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Personal

Olde Stage Fire

This is a while coming (been busy at work) but I was privileged to have fought the very serious Olde Stage Fire in Boulder for BMFPD a few weeks ago. This fire burned over 3000 acres, and was started when wind blew down a power line. I was on the fire from around 3 PM to getting home around 6:30 AM the next day. Needless to say, the wind conditions were less than amenable to firefighting. Here’s my account of some of the more interesting work (one of the three assignments I was on) I did that night:


Looking back at Right Ranch


With the flames mostly out

I was paged and at the station late afternoon. Two other guys and I met up with another couple of crews and fought a fire at Right Ranch. Conditions were horrible! The wind tore the tarp off the top of the firetruck before we ever got to flames, and we had to rope the hoses onto the top of the truck. I looked like an idiot chasing down the tarp right in front of the news vans. I’m glad they didn’t catch this part on film, or at least didn’t air it. Going into the fire, the flames were large, in grass, and fanned by winds (100 MPH was measured near where we were fighting). Almost immediately, we were forced to do a strategic retreat when fire threatened to cut off our one road out. We looked at flames licking at the sides of three houses on the way out, and our collective wisdom said “they’re gone”. Getting out of the firetruck was interesting with the high winds, trying to make sure the doors didn’t get blown off. Once in safety, we looked again at the houses, and decided to go back and fight the fire. We went back and hit the fire hard. I was on one of the two hoses, and even with the engineer supplying more than adequate water pressure, I couldn’t hit the fire 10 feet away, as the wind threw all the water right back on me (I was soaked!). We eventually worked our way around the most threatened two houses, and put out all the flames. We left a sprinkler running on the front porch to prevent that wooden structure from going up less the unburned bushes underneath light the whole portion on fire. This also helped me get identified later!

So on Saturday, the 17th, the residents held a party to thank the firefighters. I ran into person after person, who immediately put me in touch with the residents in two of the three houses we were actively protecting. One lady commented that she was impressed with the backburning we had done (black right up to the house). When I told her that “no, that was no backburning operation, the fires did come right up to her house,” she gave me a big hug, and wouldn’t stop. All in all, it felt great to have actually saved some folks houses. Normally, you don’t get to meet the people you help, but I did.

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Personal

Nigerian Facebook scams

It was timely that I stumbled upon this post. A couple of weeks ago, an old classmate of mine chatted with me on Facebook. He said he had been “trapped in London”, and needed money to get home because he and his family had been “robbed at gunpoint”. Needless to say, this didn’t seem right at the time, although I was more than willing in the chat to offer local help (i.e., have friends in England contact him) and local aid (not money). There was a number of problems with the chat :

  1. This guy and I hadn’t talked in years. There were many other people this guy would have contacted before me.
  2. Robbed at gunpoint? In London? I don’t think so.

The person then changed his Facebook status to say he needed help urgently (to which his closer friends immediately replied “how can we help?”, etc.). I promptly commented on his status to say I thought the account may have been compromised (“Would the real first name lastname please stand up?”). I was promptly un-“friended” to remove the comment. I chatted with another classmate, who said he’d gotten the same chat from the same individual. I then tracked down the real guy, and indeed, he was desperately trying to get Facebook to shut down the account.

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Personal

Clever David Byrne music video (mildly NSFW)

This was all directed and produced by a video game addict named Keith Schofield, who incorporates video game themes into every video, it seems.

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Personal Technology & Gadgets

Gigapan imaging

Well, there seem to be a number of ways of creating gigapixel panoramas. Possibly the easiest to use is the GigaPan robotic mount ($379), which was used to create the tremendous image of the Barack Obama inauguration, along with a Canon G10 (it doesn’t fit larger cameras).

Another way is to hack up a Orion TeleTrack  Altazimuth ($249) astronomic mount with a serial port ($15), bluetooth ($35) and use Papywizard software (free) running on a Nokia N800 ($135). You’ll still need Autopano or similar stiching software to put the whole thing together.

I’m tempted to try both!

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Personal

Neat stop motion music video


Oren Lavie – Her Morning Elegance
Uploaded by IgnitionVM
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Personal Technology & Gadgets

Cancelling my PC Magazine subscription

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PC Magazine’s latest issue (January 2009) contained the following interesting tidbit:

An Open letter to PC Magazine (Print) Readers,

The January 2009 issue (Volume 28, Issue 1) of PC Magazine will mark a monumental transition for the publication. It is the last printed edition of this venerable publication. Of course, as with any technology-related enterprise, this is not the end, but the beginning of something exciting and new.

Starting in February 2009, PC Magazine will become a 100-percent digital publication.

Well, that’s all nice and fun, except I read my magazines where and when I don’t want a computer. So this new distribution DOESN’T WORK FOR ME. Also, I have print publications (magazines) and online magazines. They each serve different purposes.

So, long and short, I’ll be calling them to cancel my subscription shortly and get a refund…. My subscription would have run out in September 2009.

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Personal

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

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Personal

Drugs…

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Personal

Validation


For some reason the original link stopped working…

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Personal Technology & Gadgets

Best WordPress plugins, ever

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Until someone figures out that this wants to be part of the core functionality, I highly recommend the excellent plugin, InstantUpgrade, by Alex Günsche. It rules. One click upgrades to your WordPress installation to the latest version. How easy is that? In case you’re wondering, yes, I did donate, as it’s an excellent, well-written, well-supported plugin that actually saves me from the laborious upgrade process for WordPress every time a new version comes out (once every two months!).

While I’m at it, I need to shout out the folks who wrote WPG2, the Gallery2 embedding plugin for WordPress. Not only has this been consistently upgraded to support both the latest WordPress and latest Gallery2, questions on the forum typically don’t go more than one day before the authors (ozgreg and capt_kirk) or some other helpful person answers them. Moreover, the answers are relevant without trying to be controlling (not the same experience as I’ve had asking questions of the Drupal G2 integration team, but that’s a story for another day). WPG2 happily and efficiently supports hybrid configurations like one G2 multisite installations, excellent rewrite support (really nice URLs!), and an awesome user interface that is integrated well with WordPress.

So with these extensions and plugins, I have InstantUpgrade for WordPress, self-upgrade for plugins to WordPress, and a fairly simple upgrade process for Gallery2. What more could I want? The same for Drupal (again, for another time, they could improve!).