2007 Olson Family Weekend

This year was the 4th annual Olson Family Weekend (see 2006 [ack! no blog post for 2006!], 2005, 2004). This year was Angie’s turn to plan and there is only one more year before we loop back around for the next round of trips. It was a great weekend and Angie did a great job putting it all together.

We had a great weekend up at the Lundeen’s cabin (huge thanks to Lundeen Sr. for allowing us to overtake their cabin!). The cabin was cramped with 11 people and 3 dogs, but it added to the fun actually. The weather was sketchy but that didn’t slow anyone down either.

Rather than reading, go take a look at the pictures from the weekend, or watch a couple of videos of Mazie from the weekend (thanks for the videos Angie!) [I removed the videos from YouTube].

Mazie's First Baseball Game

Grandpa Bruce came into town for the Memorial Day weekend. It was a nice time, and the most time that Mazie has gotten to spend with Grandpa Bruce since he lives so far away. I think the highlight of the weekend was the Twins game. Mazie’s very first baseball game and the Twins put a “W” on the board for her.

Alona, Bruce and I went to the game and Tammy hung out with Mazie while she finished her nap. Mazie and Tammy joined at the top of the 7th inning which was perfect timing for her. There is just no way she could have sat through an entire baseball game. I got to have some great Dad time with Mazie on my lap. I explained that our guy throws the ball to this other guy and that one of their guys stood in the middle and tried to hit it with the bat. If he did hit it, our other guys out there would try to catch it. Baseball redux for a 2 year old. I brought my crazy camera lens and got some great photos.

Shortly after she arrived the Twins had a big play and drove 2 runs in. The crowd roared with enthusiasm and Mazie was a little freaked out but held it together with a lot of thumb sucking and me holding her. I think she actually had a pretty good time, particularly when we got some ice cream. :-)

See pictures from the weekend.

Canadian Fishing Trip Intro

I will soon be departing on a Canadian Fishing Adventure. T-minus nine days before I head out with my father-in-law and all my brother-in-laws to Canada for a week of fishing giant fish. Really giant fish. Fish that, if you are not careful, can severely injure you. I’m not an expert fisherman. I’m not even a basic fisherman. I haven’t fished for a decade, and this trip will double the amount of time I’ve fished in probably my entire life. This fills me with some trepidation.

However, I’m also really excited. This isn’t the type of trip I would typically go on so it’s fun to try something completely outside of your typical zone. Plus, fishing is loaded with gear and I’m a gear addict so that is fun. We’ll be departing for our trip and heading into the great unknown with a sun that never sets and more water than land, GPS in hand of course.

figslogopurple.jpgWe’ll be eating a lot of fish. I’m going to pack some extra stuff just in case. I’ve ordered some wacky natural bars to take along called Figamajigs. They are supposedly pretty good, and should be a nice break if desired.

gsp1700_red.jpgWe are going to be totally off the grid. Forget the Internet. Forget phone lines. Forget cellular. There is a little bit of power via a solar panel and a generator that can be started from time to time. Digital cameras and such can be charged, but that’s about it. This will be the longest that I’ll have gone offline for quiet some time. The urge to pick up a satellite phone is strong, but the price point is enough to push that urge aside. Plus I’d probably be stoned if I showed up with some crazy phone.

I’ve got a little bit of additional gear to get or arrive via UPS. We are limited to 80 pounds of gear and I’m probably going to be right up against that with fishing stuff, photography stuff and clothes. I’m going to journal while I’m there and post when I return. I’m looking forward to the northern waters, really huge fish, time with the guys and giant fish stories to lie about when I return.

Cold Press Coffee

I had a great coffee moment today that I just have to share. It’s worthy of sharing because there is information here that is new to me, and it highlights why small, local coffee shops are great.

I have two “coffee moments” each day. The first one is at home with my DeLonghi Espresso machine that I’m still loving. Two shots easily obtained with the press of a button. Just great. The second one is in the afternoon with a quick walk to One on One and get some afternoon espresso.

It’s summer now, or at least summer enough, and I’ve now switched to iced drinks in the afternoon. My typical drink is iced espresso. It used to be a triple shot over ice, but I’ve brought it down to a double shot over ice to reduce the shakes later in the evening (too much caffeine!).

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Serious Development in JavaScript

ajax.jpgJavaScript is a really powerful development environment. Really.

Many developers don’t agree with that statement. I think there are a couple of reasons for that. First, the word “script” appears in the name of the language and developers are often pejorative of anything with the script word in it. The logic goes something like scripting may be fine for hacking out little things, but cannot be used to build real applications.

I think the other black eye for JavaScript was that the first uses of the language were purely trivial. Remember the first time you had snowflakes falling on a web page? Or how about going beyond blinking text to text just jumping all over the place. True, the first implementations using the language were primitive.

There are other issues that you could highlight. There are no threads. It’s not compiled. Namespace is very loose. But this all misses the point that some of the most sophisticated and sexiest web applications out there are largely built in JavaScript. I personally spend a lot of time everyday now in JavaScript applications thanks to Google. Developers need to focus more on this language as a serious development environment, and the tools for it need to catch up. Venkman is nice for debugging, but more is needed. Further tools like Google Gears will extend JavaScript even further including off-line.

The May 2007 issue of MSDN Magazine featured a cover article called Create Advanced Web Applications With Object-Oriented Techniques (whew, mouthful) that touched on building JavaScript in a more sophisticated way. It’s a good read, and will start your thinking down the path of using JavaScript for more than snowflakes falling off your mouse pointer.

Getting Backpack Pages in your Address Book

I’m a fan of Backpack and use it extensively for managing any number of different things. I’m also a fan of Packrat which is great for bringing Backpack onto planes with me. One of the great features of Backpack is the ability to add content by sending an email any Backpack page. Every page has a unique address and Backpack is able to understand the structure of special emails to add them to the right section of the page. It is uber-cool, but you can easily have 50 or more Backpack pages and that’s a lot of addresses. I wish I could have these in my email address book.

Enter Packrat. The most recent version of Packrat added AppleScript support. I had asked the author to add a special feature to export addresses, but instead we got AppleScript support so now it’s easily done with a few lines of script.

Grab the Packrat Email Address Export AppleScript I created and you can easily create a text file that you can import to the address book of whatever mail client you prefer. Note that I’ve tested this only to create an export that will work with GMail. There is a comment in the script for the specific write line that you can change to move the fields around.

PS: Yes I could have used curl and some script magic to get this done without PackRat, but when I have a great object model already exposed why not just make it easy.

Going Offline with Google Gears

I just spent a little while getting caught up on a variety of sites with Google Reader. Reader is my RSS tool of choice. This isn’t all that special, except that I did it while sitting on an airplane.

Last night Google released the first “developer release” (alpha?) of Google Gears, and along with it Google Reader got a revision to allow you to go offline using Gears. The experience was pretty amazing. Reader works just as you would expect it to. You launch your web browser, go to the Reader URL and instead of the expected error since your not online, you actually get the site but in offline mode.

This is a first release for Reader using the offline capability so it’s a little overly modal (either offline or not) and some features are frustratingly unavailable, particularly marking all items read. To my surprise sharing items is available.

Google Gears, the technology that makes this all possible, provides a nice suite of features to make this all work. I’m assuming that the Googleplex is hard at work on making an offline version of GMail, it’s the most obvious next candidate. I did a little poking around the developer documentation for Gears and I was really excited to see that all the hooks are there for ‘sometimes offline’ applications. With a little bit of ingenuity we should see web applications that seamlessly go online and offline as needed. I’d love to see this in a number of tools — all the 37 Signals applications, WordPress, Google Calendar.

I think this is a big moment. The Internet is nearly pervasive, but there are times when it may be unavailable. The biggest net benefit of technology like Gears may be in making applications much more resilient to transient network failures — in addition to the offline experience.

It will be worthwhile to keep a close eye on this space.

Update: I used this on the flight back with a lot more unread items and it again worked great. Going offline took more time since there was more data. The lack of a mark all as read feature in offline Reader is a real pain though.

Update 2: I tried getting this going in Firefox on Vista and the installer fails. The Mac OS X Firefox install is a breeze and is just a browser plugin. The Windows install is a separate installer. YMMV.