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A settled nomad living on the edge of Appalachia. I love to listen to music, spend time with my family, and play sports. I'm lucky enough to write code for a living. I'm often accused of having no "filter" as I tend to overshare. I make beer on occasion and try to sample new beers whenever I can.$BillRawlinson

Four S'mores Revisited

4 min read

A couple weeks ago I talked about my "Four S'mores and Seven Beers Ago" t-shirt.  You may recall, if you read the post, that I really loved that shirt but that it was effectively ruined by the oily drippings of a Wendy's hamburger.  

Well, something kind of magical happened after I posted that.  My step-mother, Patty, made me a new shirt with the imagery on it.   It's a darker version - both the image (this time an iron on) and the shirt are darker - but it's just as awesome.  Honestly, it was one of the coolest things someone has done for me just out of the blue.

My step-mother and I have not always gotten along as well as we could.  However, she has, even when times have been kind of dark and gloomy, done some pretty cool and thoughtful things for me.  Things that she didn't have to do, things that wouldn't benefit her at all, but that have really blown me away.

Way back in high school, when I was a junior, I was on the Speech and Debate Team.  For those who know me, but who didn't know me in high school, me being on a debate team probably isn't a real shocker.  Anyway, I competed in a few different events; extemperaneous speaking, student congress*, lincoln douglass, and team comedy.   When I signed up I didn't even know there would be a team comedy category.  However, it did exist and so I signed up for it too.  I wasn't particularly comedic even if I was funny (yeah, I amused people like a clown).  The good news was the event didn't require that we write our own comedy bit - instead we could use one written by a proven comic.  All we had to do, the "easy" part, was deliver the act.

But what act?  That was the question.  My teammate and I settled on the classic, "Who's On First" by Abbot and Costello.   It turns out we were no Abbot and Costello.  Our delivery was wooden and generally not well received.  It was, easily, my worst event during the various competitions.

At this point you may be wondering what this has to do with S'mores.  Well, it has nothing to do with S'mores.  However, I am getting to a point so just bear with me.

While the delivery of "Who's on First" turned out to be much harder than we anticipated it wasn't even the hardest part of the contest.  First, let me remind you that I competed in debate back in the late 80's.  There was no internet.  I could not just ask Google for any bit of information that exists and get it back in about 20 milliseconds.  Thus, finding a copy of the Who's on First transcript was really hard.  Like, impossible hard.  You couldn't go to your local bookstore and pick it up, the library didn't have it, I couldn't order it via Amazon.  We couldn't find the damn thing.

But then Patty stepped in to save the day.  Unbeknownst to me she went out, found a vinyl recording of Abbot and Costello that included "Who's on First" and then she transcribed the whole thing.  I knew she was transcribing it becuase, when I came home from school she was hunched over the old record player listening to two second long snippets of the act, scribblig furiously, and then picking up the needle and moving it back to listen again to make sure she didn't miss anything.

Go ahead, listen to the video and imagine trying to transcibe that damn thing.  I don't know how she did it - and with an old album at that.  But she did and it has always stood out as one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.  

Well, creating this shirt for me ranks right up there with "Who's on First."  It was that cool.  She did it without fanfare, hell she mailed it to me without warning so I just had a random package on the porch when I came home from work.  When I picked it up I could tell it was a t-shirt but it didn't even cross my mind it would be "Four S'mores" - I mean, you can't get it anymore.  But she did.

Very Cool.

Oh, and if you remember why the Four S'mores shirt was so cool to me then here is a bonus surprise photo of me, as a little kid, wearing my Huey, Duey, and Luey Shirt.

Damn I was a cute kid.

Changing Look and Content

2 min read

Currently I have four blogs. This one, my book one, my tech one, and a funny/offensive one. However, I've been considering combining the funny/offensive one (called "Bits") and this one into a single unified collection. My bits blog is hosted at tumblr and for the past x number of hours that site has been down and having serious database fits; thus I'm feeling even more motivated to combine the two.

I'm also in the mood to change how this blog looks. I'm tired of the green/brown theme I've been running with the past year or two. Thus I'm switching to a modified "Titan" theme.

This post serves as a warning for both changes. First I didn't want any long-time readers (are there any?) to be surprised by the change in appearance and secondly I wanted to warn folks that my funny/offensive stuff is going to be getting posted here from now on. Thus, if you are easily offended and/or take everything I post here seriously then you'll probably want to just stop reading it.

In the past I've kept them separate to spare my friends/relatives from the offensive posts when they really just want to see my family updates. You can still do that if you subscribe to the site via email - just go to your subscription page and pick only the categories you're actually interested in and then you'll only get updated when I post to those categories. If you subscribe via rss; well I'm not going to go into how to filter my posts sorry; it's too much work for me to explain it and I'm not even sure it will work or that anyone will actually care enough to do it so I'm not going to spend the time doing it.

If you just come here on occasion and read whatever is new; well starting grazing and only fully reading posts that you think will be interesting. If you are offended by one - sorry - but at least I'm warning you; this dumb humor stuff is just another aspect of me and, if you know me, you already know that and I've already offended you in person before anyway so you knew what to expect.

Cheers and, hopefully, enjoy!

Create WV Conference Presentation

3 min read

Next Tuesday, Oct 20, I will be presenting as part of the "Storytellers" session of the Business track at the Create WV conference because of my work with the website. I'm pretty out of practice with my public speaking and the time frame for my presentation is pretty limited (10-15min) so I want to put my outline up for others to review and provide some feedback. I don't know if I will actually get to touch on everything in the outline but all of the elements are somewhat important to me effectively communicating my story. Here's the outline. Please be as harsh as you want; just keep it constructive. Thanks

  1. Introduction
    1. Who I am
    2. How Did I get Here?
    3. Why did I stay here?
    4. Why am I speaking today?
  2. Why
    1. Why did I create it?
      1. why charleston
      2. lawrence fine
    2. What are my goals for it?
      1. locals
        1. show them how great their hometown is
        2. keep them informed of all that is going on
        3. help get them involved in making the place better
        4. show folks how many great creative people are here
      2. outsiders
        1. counter some of the bad national publicity
        2. high search result for huntington wv
          1. Where did that start?
          2. Where is it now?
        3. show people this is a place they might want to live/work in
      3. Collaboration
        1. I can't do it all alone - I have a job
        2. I don't know everything there is to know
        3. Even when I do know, I'm not always the expert
        4. IT'S HARD to get others to invest themselves in the idea
      4. Aggregated Calendar -
        1. what is it?
        2. how does it work?
          1. other people publish their own calendars online
            1. google
            2. microsoft live
            3. outlook tie-in
          2. pull it all in programmatically
            1. working with Jon Udell of Keane NH; another small town
        3. Value?
          1. Calendar is always updated with accurate info
          2. Residents know what is going on before it happens
            1. no more, "nothing happens here"
            2. no more, "I always hear about something a week after it happens"
          3. metric of events:popluation ratio
            1. one way to show quality of life here
              1. possibly show comparisons to other towns in project
              2. show "tags" and give an idea of temporal scope (90 days)
      5. Why WV Network
        1. Why Huntington and Why Charleston
        2. Benefits?
          1. Shows great features of the entire state
          2. Helps to counter streotypes
          3. Help people who are thinking of moving here see why they should
          4. Help businesses see the value in opening here (it's the people)
        3. Obstacles?
          1. Getting someone to start it
          2. Overcoming the post-honeymoon slump
            1. how do you stay motivated to keep posting?
          3. Expense?
            1. fairly inexpensive to operate
            2. potentially sizable cost in effort to get a site started
              1. domain name
              2. site configuration and installation
              3. training time
    3. Technology Used
      1. Wordpress Blogging Engine

Beware the PB&C Shake at Coldstone

2 min read

Cigarettes come with a surgeon general warning. Booze probably does too. But the real silent killer out there is the tasty yet insidious drink known as the Gotta Have It sized PB&C Shake from Coldstone Creamery. It's a tasty morsel of chocolate ice cream and peanut butter mixed disguised as a tasty snake when, in actuality, it is diabetes waiting to happen. Don't believe me? Well, check out these stats:

The second drink with most calories is the Cold Stone Creamery Gotta Have It PB&C Shake, which includes 2,010 calories, 131 grams of fat and 153 grams of sugar...This drink includes more calories than 12 ice creams and more saturated fat than 20 large portions of McDonald`s fries. [source]

I knew it wasn't good for me but I really didn't comprehend the significance of the damage I was doing to myself. I realize you may not believe the source I pointed to before since it isn't official word from Coldstone so check out this pdf which contains all the details straight from the horses mouth.

Next time you go to coldstone and you want a really big cold drink get the Gotta Have It Blueberry Banana Smooty it's only 616 calories.

Scary Corruption

2 min read

An online "friend" via Twitter is going through a pretty scary situation right now and is tweeting his experience as it unfolds. Here is the transcript so far:

February 15, 2009
February 15 at 1:46 PM
tough to do right things in my city. Lots of pressure to do the wrong things, I have to blog my recent experiences.
February 15 at 1:47 PM Reply
someone who left company without notice some 3-4 yrs back, presented fake certificate in his new job, background check with us gone -ve.
February 15 at 1:48 PM Reply
Now this guy has been putting pressure (himself, his friends, family, politicians, local intelligence guy, etc) on us to do the wrong.
February 15 at 1:50 PM Reply
In short, we are being under pressure not only to make fake (wrong duration) certificate but also email to background check agency..weird.
February 15 at 1:53 PM Reply
We would not do that, no matter happens. This city has very corrupt system, but I believe, if I am right everything falls right eventually.
February 15 at 1:58 PM Reply
anyways, I hope it would not turn into serious thing, just in case something happens, you all know...
February 15 at 2:00 PM Reply
ok folks, good night, hope coming week turns more productive, healthy and full of happiness.

February 19, 2009
3 hours ago Reply
yesterday was stressful, we got some direct threats from guy and his family. Got more calls from his connections, not known for good.

His comment on Feb 19th makes me a little nervous for his health. I hope nothing bad happens to this guy but I am happy to see him taking a stand.


2 min read

Lisa and I were walking the dog this evening when, at about 10:15pm EST we saw a large greenish light fly incredibly quickly across the sky. It's the first UFO I've ever seen. Now, just because I can't identify it doesn't mean I think we were visited by aliens. No, I think it was most likely a chunk of space debris entering the earth's atmosphere and burning up as it did so.

Now it was huge, we could actually see a passenger jet in the sky for some sense of scale, and the jet was like an ant next to an elephant in comparison. The greenish light was really large and it moved across the night sky from sort-of just above us to the distant horizon in about 1 second. I don't know how far that actually was in knots or miles but it was obviously far.

I also don't know how fast space debris normally moves when it enters the earth's atmosphere so I don't know if the speed this was moving at was unusual at all or not. Regardless, it was pretty cool looking, very bright, and very fast.

For anyone interested I saw it over West Virginia moving in the southern sky towards the west. I am guessing it was a chunk of one of the two satellites that just collided this week.

Our local News station did some research and has this to say on the subject:

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The WSAZ newsroom took a lot of calls Friday night about bright lights over the skies of Kentucky, now has some answers. NASA say two satellites collided Friday afternoon over Russia. The debris began entering the atmosphere over Kentucky causing streaks of bright green light in the night sky. Emergency dispatchers tell us the debris didn't cause any damage, but they did receive a lot of calls from concerned people.

Kindle Me Envious

2 min read

[caption id="attachment_872" align="alignleft" width="131" caption="The Kindle 2"]The Kindle 2[/caption]Pretty much everyone that knows me knows I love to read. When the first Kindle came out I was not enthused by the clunky look of the device and the big, obtrusive, page turning buttons. However, the screen was sweet. Thus, I began looking at all the different e-book reader devices out there thinking, maybe, someday, I'll buy one. I'm still not firmly decided on which reader I would buy but the new Kindle is a huge improvement over the last one. In fact, if you're considering buying me a $360 gift you could buy me a Kindle 2 and I would be pretty happy. The image alongside this paragraph represents the new Kindle while the next image is the uglier, bulkier, Kindle.

The new Kindle looks much better and they resized the page turning buttons so they won't be as obtrusive. They have made it substantially thinner and removed the odd clunky angles. Plus, beyond the obvious cosmetic improvements they've incrementally improved the systems performance and battery life. Not too bad considering it costs the same as the older, uglier, less desirable device. I imagine this one will sell much better than the last so long as they can keep up with demand. The Kindle was always on back order. It will be interesting to see how well Amazon prepares for demand this time around.

[caption id="attachment_873" width="383" caption="The Kindle 1"]The Kindle 1[/caption]

It might be hard to tell but the new Kindle and the old are both the same apx height and width but the new one is 1/3 as thick as the old.

Safety First

2 min read

I recently became aware of two websites focused on Charleston, WV; and and I though, "Hrm, I think Huntington would really benefit from having something similar." After considering the idea I contacted one of the guys behind WhyCharleston to see what he thought and he was all for it. Thus began my new project of creating these two sites for my adoptive hometown of Huntington, WV. Who would have thought, 13 years ago, when I moved to this state that I would be doing anything to advertise what's good about it - but here I am doing just that.

The WhyHuntington site isn't ready yet, it will be up next week. However, I have gotten the first bit of up and ready to go. I am using the wordpress blogging platform to build the site and, hopefully, before too long I'll have some additional contributors to the site so that I am not the sole source of safety information for Huntington. I am proceeding with both of these projects under the umbrella of the Create Huntington organization which is striving to improve Huntington in general. The last couple of major things I need to do for the look and feel of the SaferHuntington site is to change the primary color to a green and maybe add in some images. If you can think of anything else the site could include I'd love to know what you think.

Even if you don't live in Huntington you might have some good advice for people on how they can make their neighborhood or the city as a whole safer and, if you do, please leave a comment.

Keeping Tabs

1 min read

Look, I know I've talked about this before but, if you read this blog (which, obviously you do since you're seeing this email) you should start using Google Reader. It is really easy to use and it helps you keep up with posts on the blogs (or other sites) you read really simple. Now, I've tried to explain it before but I've gotten that glassy eyed look from most of you before where all my intelligent relatives and friends suddenly lose all capacity for thought - so I'm going to try and let the Google guys explain how to use Google Reader in a couple short videos. Please watch them and try Reader out. You'll probably be glad you did.

Google Reader in Plain English

Getting Started With Google Reader

Reading Feeds With Google Reader

Please note that the frame shown in the below video is of a man holding his hands around a cat. The black bands on his right wrist are a bracelet.

Sharing Items with Google Reader

Change is in the Air

3 min read

Autumn brings changes in all aspects of our life. School starts, the clocks shift backwards, the leaves change color and fall to earth, and Lisa decides to rearrange our home's furnishings (and room designations). It has actually been a few years since she last decided to shift the layout of the house so it should come as no surprise that she made this shift more substantial than those before it.

For those of you familiar with our homes layout the changes I am about to describe may not seem that substantial; but trust me there was a lot of effort expended getting this all setup. Our house is an old 4-square style home where the base floor consists of four main rooms. Prior to this past weekend the four floors were arranged so that you entered into the living room (1). If you went straight through the living room you would enter the dining room (2). If you took a left out of the living room you entered the "music room" (3) and if you took a left out of the dining room you ended up in the Kitchen (4).

We have actually reverted to the organization we had when we first moved in so you enter into the music room (1) head straight from there into the living room (2) take a right into the kitchen (4) and you can cross the hall from the kitchen back to the dining room (3).

The biggest change was that the living room (2) was carpeted with an old green carpet which we pulled up. Part of that floor was also parquet flooring which we removed to expose the full richness of the wooden floor. We still have some work to do on that floor though. First the bottom right corner of the room's floor (where the parquet was) has some adhesive on it from holding the parquet down. Once that is removed we need to refinish the entire floor.

We situated the furniture much differently than we did in the past even when the floor plan was the same. Thus the living room feels much larger than it did before and the music room is more useful than it was. When we first moved in the music room served as a drop off point for stuff we carried in the house. Now we have a nice sitting area around the fireplace and a good spot for the piano. Overall I think we are both really happy with the changes. You can see some photos of the new layout in our online photo album. There you can see photos of the rooms last Oct as well as how they look now.