Random tidbits, thoughts, ideas, reviews, etc.Aaron Goes Yakkity Yak
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Quick Friday Hike
Friday, 28 January 2011 9:53 PM MST
It's all my brother Kendall's fault. He kidnapped me and took me hiking on Friday before the rapidly fading afternoon light was gone. I needed the exercise. And the setting was absolutely gorgeous. Stunning, in fact, as the lowering light hit the weather-rounded red sandstone outcroppings along the hillside.
Thanks for the quick, fun hike, Kendall!
Looking Forward to More of the Stormlight Archive Having Finished The Way of Kings
Sunday, 07 November 2010 10:30 PM MST
Having recently finished reading the one-thousand-page-plus smaller-print-than-most-books novel The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, the first of his original series, The Stormlight Archive, I'm left with that common after-having-read-a-good-book feeling, a mixture of satisfaction and sadness—sadness and longing, as I miss already the characters and the fascinating world Brandon spun in my imagination, and now I'm forced to wait for a few years before he adds another tome to the story. Sigh!
I'm a slow reader, mainly because I mentally vocalize the words as I read silently. Therefore my silent reading speed is nearly the same as reading aloud. I've tried not vocalizing, and while I can speed up significantly, I don't enjoy it. Especially when I read novels. My comprehension decreases as well as my delight at letting the words weave a tapestry in my head. There's a beauty to the very sounds of consonants and vowels combining that I love, a poetry to words, so I don't anticipate ever changing the way I read.
Due to this book's length, my enjoyment was prolonged over the course of a week, reading a bit each night, with a few longer stints on the weekends. It was fun to look forward to each day.
As I expected, Brandon invents a beautiful world to populate with characters and stories, even if this one is stark and harsh due to perpetual "highstorms" that ravage across the landscape, leaving the rock seemingly barren and exposed, save for hearty unearthly (yet somehow familiar) lifeforms that have adapted to the harsh conditions.
I loved Mr. Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, the first of the series, Mistborn: The Final Empire my favorite of the three. And I was thoroughly engaged by his novel Warbreaker--a novel that Brandon shared online as he made revisions, permitting we fans to read each draft he released until the novel was finalized and printed.
His debut novel, Elantris first hooked me in late 2004 when I read a few sample chapters on his web site prior to the novel's release after having read a prepublication review of the novel by another favorite author of mine, Orson Scott Card—even though I had to wait to finally read the book.
The Way of Kings did not disappoint me—it impressed me. Wow! That Sanderson guy can write! I'm grateful he is sharing his creativity. Keep up the good work!
Friday, 15 October 2010 6:19 PM MDT
Here's a brief note from this very same web site (www.aarongifford.com) circa September 1999:
18 September 1999 - This whole site is new! Even though I've had a home page of my very one since early 1994 (maybe it was even late 1993 -- I can't recall for sure), it has always looked absolutely awful. This site is an attempt to reorganize, rewrite, and redesign my haphazard collection of web junk into something slightly more pleasing to the eye and easier to navigate.Wow, it's been more than eleven years since I moved my web presence to my own vanity domain. Time flies.
It wasn't until 2003 that I started 'blogging here, at least according to my very first post—a test post.
It was indirectly thanks to Brandon Plewe (who was interested in geographic information systems back then), the son of Stan Plewe, who is currently Vice President for Administrative Services at Dixie State College of Utah who got me on the world-wide web in 1993. Brandon was back east (New York, I think) either going to school or having recently completed going to school. He pointed a bunch of us (via his father—I think) at Dixie College (as it was known then), faculty members like Gary Koeven, and Eric Pedersen (still the Director of the Center of Excellence for Computer Graphics, and also Professor of Visual Technologies), as well as several students like myself, at a little piece of Internet software called NCSA Mosaic.
(Side note: I couldn't find any online images of Eric or Gary. Sorry. And I didn't dare steal from Eric's Facebook profile. I had no qualms, however, filching Stan's image off Dixie's web site.)
It sure beat the pants of Gopher, the then reigning information access protocol of choice, this web thing. I had been speculating what Gopher would look like if one implemented a HyperCard-like front-end that could contain embedded images and text formatting instead of just simple links.
I couldn't rest, so on the IBM RS/6000 server running the AIX Unix operating system, housed at the Dixie College Science Building in a back room adjacent to the Center of Excellence, known on the Internet as sci.dixie.edu, I compiled and installed the free NCSA HTTPd software (from which the Apache web server would later evolve). Thus was born the sci.dixie.edu web server.
Back then there weren't many web servers in the world, and the creator of the World-Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee or one of his colleagues at CERN kept a list of all the servers, indexed in several ways, one indexing by geographical area.
So I sent an email with the web address of the sci.dixie.edu web server to CERN. It wasn't long before I had a reply—the new Dixie College web server was now officially listed. The email reply even noted that we were the very first web server registered in the State of Utah. Wow! I couldn't believe it! (And now I really wish I had a copy of that original message... *sigh*) Thus the Dixie College Center of Excellence (located in the Science Building, under the direction of Eric Pedersen) achieved a first in Utah in 1993.
Looking back at it now, I suspect that there were other web servers in Utah. I'm pretty sure BYU and/or the U. of U. had one or more. I'm not sure, but Novell may even have had a server already registered, but not listed in the then-definitive CERN server list in the Utah section.
It wasn't much longer after putting up the server that I started my own personal web page. Hence my 1999 note stating that I've had a web presence since 1993 or 1994.
The Alice Isom Gubler Stratton Project
Friday, 08 October 2010 7:12 PM MDT
My grandmother, Alice, was a writer (among other things) who left her posterity a marvelous memoir entitled Look to the Stars wherein she shared her memories and the events of her life over the years. She also wrote and had published many magazine articles in LDS Church publications over the years, especially stories for children she wrote published in the Friend--many based on her own experiences, local Southern Utah settings, and/or family members. As a child, it was delightful to read one of her stories and hear one's own name, sibling names, or names of cousins, names Grandma had borrowed to use in her stories.
So lately my brother Kendall and I have been working on putting Alice's Look to the Stars book online. Kendall took his copy of her book, broke the binding, and scanned all 800+ pages. I'd manually scanned and used OCR software to convert to text the first few chapters back in the early 2000s, but had stopped. These past few weeks I've put Kendall's scanned images of the book online as well as those first few chapters I'd converted to text years back.
But this all takes time! There's editing to do to make the online HTML format look decent, correct errors and typos that the OCR software introduced (and there are a LOT of those), add HTML links whenever possible, etc.
Thus the Alice Isom Gubler Stratton Project has begun. And thought it started with her Look to the Stars book, I've since had a blast collecting links and references to her other works.
Check out what we've got thus far:Contact Me link in the left-hand menu column of this web site.
Regression Requires Renewal
Monday, 27 September 2010 10:13 AM MDT
Since my March progress update, I've been a slacker and let the lure of a digital piano tempt me into expanding my consumer debt. "That's a no-no, self," I told myself. It didn't help. I succumbed to temptation. Whereas in March, I had reduced my consumer debt down to 35.7% of my mortage debt, due to falling into old habits, I've let it creep back up to 41.8%. *sigh*
So it's back to the grindstone for me. It's time to recommit, time to renew my determination to stop this and rid myself forever of consumer debt. This is especially important as Christmas is approaching, a time rife with opportunity to spend money one doesn't have. In order to combat the temptation, I need to hold myself accountable. As part of my recommittal, I will report here on my 'blog next month how I'm doing, just before Halloween.
If I'm serious about being consumer-debt-free in two years—yes, my original goal has been extended, sadly—then I need to be knocking off nearly four percentage points each month. So I'm shooting for 38% by my next report.
Wish me luck. (Or better yet, financial self discipline.)
More Road Tripping (Across the Universe)
Tuesday, 27 July 2010 9:32 AM MDT
So this weekend I decided to watch all the YouTube "Road Trip" by Jon Schmidt videos I could find (most of which are contest entries). After my journey, I created a playlist containing them all. This is the result:
You can visit the YouTube Road Trip Contest playlist page here.
See my fan page for my nephew's contest entry at: www.huntergifford.com
The direct URL to Hunter's performance of Jon Schmidt's "Road Trip" is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzNu3Ipe87E
Software Annoyances - Adobe Flash Player, Apple Updater, and Oracle/Sun Java
Wednesday, 23 June 2010 11:34 AM MDT
Whenever I have to update Windows systems to the latest version of Flash Player, I find it very annoying that Adobe's Flash Player download page does NOT offer links to directly download the installer files for later offline installation, both the Mozilla Firefox-based plugin as well as the MSIE version.
Another pet-peeve: Software udaters or installers that automatically add desktop icons. NEVER never NEVER never NEVER add an icon unless you ask me and I authorize it, foolish software installer writers!
And when I went to update Java (JRE) on a Windows box today, lo and behold, it wanted to auto-bundle a toolbar with the UPDATE! At least they gave me a choice (I declined as always). But here's a good idea: if it's an UPDATE, use the SAME SETTINGS/CHOICES that I picked when I FIRST INSTALLED YOUR CRUMMY SOFTWARE. That means NO desktop icons, NO "extras" like toolbars.
It's annoying how many software installers add one or more new Windows services always running in the background consuming RAM, CPU, and some minor bit of network bandwidth. Here's another hint, software developers: GIVE ME A CHOICE and let me choose to NOT have that junk installed. I will always manually check for updates to your software when I choose. I don't need an updater process. Nor (Apple), an iTunesHelper or mobile device service on PCs that I don't use iPhones/iPads/iPods with.
Today when I ran Apple's, Software Updater, it politely allowed me to update iTunes/Quicktime (but it annoyingly added a desktop icon for iTunes—BAD Apple!), but it also auto-checked the install option for Safari. Thank you for at least giving me a choice, Apple, but once again—USE THE SAME CHOICES AS LAST TIME! That is, don't by default enable the installation of software that I did not explicitly enable and install the last time I ran your installer or updater. REMEMBER my CHOICE and HONOR IT!!!
Most people probably wonder why I rant about such minor annoyances. Well, when you end up being the go-to person for your family members who rely on you to keep their computers up-to-date with the latest software versions and security fixes, perhaps you'll understand why it can grow so VERY very OLD to have to constantly clean up after software installers that don't give enough choices and don' honor those choices.
Now, for my own use, here are the links I usually end up using for Adobe Flash Player [UPDATE: These links are for the older 10.x versions as of Oct. 2011]:
Adobe Flash 11.x Offline Installers:
[UPDATE 4: 24 April 2012 - And Adobe of course DID change at least some of the addresses. Needing to update Flash on a Mac running OS X 10.6, the above links failed. So:]
From Broken Piano to Digital Piano
Monday, 21 June 2010 8:20 PM MDT
I'm looking forward to replacing my old, broken, out-of-tune, super-cheap acoustic piano with one of these digital pianos, a Yamaha Clavinova CVP-509PE (the PE stands for polished ebony, the color/finish).
While I do love the feel and sound of a true acoustic piano, for a small living room, a digital piano offers so many more features, including a karaoke function that I look forward to using.
I can't wait for it to arrive. Thanks to Tony Beatty, one of The Piano Guys at The Piano Gallery of Southern Utah for hooking me up with a sweet deal. And thanks to Paul too! They rock!
One of The Piano Guys has apparently been putting together a bunch of pretty sweet piano videos. Here's one of Jon Schmidt playing one of his songs, Game Day, in nearby Snow Canyon. My nephew, Hunter, loves to learn and play Jon's tunes. (And I've got to admit I quite like 'em too.) I wish I could play like those guys, but not badly enough to practice.
And while I'm embedding YouTube videos, I might as well embed one of my nephew, Hunter, playing one of Jon Schmidt's tunes, "Road Trip" which Hunter learned by ear first, before he finally had a chance to see the sheet music. Hunter is a mostly self-taught pianist, who, at only fourteen, blows my mind with his skill.
You can also see it via www.huntergifford.com, a little "fan site" page I stuck online for the fun of it.
A Quick, Fun Hike Right in Downtown St. George
Sunday, 30 May 2010 9:19 PM MDT
Yakkity Yak, Astounding Adventures
I've hiked this trail (the Owen's Loop trail) a bunch of times this spring. It's close, right in town. I can drive up to the Brooks Nature Park at the top of Main Street (452 North Main, St. George, Utah), park, and head right up the trail.
Please forgive and ignore the obviously wrong GPS route data that caused the straight red lines on the left-hand side of the Google Earth route map screenshot.
This trail is also a fun one to do in the evening. I've watched several sunsets from atop the Red Hill. My most recent trip was on Friday, the 7th of May, 2010. I found the Grandpa's Toolbox geocache out at the end of the trail where it does a loop on the westernmost side of the Red Hill.
A Super-Fun Hike (Two Months Ago)
Sunday, 30 May 2010 9:08 PM MDT
Yakkity Yak, Astounding Adventures
This evening I downloaded a bunch of old waypoints and tracks from my GPS and plotted them in Google Earth (using a Ruby script to covert the GPX data to KML). I found this route that Kendall and I hiked one eveing, on Tuesday, 16 March 2010. It was a BLAST!
I need to do that one again. It's especially nice in the evening. You arrive at the edge overlooking State Route 18 and Snow Canyon, a perfect place to watch the sun set over the sandstone crags of Snow Canyon State Park.
And traversing the rim of the southern Diamond Valley extinct volcano cinder cone is fun too.
I think Kendall said they used to refer to this (or a similar hike) at Red Mountain Spa as "Jones' Bones"--due to the, ahem, remains atop the hill. (Don't worry, they're just old, bleached animal bones someone found, collected, arranged in a display beside the trail to look a bit like human remains.)
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