that gave them life in the first place. I now can't get this concept out of my head, and I see parallels to it in so many things.

Don't worry, I'm not going to go all intelligentsia on you. I mean, I'm still the same guy who loves Old School, Evanescence, and Limp Bizkit. But Goldsworthy's ephemeral works are truly bewitching.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Changing the voice of the website

At SharedPlan, we have been discussing our website a lot lately. In particular, Roger realized how the text sounded a little stiff and cold. We want the website to not only tell people what we do, but to do so in a way that we would do if the visitor were sitting in the same room with us. In other words, we want our website to reflect a little of the personalities at SharedPlan. So I have been gradually changing the 'voice' of the site over the last week or two, and I will continue to do so.

I make these changes, and really any website changes, with a little bit of trepidation, however. It's probably easy to take things a little too far, and all of a sudden we'll find ourselves written about on

I'm a big fan of that website. Today, they called out, Microsoft's horrible new search engine front end. Roger also highlighted this one on his blog.

Maybe I should think about it a little differently. In the spirit of "there is no such thing as bad publicity," maybe we should try to win one of their Worst Web Design Techniques Featured on WPTS in 2006 awards. Then again, maybe not.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Buyer's remorse

Last night, Gina and I joined several friends to attend a fundraiser for Dental Aid, a local organization that provides dental health services to those who can't afford them. The black tie event included both silent and live auctions.

The silent auction included dozens of items, including dinners at local restaurants, spa services, gift baskets, all kinds of stuff. Gina donated a gift subscription to her Flying Five Coffee (and she was very pleased that it sold for quite a premium over the retail value).

The big-ticket items were reserved for the live auction, which was MC'ed by a professional auctioneer. The items included a denim jacket that had been hand decorated by Dave Matthews, various vacation packages, and other unique offerings.

This was my first live auction like this, and the auctioneer certainly had a gift for whipping up the excitement in the room. I think both Gina and I were a little too caught up in that excitement.

This morning, we're both nursing healthy doses of hangover and buyer's remorse. Neither of us is a budding photographer, so did we really need that 6-hour photography workshop?

I guess it all goes to a good cause ...

Friday, November 10, 2006

"Share the Road" license plates

I am an avid recreational bicyclist. In particular, I'm a road cyclist. In good years, I'll get in over 2000 miles riding on the shoulders of our local streets and highways. (My current bike has over 13,000 miles on it, so I think it's time to upgrade. That's a whole other post, though.)

Bicycle Colorado is a terrific and effective local advocacy group. For instance, they recently worked closely with the Colorado State Patrol and convinced them to rescind their new cap on the number of cycling event participants.

They're now sponsoring a petition to create a "Share the Road" Colorado automobile license plate. Proceeds from each plate will fund bicycle safety education programs across Colorado. If you'd like to sign the petition, go here.

And thanks for sharing the road with me.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Microsoft just doesn't get it

A while ago, I posted about my father-in-law Fred's search for an MP3 player. At the end of that post, I said:
"I will enjoy seeing the failure of Microsoft's new Zune player, as I enjoyed seeing the failure of Dell's."
It's not that I wish ill on Microsoft (although I strongly dislike how their monopolistic behavior has stifled software innovation over the last two decades), I just believe that they don't get it. If they are unable to push their view of the world onto the consumer, then they don't know how to compete. They fundamentally don't know how to define and market products if they don't have a huge market share hammer to wield. So, when I say that I will enjoy seeing Zune fail, I mean that I will enjoy seeing them schooled in a competitive marketplace.

What made me revisit this topic? I just read this article on, which has several examples of how the folks at Zune just don't get it. Granted, it's an opinion piece based on sketchy hard data, but the examples are exactly what I would have expected from Microsoft.

[Just after I originally posted this, I stumbled across an actual review of the Zune. This author makes several similar points as the one above, but he closes with an interesting thought:
"Version 1.0 of Microsoft Anything is stripped down and derivative, but it is followed by several years of slow but relentless refinement and marketing. Already, Microsoft says that new Zune features, models and accessories are in the pipeline."
Of course, as Zune is working hard to catch up to what iTunes/iPod already has, Apple continues to march onward.]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Got any Big Science Saturday ideas?

About two years ago, my older son was given a science kit of some kind for his birthday. It had about a half dozen experiments, most of which needed adult assistance to execute. We performed an experiment each Saturday until we had worked through them all. We started calling that time "Big Science Saturday," and both boys seemed to thoroughly enjoy it.

Since then, we have worked through a few other kits and lots of kids' science books. Big Science Saturday (BSS) comes and goes as we have materials or ideas and as I am able to work it into our schedules. We have probably performed more than 50 different experiments.

Ryan is now approaching eight years old and Maddox is now four. We haven't done BSS for a few months. I'd love to restart the event by moving into more exciting experiments, with electricity, rockets, explosions, or other things that might capture the imagination of an eight-year-old (as well as a four-year-old).

I haven't had a chance to do a thorough search online yet, but can anyone point me in the right direction?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Training in Boulder for marathons

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article (free registration required) on the training scene of top professional marathoners in Boulder. As always, I'm a little awestruck that these running superstars all converge on Boulder. (Check out my earlier post on the Japanese runners.)

My parents used to live in Albuquerque, and we would go visit them a couple of times a year. While I was there, I would frequently run around the perimeter of a local private school campus, which apparently was a favorite training loop from some Kenyan runners. (Albuquerque is at about the same elevation as Boulder.) They once passed me with their long, easy strides like I was standing still. At least, I think that happened. I'm not quite sure because I generally run in a haze of gasping exhaustion.